This week the real economic impacts of Brexit started to hit home. The Pound has lost 19% of its value since the referendum, which means food, petrol and other imported goods are going to start costing people more in the near future. It also means that raw materials for our vital manufacturing sector and transport costs for goods are going to rise sharply as well. Work is still happening at an EU level to deliver positive benefits for the people of Britain, some of this is outlined below, but it is down to the UK government now to take action to protect the economy as a whole. The first thing Theresa May could do is take account of the 170 questions that Labour has asked about Brexit - all of them have an impact on our country’s future.
The Innovative Medicines Initiative and the UK's contribution to medical research
The Innovative Medicines Initiative is an EU funded project that is a key part of the UK medicine industry's research base. Before the referendum many pharmaceutical associations and universities expressed concerns that the UK could be locked out of research for new drugs in the EU. Both Bath and Exeter currently receive funding from IMI to pursue diabetes research. I questioned a representative of IMI in committee this week on the UK's contribution to pharmaceuticals research and our future in IMI. He said that for the time being, with no further announcements from the government on its negotiation intentions, it is business as usual at IMI and UK researchers can have confidence in their full participation.
Euroscuola video link up
This week, I was delighted to meet with a group of Plymouth students via video link, to discuss the future of the EU and the impact of Brexit. Students posed a great range of questions on what the EU does to fight climate change, how the EU promotes gender equality, and what Brexit means for the South West and Gibraltar in particular.
Smoke free partnership/cancer research event
I co-chaired a roundtable on Article 20 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, organised by fellow MEP Linda McAvan, and supported by the Smoke Free Partnership. The event included presentations from a range of knowledgeable, engaging speakers with whom we discussed tobacco control policy research in Europe. I look forward to working with them in the future to ensure such important research continues to be promoted.
I also met with constituent Rebecca Argyll who recently returned from occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, where she served as a volunteer Ecumenical Accompanier, or human rights monitor, with the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). Rebecca and Rajesh, a fellow ‘EA’, shared with me their experiences and information on the current situation on the ground.
Bristol meeting on transport & Green Cities
Finally, I had the opportunity to catch up with Councillor Mark Bradshaw, Cabinet Member for Transport on Bristol City Council. We discussed urban mobility and how Bristol can best tackle the problem of air pollution. We discussed how Cllr Bradshaw and Bristol Council can work with other EU cities to find the best, cutting-edge solutions to this very serious issue.
Marine litter ban vote
This week the Industry Committee voted to approve my proposal for a 50% reduction in marine waste by 2025 in the recycling bill currently before Parliament. This binding target is a huge victory for people who have been campaigning on marine welfare and big step towards cleaning up our oceans and seas. The South West has some of the most beautiful coastline in the world and we must do everything within our power to keep it that way. We have already seen the impact of the 5p charge has had on reducing the number of plastic bags and I hope that this target will lead to innovative solutions to tackle litter finding its way into our seas and oceans. I will now continue to fight for final approval on this proposal before the House in December, and I will keep you updated on my progress.
Many of the questions surrounding the UKs contributions to the EU Budget are still outstanding, we are still obliged to pay into the budget for what we owe and we are yet to find out how much the EU may ask for in future negotiations. The Labour Party asked the Government last week 170 questions on the plan for Brexit, two of them concern this issue and we are yet to receive any response.
EU funds gender equality hearing
I hosted a public Hearing in the European Parliament to gather expert opinions before writing my report on EU Funding for Gender Equality. It was clear from the expert contributions that EU funds have had real impact upon gender equality including in the UK and the South West region. Structural Investment Funds for example have provided language courses with childcare. Horizon 2020 has promoted equality in research and innovation. The EU fund PROGRESS has also worked to close the gender pay gap.