MEP Life 16- Brussels, Swinson and a week of #StopBrexit visitors

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!

 

MEP Life- starter for 10

This week has been extraordinary from a political climate perspective and also in terms of the galvanising of thousands of people to step out of their usual lives and stand up to be counted to stop the current Government removing their say.

We need a People’s Parliament; a way for everyone to get their voices heard again. If Parliament is silenced, the people are silenced. We voted for them. They represent us. To suspend Parliament is a blow to the very democracy that Number 10 purports to protect. It was a cowardly act at the very time people need to see their MPs acting on their behalf. However chequered each constituency is in terms of voices, each deserves to have their opinions brought to parliament.

I was at College Green on Wednesday evening and was heartened by the show of support from (almost) every party and all walks of life. There was hope at this point that a legal petition could stop a suspension of parliament and our MEPs supported this move. So far, the work goes on… This week will bring profound changes to the UK. If you haven’t yet signed the petition against Proroguing Parliament do sign here. Still angry? Join us to #StopBrexit

This positive feeling continued throughout the week. Across the whole country people are clearly angry and determined to #StopBrexit and halt the imminent suspension of democracy.

 

My LibDem MEP and MP colleagues have been out speaking to their constituents throughout the past week. I caught up with @ReadingLibDems at the glorious Reading Pride on Saturday where, once again, hundreds of people took #StopBrexit stickers as well as filling out the Brexitometer. 

 

My different roles within the European Parliament mean that I sit on a number of committees and have a role on the EU Delegations to India and Korea. In such a role at the end of the week I met the Indian Foreign Minister, Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, and had a chance to speak to him about the current situation in Kashmir and Jammu. I challenged him to hold formal investigations into reports of beatings and torture and called on the Foreign Minister to respect and protect the human rights of all Indian citizens in this situation. I hope to meet with representatives from Kashmir next week.

This, as well as the work in the UK, shows me regularly the changes that can happen with collaboration, If we work towards a common purpose. I was elected to #StopBrexit and find common solutions that might be achieved with our closest neighbours. We work better when we work together, when we speak with the voice of many.

This coming week I will be back to work in Brussels on your behalf. Please continue to send me your questions and concerns, I love to hear from you, whatever your views.

Best wishes, Judith

 

 

MEP Life 9- There and Back again: an MEP life of Journeying in the South East

Another terrific week travelling around the South East and meeting a lot of you. Thank you to everyone who has connected through social media, it is so nice to then meet you in person. Great to meet @sfosterld and the Portsmouth team during the week.

On Thursday I was at Kennet Radio in Newbury discussing all things Brexit with Russ Shackleton- check out the programme 5pm this Sunday @kennetradio. We talked about  the damage that a no deal Brexit will cause, why Brexit is NOT inevitable and talked about all the positive reasons for staying in the EU; Life, love, security and business – There is not much in our day to day lives that is not improved by working with our closest neighbours. Then it was onwards to a Curry night with Bracknell Forest East LibDems, where they were celebrating the election of the very first LibDem councillor onto Bracknell Forest Council. Good luck team! I am sure that with this great start you will win seats next time too!

On Friday it was full steam “Bollocks to Brexit” at Reading Festival as part of Team Remain- a cross party group, led by Berkshire for Europe and Open Britain Berkshire.  So many people came to have a selfie at the Team Remain stand – including Femi, who told me about his trip around the UK to find out about the impact of Brexit on Young People. All the festival goers that we met understand that life IS better inside the EU. We gave out 31,000 stickers- just fantastic! If you came to say ‘hi’ in the sun, thank you! It is your voices that are being heard the world over at events like this. 

On a more serious note, over the weekend, we were all horrified to hear of the wildfires burning in the Amazon rainforest, the impact of which will be felt across the world. There really are no borders when it comes to clean air and the impact of this loss on the hundreds of people who live in the forest will also be felt deeply by the entire planet. Our MEP group sent a letter to Commissioner Malemstrom to increase pressure on Brazil to act.

