Judith Bunting, Liberal Democrat MEP for the South East of England, has written to UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin following the racist abuse directed at England’s black players on Monday evening in Sofia, Bulgaria.
In the letter, which was co-signed by 35 cross-party MEPs, Judith says: “It is appalling to see players subjected to this kind of abuse and discrimination. While we welcome the measures already taken, such as the introduction of disciplinary proceedings against Bulgaria and, in consequence, the resignation of the President of the Bulgarian Football Union, more stringent measures must be established throughout football in Europe.”
The letter specifically called for UEFA to increase action to prohibit Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, in order to ensure all football authorities and fans in Europe are aware that such behaviour will result in severe consequences.
UEFA today released a statement which read: “…the football family thought that the scourge of racism was a distant memory. The last couple of years have taught us that such thinking was, at best, complacent.”
While Judith welcomes the statement, she is eager to impress upon UEFA the importance of taking a zero-tolerance approach. She says: “UEFA must take action against anyone found to be abusing player…this behaviour cannot be tolerated.”
Another busy and exciting week in Brussels. You’ll recall the week before last we had a round of Commissioner-Designate hearings, which provided us MEPs with a great opportunity to scrutinise what are essentially incoming European Ministers. I was able to attend more last week, including, Margrethe Vestager’s, whose proposed portfolio is “Europe fit for the digital age competition” and gave a good presentation. These are fantastically democratic procedures and help highlight any issues, such as financial irregularities or potential conflicts of interest. Three candidates have been rejected by the Parliament so far which means the whole commission goes back to Ursula Von Der Leyen’s drawing board. I doubt we will see a conclusion to the process now before December.
On Wednesday, my fellow MEPs and I welcomed party leader Jo Swinson to Brussels. As the only mainstream anti-Brexit party, it’s fallen to the Lib Dems to protect the relationship that the UK has with our European allies. Amongst the back-turning, the shouting, and the insults, it is important that we treat our closest allies with the respect they deserve.
We also had an important debate on Brexit in Parliament that evening where both Junker and Barnier were in attendance. Frustratingly, though unsurprisingly, they both spoke of how the British Government’s latest proposals still do not satisfy their minimum requirements of preserving the integrity of the single market, protecting the all-Ireland economy and honouring the Good Friday Agreement. The truth is, the Brexit fantasy we were all promised means that all three of these things are impossible. That is the reality of the situation and that’s why it’s time to Stop Brexit altogether.
From a personal perspective, the debate was memorable for a whole different reason. Those of you who follow me on social media will know what I’m talking about!
We also had a fantastic meeting with our colleagues in Renew Europe. For those of you who aren’t aware, Renew Europe is the European Parliament group that Liberal Democrat MEPs sit in. There’s 108 of us all together and we’re united in our belief in the provision of sound social values within a live and let live society. These friends are indispensable allies for us at the moment in our campaign to bring an end to this Brexit nightmare.
On Thursday, Catherine Bearder and I were delighted to welcome Niamh O’Connell to Brussels. Niamh lives in Reading where we met at Reading Pride. She also gave a fantastic speech last month at conference, despite being just 13 years-old! Niamh is passionate about making sure that, amongst all the Brexit noise, the voices of young people are still heard. After all, it’s their future we’re messing around with. It makes me truly happy to see more and more young people like Niamh engaged with politics and, better yet, not afraid to show it.
My team and I have also been busy putting in the final preparations on our apprentices’ trip to Brussels next week! We’ve got over 20 young and enthusiastic apprentices from all over the South East joining us for two days. More information to come!
On Thursday, during a debate about Brexit in the European Parliament, Nigel Farage got up and dusted off a routine with which we’ve all become painfully familiar.
“You’re not looking for solutions”, shouted the man who knows nothing but the politics of protest. “We are not dealing with people acting in good faith”, said perhaps the biggest con man of them all. To top it all off, just one day after Leave.EU’s xenophobic tweet in which Angela Merkel was called a “kraut”, Farage exclaimed, proudly, that, “we will never accept a German chancellor attempting to annex part of our nation.”
Familiar as we are with this sort of rhetoric, I could not sit back and watch him spew lie after lie, slogan after slogan, insulting our closest allies while doing so. So, in my own speech that immediately followed his, requested simply that he account for the lies, the inaccuracies and the empty promises that were made during the 2016 referendum. To explain to the public that he had misled them, and that the Brexit fantasy that he had promised simply does not exist. His response? As predictable as ever.
