The Government has finally succumbed to pressure and have conceded they will outline their plan for Article 50 negotiations; a seasonal miracle that Labour created. However, as things stand Article 50 isn’t just for Christmas and we must hold the Government to account through 2017 and beyond, their negotiations must not be allowed to cost jobs and prosperity for the people of Britain.
Meanwhile Labour MEPs are getting on with our Parliamentary work as usual, supporting and informing the work of our Westminster colleagues and trying to ensure that relations with our European neighbours are not completely soured by the PM and her 3 Brexit ministers.
The view of the UK leaving the EU is very different in Brussels than it is in Westminster and the UK media at large. Although introductory meetings have now taken place between the Government and the EU Commission, Council and Parliament, nothing has progressed beyond mere pleasantries. It is very clear to the experienced and expert EU27 interlocutors that the UK Government are not on top of the details of what is at stake. For those who have sympathy for the UK this is causing despair for others it is a source of satisfaction or fun – either way it is a long way from the perception of the UK before June 23rd.
Every Committee in the parliament is now doing detailed work on the issues that will be subject to the Brexit negotiations, something the government are showing no signs of being able to match. It also demonstrates that while the UK Government is fighting to the bitter end against involving the UK Parliament in the Brexit process my fellow Parliamentarians from across the EU will be fully engaged at every stage. It begs the question of who exactly got control as a result of this referendum process.
Labour MEPs campaign to protect people - ‘Hands off’ campaign:
This campaign is aimed at keeping the hard earned rights, protections and measures that the EU currently provides. The aim is to apply pressure on the Government to promise that all these benefits are maintained for the benefit of British people. The campaign is separated into four areas:
1. Rights at Work - At least four weeks paid leave, strong rights for working families and regular breaks and limits on hours.
2. Tax Justice – Ensuring firms pay their fair share, boosting corporate tax transparency and promoting an EU ‘fair tax mark’.
3. Environmental Protections – An ambitious Paris climate deal, targets on waste and recycling and action on emissions and air quality
4. International Aid Cooperation – Supporting peace and diplomacy, improving access to clean water and promoting Labour values overseas.
Campaign postcards covering each topic are available. If you know of anyone who wants any, please get in touch with my office.
Fighting for Women's Rights Event
While Labour MEPs are collectively standing up to save the protections that the EU have given, in the South West I have also been highlighting the impact that losing EU protections will have on women. On Saturday 10th December I held a successful conference in Bristol where we discussed the rights that women enjoy through being EU citizens and why it is so important that we fight to keep them.
Women from across the South West region heard from Bristol Labour MPs: Kerry McCarthy, Karin Smyth and Thangam Debbonaire, from academics, trade unionists, from the voluntary sector and the legal profession. All these women are experts in their areas and shared their knowledge and experience of what is at stake. Although 52% of those who voted in the Referendum voted to leave, it is 51% of the population – women – who will feel the impacts of the decision most.
It was fantastic to see so many women keen to campaign to protect our rights. The government’s chaotic Brexit negotiations must not be allowed to ride roughshod over the safeguards that the EU provides for women.
In addition to campaigning on these issues the EU continues to take action to protect British people.
McDonald’s tax relocation: Brexit Britain must not become an offshore tax haven
Many who supported Brexit heralded McDonald’s decision to switch its non-US tax base to the UK as a sign of good times to come. However, this is a move that could become an early warning sign of the UK becoming an offshore tax haven from the EU post-Brexit.
The European Commission is currently investigating the tax practices of McDonalds in Luxembourg after it was alleged they avoided more than €1 billion in tax between 2009 and 2013, while the UK government has recently pledged to have the lowest corporate tax rate in the G20, meaning the rate could drop as low as 15 per cent if President-elect Donald Trump fulfils his own pledge to lower the US tax rate to 15%.
If McDonalds are relocating their tax base to the UK in order to comply fully with the UK’s 20 per cent corporation tax rate, then this could be a positive move. However, if this is speculation on the UK becoming a tax haven after Brexit, then we must ensure the government publishes any sweetheart tax deal agreed now or in the future.
EU action on dieselgate scandal shows UK must not ditch vehicle emissions legislation
The decision by the European Commission to begin infringement proceedings against seven countries – including the UK – over the dieselgate scandal shows that the best way to ensure the cars on our roads are clean is for Britain to continue to apply EU vehicle emissions legislation and uphold the highest environmental standards. The Commission is taking action because the countries have failed to fulfil their obligations under EU legislation.
Several manufacturers have used techniques to give lower emissions readings in lab tests than in real world driving, with VW forced to recall hundreds of thousands of vehicles after it was revealed they had used sophisticated “defeat devices” to game emissions tests.
All this shows that it is vital Britain continues to abide by strong EU environmental standards after Brexit and remains subject to EU oversight. The UK cannot enter into a race to the bottom on environmental laws, allowing companies to manufacture ever more polluting cars and exacerbating the air pollution crisis that is taking 50,000 British lives every year.
This year has not gone the way many of us expected and hoped, Brexit and then the election of Trump in the US has cast a shadow over the Western world and brought to the surface behaviour and views which we had hoped we as a society had left behind.
However, we must turn to action and not despair. Over the coming months, we must highlight what our membership of the EU brings us and we must continue to hold this Government to account over their failure to protect people’s jobs and prosperity. We must focus our efforts towards reshaping our society to better reflect a world which cherishes democracy, equality and liberty.
Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year and we will continue to campaign together in 2017.