A view from behind the Lens- feedback on the Apprentices’ trip 2019

Hello there, Felix here from Judith’s team.

As a lot of you will know, Judith recently hosted a group of 24 young apprentices from the South East of England. We assembled at King’s Cross St. Pancras International, meeting up with groups of apprentices who’d travelled from across the region, Kent, West Berkshire and Oxfordshire. Names were checked off lists, tickets were distributed and before we knew it, we were passing through the Channel Tunnel and on our way to Brussels!

On arrival we met Kate Coulson, our colleague who is a Parliamentary Assistant (APPA) working in Judith’s Brussels office. She handed over our tickets and kindly set us in the direction of the hostel, which gave us our first taste of the famed Brussels transport system! Comfortable as the trains were, the lack of signage was a little unsettling. Fortunately, our Chief of Staff, Gabrielle was on hand to save the day. Indeed, legend has it she has yet to encounter a language she cannot master, so it was in her impeccable French that we placed our trust, which ultimately got us to our accommodation in time to kick start our busy itinerary!

During the first evening we had a fantastic event in the MEP salon. Several of Judith’s fellow Liberal Democrat MEP’s took the time to discuss with our visitors, the EU and how central opportunities for young people are to it. Ben Butters, a representative from EUROCHAMBRES, highlighted just how globalised the workplace now is, and how the apprentices could best make use of that environment. Speaking personally, I couldn’t help but feel a little envious. To follow MEPs or Chief Executives online, or on TV, is one thing, but to actually have direct access to them and the opportunity to pick their brains, as our apprentices did afterwards, is absolutely brilliant! It was great to see them take up those opportunities. On an anecdotal level it was also fascinating to speak with the apprentices and hear about their experiences of apprenticeships, which were universally positive. All too often, university is simply presented as the default route, yet we know it’s not a “one size fits all” situation and these apprentices were evidence of that.

The second day started with the somewhat more relaxed option of the bus, which we took to the European Parliament Visitor’s Centre. Here we were greeted by an experienced civil servant from the European Commission, who gave us a fascinating talk on the EU. The EU as a topic has dominated the news agenda now for almost four years, but rarely, if ever, do you get the chance to hear about it and all of its institutions, conventions and processes explained with such clarity. Again, it was fantastic for us all to get such an insight. We were then given a tour of the building, including the hemicycle. Its modern and practical approach was extremely refreshing and is something our own parliament could take note from! Each seat had a set of buttons from which the sitting MEP could vote instead of having to pile out of the doors and into separate chambers, as they do in Westminster. There were also enough seats for all the members, a concept our own House of Commons has yet to grasp.

After that it was into the city centre for another Belgian delicacy: frites! an afternoon spent exploring the city by virtue of a scavengers hunt, before hopping back on the same Eurostar as a certain Liberal Democrat party grandee by the name of Vince Cable.

All in all, a terrific trip and hopefully a great opportunity for our young people to appreciate just how many wonderful opportunities are out there for them to make use of. I look forward to the next one!

Felix

 

The future looks bright with these promising apprentices, but we can make it brighter still!

In October, I was delighted to welcome 24 apprentices from the South East of England to Brussels, along with an additional contingent from the East of England! These are young men and women who I hope will benefit from finding out opportunities that are available to them throughout the EU. It took a lot of time, preparation and effort, (thanks team!) but I am thrilled to say it was a resounding success.

The inspiration for this trip came from the Manifesto for a Europe of Apprenticeships, which seeks to consolidate vocational students’  place within the wider Erasmus+ scheme. Erasmus+ has provided life-changing opportunities for over nine million young people to study in EU member states since 1987, yet it was only since 2014 that apprenticeship opportunities were really expanded, thanks to the ErasmusPRO pilot project. ErasmusPRO includes language support for apprentices on placements in Europe and much longer placements of 6-12 months which gives an opportunity for consolidation of learning and building of confidence in the apprentices meaning delegates can fully immerse themselves in a different country, pick up a language and become comfortable with living, working and studying in a new culture. As someone whose career has centred around education, I’ve long campaigned for a recognition that it comes in many different forms. For some, university is undoubtedly the best course of action, but for many within our workforce it is not. Many learners benefit far better from a more practical, hands-on, vocational approach.  

Harriet and Lexie learning about options for Erasmus placements in Europe

When the group arrived at the European Parliament I had the chance to speak with them and find out what they knew about Erasmus+ and talk about their career aspirations and how a placement in a European country could help them. The discussions were eye-opening, fascinating and encouraging. What a brilliant group of young people, from such a diverse and interesting range of fields. We had apprentices training in broadcast production, heating and ventilation, engineering, law, science and business. A fantastic mix and proof that (nearly) whatever career path you want to pursue, there is more than one path that can get you there.

