Last Wednesday, Theresa May sent the letter to the European Council invoking Article 50 and formally starting the UK’s process of leaving the EU. It was an emotional afternoon all round in the European Parliament. Last year during the referendum campaign, we had the support of so many of our European neighbours. There is an enormous affection for the British and deep regret both that we lost the referendum and also for the way that the UK Government have chosen to interpret the result.
I am honoured to represent the South West of England and Gibraltar, but the Government has completely failed to represent the interests of either of these places. The Article 50 letter referred to only one land border with the EU, when with Gibraltar there are two, thereby ignoring the very real concerns of Gibraltar – Gibraltarians voted 96 per cent to remain in the EU. We saw in the Budget how hollow the referendum promises – like guaranteeing places like Cornwall the same funding in the future as they currently get from the EU – really are.
I feel a deep sadness when I think of our country leaving the European Union. For forty-three years Britain has been at the heart of EU, making decisions, negotiating for Britain’s interests, and sharing the values of our European neighbours. This collaboration has delivered workplace rights, consumer benefits and environmental protections as well as the countless jobs that rely on our membership of the single market.
There is genuine shock and disbelief from our colleagues at what this Tory government is trying to do to our great country. The idea of our European rights and privileges being stripped away on the whim of the agenda of a privileged few stands in the face of everything we believe in as Europeans.
The Prime Minister has done nothing to ensure the British government receives a warm response in Brussels. The practical result of triggering Article 50 is that the UK has lost some of its sovereignty over what our future relationship with the EU will look like. I am in no doubt that it will be our economy and society – the small businesses, the universities, the rights so hard fought for – that will suffer if the UK government continues down its current path.
This week, alongside my Labour colleagues, I voted in favour of the European Parliament’s resolution on accepting the negotiating guidelines for the UK leaving the EU. It was my honour to put down an amendment in support of Gibraltar, which received the support of all my Labour colleagues.
It angers me that people wrap themselves in the British and Gibraltarian flags when they actively have worked against the interests of citizens of both places, both in the referendum campaign last year and since. The empty nationalistic rhetoric, warmongering and flag waving that UKIP and senior Tories have been indulging in is damaging to Gibraltar’s interests. The case to support a final deal that includes Gibraltar and Gibraltar’s self-determination is a straightforward and rational one that is most effectively made when the UK is seen to be the responsible party in the negotiation with the EU 27.
I will certainly continue to stand up for the interests of all my constituents as these crucial negotiations begin. The government – and particularly those Cabinet ministers that supported the Leave campaign – must take responsibility for delivering on the promises they have made.
The Government must start focusing on the reality of the situation – it is in the national interest that it now begins acting in a responsible and honest manner.
Out and about in the constituency
During the last couple of months, I have been lucky enough to participate in many varied events throughout my constituency. Highlights included a visit to two schools; one in Cheltenham and the other in Taunton, as well as meeting with EU staff and students at the University of Exeter. I’ve also met with UNITE Aerospace & Shipbuilding delegates in Taunton and attended SW CWU Regional AGM in Bristol. I visited and spoken with organisations and companies across the South West to discuss the possible consequences of Brexit and what needs to be done to mitigate these.
I have spoken at a number of Labour party meetings across the region. I also addressed a Cheltenham for Europe meeting where I was delighted to answer questions on everything from Northern Ireland to my role in the next few years as an MEP. I’m very pleased to see so many grassroots cross-party groups springing up across the region, promoting the positives of the European Union and campaigning to mitigate the effects of leaving the EU.
On Friday 21st April I will be speaking at West Dorset for Europe in Dorchester. The event starts at 7pm at Dorchester Town Hall. I’d be very happy to see you there.
Please do not hesitate to contact me should you wish me to either speak at a meeting or arrange a visit.
FEMM Committee and Women’s EU Rights Campaign
This month has been an important one for women’s equality work in the European Parliament. With International Women’s Day held on the 8th March, I took part in a number of events to raise awareness of projects promoting gender equality around the world.
This included the ‘She Decides’ campaign, which aims to plug the gap in funding for family planning and sexual health left by Donald Trump’s ‘Global Gag’ rule. I was fortunate to receive broad backing in Parliament for an amendment I submitted, which called for EU funds to be available to help fill this gap. International Women’s day also saw the gender pay gap highlighted in a debate in the European Parliament.
This month has also included the approval of my report on EU Funds for Gender Equality, which was adopted by 437 votes in favour. This is a really positive step forward, as gender equality, despite being a fundamental value of the EU, has yet to be achieved in practice and must be translated into policies and spending. The report calls for the application of gender equality practices across the whole of the EU budget, ensuring that the budget focuses on gender implications in all areas, not simply those deemed as ‘women’s issues’.
Work in the FEMM committee has also been focused on a wide variety of measures to improve gender equality, from women’s economic empowerment to preventing human trafficking; from stopping the exploitation of children to combatting domestic violence; from improving the lives of women in rural areas to ensuring that all men and women have equal access to goods and services across the EU. It has been a busy month, but there is much more still to do.
One of my key campaigns about the risks of leaving the European Union is about the effect on women. The Women’s EU Rights (WEUR) campaign recognises that we make up 51% of the population, are most effected by the Tory policies of austerity and have most to lose in terms of the rights that we have gained through our EU membership.
I have run two successful events, one in Bristol and one in Exeter where women from across the region came together to share their experiences and further their understanding about the importance of the EU legislation that underpins maternity and paternity rights, equal pay and equal treatment for part-time workers (the vast majority of whom are women) and how EU funding is targeted at tackling inequalities. I have set up a campaign Facebook page and you can sign up for the WEUR newsletters here: http://www.claremoodymep.com/womenseurightsnewsletter
Other Parliamentary work
In the last few weeks among other things I have voted in the European Parliament for:
- the Parliament’s resolution on Brexit negotiations, as well as my amendment to ensure Gibraltar was mentioned in the resolution;
- greater consumer rights for car buyers and protections for VW workers in the aftermath of the diesel-gate scandal;
- the release of £50m of European funding for flood affected areas in the UK;
- the #EndoftheCageAge, to stop the suffering of 350m caged rabbits across the EU;
- preventing the minerals trade from funding conflict and human rights violations;
- the end of oil drilling in the Arctic;
- a clampdown on the import of unsustainable palm oil and its use in biofuels;
- the strengthening of requirements for medical devices (such as breasts implants) and requiring high-risk devices to undergo additional, pre-market assessment;
- ensuring that in vitro diagnostic medical devices (like pregnancy or blood tests) are accurate and reliable.
I hope that the European legislation in these areas, and many more, will still apply to the UK whatever our future relationship with the EU.