Brexit, Brexit & Brexit (again)

More focus this week on this failed and failing venture that sees our politics and our international relationships in such disarray, and the people of our country divided, uncertain and under pressure. The notion of Brexit alone, never mind its implementation, is costing vast sums of money, time and energy that would be better spent on the urgent things that matter more.

I could list reams of issues from the NHS, to the very survival of our species in a climate catastrophe. In this never-ending loop of political turmoil, it seems that almost everything this week had a ‘taint ‘of Brexit’ about it. I went from signing a ‘Brussels Declaration‘, to calls for a People’s Vote UK in Parliament Square, to Wilmslow for a well-attended debate on the climate emergency…all while arranging travel plans for young climate campaigners this coming week and young women from the NW next month to come to the European Parliament. Everything feels urgent as the horizon keeps changing and these opportunities could disappear.

Brussels Declaration

In Brussels, a Cross Party Group of UK Members of the European Parliament got together to sign a Declaration; committing ourselves to work together in the face of Brexit and calling on our EU colleagues to support us. 

MEPs from Green, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Alliance (Northern Island), Plaid Cymru and Scottish National Party signed Brussels Declaration stating:

We, the undersigned UK Members of the European Parliament, representing England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, declare as follows:

The proroguing, or shutting down the UK Parliament in order to limit scrutiny of the implications of a potential no deal Brexit is completely unacceptable. Limiting the opportunity for MPs to debate, vote and crucially, to legislate, cannot be the response to a referendum in which Leave campaigned for the UK Parliament to “take back control”.

In the continuation of the spirit that UK MEPs have worked in since the 2016 Referendum we commit ourselves to continue to work across party lines and declare that it is vital that MPs do likewise.

We were all elected just four months ago with clear mandates. We are working together. We call upon our European friends and colleagues to assist domestic efforts in keeping the door open to us. Brussels declaration

Trip to EU Parliament for aspiring young women leaders

Monday 9 September 2019, I’ll be with our 15 young climate campaigners en-route to the European Parliament, where they’ll find out more about the climate work we do, meet with other MEPs and spend time with other young climate campaigners from Brussels. And in just a few weeks time (wonder what the political view will look like then!) my amazing team and I are arranging a trip for young women in the NW to visit the European Parliament to meet and hear from other ‘young’ women who have an interest in community building about ways to develop community leadership skills. These wonderful opportunities are EU sponsored and serve to unite us, find shared solutions and create networks and links that can fuel change. I dread to think of the UK without these warm, welcoming connections with our European family.


Rallies in London

On my way home mid-week I stopped off in London to stand with others in Parliament Square to join a rally with ‘pop up’ speeches by a range of prominent MPs including our wonderful Caroline Lucas. All spoke passionately for No Deal to be taken off the table, and a People’s Vote to help re-clarify what exactly the people want. Caroline, however, made the most important point about the need for root and branch reform of our democracy, a call for proportional representation and a written constitution.

At the DSEI Stop The Arms Fair protest with my colleagues.


On Friday last week, I was back in London to join three of my fellow UK MEPs and protesters outside the Arms Fair (the DSEI). Scott Ainslie, Green MEP for London, highlighted the shame that London hosts the worlds largest arms fair; Ellie Chowns MEP for the West Midlands called out the illegality of the UK’s sales of weapons to Saudi Arabia that are now proven to be used to target civilians in Yemen; Catherine Rowett Green MEP for East England and I both highlighted the intractable links between climate change and war. Apart from the tragic human cost of war, waging war is by definition the most environmentally damaging activity that any government could undertake. However, this leads to a vicious spiral of destruction: not only does climate change result from war, it causes further conflict.

Rarely mentioned by the media, the conflict in Syria was preceded by the worst drought on record between 2007 and 2010. Climate-related extremes causing drought and water shortages, failing crops and resource shortages give rise to the desperation of populations that create the conditions for armed insurgencies. We were all honoured to speak to the protesters as they sat in the road trying to cause delay and prevent the delivery of the world’s deadliest weapons to be on show next week.

You can watch my speech here.


Responsibility for Horizon Europe (funding for research and innovation)

As UK MEPs, we have divided up the allocation of places in the various committees within the European Parliament. These committees are spaces where MEPs really get to grips with European legislation. I have previously said that I was delighted to be given a place on the ITRE Committee responsible for Industry, Research and Energy. Of course, there are lots of threads of work addressed by each committee and this week I was delighted to learn that the Green EFA group has allocated me a role in developing the Horizon Europe programme on its behalf. I am now officially ‘Shadow Rapporteur’ (sorry for the Euro-English!); in effect, that means along with our Green group specialist advisors, I will work in a cross-party subgroup on that specific theme. 

Horizon Europe replaces the previous Horizon 2020 fun. It has been massively increased to around £120 billion and in April this year, the Green group got a commitment passed that in this new programme, 35% of the fund must be spent on climate-related research. At a meeting of the committee I raised the question to the commissioner on how important it is that mechanisms are in place to ensure that this binding agreement actually gets implemented.