I was a “patronising, stuck up snob”, and how dare I claim that the people were misled? I’ll be honest, I initially took it as a compliment. Anytime you elicit such a strong reaction from someone like him – and this was a incredibly, some might say disproportionally, strong reaction, you must be doing something right. But the comment reveals a level of hypocrisy that has sadly become commonplace amongst the likes of Farage, and one that has distorted public debate.
My background is very ordinary. I grew up in Dogsthorpe, Peterborough. It would be wrong to say it was a deprived area, it was great, but Dogsthorpe is far from posh. For school, after attending Newark Hill Primary, I went to Peterborough County School for Girls, a state grammar which closed soon after I left in 1979. In its place there is now sheltered housing.
After school, I make no secret about the fact that I attended Cambridge University. In fact, I was one of the first students from our school for 25 years to go to Cambridge, and it happened because Fitzwilliam college was, that year, one of the first all-male Cambridge colleges to admit female undergraduates. The college has a fantastic tradition of championing children from areas of society often underrepresented at the university, and it was this tradition, along with my own hard work and my school’s support, that enabled me to go there. I now campaign to extend opportunities in education because I want others to enjoy the choices that good schooling in Peterborough gave me.
Since those days, I have been a science journalist and produced television documentaries, aiming to use TV as a way to make the sciences more accessible for people of all ages. IN a bit of a twist, my most recent show is Magic Hands, a children’s programme that animates songs and poetry and presents it in British Sign Language (BSL). Our third series, my last before becoming an MEP, aired this year and I couldn’t be more proud of the steps we’ve taken to engage the deaf community and spread awareness of BSL among the hearing community.
By contrast with all this, Farage attended Dulwich College, a prestigious independent boarding school in London that charges as much as £14,782 per pupil, per term. He would then, as we know, bypass university, and head straight for the City where he became a commodities trader. I don’t hold any of this against him, it’s a free country, but it’s not exactly Che Guevara, is it, Nigel?
What is worrying is some if Farage’s financial activities. It was only this summer that EU Integrity Watch revealed that he received £450,000 in the year following the referendum from Arron Banks. This money allegedly helped Farage rent a Chelsea home, to the tune of £13,000 per month, as well pay for a Land Rover Discovery and a personal driver.
So, when it comes to being called stuck up and labelled a snob by a man whose life has been characterised by privilege and affluence, I’m afraid I cannot hold back. What is unfolding before is not a Brexit for the people, rather one for the elite, engineered by the elite. It’s not the family struggling to pay its electricity bills, or the disabled OAP at the mercy of NHS waiting times, who will benefit. It is people like Farage, Rees-Mogg and their cronies, with investments safely stashed away in the tax havens of the Cayman Islands, or even in the USA, that will reap the rewards of a plunging pound and a No-Deal Brexit Britain in which regulations, protections and public services are all slashed.
Yesterday I spoke with unapologetic honesty. Yes, we were lied to, and yes, that means that we didn’t know what we were voting for. These are the facts. There will be no £350m per week for the NHS, we will not sign the “easiest trade deal in human history” with the EU and we are not facing an unprecedented era of economic prosperity. That the public was led to believe these lies is a tragedy. That Farage continues to peddle them is a disgrace.
The future we face, if Farage, Johnson and his gang of would-be Brexit martyrs have their way, is we now know without a doubt to be stark: medicine shortages, a plummeting pound, likely civil unrest and the break-up of the United Kingdom. I don’t remember seeing any of these things on the side of a bus. Do you?
No doubt Farage feels he has the right to stand up and label me patronising and stuck up because I dare to hold and voice my opinions, despite my ordinary background. He may even feel justified in doing so. But on the accusation of snobbery, Farage – Old Alleynian, former City trader and friend of billionaire presidents – has no right, no grounds and frankly no shame.
Judith Bunting MEP has responded to the Pro-Brexit group’s controversial tweet, in which German Chancellor Merkel was labelled a ‘kraut’. Aaron Banks, the organisation’s co-founder, has today apologised, following widespread backlash.
Judith says: “Like many others, I was shocked, saddened and slightly sickened when I saw Leave.EU’s xenophobic tweet including a photo of Germany’s Chancellor Merkel. Our country is divided, that’s for sure, but for a political organisation to post such nationalistic propaganda shames us all.
“This is not a version of the UK that I recognise, nor is it the one that we should strive to be. Whatever happens on October 31st, and I certainly hope we Remain, we will need our closest allies more than ever. Now is the time to be building bridges and strengthening ties, not reverting to slogans and insults.