I hope this experience will give our visitors a chance to tell their friends, their fellow apprentices, and their families about all that is available to them through schemes like Erasmus+. It’s a huge shame despite that hard work in this area and knowledge of the routes to vocational education are still not well known. Young people like these apprentices are this country’s future. By providing them with the tools for success and access to the best training programmes, we help build a stronger, more prosperous and more enriched country. Something that benefits us all!

Whatever future unrolls in the coming months, it is critical that the skills deficit in the UK and access to training throughout Europe is prioritised so that our society can thrive. Currently, quite aside from Erasmus, EU funding supports a large amount of training and education. Johnson’s deal contains precious little detail about how this will be replaced and it’s hard to believe that access to vocational training will be a top priority for the current Government,

This is one reason that we are so keen to Stop Brexit. it’s not just about the economic impact, jobs, or our ability to trade with the rest of the world, it’s about ensuring that our young people, on whose shoulders the future of this country depends, are not denied the fantastic opportunities that others, throughout Europe enjoy!

– Judith

MEP hits back after fiery exchange in European Parliament

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.

Sunday School at Church of Christ Carpenter, Dogsthorpe, Peterborough (with my teddy)

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.

How dare I, Mr Farage? How dare you.

My Speech at Plenary, Cancer debate

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.

MEP Life 11- Parliament, Police and Proroguing

BRUSSELS

Hello to you all, as you may have noticed, MEPs were back at work in Brussels, last week. The first week of the month is committee week, and I spent my formal working time considering plans and worries around 5G, budget provision for Erasmus and Creative Europe, and plans for Energy Transition with it the EU. How can I deny, though, that my heart was in Westminster …

BREXIT

One of our first actions on return was to meet up with other UK MEPs who are supportive of a People’s Vote and to sign a cross party Brussels Declaration which indicates we were not happy with the UK Government attempting to force through a no deal Brexit on 31st October. It was great to be acting with so many people from Labour, the Greens, Independent MEPs and Naomi Long from the Northern Ireland Alliance party. Despite our differences, we are all shocked and disgusted by the approach that PM Johnson and his cabinet have taken to the role of Parliament and the prospect of a no deal Brexit. I am hugely proud of the Remain Alliance and Jo Swinson for taking control of Westminster Business and finding a legal way to stop a No Deal Brexit.

MEP Life

With Westminster in mind, Caroline Voaden and I recorded an extra podcast this week, a special edition catching up on all the remarkable moves in Westminster, last week, to control business and forestall Johnsons’s foolish actions. You can listen to it here and catch up with the usual weekly podcast, here.

Euronews was also wrapped up in Brexit, and I also took part in a phone-in for Raw Politics where we discussed the potential for national embarrassment in the face of Brexit. I made the point that the only real embarrassment we face is that, when the referendum was initially put to the country, there was no explanation of WHAT Brexit was meant to entail.

Continuing on the same theme, on Friday, I was asked for an interview by SKY News and was delighted to have a chance to raise the specific hypocrisy of Johnson giving a speech in front of Police Cadets, while proposing a no deal Brexit which would trash more than 40 different cross border legal measures, like Europol and the European Arrest Warrant, on which UK forces of law and order, depend. We already have seen horrible cuts in Police budgets. What more will disappear if Brexit goes ahead is anyone’s guess. I hear from criminologists that we will have to fall back on legal agreements drawn up in the nineteen fifties.

The background to the interview was that I was expecting a gentle, pre-recorded interview. But no. I meet the Sky team, have an ear piece put in my ear and hear ‘Live in 5 minutes.’ Now, I know we are going to be talking about Westminster and Brexit so … I asked what the questions were going to be and was put through to the gallery to hear, ‘Live in 3 minutes’. Then ‘It’s Boris Johnsons’s week, OK? Live in 2 minutes.’ And so we tumbled into the interview.

It was pretty relaxed in the end, although (since this is MEP life) it would have been nice to see a screen to know when I was on camera, but in the context of Brexit, being given an opportunity to raise Boris Johnson’s hypocrisy is everything!

(All credit to Sky, they had no notice that I was going to raise the police cadet’s speech and they still managed to slip in a cut away.)