My final trip for this week was over to the Isle of Wight for a discussion on “Innovation on the Island”, with Richard Peckham former Chair of UKSpace, and Rosie Jones, Tech transfer Manager extraordinaire. It was a brilliant evening with discussion about education and vocational training on the island as well as how councils and government should be helping entrepreneurs and inventors turn their innovations into valuable businesses, employing people and adding to the economy. The reason I care about business is because this is where most people get jobs. Time for my favourite fact from the FSB: SME’S account for 60% of all private sector employment in the UK and yet Brexit would hit these companies hardest.

ANNOUNCEMENT

And finally – APPRENTICES: My Newsletter has just come out this week with an emphasis on Apprentices and I urge you to sign up if you have not already. I will be taking a large group of Apprentices over to Brussels in October to meet with MEPs and talk about the future of Apprenticeships if we leave the EU without a deal. If this is something that interests you or someone you know, do sign up for information about the trip here.

Bunting talks Business in Chesham- MEP Life 8

This week I have had a short break after visiting all over the South East over the past few weeks. However, I managed to squeeze in a couple of things over the weekend which I wanted to tell you about.

I was invited to speak at an event in Chesham, by the group Chilterns 4 EU, about Brexit (whether no-deal or bad-deal) and the effect that it has had so far on small businesses as well as the likely effect it will have should it go ahead.

I want to reinforce to everyone reading this that Brexit is NOT inevitable! Negotiations are afoot behind the scenes to force a vote of no confidence and form a government of national unity. The only job of this government will be to seek an extension to the Article 50 deadline and organise a ‘People’s Vote’ which offers one specific BREXIT option and the option to Remain in Europe.

And so, back to Chesham; this Town Hall event sold out within a few days. Chaired by Walid Marzouk of Chiltern Lib Dems, the meeting went ahead with 115 people attending, all of them people who wish to remain in the EU and many of them running local businesses which are being damaged already. The popularity of this session was a surprise to me. It shows how even in areas which are represented by Brexit-supporting MPs, the strength of feeling and understanding of what a disaster Brexit would be, is growing.

Ian Slaney was an attendee who told the meeting; “I was a businessman during the early 1970s. I dealt with imports and exports for major manufacturers of motor cars.  I remember shipping cars through a freight ship and the paperwork and the delays and the complications we had to engage in. When we finally joined the EU and this was probably about the turning point of my responsibility, in 1973, things suddenly changed completely and the world became so much easier.”

I was joined on the panel by Sonali Parekh, an Independent Expert from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) who leads their research into the effect of Brexit on small businesses. Sonali told the meeting; “A lot of our [FSB] members are concerned about preparedness within the smaller business community for a potential no deal on 31st October. When we polled last year, only 14% of smaller businesses were prepared for a no-deal scenario.”

“A total of 66% of our members that trade with the EU felt that a no-deal could have a detrimental impact on their short-term business continuity.”

“1 in 5 of our smaller businesses have at least 1 EU member of staff. Since the outcome of the EU referendum, 40% felt that recruitment from the EU had become more challenging.”

“For those of our smaller businesses that have a supply chain that criss-crosses the EU and the UK, they are giving serious consideration to moving more of their operations to the EU.”

As well as taking about business, I met Yasmin, who passionately wants to remain part of the EU so that she and her generation can enjoy the opportunities that the rest of us have enjoyed for almost sixty years.

Brexit, especially leaving without a deal continues to be doggedly pursued by the Prime Minister and we hear daily about the horrible effect that this would have across the whole of the UK including Agricultural Business;

We still have a chance to make a difference and push for the MPs to get involved in blocking a no-deal scenario. 

I have one further week before I return to Brussels and will be visiting Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. I look forward to getting back to representing you in EU parliament. Have your say by making contact with me

My newsletter will be concentrating on Apprenticeships and the impact Brexit will be having on these, do sign up before the end of August to hear about some exciting news about supporting Apprentices across the UK.

 

Summer in the South East- MEP Life 7


For the last couple of weeks, I have been back for the Summer, working in the UK, meeting and campaigning with local groups in the South East. It has been great to meet new members and old, as well as other Remain supporters who are part of the fantastic Grassroots for Europe network.

Attending a meeting of West Berkshire for Europe  (formerly West Berkshire Stronger Together EU), this week, I enjoyed some encouraging and positive cross-party discussions about how Remain parties can work together to stop Brexit. If you have a ‘for Europe’ group in your area, please do get in touch with them. 