“Leave.EU’s apology is welcome, but as a country we urgently need to bring an end to the toxic political rhetoric that’s taken over. That is why we need a People’s Vote to give the 46 million+ voters a chance to decide between Johnson’s deal and remaining in the EU.”
Last week the Committees met to interview the incoming Commissioner Designates (effectively European Ministers),senior politicians with one put forward by each member state, to lead work in a particular policy area. The people being interviewed will only get the job IF they pass the scrutiny of the Parliament. This is a process designed to shed light on any issues that might cause someone to not be right for a role; whether that is probity, confidence or competence. What a refreshing approach to representation.. Wouldn’t it be great for parliament to have this degree of say-so when Ministers are chosen for the UK cabinet?
The most notable hearing was that of the new Commissioner position,the ‘Commissioner Designate for the “European way of life”’.
I attended this with mycolleagues from the Culture and Education Committee, and also members from the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, and had the opportunity to ask a question.I had planned to raise the questions of education with him, as his role carries responsibility for life long learning, but with many others of the room I wanted to express my disquiet at the title of this new role. To me, there isn’tone “European Way of Life” and I was pleased to receive reassurance that cultural diversity will be protected – the Italian way of life, the Greek way of life, the French and German ways of life, and, of course, the British way of life– all will be protected and promoted by Schinas, in this role. The motto of the EU is ‘United in Diversity’ and this is where the strength of the Union lies.
Away from my committee work, as one of the delegates for The Korean peninsula, I met KIMHyoung-zhin, the Ambassador for the Republic of Korea to the European Union. Ilook forward to continuing our conversation next week during the Delegation meetings.
Thursday was National Poetry day, always a pleasure, and I was pleased to be asked to do a #StopBrexit film to tie in with this. It’s important, sometimes, to take a pause in the frenetic pressure cooker world to recognise how important Culture is in terms ofproviding an outlet for people to let out their feelings, consider different points of view and enjoy what we sharein common.
Back in the UK, on Friday night I was pleased to join Lib Dem Councillors and membersat an event in Kidlington, and had a chance to publicly welcome the news that the British Prime Minister plans to abide by the law – one of the strangest sentences I have ever had to say or write! Nonetheless, I do welcome the news that if no agreement has been made between the UK and the EU about Brexit, and if it has not passed in Westminster, that Boris Johnson has committed to requesting an extension to the Article 50 deadline. In September, of course, the European Parliament votedin favour of granting that extension should it be requested. You can hear my speech about the vote here;
This week ahead, my team is preparing for the visit of the group of more than twentyapprentices to visit the Parliament in Brussels along with visitors from across the #StopBrexit. More news about that next week.
This week we were based in Brussels! On Monday I attended two exhibitions seeking to raise awareness of illegal wildlife trading. The EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking has been in place since 2016 and has significantly helped strengthen the EU’s role in the global fight against illegal trading. During the last EU Parliament the campaign in the EU has been led by Catherine Bearder, also an MEP for the South East.
On Tuesday I was with the Culture and Education (CULT) committee, where we were briefed about the levels of language competence across EU member states. Sadly, the UK is at the bottom of a table listing competency levels for first foreign languages, with just 2% of Brits reaching an ‘intermediate’ level of any foreign language. Learning a foreign language when young is a fantastic way to stretch the brain and it is vital that our schools do more to encourage more children to pursue language lessons.
Like many of you, I watched eagerly as the Supreme Court announced its ruling. In such unnerving times, it was encouraging to see the right of our elected MPs and British Law be reinstated. Praise should also be given to those have been working tirelessly, and thanklessly, to ensure the case was given a proper hearing. Even if they are not your preferred party, never forget that WE elect UK MPs.
On Wednesday I was working with the Industry, Research and Energy committee (ITRE) discussing the significant progress that the EU has made in renewable energy, with the share of renewables in the generation of electricity in the EU doubling between 2005 and 2017. Later on, we celebrated last years’ Creative Copyright Directive, #yes2copyright, one of the great triumphs of the last European Parliament. The directive will help ensure that creative professionals across the EU in a variety of industries are paid fairly for their work. It reminded me of the #SelfieLeave campaign that I spoke about at conference. I hope the shared parental leave will enjoy the same outcome as the copyright directive. Except, of course, the Creative protection will be lost if we ever leave the EU.
