Death Penalty, Thomas Cook & Honeybees

The clock is ticking (albeit an hour earlier than last week) and the stress is showing in UK politics. The bigger picture globally and the requirement for action on climate chaos is so much more than Brexit, and I fear that today’s news of a general election will not bring us closer to a democratic way forward for action on what matters. Meanwhile, in Strasbourg, earlier last week, issues on the plenary agenda for MEPs included Uganda’s threat to impose the death penalty on homosexuals; the demise of Thomas Cook and the need to protect workers’ rights; the protection of honeybees; and addressing clamp-downs on the right to protest.

Uganda

On Thursday, the European Parliament strongly condemned the recent developments in Uganda concerning the rights of LGBTI people. The Parliament adopted a strongly-worded resolution that followed on the Ugandan government’s announcement to introduce a bill that would impose the death penalty on homosexuals in the country. The resolution:

“…stresses that discrimination against LGBTI people undermines the most basic of human rights principles and sexual orientation and gender identity are matters that fall within the scope of an individual’s right to privacy, as guaranteed by international law and national constitutions.

“We reject the use of the death penalty under any circumstances, including any legislation that would impose the death penalty for homosexuality and call on the EU and its Member States to further engage the Government of Uganda to reconsider its position on the death penalty.

“EU institutions will continue to support civil society organisations that work with the defence and promotion of human rights in Uganda, and the EU will pressure the Ugandan government to decriminalise homosexuality.

Known as the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda, it was nullified five years ago on a technicality and Uganda’s Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo said on 10 October, it planned to resurrect it later this year. African countries have some of the world’s most prohibitive laws governing homosexuality. Same-sex relationships are considered taboo and gay sex is a crime across most of the continent, with punishments ranging from imprisonment to death.

Since the announcement on reintroducing the bill, the Ugandan government has experienced a global backlash. Following condemnations by many international donors, the government has since backtracked. On 14 October, a spokesperson for Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni denied plans by the government “to introduce a law like that”.

Thomas Cook

An oral question by an MEP prompted a debate into the liquidation of the Thomas Cook Group in the plenary. My colleague Catherine Rowett MEP spoke in the debate, which then proceeded to a vote on a ‘Joint Motion of Resolution’ on Thursday, covering the key issues from the EU perspective. The Thomas Cook fiasco has put 22,000 jobs at risk worldwide, of which 9000 are located in the UK, 2,500 in Spain, and more than 1000 in Greece. The fate of these jobs is still uncertain, but it’s likely to have considerable knock-on effects, not only on the tourism industry and on the transport sector, but on the economy as a whole.

Tourism employs an estimated 12.3 million workers and provides at least 5% of all jobs (more than 27 million workers when considering its links to other sectors) and Europe is the number one destination in the world.

The resolution notes that the crisis borne out of the bankruptcy of Thomas Cook Group is not an isolated event and may well happen again in the future. It included calls, therefore, on the Commission to evaluate the feasibility of adopting specific actions and/or measures to prevent situations of this kind from happening again in order to further boost consumer protection and passenger rights.

The Greens also proposed and voted on an amendment which pointed out how unnecessary the recent chaos was and how easily Thomas Cook could have catered for this; the need for provisions on worker protection; calling on the European Commission to study causes and future remedies (also to enforce the provisions of  the package travel directive) and to consider state aid only as a very last resort. Importantly, the Greens reiterated the importance of establishing an EU Strategy for Sustainable Tourism.

Egypt Protests

Discontent, fear and the abuse of power are behind uprisings that it seems are everywhere; from Chile to London, Hong Kong to Egypt and many more. Uprisings against oppression and for the environment; just individuals screaming out for their rights, the safety of their families and the future. This week, the EU Parliament condemned the crackdown on protests in Egypt and adopted a resolution strongly condemning the Egyptian government’s recent crackdown on peaceful protesters and the ongoing restrictions on fundamental rights in the country. We called for:

“…an end to all acts of violence, incitement, hate speech, harassment, intimidation, enforced disappearances and censorship.”

As well as for an “independent and transparent investigation into all human rights violations and for those responsible to be held to account.” The resolution also demands the immediate release of all human rights defenders detained or sentenced during the recent protests.

Debrief with Michel Barnier

I attended two meetings with Michel Barnier as he explained his role in the recent negotiations to bring about Johnson’s Brexit deal. In short, it is clear that the EU have to work with the Prime Minister of the UK regardless of his shrinking mandate. My gut feeling about all of this is we shouldn’t underestimate what horrors lie ahead for the UK as corporate interests step in (those who rub their hands in glee at the prospect of lower regulations and standards) if we step out of Europe.

Meanwhile this week

Good

As a block, the European Parliament has the power and influence and to stand up ‘for the little guy’ – in this case – the honeybee, and our work this week was vital. The EP voted positively on a Green/EFA resolution to ensure there will be no relaxation of regulations on pesticide use so that honeybees can be protected.

Bad

Manipulation, disorder, disorganisation in the UK Parliament that continues to drain and exhaust MPs, staff and resources. Right now, I am very sorry to see that other parties who were previously supporting a People’s Vote, now veering towards calling for a General Election. Disappointing indeed. Nearly all political commentators and politicians in their hearts – know that a General Election will not serve to find a clear way forward nor heal divisions.

Where hope lies

This week I am launching my report: The Green New Deal for the North West – and we have had a brilliant take-up of places from a range of agencies and strategic players, so much so that we weren’t able to publicise more widely. However, with an extension in my role as MEP in sight, I will be able to continue to communicate our ideas of how a radical transformation of how we do business, and a decarbonisation of the economy can address the climate emergency, create meaningful jobs and bring about a better quality of life for all.

Onwards

 

UK Green MEPs Welcome Extinction Rebellion Protests

Yesterday, Extinction Rebellion kicked off two weeks of global demonstrations, demanding world leaders act now to tackle climate breakdown. The UK’s Green MEPs have welcomed the protests in a joint statement: [1]

“Our planet is on the brink of a climate catastrophe. At this critical moment in history, it’s truly inspiring to see so many people take to the streets and demand our government acts now.

“Our Prime Minister wants to treat protestors like criminals, yet he’s happy to wine and dine with the bosses of the corporations destroying our environment.

“It’s clear which is the right side of history. We urge the UK Government to open its eyes, face facts, and act now to safeguard all of our futures.”

Gina Dowding, Green MEP for the North West said:

“The sheer number of people involved in the Extinction Rebellion protests is heartening and I wholly support their efforts. I hope to stand with Rebels next week during a conference trip to London, and show solidarity with their mission to make the climate emergency one that the UK government acts upon with urgency.

“In the North West, we have been battling the climate-wrecking fracking industry, as they have tried and failed to frack in Lancashire. The industry has been so very deceptive when it comes to promoting natural gas as a climate solution. It is not a ‘bridge fuel’ nor a time to use fracking as a transition – fracking is another fossil fuel extraction technique, responsible for increased global methane emissions.

“The time to move to renewable energy is now and the UK government must drop support for dirty fossil fuels and back renewable energy and a Green New Deal.”

ENDS

 

[1]. Signed by: Scott Ainslie (London), Ellie Chowns (West Midlands), Molly Scott Cato (South West England and Gibraltar), Gina Dowding (North West England), Magid Magid (Yorkshire and the Humber), Alexandra Phillips (South East England) and Catherine Rowett (East of England).

 

 

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

 

 

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