While ‘business as usual’ continued in the European Parliament this week the future of Britain was being debated and voted on in Westminster. This has been a very difficult week for my MP colleagues, with the majority of South West Labour MPs voting against the Government’s plan to trigger Article 50 as the bill stands. This bill will now go to the Lords, where I anticipate the Labour amendments that didn’t get through in the Commons will be revisited.
My Labour MEP colleagues and I were in the House of Commons for meetings on Wednesday with the Shadow Brexit team, Hilary Benn as Chair of the Brexit Committee, Chuka Umunna who runs Vote Leave Watch and with John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn. We used these meetings to share both information about a multitude of areas that will be impacted on by the Brexit negotiations and on how the party should proceed from here. For example, I have been working closely with the Labour front bench on the impact of the Government triggering Article 50 in the Euratom Treaty without any preparation for the future of our civil nuclear power plants and waste https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2017/feb/01/brexit-nuclear-eu-euratom-treaty-clare-moody
The vote on Wednesday was a deeply significant milestone but it is a long way from the end of the process and I will be standing up for what I believe to be the best interests of our region throughout.
On Monday, the budgetary control committee of the European Parliament (which scrutinises EU spending), held a workshop related to my Budget committee report on the financing of NGOs. The workshop presented a study which follows up on a 2010 European Parliament study, ‘Financing of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) from the EU budget’. Difficulties identified in that study relating to fragmented European Commission fund awarding systems, still exist today. This makes proper transparency and accountability difficult. The existence of multiple, complex, overlapping NGO networks presents significant challenges to accountability and transparency, as does the emergence of new and innovative funding mechanisms that do not involve large institutional donors.
On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of meeting with Ketevan Chachava, Director of the Information Centre on NATO and EU in Tbilisi, Georgia. We discussed my work with the EU-Georgia Parliamentary Association Committee and important issues including the visa liberalisation process, civil society and human rights in Georgia.
I also joined the Socialist MEPs on the ITRE committee to discuss a number of issues, including the UK's future relationship with the Horizon 2020 programme for science and research, from which major South West universities like Exeter, Bristol, UWE and Bournemouth receive approximately 11-16% of their funding. Our socialist colleagues assured us they wanted the UK to play a strong future role as an associate member of the science funding programmes. But I remain concerned that the Prime Minister's damaging statements and attitudes towards our European allies endanger that good will.
On Thursday, I was interviewed for Romanian television regarding the UK’s departure from the EU, and the short and long term challenges ahead. We discussed the economic impact of Brexit, as well as what the process will mean for British people living and working abroad as well as foreign nationals living in Britain, including many Romanians who live and work in my constituency.
I was also at the budget committee of the Parliament which approved EUR60 million to cover some of the costs of the 2015 flooding which devastated so many parts of the UK. I think this is an excellent sign of the good will that continues to exist in the rest of the EU towards us, but as I have said before, that good will is at risk with every wrong step this government takes.
Back in the South West on Friday I met with the Aboricultural Association who are based just outside Stroud to discuss issues that they may face as we prepare to leave the European Union.
I also had a very interesting meeting with a constituent who is involved in Citizen’s Science. We discussed the important contribution that people can make to vital research by collecting a variety of data on air pollution to mosquitos and of course garden birds – Big Garden Birdwatch probably being the most well-known Citizen Science programme in Britain.