My work placement with Chris Davies MEP

Louise Furness recently spent a week on a work placement with North West MEP Chris Davies. Here she tells us about her insight into life in Brussels.

Monday: Walking into the European Parliament for the first time is quite something. It is an impressive complex and a hive of activity – and this is supposedly a quieter period as fewer proposals are put to Parliament and MEPs spend more time in their constituencies in the run-up to the elections. The week began with a team meeting, during which Chris discussed his diary with Carly and Joana from his office. This was a good opportunity to see what I had in store for the rest of the week. I then sat in on a meeting between Chris and an e-cigarette manufacturer. Chris has been doing a lot of work to push e-cigs through Parliament and so many people come to him to find out where the legislation is up to.
An early finish meant that I had the whole evening to explore Brussels – Grand Place is particularly lovely at night, as are the waffles at any time of day!

Tuesday: Our first meeting began at 8.15 in preparation for PECH, the Fisheries Committee, which took place afterwards. First, the MEPs voted on a variety of issues and then for the debate. It was fascinating to listen to, not least due to the many interpreters that surrounded us in soundproof booths. Headphones on and I could listen to the discussion in all the different languages of the Member States present. One of the highlights of my time in Parliament was the meeting that followed between Business Secretary Vince Cable and Liberal Democrat MEPs. It really emphasised the importance of Britain’s membership of the European Union to our businesses. My last meeting of the day was at 18.30. Chaired by Chris, those present prepared for ENVI, the Committee for the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. Chris’ working day, however, was not yet done. I learnt that days in the European Parliament are long – not that you would know this from the way the institution is depicted by the majority of the British press.

Wednesday: Today members of ENVI met – well not all of them! Just a couple of rows in front of me was an empty seat assigned to ‘Paul Nuttall’, a UKIP MEP notorious for his absenteeism in the Parliament. That empty seat really struck me, as the other MEPs present dealt with current problems facing European citizens. I just hope that those elected in May take as proactive an approach as Chris, representing the UK in the European Parliament. Next, was a meeting with a group of Spaniards involved in a Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) project. As with e-cigs, Chris is a key figure in the Parliament when it comes to CCS. In the evening, I went to an event organised by Lib Dem MEP, Graham Watson. The Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, was visiting and did a speech. I went to a couple of these events organised by MEPs. The other, however, was somewhat different in nature. I went to a talk on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). A victim of this horrific act spoke of her experiences, which as she said – ‘puts a face to FGM’. Harrowing and thought provoking, it really brought home atrocities that still go on to this day.

Thursday: In the absence of committee meetings, Chris had a number of interviews – a Dutch journalist was putting together an article on e-cigs and a German writer on CCS, shale gas and the 2030 climate package. An Irish MEP was also interested in Chris’ bid to stop Mountain Rescue services from having to pay VAT, a campaign that is only gaining momentum. During my lunch break, I went to the Parlamentarium – the European Parliament’s visitor centre. It is free entry and definitely worth a visit if you are ever in Brussels. You can learn a lot about the European Union and its members in a fun and interactive way. In the afternoon, Chris hosted a group of students who were visiting the Parliament. He spoke about why he went into politics, his campaigns and just how much the European Union has to offer the UK. Amongst the group, were a number of politics students – maybe even some MEPs in the making?

Friday: I continued with a number of research tasks set at the beginning of the week, such as An Hour in EU Regulation. The project aims to demonstrate how EU regulation improves our everyday lives – it even helps determine the quality of the air that we breathe. As Chris and his fellow Lib Dem MEPs had returned to their UK offices, Carly, Joana and I went to a meeting for their assistants to discuss Strasbourg. It was great to see everyone working together on behalf of their respective MEPs. It also dawned on me what a great shame it would be to lose any Lib Dem seats in the upcoming European elections. After all, the Liberal Democrats are the party of in – In Europe, In Work. This will undoubtedly reflect in my campaigning, as I return to the North West.

I will take a lot away from my work experience in the European Parliament. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Brussels – thanks to Chris and the team for the opportunity!

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