Tag Archives: eu

Opinion: Why should someone from Maputo get to vote in the EU referendum when someone from Mons doesn’t?

When we vote in the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU,  it is important to understand that we will deciding on our citizenship. Currently, all holders of full UK passports are legally defined as EU citizens and if we leave, we will collectively be renouncing this citizenship and many of the associated rights, even if we manage to negotiate a Norway-style relationship within the wider European Economic Area.

The government’s decision on who will have the franchise in the referendum should be viewed in this context.

All Irish and Commonwealth nationals living legally in the UK will get a vote. The Guardian tells us there are 3.4 million people from 47 countries in this category which is certainly enough to influence the result. They include EU nationals from Cyprus and Malta by virtue of their countries’ Commonwealth membership.

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Opinion: What does Nick do next?

Given our new position in parliament with eight MPs, we’ll be handing out multiple portfolios to whoever can possibly take them – and I suspect, Lords, AMs and MSPs as well, where necessary. This is by no means a bad thing. We have fantastic members in all parliamentary institutions, and the devolved ones in particular could do with being taken more seriously. The only issue being they cannot then hold their respective ministers to account. The main question that strikes me now though is with a more or less inevitable EU referendum and being the most unapologetically pro-EU party – who takes the EU portfolio?

It has been suggested that Nick could lead the ‘In’ campaign in such a referendum, I assume doing a similar job as Alistair Darling did for Better Together. On paper, I can’t imagine anyone more qualified despite the fact I don’t think any such unified campaign being a good idea. For the purposes of this article however, I’ll work with the idea. For the merits that are pointed out in the above article;

Throughout his time in government he was an enormous asset to Cameron in international diplomacy, especially – but not exclusively – with Europe. Foreign policy was never Cameron’s forte, either as leader of the Opposition or during his first term as PM. “Abroad” was where Cameron made most of his misjudgements – all by himself.

There are few people better qualified on foreign policy and in particular Europe than Clegg. I’m hesitant to mention Tony Blair, setting aside one major caveat, perhaps a close rivalry. For obvious reasons, Blair doesn’t even make the short list for such a hypothetical position.

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Catherine Bearder MEP writes…The fight for Britain’s future starts now

As the dust settles from the elections and we lament the loss of so many talented and dedicated Liberal Democrat MPs and councillors, there will inevitably be discussions over what went wrong and how it could have been avoided. As a party we have a lot of hard thinking to do about how best we rebuild. But there is no time for a protracted period of introspection. The country stands at a crossroads: one way leading to a strong and united Britain at the heart of the EU, the other to a little England isolated from its neighbours at home and abroad. The voice of the Liberal Democrats and liberalism is needed now more than ever.

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There is no need for Clegg to make an EU Referendum a red line. This does not signify agreement to it

I have seen some consternation amongst Lib Dems today, both in real life and online, about Nick Clegg’s remarks about an EU referendum not being  a red line for us. Many party members feel very strongly that we should not agree to something which could be very unsettling and destabilising. Having come through three years of the Scottish referendum, I am more in that camp than in the other group of activists who think we should agree to it or we’ll be seen as anti-democratic.

Before we rush to judgment, let’s have a look at what Nick actually said. From the Guardian:

I am happy to insist on my red lines – they are the ones the Liberal Democratshave put on the front page of our manifesto which are much more important than some of the other red lines other parties have chosen.”

He said he disagreed with the Tory position on the EU and said he was still committed to the act of parliament passed by the coalition which would trigger a referendum if further UK sovereignty was ceded to Brussels. But he declined to rule out rejecting Cameron’s demand for a referendum.

“It’s not my responsibility to try and stare into a crystal ball. The way this works is I set out my priorities, David Cameron sets out his, Ed Miliband sets out his. People then choose. How those red lines are or are not compatible with each other is in part dependent on the mandate that the British people give each of those parties.”

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Opinion: What’s worse than a watery grave?