The week ended with a Reunion as I returned to my old Cambridge college, Fitzwilliam. I was one of the first women ever admitted to the college when it went co-educational in 1979. This milestone has been marked by a number of interviews with female alumni on the college website to mark 40 years of women at Fitz! It was wonderful to catch up with some familiar faces, and of course some new ones.
I am delighted to announce that this weekend I was also appointed President of the Fitzwilliam Society. Fitz has had a strong tradition of championing students from disadvantaged backgrounds, right since its beginnings in 1869, and that’s exactly the kind of work I hope to encourage in my new capacity as spokesperson for education in Europe.
Next week I will be back in Brussels Interviewing the new round of commissioners, if you would like to pass on your questions and opinions please do!
Chris here from Judith’s team writing again. A month ago, I reported from Reading Pride, and this weekend we went a little bit westward to the site of the First and the Second Battles of Newbury. We marched from Wash Common where scenes from nearly 400 years ago played a pivotal role in what came to shape democracy as we know it today. Dave Stubbs from Newbury held a talk on the English Civil War saying;
“King Charles I, who became king in 1625, believed he had the ‘divine right’ to rule, and parliament had very limited power back then compared to now. Parliament conflicted heavily with the king on issues such ashis choice of political advisors, increasing taxes for expensive foreign wars and the religious influence his French Catholic wife held over English customs. In 1629, Charles got fed up of parliament holding him to account and simply shut it down. He then went on to rule alone for elevenyears. In 1640, he recalled MPs to help raise more money to fight a rebellion in Scotland, but after only three weeks, he prorogued them again. A few months later, he decided he needed them again and recalled them. However, this time, MPs demanded concessions, such as not proroguing parliamentunless theMPs themselvesagreed to it.
“Further war from 1642-45 ended with parliament victorious against the king. Charles I was put on trial, where the following indictment was read against him: “that the king “…for the protecting of himself and his adherents … hath traitorously and maliciously levied war against the present Parliament, and the people therein represented,” and that “against the public interest, common right, liberty, justice, and peace of the people of this nation.”
Fast forward to 2019, and we found ourselves in an uncomfortably familiar situation. Marching from Wash Common through the centre of Newbury, we protested the lack of democracy in the government’s decision to prorogue parliament. Local members,includingJudith, spoke very passionately about the importance ofhaving their parliamentary representativesable to sit in the House of Commons andspeak on their behalf. It was good to see such non-partisan co-operation asthis isdefinitely the way forward ifwe want to#StopBrexit.
Debate was led by Juncker and Barnier, with Guy Verhofstadt taking a leading role as the Chair of the Brexit Steering Group. That said, this was a tough vote for me, because the resolution outlines how the EU would like to move ahead with the Withdrawal Bill, something that I am at pains to resist. However, I still voted to support the bill, because of clause 25, the most important and encouraging part of the resolution, which commits the European Parliament to agree to any request for an extension to Article 50 for the purpose of a People’s Vote, to revoke Article 50, or for a general election.
During the debate I spoke about why this extension could be so important. You can watch my speech here. The three years between 2016 and today may mean little to people in their middle years but, since 2016, 1.4 million young people have come of age and, as a matter of principal, I believe that we must allow the young voices of 2019 to be heard in a vote. The fact that 74% of these youngsters are expected to support us remaining as part of the EU, makes the way that we are plunging towards a no deal Brexit more fundamentally unfair than ever, and also possibly explains why those who support Leaving the EU are so reluctant to support a People’s Vote.
Later in the week, I had the privilege to speak in the plenary debate on the Fight Against Cancer alongside a number of colleagues from Renew Europe. Plenary debates seek to clarify the points of focus for the incoming EU President and the focus of my speech was on resourcing research in bioinformatics, biomedicine and AI so that our fight against cancer has the best chance of success.
Those who are eagle eyed among you may have noticed that on Friday I was interviewed by the James Whale on by Talk Radio, a somewhat digressive interview where he asked about Johnson, Bollocks and, errr, dogs … rather than more serious points like of the lack of any specific proposals from the British Government to solve the Irish border conundrum. Hey, ho. At least, I managed to sneak in the fact that Farage did not win a 5th Brexit MEP in the South East of England, his own back yard. I would also like to reiterate that I really do like dogs.
The weekend saw action with Berkshire for Europe in Newbury in the form of a cross party march from Wash Common through town to Victoria Park. It was a show of unity with speakers from many backgrounds, time to coincide with the 376th anniversary of the first Battle of Newbury! I was happy to be there, with my Stop Brexit T-shirt, loud and proud.
