This week delivered a very important moment in the Brexit process - the Lords voted through an Amendment to protect EU citizens who are living in the UK. This mattered for a number of reasons. First and foremost, this matters because of the principle of what was voted through - in the shadow of the rise of hate speech and the Government’s abandonment of the Dubs amendment we are overdue a demonstration of the decent and open side of the British character. It is right in principle that EU citizens should feel secure in their life in the UK. We had a very similar debate in the European Parliament, reflecting the needs of both EU citizens both British living in the other 27 member states and their citizens living in the EU.
There are other reasons why this mattered. During the referendum the Leave campaign said they wanted to take back control, to have Parliamentary sovereignty - nowhere did they say we want Prime Ministerial sovereignty. Listening to Parliament will improve the Brexit process, and her hostility to good advice so far does not bode well for the coming complex negotiations. Finally it matters because of the forthcoming negotiations. Failing to treat other European citizens fairly is just one further indication that May’s government is giving to our European neighbours that these negotiations are conducted in a spirit of hostility and meanness on our part - not conducive to getting a good deal and will be counter-productive in ensuring the future for British born citizens in other EU countries.
This week was a busy week for the FEMM committee. An issue that was discussed in this week’s debates was the gender pay gap. Recent reports have found that women across Europe entering work still earn significantly less than their male counterparts over their careers, despite an improvement in pay differentials during the first decade of employment.
Unfortunately, during this debate, a Polish MEP illustrated exactly why it is so important that gender issues remain a priority on our agendas and we continue to fight against misogyny and chauvinism. The MEP, Mr Janusz Korwin-Mikke, provoked a furious response after stating that women should earn less money than men, because they are “weaker", "smaller" and "less intelligent”. Such opinions are deplorable and offensive and have no place in our society. It was heartening to see my colleague, Iratxe García Pérez, take on this utter nonsense that – considering it’s 2017 – we still have to deal with (make sure you turn subtitles by clicking "CC" when watching the video).
In more positive news, I was happy to meet with the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) to discuss my report on EU Funds on Gender Equality. EIGE staff are currently working on gender budgeting – a project which links in to a number of the initiatives proposed in my report. It was particularly useful to discuss such issues ahead of parliament voting on my report this month.
This week was also busy week in the area of Digital Innovation. As a member of the ITRE committee, discussions centred on the promotion of internet connectivity in local communities which could have a positive impact for communities in the South West. I was also lucky enough to join Dimitra Simeonidou, Professor of High Performance Networks at the University of Bristol, and other speakers at the Bristol Brussels office for an event about creating a city-wide test bed for digital innovation in Bristol. Speaking at the event, I reflected on the European Parliament’s work to support digital innovation, and it was a real pleasure to hear all of the good work taking place.
European Space Strategy has been another of my focuses this week. I have been looking at the current implications of Brexit on the UK planetary science community, particularly in the South West, and I was delighted to be able to take the opportunity to discuss this UK Industry perspective with members of the European Space community in several productive meetings this week.
I was delighted to be invited to speak at the Clean Energy Roundtable & Dinner Debate on Tuesday Evening. It was a truly wonderful evening with a large range of interests represented. The Clean Energy Package is an important step forward, and could be a boost for consumers, the climate and European manufacturing. The discussion focused on ensuring that the Clean Energy Package will deliver, and was thoroughly productive in looking at what needs to be in place to ensure this.
On Thursday, members of the Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) voted by a large majority earlier this week to waive Marine Le Pen’s immunity following a request from the prosecutor of Nanterre, in Western Paris. Following this committee decision, the request was voted on by the wider parliament. The parliament voted in favour of stripping Marine Le Pen of her parliamentary immunity, allowing French prosecutors to take legal action against the leader of the Front National for tweeting graphic images of killings by members of Islamic State.
Moving to constituency matters, I had the pleasure of meeting with members of the Gibraltar Government in Brussels office to discuss what Brexit will mean for Gibraltar’s border with Spain as well as recent developments including the House of Lords decision to back an amendment to May’s bill to trigger Brexit talks, ensuring the government protects the rights of EU citizens living in the UK.
On Friday, I was delighted to address members of Richard Huish College’s Politics society in Taunton. The students demonstrated an exemplary knowledge of all things political, including Brexit, Donald Trump, and the Labour Party. In the evening I joined Kingswood Labour Party for their monthly meeting. I was able to provide an update on where the UK is in the Brexit negotiations, as well as answering any questions members had on Brexit or the European Parliament in general.