Meanwhile this week…

Good:

It’s hard to find the good but I think it’s important to celebrate this week the fact that there are MPs who have sacrificed their careers for the good of the country and to work cross-party in what seems, at least from outside Parliament, a constructive way to prevent our Prime Minister from trashing our democratic norms completely.

Bad:

There is still no certainty at all on what the next few weeks will hold. It is becoming clearer that a general election is likely to be called within the next few months but exactly how – we may know by next weekend. Personally, I totally agree with the Green Party’s stance that the Brexit question should be resolved before a general election by a People’s Vote. However. it’s important to have reservations when reflecting how the previous referendum campaign was conducted in the uncharted territory of Facebook, internet campaigning, dark money, and exploiting the absence of elections-regulation. With Dominic Cummings the unelected advisor to our Prime Minister and one of the key protagonists of illegal activities including illegal elections’ spending. I do recommend again for anyone who has access to Netflix to watch ‘The Great Hack’.

Where hope lies:

With the young. This week’s trip with young people from the NW to the European Parliament will I know, be as beneficial for us as it will be for them. There is clarity and wisdom in the messages sent by young climate activists that is refreshing in the world of politics and it’s important that we listen and act with the urgency they demand. With the upcoming (worldwide) Youth Strike 4 Climate on 20 September 2019, and the amazing work of Greta Thunberg in igniting and uniting youth – there IS every reason for positivity.

 

Onwards

 

 

UK MEPs sign joint declaration on Brexit

PRESS RELEASE –  Brussels, 04 September 2019

 

A Cross Party Group of UK Members of the European Parliament has signed a Declaration committing themselves to work together in the face of Brexit, and have called upon continental colleagues to support their efforts.

Meeting in Brussels, representatives of the Green, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Alliance, Plaid Cymru and Scottish National Party were able to sign “the Brussels Declaration” stating:

We, the undersigned UK Members of the European Parliament, representing England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, declare as follows:

The proroguing, or shutting down the UK Parliament in order to limit scrutiny of the implications of a potential no deal Brexit is completely unacceptable. Limiting the opportunity for MPs to debate, vote and crucially, to legislate, cannot be the response to a referendum in which Leave campaigned for the UK Parliament to “take back control”.

In the continuation of the spirit that UK MEPs have worked in since the 2016 Referendum we commit ourselves to continue to work across party lines and declare that it is vital that MPs do likewise.

We were all elected just four months ago with clear mandates. We are working together. We call upon our European friends and colleagues to assist domestic efforts in keeping the door open to us.

The Declaration was signed by:

Green Party

Molly Scott Cato MEP

Alexandra Phillips MEP

Magid Magid MEP

Scott Ainslie MEP

Ellie Chowns MEP

Gina Dowding MEP

Catherine Rowett MEP

 

Labour Party

Richard Corbett MEP

Seb Dance MEP

Jude Kirton-Darling MEP

Neena Gill MEP

John Howarth MEP

Theresa Griffin MEP

Jackie Jones MEP

Julie Ward MEP

Rory Palmer MEP

Claude Moraes MEP

 

Liberal Democrat Party

Catherine Bearder MEP

Caroline Voaden MEP

Chris Davies MEP

Phil Bennion MEP

Jane Brophy MEP

Judith Bunting MEP

Dinesh Dhamija MEP

Barbara Ann Gibson MEP

Antony Hook MEP

Martin Horwood MEP

Shaffaq Mohammed MEP

Lucy Nethsingha MEP

Bill Newton Dunn MEP

Sheila Ritchie MEP

Irina Von Wiese MEP

 

Alliance Party

Naomi Long MEP

 

Plaid Cymru

Jill Evans MEP

 

Scottish National Party

Alyn Smith MEP

Aileen Mcleod MEP

Christian Allard MEP

 

ENDS

 

Division, Dictators & Democracy

I’m just back from an intense and impactful visit to Palestine and Israel. I will, as I gather my thoughts, write a fuller picture on my blog, but suffice to say I come back with such a deep sense of the injustice endured by the Palestinian people, and sadly, a shared sense of frustration that there are limited opportunities on the horizon to a peace process which will offer relief, mitigation or an end to the oppression of Palestinians.

I was, meanwhile, aware of our own government’s determination on running a wrecking ball through democracy and the very limited time available for a calm, fair and measured response to current Brexit issues.

Closer to home here in Lancashire, one of our oldest football clubs has gone and another is under threat – big business finance has ruined the beautiful game!

And then there are the damaged homes, terrified residents and rumblings brought about by the most seismically active part of the UK these days: Blackpool, home to Cuadrilla’s fracking site.

 

Palestine

The incredibly well-organised delegation trip, arranged by Danish and Norwegian church groups, with a focus on the West Bank, succeeded in giving us a broad insight into the complex situation with regards to the occupied Palestinian territories, and the increasing hardship and oppression of the Palestinians living there.