APPRENTICES

On a more positive note, in the Newsletter last week, I launched an Apprentice’s trip to Brussels in October. Whatever happens next, Europe will be our nearest neighbour and the subsidised trip is for apprentices 18-25 to come and visit Brussels, take a look at the Parliament, and speak to people who are shaping opportunities for apprentices, trainees and businesses across Europe. If you are an apprentice or are supporting apprentices or have an apprentice in your family, there is still time to apply for a place on the apprentices visit. The application form can be found, here. Deadline is 20.09.2019 at 6pm.

If you would like to sign up for next months newsletter, please click here.

By the time I write, next week, Parliament will be prorogued. Hold on to your Democracy, we are in for a bumpy ride!

This is a Climate Emergency, Dirty Air Knows no Borders!

Judith Bunting MEP, in European Parliament, delivering her speech to the European Parliament on Climate Change.

Following her speech in the European Parliament last month, Judith Bunting MEP highlights the case for calling a Climate Emergency.

“Ill health caused by air pollution costs the economy billions in lost working days. Causing 400,000 premature deaths per year in Europe alone, it is currently the number one cause of premature deaths. We need to work smarter, we have the technology to do this and we should embrace that.”

The Government has passed a Net-Zero target for Carbon emissions by 2050 whilst also making chaotic decisions that will undermine this target. They have slashed subsidies for solar power, banned the cheapest form of renewable onshore wind energy generation and ended the ‘Green Deal’, which aimed to improve the energy efficiency of people’s homes. As well as these cuts, there is a policy of pursuing fracking to access fossil fuels throughout Britain, including areas of outstanding natural beauty such as the Weald Basin in the South Downs covering Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex and Kent, to further compound their policy of supporting expanding the airport provision in one of busiest Airports in Europe, London Heathrow.

TrafficJudith continues, “Unfortunately Dirty Air knows no borders, the problems in the South East will affect the nearby areas of the country and impact the health of the world. We can do better than this and the South East deserves better.”

Judith Bunting calls for a stop to meaningless targets on sales of new petrol and diesel cars and a reversal of the cuts to incentivise a change of approach for each and every citizen. Instead we should adopt meaningful policies, which can make a difference to climate change from day one.

Air pollution from carsThe Liberal Democrats demand better and have set out a way of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. We are fighting for a net-zero EU by 2050 across the 28 member states of the European Union. Dealing with carbon emissions will not only deal with the climate emergency but cut air-pollution, reduce fuel poverty and create thousands of jobs in the renewables sector. These targets can be positive for our health, our economy and the planet.

Dirty Air Knows No Borders

Judith Bunting MEP, in European Parliament, delivering her speech to the European Parliament on Climate Change.

Giving my maiden speech in plenary at the European Parliament, I addressed the Clean Air debate. Air pollution directly causes both chronic and serious diseases such as asthma, cardiovascular problems and lung cancer. Ill health caused by air pollution costs the economy billions in lost working days. Causing 400,000 premature deaths per year in Europe alone, it is currently the number one cause of premature death. Poor air quality has more than ten times the health impact of road traffic accidents. In this age of innovation and advanced technology this is simply unacceptable. I demand better, and we must do better.
 
The EU has a solid framework in place which includes Ambient Air Quality Directives, with low emission zones and incentives for cleaner transportation starting to be implemented across cities and regions in Europe with encouraging results. To combat dirty air, we need ambition, we need to work together. 

We need to work with member states to enforce Ultralow Emissions Zones in our small towns, our market towns, as well as in our cities. Every small town has a road or junction where locals know that the air pollution is out of control. There is a clear case, to charge dirty drivers on health grounds and we can. There is a need for targeted clean air zones in our towns across the UK.
 
As a British Liberal Democrat, I was elected to keep Britain in the European Union – and one of my main reasons for wanting to be here is to help protect our shared environment.
 
Dirty air knows no borders. 
 
What are your thoughts on clean air and ULEZ? Do you live in an area where air pollution is excessive? Please get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.

A week of firsts- MEP life- Week 4

My second week in Strasbourg started with a meeting looking at renewable energy with Jerzy Buzek, MEP, Chair of the European Energy Forum, and Miguel Arias Cañete, the Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy. It was good to discuss with them the latest long term plans for sustainable change across the EU.

The Women for Europe group met with us on Wednesday, which was a pleasure. It was great to finally meet everyone, including the Commissioners for Transport and Justice and also Margarate Vesteger, recently appointed Renew Europe Vice President of the Parliament.

Later in the week the Liberal Democrat delegation had the opportunity to meet with the European Chief Negotiator for Brexit, Michel Barnier. It was a positive meeting which provided us with some keen insights into what may happen next for Brexit. As Liberal Democrats, we are not here to play, and for the good of everyone in the UK, we must stop Brexit.

