Last week, MPs provided a much welcome shot in the arm for the Brexit process. By supporting Dominic Grieve’s Amendment 7, Parliament will now have a meaningful say on the Brexit deal. I want to put on record my thanks to the Conservative MPs who placed the national interest above that of their party and supported this amendment alongside the Labour Party including, of course, our seven South West Labour MPs. That vote demonstrated that Theresa May has no mandate and no majority for the Hard Brexit favoured by Johnson, Fox and Rees-Mogg. Common sense prevailed in Parliament last Wednesday; I hope that it will continue to guide the days, weeks and months ahead.
In Strasbourg, too, the European Parliament voted on whether “sufficient progress” had been made on the Brexit talks following Theresa May’s last minute deal with her European counterparts. Alongside my Labour MEP colleagues, I voted that sufficient progress has been made. We can’t let the incompetency and infighting of the Tory government continue to put the Irish border and citizens’ rights at risk, though there is still crucial work to be done on these two issues. I believe that this work must take place alongside the talks that will determine our future relationship with the European Union. It is only by making this progress we will advance the interests of these vital causes.
As we enter 2018, I am yet to be convinced that leaving the European Union will provide net benefits for our nation and our citizens. The prospect of leaving the EU is already diminishing Britain’s place in the world and damaging our economy, the Brexiteers are threatening our workplace rights and we’re nowhere near actually leaving yet. I believe that Britain is so much better than Brexit.
Out and about in the constituency
It is always a pleasure to talk to groups of people across the region about the work that I do in Parliament. Naturally, the conversation mostly hinges on Brexit and the view from Brussels. In the last few weeks I spoke at a meeting of the Bournemouth Fabians and also to Labour Party members in Chippenham. It is great to meet some of the many people who write to me and answer their questions direct. I find these meetings really useful, listening to the views of my constituents is very important to me.
The big Constituency event in November was South West Labour’s Regional Conference this time held in Plymouth. There was a great line-up of speakers, including our Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn, who as ever spoke brilliantly about the challenges we face as a society and how it is only a Labour government that has any real solutions. I was delighted to host a fringe meeting (Brexit Conversations) over lunch and be joined on a panel by three of our excellent South West MPs – Ben Bradshaw, Karin Smyth and Luke Pollard. The meeting was expertly chaired by Joanne Kaye from Unison South West and there were some excellent questions from the floor. I hope that the audience now feel that they have some further information to carry on these conversations when out campaigning and with friends, family, colleagues and neighbours.
This month, members of the ITRE Committee voted in favour of an important report on energy, aimed at ensuring that the EU meets its energy goals to comply with the Paris climate change agreement. This report is part of the Clean Energy Package and in voting in favour, the Parliament reaffirmed its commitment to tackling energy poverty.
The FEMM committee has been busy voting on many reports and opinions, including a report on gender equality and climate justice. Climate change affects women and men differently, with women more likely to face greater negative consequences.
This month in Strasbourg was particularly busy as it was the last session before the end of the year. We debated the Panama Papers, European defence policy and the situation of the Rohingya people, amongst many other issues.
I spoke in the chamber in support of a report on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography. Member States must do more to fight this abuse and it is our responsibility to fight against new forms of crime online including online grooming and sexual extortion. The parliament then voted to adopt the Resolution calling on Member States to take concrete measures to stop the sexual exploitation of children.
During this session, the S&D Group established a working group to ensure the timely and concrete follow-up of the European Parliament resolution on sexual harassment, re-stating our Group’s firm commitment to promoting respect and dignity in the workplace.