Last week, we welcomed Tom into the office to do a few days of work experience. He was a great help and as part of his work wrote a blog...
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It is five years since the UK opened our doors to the world through hosting the Olympic and Paralympic games, including holding parts of the games in my South West constituency. From Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony onwards, that summer of 2012 showed Britain at its best — open, tolerant, world-leading and world-embracing.
Boyle’s masterpiece captured the UK recognising its history but as a nation with its eyes firmly on the future; on youth, on climate change, on working in the common interest both domestically and internationally. Celebrating our public services and those who work in our national institutions.
Now our interim Prime Minister and her chaotic Cabinet are attempting to drag our country away from these core British values, turning us into a nation that is inward focussed - talking to ourselves about ourselves.
The Olympics – brought to the country by a Labour government winning the 2005 bid – demonstrated Labour values in action. Investment in infrastructure and disadvantaged communities. Inspiring our young people to reach the very height of their ambitions. And, despite what Theresa May would have us believe, being proud to be British and proud to be part of the world – a truly global Britain already in existence.
That summer showed a Britain that was great and united. This summer is showing a Britain that has shrunk back from that confidence. As Labour politicians we must now hold true to the values that delivered the Olympics and so much more for our country. Our party stands for making sure that everybody gets a good wage and a decent home to live in. For having an NHS, schools and public services that are properly provided for and public sector workers properly rewarded for the work they do. Indeed, this is what we promised in our election manifesto, something that inspired millions to vote for us.
But we must be under no illusions. Any kind of Brexit will make our raison d’être of sustainably growing our economy and making sure it is more equally distributed that much more difficult. I have been unequivocal that for reasons pragmatic, principled and patriotic I firmly believe Britain’s place should be remaining with our closest friends and neighbours inside the European Union.
However, should we be unable to remain in the EU, it is incumbent on us to ensure we get the best deal for our economy and our society. Any deal that sees us exiting the Single Market and Customs Union will make the task of maintaining, let alone increasing, our manufacturing base, being involved in the world’s largest research area, funding our public services and simply staffing our economy and NHS almost impossible.
The 2012 Olympics held a mirror to our country’s face and we saw a Britain proud of itself and proud of our leading place in the world. Should we follow the ideological path currently being set by May, Davis, Johnson and Fox, I fear that same mirror would show a country much diminished on the global stage, indeed a mere shadow of the one that has gone before it. We would see a nation closing itself off to the world, suspicious of its neighbours and finding itself falling behind in the global race.
It is up to us to ensure Britain stays in the running.
It is five years since the UK opened our doors to the world through hosting the Olympic and Paralympic games, including holding parts of the games in my South West...
It was great to spend the weekend at the Tolpuddle Martyrs' festival in Dorset. Tolpuddle is a celebration and commemoration of the sacrifice that those agricultural workers made back in 1834 in order to try and organise for better wages and better lives.
As well as seeing friends old and new from across the labour movement, I was also delighted to speak at a meeting on "Women and Brexit", as well as being part of the panel for the inaugural Tolpuddle Question Time. Topics raised including Brexit (surprise, surprise...), local government finance, basic universal income, and rights for the disabled in the context of Brexit. It was also encouraging to sit on these panels with so many fantastic women including Thangam Debbonaire and Jo Stevens.
Thanks as ever must go to the organisers, South West TUC, for both the weekend as a whole and the fantastic procession through the village on Sunday. I look forward to returning next year and long into the future.
It was great to spend the weekend at the Tolpuddle Martyrs' festival in Dorset. Tolpuddle is a celebration and commemoration of the sacrifice that those agricultural workers made back in...
A year after the referendum and 3 months after the letter triggering Article 50, negotiations have finally actually started. It is right that the first item in the negotiations is about people, the EU27 and the UK both made clear they want the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU to be one of the first issues to be resolved.
What is not right is the way the UK government have gone about this. After Theresa May built up expectations at a meeting with the Prime Ministers of the other 27 countries that she was going to make a ‘generous offer’, the published paper on Monday fell very far short of that.
For me, this also brought home the sad realisation of how others now see my country. A report by Deloitte found that nearly half of highly-skilled workers from the EU resident in Britain are considering leaving the UK in the next five years. One of the agencies reporting a short fall in farm workers recently said clearly that people aren’t coming to work because “The grim reality is that the perception from overseas is we are xenophobic, we’re racist”. This is a truly shocking indictment of how we are seen from abroad. It is also the backdrop against which the offer to citizens should be seen. The Prime Minister’s policy documented leaves many questions unanswered; more importantly it leaves many lives in the balance. It does nothing to address the idea that we just don’t want foreigners to come here.
There are many issues this proposal from the government leaves unresolved and I cannot do them all justice in this piece but here are a few concerns. Firstly, as the proposal stands EU nationals will have their rights restricted if they want their spouses or children to join them in the UK, with language tests and income thresholds, as well as the fees that go with it (the current application fees for a spouse to join their partner in the UK is over £5,500) - the UK’s immigration rules (which will be the default post-Brexit) were found to be the least family-friendly of 38 developed nations according to the Migrant Integration Policy index.