Have you listened to the Our MEP Life’ podcast yet? In this week’s episode our conversation ranges from reforestation to Erasmus+ and Creative Europe, to girls in science and many things in-between. If there is something you would like us to discuss or if you have feedback for us, please get in touch: MEPLife@judithbunting.co.uk. The podcast is now available on Spotify (which for some reason makes me feel madly cool!). 

On Saturday I joined an EU street stall in Basingstoke where we proudly flew the EU flag. I spoke with many people about the EU and Brexit and had a number of great conversations. We had new stickers to hand out, “Bonkers to Brexit’, as well as the classics, so many conversations end with the priceless question: ‘Would you like Bonkers or B*llocks?’

 Next weekend, on Saturday, I will be at Chesham Town Hall in Buckinghamshire, on a panel with the Head of Brexit Research at the Federation of Small Businesses, Sonali Parekh. If you are in the area, please come along.

Don’t forget you can keep updated with all of my activities and news in the following ways TwitterFacebookInstagramPodcastWebsite, or email and, of course, you can:

SIGN UP TO MY newsletter, HERE.

 

Campaigning, Councillors and Congratulations- MEP Life -Week 6

The big event last week was, of course, the by-election in Brecon and Radnorshire. What a fantastic result! Jane Dodds is a hugely welcome addition to the Lib Dem team in Westminster. Most importantly, right now, her presence in parliament reduces the Conservative majority to just one vote.  

The European Parliament closed down for the Summer at the end of July. Most MEPs take their annual leave at this time but, for Lib Dem MEPs, this year the story is different as we continue to campaign to stop Brexit. 

On Wednesday I had the pleasure of going to Brecon and Llandrindod to campaign for Jane Dodds in the by-election. Jane was the first Council Candidate that I ever delivered for, and it was great to meet her team in Wales as well as so many terrific people, including June Davies, an important part of the Remain Alliance. It was a brilliant day of campaigning in a truly beautiful part of the world.

Jane’s win in Brecon sends a clear message to Boris: Brexit is not a foregone conclusion. With only one vote in hand, and with pro-EU Tory MPs considering whether to defect, the government’s Commons majority could be wiped out at any moment.

Continuing the LibDem surge, more than 35,000 people have joined the Liberal Democrats since May. We demand better for Britain. We need to use our time as MEPs wisely, and as Liberal Democrat MEPs we are working hard to stop Brexit.

On Saturday I joined local councillors and the newly announced Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate, Councillor Lee Dillon, in Newbury. The street stall was a great opportunity to meet with people and discuss some of their concerns with Brexit. 

Later that day I attended an event in Whitchurch and Overton where I met the fabulous Gavin James and Lucy Sloane Williams, as well as newly elected Councillors Ryan Hickling and Andy Koniecko. If you are holding any local events or street stalls in your area, over the summer, please let me know at judith@judithbunting.co.uk .

In this week’s podcast Caroline Voaden and I discuss our committee work and what it has involved so far. My areas of responsibility are education, industry, research and energy – with a little culture thrown in for good measure. We also talk about pilot projects, STEAM, climate change and so much more!

If there is something you would like us to discuss please let us know at MEPLife@judithbunting.co.uk .

An eventful week in politics- MEP Life – week 5

MEP Life

They say a week is a long time in politics, well they are not wrong!! From the London march through to two new party leaders, this week was super-eventful. Thanks to all who attended the March for Change in London, the many photos and videos from the day are just brilliant. We must keep up the pressure and be vocal of our need to Stop Brexit.

Jo Swinson, Leader of the Liberal DemocratsMonday saw the Liberal Democrat leadership announcement, with Jo Swinson elected as the first female leader of the party. Jo gave a barnstormer of a speech that was powerful and motivating and she was clear: “I stand here as a candidate for Prime Minister”. 
And if you have any doubts about how realistic this is, take a look at the latest You Gov polls on Westminster voting intention.

Jo’s election continues the LibDem surge and we have seen well over 20,000 new members join us after our successes in both local and European elections. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to join us. This is the fightback for liberal Britain.