The news this week has been dominated by the horrendous tragedies of over 1000 deaths in the Mediterranean. With the notable exception of the vile Katie Hopkins, this tragedy has moved the hardest hearts, not least because of the number of children who have died.

For me it’s far closer to home and I confess I have spent the last couple of days fighting back the tears. I have the enormous privilege of caring for two children who made that same journey. And the danger for them didn’t begin when they climbed into a rickety boat, it began as they crossed the Sahara, in cars carrying maybe 30 passengers, many hanging on to the outside, where if one of them fell off they would be left to die in the scorching sand. Or in the insanitary, cruel and overcrowded cells of a Libyan detention centre.  And then, having reached ‘safety’ sleeping rough and eating out of bins while all around you people are dying.

As a family we have heard the horrendous stories of the children who are now part of our family, neither of them knowing where their birth families are, both very clear that they were prepared to take the risk to get here because the alternative was worse. Both now lauded by their schools for being role models for other students with their diligence, good humour and determination to succeed.

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Sir John Major certainly knows about parliamentary mayhem

If I was doing one of these word association games, the first word that comes into my mind when I think of Sir John Major is “b******ds”. This Guardian report from 1993 reminds us of the frustration he felt as a Prime Minister who was frequently embroiled in parliamentary mayhem, not knowing whether he was going to be able to win crucial Commons votes. Except it wasn’t nationalists, pesky or otherwise, who caused him the problems. It was his own party.

Mr Major: “Just think it through from my perspective. You are the prime minister, with a majority of 18, a party that is still harking back to a golden age that never was, and is now invented (clearly a reference to the time of Mrs Thatcher’s leadership). You have three rightwing members of the Cabinet who actually resign. What happens in the parliamentary party?”

Mr Brunson observes that Tory MPs would create a lot of fuss, but that Mr Major is prime minister. He could easily find three new cabinet members.

Mr Major then bares his soul. “I could bring in other people. But where do you think most of this poison is coming from? From the dispossessed and the never-possessed. You can think of ex-ministers who are going around causing all sorts of trouble.

“We don’t want another three more of the bastards out there. What’s Lyndon Johnson’s maxim?…”

Major’s words might be aimed at scaring Middle England into voting Tory while annoying Scottish voters into voting SNP to give the Conservatives more chance of winning that increasing elusive parliamentary majority, but what it actually does is remind us how dangerous the right wing of the Conservative Party, especially if combined with UKIP and the likes of the DUP, could be. A tiny Tory majority would give the likes of Nadine Dorries and Peter Bone the run of the place, a point well made by Nick Clegg last week with the launch of the Blukip site. Frankly, the Blu on its own is bad enough. The Kip would only be the sour on top of the bitter.

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William Wallace writes…Challenging Ukip’s assumptions

With Eurosceptic Tories and Ukip candidates alongside us in this campaign, we need to challenge their assumptions in every all-party panel and debate. Here are a few I’ve found useful so far:

1. To those who say we want a referendum now, or as soon as possible, without waiting for negotiations on EU reform or for the next change in the Treaties: why don’t they say straight out that they want to leave the EU, and not hide behind the call for a referendum?

2. Where do they think Britain will go to when we leave the EU? The Norwegians and the Swiss have warned us about the disadvantages of not having a say in the rules of the Single Market.  Would we find closer friends to work with in Saudi Arabia, or Russia, or China?

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Opinion: We should be alert to this threat to Europe!

There’s a new acronym doing the rounds, which I think is a vicious wolf in sheep’s clothing. And I fear the party may have fallen for the sheep’s clothing and not seen the wolf.

The acronym is TTIP. It stands for Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which sounds all well and good. And if all it’s doing is promoting free trade between Europe and America, fair enough. But the question we should all be asking is: at what cost?

TTIP has made its way into the election campaign solely as an adjunct to the NHS debate. There are fears that the TTIP agreement – still being negotiated (in secret) by EU and US trade negotiators – will threaten the state funding of medical services. Lib Dem candidates like me are advised by the party’s Policy Response unit to say that Vince Cable has been given several assurances that neither our ability to run the NHS nor our ability to protect the environment will be threatened.