There are huge questions over the five year eligibility in order to gain “settled status” - what if you worked abroad during that period as, say, an academic or engineer but still working for the UK based company? Will that period outside the UK count towards eligibility or not? Further questions arise over the “settled status”, particularly as an EU citizen who has gained the status would lose it again if they go abroad for two years, even if caring for a loved one or for work, or joining a spouse who is a UK citizen working in another country. This is neither fair or right.
The proposal also brings into force a documentation process - that means EU citizens who have lived in the UK for decades, brought up families here and contributed to our society will be expected to produce documents proving their right to be here. No wonder we are now seen as, at best, unwelcoming. In addition I am immensely frustrated at the government’s decision to disregard those EU citizens resident in the UK who have already completed the costly and laborious process of applying for permanent residency. Instead, they will have to start the process again. This is a slap in the face for people who have made clear their intention to stay in the UK and who are being treated with disdain by the government.
Finally, I am concerned for what this means for the more than one million British citizens residing in the EU - will our citizens in other countries now be offered a similar second class citizenship status? As the group representing them, British in Europe, has said, May’s proposal represents a ‘severe reduction of the current rights’ that these British people currently enjoy in other European countries.
I really do feel that with all the concerns about how we are viewed by others and following the Prime Minister’s own hype the government could have come up with a better offer. I can only hope that through the negotiations the UK manages to improve its offer and repairs some of the damage it has done. This is an issue that will determine the state of our economy, of our society and ultimately, the place of our country in the world.
A year after the referendum and 3 months after the letter triggering Article 50, negotiations have finally actually started. It is right that the first item in the negotiations is...
Plymouth START (Students and Refugees Together) has been chosen as one of the winners of the European Citizen's Award for 2017, and South West MEP Clare Moody was on hand to present the prize. The award is given each year to citizens, groups or organisations who have displayed exceptional achievements and commitment to areas which promote stronger integration, cultural cooperation and links to the European spirit.
START works in partnership with families, individuals and organisations to support refugees settling in Plymouth with a dedicated team and an innovative placement scheme for students. It is important to START to facilitate the transition of refugees from people in need to self-reliant contributors to their local communities. A variety of projects are run, such as The Job Club, Allotment, START Walking, One to One Support and Women's Creative Group.
START'S Chair Avril Bellinger said, “This award really affirms START's approach that sees potential rather than problems and that works to bring out the strengths of individuals, groups and communities. Since 2001 I have seen Plymouth become a city where people and organisations work together to welcome people from all over the world whatever their circumstances.
Clare Moody, MEP for the South West and Gibraltar, nominated START for the award having visited one of START's projects, the Cultural Kitchen, where staff, trustees, students, service users and volunteers prepare a meal for the 60 to 80 people who attend each session. Free art and craft activities are available and enjoyed by children and adults alike.
Clare said, “Seeing the work that START does for refugees in Plymouth made it an obvious choice to nominate them for a European Citizen’s Prize. They are worthy winners and this Prize goes some way to recognising the positive impact that START has made in the lives of refugees and volunteers in Plymouth, as well as building understanding and bringing communities together.”
Luke Pollard, Member of Parliament for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, added: "Plymouth is a welcoming city and in uncertain times that welcome needs to be louder and more caring. The work that START does is incredible and rightly brings together the city, students and refugees. It is precisely because of organisations like START that Plymouth has earned a reputation for being welcoming. Well done."
Plymouth START (Students and Refugees Together) has been chosen as one of the winners of the European Citizen's Award for 2017, and South West MEP Clare Moody was on hand...
This year is the 30th anniversary of the Erasmus+ Programme, which started life in 1987 as a student mobility programme and has since helped millions of young people to travel abroad to study and work, gaining invaluable experience and skills but, vitally, building understanding and links across borders. It’s wonderful that over the 30 years so many students from across the country have benefitted from Erasmus+, with over 50,000 students participating in the programme over the last couple of years alone. This important anniversary is being marked with numerous events across Europe including here at the European Parliament.
Widely recognised as one of the most successful EU programmes, Erasmus+ aims to reduce early school leaving and unemployment among young people whilst promoting adult learning, especially for new skills required in the labour market. Participants cover a huge range of subjects while frequently learning a new language or finding a new passion for volunteering.
From a European perspective, Erasmus+ provides a concrete example of the positive impact of European integration and international outreach. The programme promotes cooperation and mobility between young people across member states and the EU's partner countries. As Dr. Pablo Biderbost of the Bringing Europe Closer project says: 'Erasmus+ helps to create institutional capabilities that enable European values such as solidarity, free speech and equality to be shared'.
This anniversary coincides with another important milestone of European history: the 60th Anniversary of the Treaties of Rome, which established a common market where people, goods, services and capital can move freely and created conditions for prosperity and stability for European citizens. Both anniversaries celebrate a common goal: bringing understanding and collaboration to countries that have spent too many centuries warring with each other. We should celebrate that achievement and, in particular, all that Erasmus+ and its millions of participants, both at home and abroad, have achieved thus far.
This year is the 30th anniversary of the Erasmus+ Programme, which started life in 1987 as a student mobility programme and has since helped millions of young people to travel...