MEP Life 15- Interviews, Interrogations and a week of #Education

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 my colleagues 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’t one “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 KIM Hyoung-zhin, the Ambassador for the Republic of Korea to the European Union. I look 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 of providing an outlet for people to let out their feelings, consider different points of view and enjoy what we share in common. 
 
Back in the UK, on Friday night I was pleased to join Lib Dem Councillors and members at 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 voted in 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 twenty apprentices to visit the Parliament in Brussels along with visitors from across the #StopBrexit. More news about that next week.  

Stay safe, Judith 

MEP Life 14: Committees, Supreme Decisions and a Presidency

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.

The events of the following day were less than encouraging. The behaviour of Prime Minister Johnson was reprehensible. This country is in dire need of unifying and healing, yet his harmful and dangerous rhetoric only deepens divisions. He has, time and time again, showed his disdain for the people of the UK and our democratic principles. It’s therefore vital that opposition parties including the Liberal Democrats do all they can to stop the government from crashing this country out with a disastrous No-Deal.   

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!

 

MEP Life 13- Debates, Dogs and Demonstrations

Last week, it was back to Strasbourg last week for the big debate on the resolution on the state of play of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU

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!