But the threat is bigger than that. A few days ago, Germany’s environment agency UBA expressed serious concern that the EU’s position on the emerging TTIP could weaken environmental protection standards in Europe. It says Europe’s current proposals would breach the democratic principles at the heart of the EU by giving US companies the right to information about EU legislation before the European Parliament or European civil society groups get to hear about it. Lib Dems should be alarmed at this.

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Tim Farron MP writes…The British people deserve more than Cameron’s weak leadership on EU

European FlagThis week marks David Cameron’s last European Council as Prime Minister before the General Election and let’s hope he avoids one last blunder. It is easy to forget, given the endless Tory arguments on Europe over the past five years, that in opposition David Cameron’s ambition was for the Conservative Party to “stop banging on about Europe”. This summarises Cameron’s position well – he is simply not interested and sees the EU purely as a party management issue. If the issue of Europe is quiet then it’s a good bet that Tory backbenchers will be too.

But this abdication of leadership has caused repeated humiliations for the Prime Minister and allowed the ranks of Tory backbenchers to drive the agenda, leaving their leader looking weak, lacking in ideas and clueless.

Constantly bullied from the back benches, Cameron has time and again stirred from his self-imposed slumber, woken up too late and then mistakenly “taken a stand” before being humiliated. Famously he “vetoed” a new EU treaty in December 2011 but the result was not the triumph he portrayed – the rest of the EU went ahead anyway and concluded the treaty without the UK, leaving a legacy of bitterness in its wake and representing a low point in British diplomacy.

photos by: rockcohen & rockcohen
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Opinion: It’s time to recognise Palestine as a state

Israelis go to the polls on March 17 and no doubt the US and UK governments and most Lib Dems are hoping for a Netanyahu defeat and a more “liberal” government.  Opinion polls however suggest the opposite.  The Israeli newspaper Haaretz, in article on 1 February, suggested that Netanyahu’s re-election would be the better outcome, as then the rest of the world would see the need to keep up the pressure on Israel.  The article suggested that it could be worse if a government of the centre left was elected as this would reassure the rest of the world that peace negotiations would be renewed, while nothing would actually happen. So, whatever the outcome of the election, there is a need for EU countries to keep up the pressure on the Israelis to stop their illegal activities in the Occupied Territories, lift the cruel siege of Gaza, and settle fairly with the Palestinians.

I would suggest that now is the time, well before the general election,  for the Party to commit itself to immediate British recognition of Palestine as a sovereign state on the basis of the pre-1967 borders, as Sweden did last October, and to encourage other members of the EU to do the same. Sweden acted alone, France is getting close to doing so and others would undoubtedly follow the United Kingdom.

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Opinion: We are the world

At my United Reformed Church on Sunday the preacher was a young woman from South Africa. The two readers were from the U.S. and from Scotland. The English woman who led the prayers is married to a man of Pakistani origin. Two Australians served coffee, a German lady sat in front of me and a Swiss man across the aisle.

We are a global society, not just a global economy. We are the world.  Yes, the Lib Dems are pro-Europe and internationalist, and we should fly these colours high as these policies represent how our country actually is.

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Opinion: Refugees are people too

I recently watched a television programme in which Ross Kemp looks at the situation in Calais, where thousands of refugees are seeking to gain access to the UK in the most dangerous manner.

I have no special knowledge of the situation there, nor from what they are fleeing – who can? But I do know that seeing the programme has made me deeply ashamed of being European. Not being a citizen of the European Union, but being a member of a large community that has not yet addressed the issue of how we can help people in such dire straits.

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Nick Harvey MP writes… We mustn’t let eurosceptics spoil useful defence co-operation with our EU partners

Today in London the UK’s foreign and defence secretaries, Philip Hammond and Michael Fallon, will meet their French counterparts, Laurent Fabius and Jean-Yves Le Drian. Of course, there is nothing particularly out of the ordinary about this meeting: in reality, UK and French Ministers meet frequently at various EU and NATO summits.