Judith Bunting officeArriving back in Brussels I have recorded another MEP Life podcast with Caroline Voaden, where we discussed everything from travel, pollution, elections, and the heatwave. In Brussels, this was a week of committee work. Committee weeks come twice a month and are where the real legislative and policy work gets done. On the Education and Culture committee, the Renew team is currently campaigning to increase the budget for Creative Europe, Erasmus Plus and other educational schemes by 10%. On the Industry and Science committee, I was involved in proposing a visit to the fascinating Chalk River Research Facility in Canada, where they do a lot of good work from which I believe the EU could learn, The suggestion was welcomed and the visit may well go ahead in 2020. 

Outside of committees, our MEP delegation joined colleagues in co-signing a letter to the Polish Prime Minister in response to the attacks on the Pride March in Bialystok, and distribution of ‘LGBT-free zone’ stickers. This goes against the Liberal Democrats fundamental principle of a ‘free, fair and open society’. We firmly believe in tolerance, respect, and anti-discrimination for all.

We also met with the group ‘British in Europe’ and counterpart campaigners, the3million, to talk over what will happen to the 1.3 million Brits currently living in Europe and the 3 million EU citizens living in the UK if Boris Johnson goes ahead with a no deal Brexit. These citizens are our friends, family and neighbours. They set up cross-border families and working lives in good faith, while no one had any thought of the UK leaving Europe. If our government chooses to break that contract, they should receive special dispensation to live as Europeans for the foreseeable future. We also discussed the ‘Denied my vote’ movement is raising money to take the UK government to court over the electoral chaos which surrounded the most recent European elections. They have the lawyers and a great case, now they need the cash.

This week saw the launch of my monthly newsletter, you can sign up here. Other ways to keep in touch are Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Podcast, Website, or email.

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!

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

The European Parliament is open for business! -MEP Life week 2

Judith Bunting MEP

This week has been momentous, with my time having been spent in Strasbourg for the opening of the European Parliament, voting for the president, finalising our committees, and continuing to find my feet as an MEP.


Monday was a day of travelling and emails as I made my way from the UK over to Strasbourg to finally take up my elected role as an MEP.

The opening of the European Parliament took place on Tuesday, and was an historic and emotional experience. Our group of 16 Liberal Democrat MEPs donned bright ‘Stop Brexit’ t-shirts to draw attention to the serious point that Brexit is not inevitable.

My personal goal as a Pro-European, British MEP is to be visible, accountable and show what really goes on in the European Parliament. 

We sixteen Liberal Democrats were elected to stop Brexit. We are committed to achieving this. I am pleased to say that our bright message was heard across Europe and was received well by our fellow Europeans in Parliament. As a group we will continue to fight for Britain to play a leading role in the EU. I will do my best to represent you in this while I am a MEP.

Our first official task as MEPs was to vote for the next president of the European Parliament. I supported the newly elected president, David Sassoli, an Italian politician who has been very active in his support for young people and who is committed to tackling climate change. Later in the week Mr Sassoli addressed the European Parliament and stated; “Only when we are united can we counterbalance the most powerful global players.”

There were many voting sessions to elect the President of Parliament, 14 Vice Presidents and the Quaestors – sometimes described as the trades union leaders of MEPs. At almost 10pm on the second day of voting, we even voted on which method to use, with the quick and efficient electronic voting devices winning – thank goodness! With so many new MEPs we were given a trial run to ensure that everyone was happy with how to use them. This involved us voting yes, no or abstain on our favourite musicians. I am pretty sure that the Beatles won. I will get a photo to show you the voting device soon.

Judith Bunting MEPOur committee positions were officially confirmed this week, and I am delighted that I represent the UK on the Education and Culture committee (CULT) and on the committee for Industry, Research and Energy(IRE). With my team I have also made a start on the applications for three pilot projects, putting together ideas around increasing interest in science among teenage girls and promoting lifelong learning. Both of these areas are close to my heart.

Back in the UK we had a number of team meetings in our new office space in Reading. The week was once again rounded off with visits to local Liberal Democrat teams, including a second party in Wokingham constituency where we celebrated their fantastic council gains and I talked with them about my role as a MEP.

If you are planning to hold street stalls to promote Europe over the summer, please let my team know by contacting us at; SocialMedia@JudithBunting.co.uk 

You can keep updated with my activities by signing up to receive my new MEP newsletter here.