Our small delegation was given brief but informative access to a range of organisations and perspectives. These ranged from international humanitarian agencies, like the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid; local non-governmental organisations and civil society movements, such as Breaking the Silence – an Israeli group of former soldiers who served in the West Bank;  Israeli government and political organisations – meetings with a politician from the newly-formed ‘centre-right’ Blue and White Party hoping to form a government after the forthcoming general elections on 17 September 2019, and separately, a representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization; and most importantly, members of the communities directly affected by the Israeli occupation including urban Palestinian families facing forced eviction from homes in East Jerusalem, and the Bedouin community of Khan Al Ahmar.

What is now apparent to me: there is no clear or straightforward way to even map a peace process. However, separate to any long-term solution, we, the international community, cannot turn a blind eye to the illegal, dehumanising and worsening occupation of the West Bank, which in itself is destroying any progress being made.

My aims over the next couple of weeks are two-fold:

  1. to find a way to best present the information I gathered – both at meetings which I will hold within the region, and on the website.
  2. to further discuss with cross-party colleagues, and members of my own Green/EFA group in Europe, what scope there is within the EU institutions and particularly by the European Parliament for bringing pressure to bear for an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

Bolton & Bury

One of the oldest English Football League teams is no more. Bury Football Club and the loyal fans have endured an arduous few weeks as they faced eradication due to what is seen as complete mismanagement by their owner. League One Bury FC have now been expelled from the Football League – not due to the quality of the football or the results of their matches, but after a potential takeover collapsed.

Bolton Wanderers is also a team in difficulty.

Fans had tried to plead for a way to save the clubs but it seems the focus of the English Football League is less about the survival of teams and more about the ability to create profit. It’s been heartbreaking to watch loyal fans so let down.

A local football club is often the heart of a community – the place where a community comes together: it never was ‘just a game’.

In light of this, it seems timely that I had a meeting recently with Andy Walsh, the National Game Development Officer of the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA). The FSA represents over 600,000 football enthusiasts in England and Wales and is the leading advocate for supporter-ownership, better fan engagement, cheaper ticket prices, the choice to stand at the match, protecting fan rights, good governance, diversity, and all types of supporter empowerment.

As with so many sectors, radical, deep-rooted, systemic change is needed to return some power to the fans. Good on the FSA for the work they are doing on this.

Brexit & Prorogation

On Saturday I was proud to join a massive rally – and impromptu march – in Manchester with thousands of other people to demand democracy. Due to the weather, one apt slogan of the day: “Not singing in the rain, but singing to remain” was in force. However, the main mantra was Stop the Coup! And indeed for so many people, it does feel like there has been a sudden hijack of all of our democratic norms by our prime minister (and a tiny cabal around him led by the unelected Dominic Cummings). He is upending all the conventions that have held together our very British system of government which has survived without a constitution.

However, I fear that this has been much longer in the planning and is not a surprise move but a part of a much more strategic and dangerous plan to limit the scope of Parliament and hand far greater power to themselves as the executive.

Below are some excerpts of the draft of a letter I am signing from UK MEPs to European heads of government:

“Brexit cannot be seen as a process that only concerns the UK. Aside from the obvious and immediate consequences on our neighbouring countries of a disorderly Brexit, if the UK continues down its current path we are likely to become an extremely disruptive failed state on the European doorstep. We would implore you to work with us to prevent that from happening.

“More positively, it is clear that a process that began with an illegal referendum clearly demonstrates that there is no way that the UK can leave the EU democratically. The promises made in 2016 cannot be kept and, when British citizens see the reality of Brexit, they reject it. We are clear that without deceit, propaganda and illegal activity the referendum result would have been different in 2016. And we are confident that a majority of British citizens now support our continued EU membership, bolstered by the strongest pro-EU movement anywhere in the continent.

“We ask for your support for those of us who are fighting to save our democracy in the UK.”

Meanwhile this week…

Good:

Fylde Conservative MP Mark Menzies took eight years to do it, but after the earthquakes that terrified residents and damaged homes, he has at last called for a ban on fracking. He could, of course, have done the research and reached this decision long ago and saved the residents all this worry and cost but instead of standing up for the community that elected him, he has weakly supported his Party line and only (usually around election time) called gently for caution and safety. Still, at least he finally arrived and is now off the fence and in our shoes.

Bad:

The damage to homes after Cuadrilla fracked and caused a 2.9ML earthquake last week is still unfolding with residents finding it difficult to know who to contact and how best to proceed with getting repairs and claims processed; fears too of insurance price hikes and diminished house values. The aftermath of the quake also shook loose the ugly truth of Cuadrilla’s total disregard (virtual contempt) for the community with social media posts and press releases comparing the fracking-induced earthquakes as similar to dropping shopping bags or melons!

Where hope lies:

  1. Fracking has been suspended in Lancashire.
  2. People like Jill, who I met on Saturday in Manchester, who was ‘angry, articulate and about to get active’. It was her first time ever at a protest.
  3. The resilience of the Palestinian people.

Onwards.

 

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