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Opinion: A liberal postcard from Athens

Sunday morning in Kifissia, one of the leafy northern suburbs of Athens, and the view from my bedroom balcony is blue sky with dark clouds looming – a fitting scene for this very important Greek Election Day.

A product of the oil industry in Aberdeen, I am one of many Scottish expats supporting the oil and gas industry around the world (and lets not mention oil prices!). I have been working in Greece for a little over a year and after commuting between the Athens of the North and the real Athens for a year, I have been resident (and paying tax!) in Greece since November.

Greece has been going through a tough time in the last five years, unemployment is high and wages are low. Though there are few signs of austerity in the posh northern suburbs, my Greek colleagues (I am a lawyer) have lost faith in their politicians and their economy. Much though they love their country, pessimism is rife.

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LibLink: Tim Farron: Only way to make blue go green is to add yellow

Over at PoliticsHome, Tim Farron has been showing up the Tories, who voted in favour of loosening controls on air pollution. Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder opposed the plans:

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Opinion: Liberal Democrats are the only party which can be trusted to get the European question right – we should say so

At some point during the next 2-3 years the British people will probably be faced with the most crucial decision to confront them since the end of World War II: that of whether or not to leave the European Union. The importance of this issue far transcends that of the individual policies listed in the emerging manifestos of the three main parties. The impact of these policies will be felt for, at best, the span of a single Parliament. The impact of our decision on Europe will be felt for decades.

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Two Liberal Democrats win European awards

Its awards season at the moment and last week the focus shifted to Europe where the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe held its annual LeaDeR (Liberal Democrat Regional and Local Politicians) Awards. Two British Liberal Democrats were successful.

David TuttThe first was Cllr David Tutt, Lib Dem group leader of East Sussex County Council and leader of Eastbourne Borough Council who had been nominated for the Achievements in Government prize by MEP Catherine Bearder. He won for:

…his visible leadership in having put core liberal values of innovation, forward-thinking and opportunity into action in transforming what was officially the worst Council in the south-east of England into one widely recognised as among the very best in the country.

Catherine explained why she nominated David:

David has worked tirelessly in Eastbourne to ensure the town continues to go from strength to strength and when I heard about the awards I was delighted to put David’s name forward as I know the huge impact his work is having on the Eastbourne community.

 David is now a winner, just as he’s made Eastbourne a winner.

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Poll: Young people appear more tolerant, open and happy with modern Britain

A recent survey by YouGov, for Business for New Europe, indicates that teenagers have markedly more positive views towards Europe and the free movement of labour than adults. This should encourage those who appreciate the economic advantages of an outward-facing UK. It could also fuel calls for 16 and 17 year-olds to be included in any forthcoming referendum on the EU.

The poll, based on the views of young people aged between 14 and 17 years old, showed:

  • If there was a referendum, approximately twice as many of those aged 14 to 17 would vote to stay in the EU (45%) as leave (23%).
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Lib Dems Telegraph splash: EU bashing “weak, opportunistic and fundamentally un-British” say Ashdown, Ludford, Brinton, Farron and 90 Lib Dems

Even Margaret Thatcher wouldn’t have taken the isolationist path that David Cameron’s Conservative party is romping its way down, according to 90 Liberal Democrats in a letter to the Telegraph today. The letter states:

David Cameron’s recent speech on European immigration is the latest in a series of desperate moves from a Conservative Party in full-scale panic.

We’ve had: “Go home or face arrest” vans. We’ve had: if you are from the EU and want to move to Britain, go and register at a police station. We’ve had: if you’re out of work, even for a few months, go back to where you came from.

In her Bruges speech in 1988, Margaret Thatcher said: “Britain does not dream of some cosy, isolated existence on the fringes of the European Community. Our destiny is in Europe, as part of the Community.”