I went on to join the Wokingham team after a brilliant day of action. If, when, there is a general election, we really do have a chance to finally unseat John Redwood. If you want to help out locally then please give them a call!
Throughout my time traveling across the South East and through various European Hubs as part of this role as MEP, there are people who have heartened me, inspired me and also challenged me to keep fighting for the #StopBrexit family.
I wanted to introduce you to a few of them….
Chris from #remainernow spoke at one of the events that I went to in the South West during conference. The team were also exhibiting at the conference, and I know they were then moving on to the Labour conference afterwards. His is a broad church. The important point for themovement is that people CAN change their minds and should be supported when doing so. People chose many reasons to vote leave in 2016, a lot of people have researched the realities of a No Deal and of Leaving the EU and have chosen to make a change in their view and support a Peoples Vote on the final deal. He highlights that those who do change their mind need a safe space to do that without attracting negativity.
#RemainerNow have successfully built a vibrant and passionate community of people willing to say they’ve changed their mind. Its activism has been broad, engaging in everything from signing petitions, media appearances and speaking directly to MPs. It has cultivated a vast following on social media, with over 37,000 followers on Twitter and 6,000 on Facebook. It also runs a podcast where, each week, a different Leaver-turned-Remainer tells their own stories and encourage others to do the same. These kinds of stories are enormously important as they remind us that we can achieve so much more when we engage in open dialogue and embrace a wide range of beliefs in pursuit of common ground.
Having taken social media by storm, its aim now is to take to the streets and go door-to-door, speaking to the people whose futures are at stake. But to achieve all of this, they need your help! You can find out how to support #RemainerNow at remainernow.com.
Our Future, Our Choice (OFOC) is an organisation which believes that there is simply no good Brexit deal for young people. For the past few years it has been campaigning tirelessly for the next generation to be given a say on the decision that will affect them long after the rest of us are gone! After all, let’s not forget, young people voted overwhelmingly to remain in the referendum. It is committed to a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal to ensure future generations are not left facing less opportunity, a tougher job market and fewer rights.
I was fortunate enough to recently meet Chief Spokesperson, Femi. He’s been working endlessly to spread the message and gather as much support as possible across a variety of different broadcast platforms. A law-graduate, he’s been able to bring some much-needed fact-based evidence to a debate sorely lacking in it. It’s vital that we continue to meet and work alongside like-minded individuals such as Femi. The Remain family may contain many different voices and badges, but only by working together can we achieve the result we all desire.
The final person that I want to introduce you to is Madeleina Kay (EUSupergirl) I have met with her a couple of times as I have spoken around the South East. She exudes passion for Europe and being European throughout her speeches and music. She has campaigned tirelessly up and down the country at a range of Remain campaign events and anti-Brexit demonstrations. Using her creative talents she has published children’s books as well as writing and performing a number of songs in support of the Europe.
Her work saw her recognised as the ‘Young European of the Year’ in 2018 by the European Parliament and awarded the Young Talent Prize in 2017 by the Great British Postcard Competition. She’s amassed an impressive following on her Twitter account, with over 30,000 followers and has appeared regularly on platforms such as the BBC, Euronews and Channel 4. Madeleina is a crucial part of our fight to remain in the EU. She is helping to shine a light on all that is good in the EU, and all that we stand to lose if we sever our ties with our closest and oldest allies. Her creativity and vibrancy are helping to cultivate exactly the kind of excitement and positivity that the fight to Remain must be rooted in.
Madam President, what makes cancer so dangerous is that it is such a complex disease. Tumours that come under the same umbrella are often quite different. There are many different kinds of breast cancer, but they’re still called breast cancer. Hodgkin’s lymphoma attacks young lives, not old, and it is 95% curable, which is wonderful. But other cancers are still an automatic death sentence. In addition, genetic instability means that tumours go through an evolutionary process which means they can quickly become resistant to treatments that were working. But we know that one in three cancers might be curable, so we need to do more.
Advancements in genomic research are allowing research on tumour mutations to move quickly. Further studies in epigenetics are allowing researchers to look deeper, beyond DNA, and to combine the medical data with critical information about the kind of external and environmental factors that have been mentioned here today.
We must seize the opportunities created by these advancements in biomedicine, bioinformatics, big data and artificial intelligence to help us in this fight. So I call on Ursula van der Leyen to make the fight against cancer an absolute priority of the next Commission, in scientific research as well as in the medical area.