Coming up I will be looking at UK apprenticeships in more detail, and sharing how apprentices can benefit from our membership of the EU. Please do get in touch if you have a story to share. 

The big news of the week was that we voted to elect the first female president of the European Commission. Voting itself was a highly democratic process and, before the vote, we had the opportunity to meet with Mrs von der Leyen. What I took away from these meetings is that she is listening. Her commitments on climate change, fighting tax evasion, social justice and an extension to Article 50 are all promising. Hearing her promise to put forward a Green Deal for Europe in her first 100 days of office as well as looking to hold Amazon accountable is also encouraging.

Making my maiden speech in plenary, I joined the debate on clean air. As part of Europe we have the opportunity to protect our shared environment. Dirty air knows no borders, and poor air quality has more than ten-times the impact of road traffic accidents. We have the technology, we need to use it. I call for the enforced targeting of Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ) to be extended to smaller towns and cities.

If you are planning to hold street stalls to promote Europe over the summer, please let my team know by contacting us at info@judithbunting.co.uk. We would love to hear from you!

In the spirit of transparency, I am making it easy to see what I am up to as a one of your MEPs. As well as this weekly blog: I have video updates on Twitter and Facebook, a newsletter which you can sign up to here and our MEP Life podcast

 

If you like what you see, hear or read – please let us know!

Election of the first female European Commission President.

The election of the first female European Commission President is good news for Europe and the UK.

Voting itself was a highly democratic process, and we had the opportunity of meeting Mrs von der Leyen to discuss various points of note with her. What I took away from these meetings is that she is listening. Her commitments on climate change, fighting tax evasion, social justice and an extension to Article 50 are all promising. Hearing her promise to put forward a Green Deal for Europe in her first 100 days of office as well as looking to hold Amazon accountable is very encouraging.
Everyone understands, now, that leaving the European Union would be a disaster for British families, jobs and education. I was pleased to hear her commitment to grant a further extension to the Brexit deadline, to give Britain space to think and our next Prime Minister time to do the sensible thing to call a referendum on the final deal. We need to be central to the European Project, not outside of it.

 

Busy in Brussels and Berkshire -MEP Life – week 3

European Parliament

At the start of the week I travelled back to Brussels for the start of our legislative and committee work. For me, that means a focus on education and culture, specifically life-long learning, STEAM subjects, and the Creative Europe funding scheme, which is important for all of our creative industries here in the UK.

I got to discuss the Erasmus+ extension, which is looking to include apprenticeships. I think these changes are a great idea, so watch this space!
 
As a group of MEPs, the Liberal Democrats co-signed a letter to the Japanese Ambassador to the European Union, this week, calling for a halt to commercial whaling. There is no need for commercial whaling, it is a cruel trade that provides nothing that the world really needs.


In our Renew Europe Group meeting this week we discussed human rights, EU Global strategy, and the crisis in the Persian Gulf. On Wednesday, I attended our group meeting with the Commission Presidential Candidate, Ursula von der Leyen. She confirmed to our Renew Europe group that she hopes the UK will remain in Europe. Because the allocation of the EU top jobs depends on the votes won from across Europe, Ursula is a Conservative choice for the role. She is a progressive conservative and I think we will be willing to support her. 

Later in the week it was great to meet former MEP Felix Schwalba-Holt with Yorkshire for Europe.  Back in the UK I was on the panel for ITV’s ‘Last Word’, where we discussed life as an MEP, the Liberal Democrat leadership contest, the future Prime Minister and of course Brexit. Afterwards I stopped to chat to the wonderful Steven Bray and the SODEM group outside of Westminster. Their tireless campaigning is incredible, do go and say hello if you get the chance.

As seems to now be my working pattern, I attended regional events over the weekend. First I attended Newbury College where I had the pleasure of meeting the Principal and his team, where we discussed apprenticeships and opportunities for young people. I was then honoured to join the Twinning events and ceremony between Newbury, Berkshire and Carcaixent, Spain. Twinning is a shared European project and a fantastic exchange of culture and people. Such opportunities are invaluable and they transcend politics. I love this movement that has kept doors open to our neighbours across #Europe.
If you are planning to hold street stalls to promote Europe over the summer, please let my team know by contacting us at info@judithbunting.co.uk. We would love to hear from you!

In the spirit of transparency, I am making it easy to see what I am up to as an MEP. As well as this  weekly blog: I am releasing video updates which you can find by following me on Twitter and Facebook. We are busy preparing a new newsletter which you can sign up to here. We have also launched a new podcast called MEP Life.

If you like what you see, hear or read – please let us know!

info@judithbunting.co.uk