What happened to that Conservative destiny? The dual menace of the Tory headbangers and the rise of Ukip.

There is nothing patriotic about bashing immigration from Europe. It is opportunistic, weak and fundamentally un-British. Migrants from the EU claim less in benefits than people born in this country. They are a massive net positive to the British economy. The Tories are scared to admit this. They have lost all sense of political courage – and that is why people have lost confidence in them.

We, the undersigned Liberal Democrats, konw that the real patriotic case is for Britain to remain in Europe; our jobs and our economic future depend on it.

photo by: rockcohen
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Opinion: Towards an ethical trade policy

As a Liberal Democrat for almost all of my adult life, I am often  bemused that other citizens are yet to share my enthusiasm for our long held belief in a dynamic European Union.

The prevailing phenomena of Euroscepticism is not purely a UK problem. We only have to look at France and to a lesser extent Germany to see similar. Why?

In my view the failure is in not articulating the needs of and connecting with European citizens. People have felt marginalised by the closure of traditional industries and a sense of lack of power to change or alter what is happening to them in this brave new world. Far Right Parties have been quick to make the most of this.

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Clegg and Wallace highlight need for Lib Dem approach to foreign policy and criticise Conservative coalition partners

There’s a fair bit of “differentiation” in the air at the moment. Last week we had Norman Baker’s resignation over difference in Home Office policy. Yesterday both Nick Clegg and Foreign Office Minister Lord William Wallace took time to highlight the fundamental differences in approach between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to international affairs.

First, more casually, on his Call Clegg phone-in, Nick had a good go at the Tories on international development after Philip Hammond’s comments in opposition to Michael Moore’s Private Member’s Bill which aims to enshrine the 0.7% aid target in law:

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Opinion: EU court gives lie to Cameron’s free movement scaremongering

It’s probably fair to say that the European Court of Justice is unused to tabloid adulation. But this week’s ruling in Luxembourg on the case of a jobless Romanian woman in Germany led even the arch-anti-EU Daily Express to hail ‘a rare outbreak of common sense’.

The judgement by the EU’s highest court that the right to free movement does not equate to a right to free access to benefits was warmly welcomed all round, including in Germany – which has higher rates of migration than the UK. Even David Cameron called it ‘good news’.

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UKIP MEP calls equal marriage supporters “equality Nazis” and defends UKIP’s collaboration with party whose leader praised Hitler

Six months ago, Scotland had an actual farmer as an MEP. George Lyon’s knowledge of farming and rural issues was a massive asset to Scotland’s representation in Europe.

Not that I’m bitter, well, maybe a bit, but his replacement, UKIP’s David Coburn, who lives in London, has been telling the Huffington Post hat equal marriage supporters are ‘Equality Nazis”:

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Stephen Lloyd MP writes…Ed’s climate change deal shows how UK can reform EU


Yesterday the Prime Minister’s statement to Parliament reminded us thatthere are two EU stories around at the moment. Sadly one is getting far more attention than the other! One is about the Prime Minister “standing up to Europe” and refusing to pay a £1.7bn demand. The other which is ultimately of much greater significance, concerns the EU agreeing an ambitious climate change deal, under British leadership, as described by Catherine Bearder and Ed Davey recently on LDV.

Liberal Democrats can rightly be proud that as the greenest of the main British political parties and as “the party of in” we have shown …

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Ed Davey MP writes…Signed, sealed and delivered, an ambitious climate change deal for Europe

Wind turbine - Some rights reserved by thomas vlWe’ve done it!  For Liberal Democrats in government, this EU climate deal is our most significant green win so far.  While Liberal Democrats are passionate about tackling climate change, the likes of Owen Paterson and UKIP seem to delight in talking down the threat that it poses, but that should make us even more determined to tell people why this deal is so crucial.

