16th - 19th January 2017
Theresa May announced her intention to take us out of the EU and the single market, proving for all the hard, divisive, and undemocratic Brexit we will face. When the Tories were elected in 2015, their manifesto promised to “safeguard British interests in the Single Market.” This promise was repeated by every leave campaigner during the referendum. How times have changed. It remains to be seen the damage this will do British jobs and livelihoods.
In Strasbourg however, most of the week was taken up with elections to decide the new leadership of the Parliament that will have a huge influence on the deal the UK is offered by the EU...
Presidential elections in the European Parliament
On Tuesday the Parliament elected our new President, or Speaker. All 751 MEPs were involved in a day long voting marathon of four ballots, as candidates from across the political groups of the European Parliament presented themselves.
The presiding officer of the European Parliament is somewhat different from the role of the Speaker in the House of Commons. It is a necessarily more political role, and the President is often an advocate of the Parliament's role as a democratic elected legislator, often doing battle with the Commission and Council of Member States to remind them of this fact.
It has been a long time since there has been such a vigorous, open competition for the Presidency, as the outgoing S&D president Martin Schulz has been in office since 2012. Martin has worked tirelessly to expand the power of the EU's directly elected chamber, ensuring equal treatment of the parliament and equal status in legislation. He has encouraged the Parliament to grow more confident in our power and responsibility to represent the citizens of Europe, meaning that the Parliament as the democratic voice of the EU has now become first among equals.
Unfortunately, our new socialist Candidate, Gianni Pittella, was blocked from enacting his vision of a just and social Europe, by a right-wing bloc of conservatives and liberals (including the Tories and the LibDems). The birth of this new conservative bloc has dramatically changed the political landscape in the European Parliament. The S&D group has now committed itself to constructively oppose this bloc by working with other progressive and left wing parties. Europe needs an efficient and courageous Parliament, ready to face the challenges that lie ahead of us. Conservative parties cannot deliver for British and EU citizens, but Labour and our socialist allies across Europe can.
European Pillar of Social Rights approved by Parliament
Across Europe, workers' rights are under pressure due to developments such as global competition and the digital revolution. All workers should have their basic rights guaranteed, whatever their form of employment and contract. Therefore, this week in Strasbourg, my fellow MEPs and I voted to adopt a report aiming to guarantee basic social rights for workers and stating that labour laws should cover workers in new type of jobs. This was a great success for the S&D Group, of which report author; Maria João Rodrigues is a member. Ms Rodrigues said in the morning debate: “With this European Pillar of Social Rights, we aim to reactivate the EU as a protective shield: preventing child poverty, strengthening the youth guarantee, guaranteeing basic social rights.” The resolution was passed with 396 votes to 180 with 68 abstentions.