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.

Week 1- New faces, new places

It’s been a whirlwind few weeks from being at the count at the end of May through to this week, when Parliament opens.

The first day in Brussels I seemed to be continually lost, but everybody from the ushers to the civil servants took time to help. Everyone has been so friendly. Almost every official  has quietly said something along the lines of, “I probably shouldn’t say this, but we are all very pleased to see the Liberal Democrats back in Europe.” No one here wants Brexit to happen – and for all the right reasons.

This week has been dominated by final preparations and organisation before the European Parliament sits, when, alongside my fifteen colleagues from across the UK, I officially take my seat. We have received our committee allocations, and I am delighted to announce that I have been selected to sit on the European Parliament’s Committee for Education and Culture.

 

I have attended a number of Renew Europe group meetings looking at policy and discussing a framework document. I also took the opportunity to attend a briefing session on Tuesday looking at the latest research in energy storage to promote the use of renewable energy for the grid and for vehicles, and also how better energy storage can help us meet the EU energy and climate goals. 

This is a critical subject for future research. Whilst worldwide energy use overall is predicted to decrease, electricity use is predicted to double! The EU has set an ambitious, binding target of 32% for renewable energy sources in the EU’s energy mix by 2030, it is now up to member states to implement this.

Looking at education and culture, we learned on Thursday that new MEPs have an opportunity to propose pilot projects to the commission, but the deadline is tight. Me and my team are planning to propose a scheme to promote and retain girls’ interest in science and engineering. This is just one of the ways in which those you elected can help to guide the work of the commission.

Renew Europe, as a group, met to discuss our position document to lay out our ideas and intentions to the European Council and the Commission. It is a real honour to be sitting with, working and voting with so many well-intentioned, like-minded people.

This first parliamentary session in Strasbourg begins next week. People tell me that the Parliament building is similar to the Galactic Senate Chamber in Star Wars, I will let you know!

Rounding off my week, back in the UK, I had the privilege of being shown around the breath-taking grounds at Brookwood Military Cemetery to mark Armed Forces Day, and in West Berkshire attending a session discussing how to be your child’s first science teacher.