This week we had our second major devastating defeat at the ballot boxes in 2016. There are very real problems that people are facing in their day to day lives, such as inequality, insecurity and stagnant or falling living standards but Brexit is not the cure for those ills on this side of the Atlantic and Trump is certain not to be the cure in the US. We should also recognise the reality of the glass ceiling that was exposed in the fact that Hilary failed to be elected.
I fervently hope that an end to this electoral trend will come with the end of 2016 but there are elections in France and the Netherlands that may see these votes continuing. The lesson we must take from these votes is that we must hold firm to our values in face of the populism and nationalism that is all too ready to stir up and exploit discontent.
One of the most important meeting this week was with Universities UK. I chaired a meeting between Labour MEPs and the UK universities association Universities UK, to discuss their concerns about the impact of Brexit on the universities sector. They highlighted that the referendum vote and the prospect of a hard Brexit posed a serious threat to the future success of UK universities. The Higher Education sector in the UK attracts the world's best teaching talent, a high proportion of which comes from the EU. It also attracts hundreds of thousands of EU and international students each year. The prospect of visa restrictions or change in fees charged to students will have a very damaging prospect to the numbers of students and staff choosing the UK as a place to study.
I find the government's attitude to the student community hard to understand when research shows that the British people consider international students and staff to be positive for local economies and for British society in general.
The possible barriers to EU academics and students coming to the UK in the future is one thing, but an even more damaging prospect is the "closed for business" message the government is sending out the global community with its restrictive migration proposals. Restrictions on EU migration is giving the impression that the UK is an unwelcoming place for migrants, students, teachers from anywhere across the world. And indeed this was confirmed with Theresa May's comments this week in India, where we saw a very difficult relationship beginning between the Indian and UK governments. If this is a taste of things to come, it seems that our global reputation will suffer due to our attitude towards Europe, and universities and local communities will pay the price.
On Thursday I met with a group of enthusiastic and engaged university students from Bournemouth, and answered questions on the impact of Brexit on the UK. It was great to meet some really engaged young people who wanted to learn why the EU still matters to our everyday lives. I explained what my views were, and what I am doing now in the European Parliament to ensure that the UK gets the best possible deal for students, universities and local communities.
Also this week presented I presented my Budgetary Opinion on the Creative Europe Programme. I assessed the programme’s first two years of implementation. Overall, I am satisfied with the running of the programming and a number of recent streamlining measures. Nonetheless, I have expressed my concern over the under-representation of micro cultural operators in the Culture sub-programme and Creative Europe's limited financial envelope. Furthermore, I have drawn attention to the newly launched Financial Guarantee Facility and the programme's growing intercultural dimension. The Commission’s interim evaluation of the Programme is planned for December 2017.
Finally I gave a debrief to the Industry committee on my visit to the ITER experimental fusion facility in France. The EU and the UK are big contributors to this project which seeks to develop viable, safe, non-polluting nuclear energy by 2025. The UK is integral to this effort due to the EU funded JET project in Oxfordshire. JET acts as an initial experimental ground to test technologies before they are installed in ITER. However, its funding is only secure until 2018, and now thanks to the Brexit vote funding beyond that is in serious doubt. This is a vital contribution to scientific progress on clean energy and the UK should not renege on this effort at the most crucial time for the climate in a generation. I am working hard to assess the damage of the Brexit vote on JET and to try to secure its future.
As you can tell it was a varied week in Brussels, if you have any questions and issues that you think I could help with please get in touch. Also you can follow me on Twitter or Facebook for regular updates.