What have we achieved?  An ambitious Europe-wide climate change deal that will see greenhouse gases cut by at least 40% by 2030.  Other countries wanted a lower target, but I argued that the science demanded higher. And I was determined that if in next year’s UN climate talks other countries like the US and China show similar ambition, Europe should be ready to increase its efforts still further – so the words “at least” in the deal are more important than normal.

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Edward McMillan-Scott writes…Postscript: The Tory Conference – more Euro-sceptic than ever

Edward McMillan ScottIt was a poignant watching the Tory Conference at Birmingham’s ICC on TV. After all, it was there at our Spring Conference in March 2010 that I became a Liberal Democrat, only to find my new party in coalition with the Tories two months later!

I described that as the happiest day in my political life: ‘the Lib Dems have tamed the Tory extremists’ I wrote as the Coalition Agreement was published, especially on the EU and human rights.

My impression is that the Conservative Party has made absolutely no progress …

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Danny Alexander says EU membership would not be possible with Salmond’s “bonkers” sterlingisation plan

I wrote last night that Alex Salmond’s plan to use the pound come what amy after independence would  lead to higher personal credit costs as well as higher national debt costs. According to Danny Alexander it might also compromise Scotland’s EU membership.  He has a letter from the former EU Commissioner Oli Rehn who told him that it would “not be possible” for Scotland to join the EU while using someone else’s currency.

Rehn said in a letter sent to Danny today:

As to the question whether ‘sterlingisation’ were compatible with EU membership, the answer is that this would simply not be possible, since that would obviously imply a situation where the candidate country concerned would not have a monetary authority of its own and thus no necessary instruments of the EMU.

This certainly puts more doubt as if there wasn’t enough already on the Yes Campaign’s  currency plans. No doubt they will have  whole load eminent people lined up in the morning to tell us that it’s all going to be fine and we shouldn’t worry about it, but people aren’t daft. In fact, they will probably say that it strengthens their case for a currency union and surely the nasty UK wouldn’t deny them that, especially when they would have a mandate for it from the referendum. Except that the mandate wouldn’t apply to the rest of the UK.

Danny announced this a little while ago in a speech at Chatham House. He probably showed a little too much glee to be honest. A more thoughtful “look, we did try to investigate to see if it would be possible but regrettably it isn’t” tone  might be a little more appropriate. We don’t really need more aggression and dissonance in all of this. People are turning off. The most common reaction of my Facebook friends to last week’s ill-tempered debate between Darling and Salmond was to switch of. A “more in sorrow than anger” approach might keep them listening.

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Liberal Democrat scientists tell Juncker to keep Scientific Adviser amid pressure from environmental groups to drop the post

New EI Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has had lots of conflicting advice about what to do about the post of the Commission’s Chief Scientific Officer. Environmental NGO’s seem to want to get rid of the post while research organisations want to keep it. The Guardian reports:

The NGOs called the role, which was introduced in 2012 by current EC president José Manuel Barroso and has been occupied since then by a biologist at the University of Aberdeen, Prof Anne Glover, “fundamentally problematic”. Their letter argued that the non-elected role concentrated too much influence in one person, undermining research by the

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Catherine Bearder MEP writes…Working with the new European Commission

Charlemagne is back in EuropeWhile the UK media has been focusing on Cameron’s cabinet reshuffle and what it means for the Tories’ 2015 election strategy, an even bigger shake-up has been taking place in the running of the European Union. A bit like during the Lib Dem European election campaign, the most frequently heard words this week in Brussels and Strasbourg have been “jobs, jobs, jobs”, and this time it is all about our own.

The last time we were in Strasbourg two weeks ago the Parliament sorted out who got what …

photo by: e³°°°
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Departing female EU commissioners lobby for more women in new Commission

Neelie Kroes 10 or MoreThe current 8 female EU commissioners have written to new Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to support his call for member states to appoint more women. The commissioners stated that they wanted to see at least 10 women appointed. The picture shows Dutch liberal commissioner Neelie Kroes holding up her hands to show symbolise support for the Ten or More campaign.

Their letter said:

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