Tag Archives: eu parliament

The Truth about Europe

I had the opportunity to visit the EU Parliament in Brussels last week with a group of PPCs. We were hosted by Sir Graham Watson, former Lib Dem MEP (1994-2014), and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation. Our group heard informative talks by the EU Commission’s Director General of Trade, by the Senior Advisor to Renew Europe (former ALDE) and by the Research Director from the European Policy Centre, amongst others.

Representing a constituency which voted Leave in the EU Referendum, I thought it would be useful to post some of the information sources on the workings of the EU. So much of the 2016 Referendum was shrouded in hearsay and untruths, here are the facts.

There is a great resource online, “What the EU does for me” which has information on EU projects in your area, briefings on EU policies, and a large section on how the EU affects various aspects of daily life. This website is a great place to start.

An issue which came up several times in our discussions was how to combat fake news. There are several websites which tackle the myriad untruths:

And here is a download of the June 2019 report on the EU’s action to fight fake news.

The ‘EU Citizenship Portal’ contains information about people’s rights and how to get involved in EU policy making. The ‘Have Your Say’ portal on the Europa website is for citizens and stakeholders to send their concerns and interests directly to policy-makers and decision makers.

European Citizens’ Initiatives (petitions) allow citizens to initiate legislation themselves, such as was the case with the Right2Water citizens’ initiative. The European Commission responds to all citizen correspondence it receives, in the language of the citizen contacting them.

We all know that in campaigning, emotional appeal works better than facts and figures. So for stories on how the EU makes a difference in people’s lives, check out the #EUandME campaign which includes short films highlighting European values and experiences.

Posted in Europe / International | Also tagged , , , , and | 47 Comments

Not turning our back on Europe – why Bollocks to Brexit is the perfect message from Lib Dem MEPs to the rest of the EU

We all believe in the power of words, else this blog post would be entirely pointless. How words are received versus their intent though can be the spark for division and result in endless dissection, rather than focus on the message.

This ended up being part of the discussion for LBC Radio’s James O’Brien phone-in show yesterday morning. James, who is widely known for his views against Brexit, took issue with Lib Dem MEPs wearing Bollocks to Brexit’ T-shirts at the opening session of the European Parliament, stating that they were “inappropriate” and “slogan politics”. He also rightly took issue with Brexit Party MEPs rudely turning their backs during the Strasbourg Philharmonic’s performance of Ode to Joy, adopted by the EU as an anthem.

I disagree with James’s view. Political parties need to smash the mould to get their message across in a world of 280 characters or less. I would much rather that we do ruffle some feathers by being crystal clear than prance around, twisting ourselves in knots about our position like HM Opposition.

‘Bollocks to Brexit’ is the perfect antidote to the Brexit Party’s own message of division. It’s also instantly understandable to anyone seeking to understand the Lib Dems’ position on Brexit and acts as a clarion call for those across the political spectrum to stand alongside us in opposing this national act of self-harm.

Given the Brexit Party, and their ilk, will brazenly ride rough-shod over-polite conventions, have no issue openly saying they will “disrupt” the business of the EU and operate a completely opaque structure when it comes to funding and candidate selection…wearing a T-shirt that highlights there’s an alternative is perhaps the least the Lib Dems can do.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 51 Comments

Boris thinks Widdecombe and Non-payment will sway EU his way….

In his BBC interview by Laura Kuensberg (interview text here), Tory leadership contender Boris Johnson said he had a far better chance of realising an agreed Brexit than May had, because the political situation both in Britain and on the Continent, in Brussels, has been fundamentally transformed since the March 2019 Brexit Deadline (and the British European elections).

Johnson says that the EU leaders are scared because the newly elected Brexit Party – and Tory MEPs – are a new, powerful Eurosceptic force, putting pressure on the European Commission and Council from within the Euro Parliament (EP). I think Johnson’s argument is that now that Ann Widdecombe sits beside known Euro-haters like Farage and Daniel Hannan, EU leaders have started quaking in their shoes and want to lose (or “liberate”) these MEPs soon by agreeing any October 31 Brexit, with or without a deal.

Johnson forgets Brussels has seen off worse anti-system politician threats, like J.-M. le Pen MEP calling Sobibor’s gas chambers a “detail in history”; and prime ministers like Berlusconi suggesting a German Socialist playing KZ Lager guard; or Orban, expelled from the biggest EP party for infringing basic EU principles. Adding Widdecombe isn’t a threat; the Christian and Social Democrats simply include “Renew Europe” Liberals (with new LibDem MEPs!) and the Greens in EP politics; Orban, Tories and Brexiters (who insist the EU is a Gulag Soviet Union) are kept shouting outside.

Johnson’s second point: he’ll use “creative ambiguity” about paying the £39 billion alimony to pressure the EU into a “May deal without nasty Backstop bits” (my paraphrase of his sketched deal). But what if Brussels uses “creative conditionality” about refurbishing the deal: “if you won’t pay the first instalment on the £39 billion, we keep the Backstop in”. And giving EU citizens (many who couldn’t vote for the EP, the hostile environment persists) legislative security as UK inhabitants was already offered by May, so won’t elicit EU leniency around any Brexit Deal.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 8 Comments

From Catherine Bearder MEP, Leader of the Lib Dem Group at the European Parliament

Wow! What a few days it has been. I wanted to write you a little message from Brussels about the incredible European election last Thursday and how we can build on from our stellar result.

First of all can I just say a huge, huge thank you to all of you. In just three weeks, our activists put in a marathon effort to deliver millions of leaflets, bang in ‘Stop Brexit’ and ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ stakeboards and knock on thousands of doors (and this was on the back of an enormous effort to get all those wonderful councillors elected!).

Now we are sixteen MEPs and I finally have some colleagues with me to fly the Lib Dem flag in Brussels and Strasbourg! There are some past MEPs coming back into our midst like Chris Davies, Phil Bennion and Bill Newton-Dunn, but there also some rising stars in the party like Irina Von Wiese, Antony Hook and Caroline Voaden and so many others who come with a whole range of skills and life experiences. It is truly a great and diverse team – over 50% are women and two MEPs are BAME.

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 10 Comments

Guy Verhofstadt’s glorious private rant in BBC4’s “Brexit: Behind closed doors”


Snapshot from BBC4’s “Storyville – Brexit: Behind Closed Doors

If you haven’t already watched it, it’s very much worth watching BBC 4’s “Storyville – Brexit: Behind closed doors” made by Belgian filmmaker Lode Desmet. He had behind-the-scenes access to Guy Verhofstadt and his family and team during the two years of the Brexit negotiations. (Guy Verhofstadt is the Brexit co-ordinator for the European Parliament). Part 1 is available for the next 20 days on BBC iPlayer here. Part 2 is available for 21 days here.

Posted in TV and film | Also tagged and | 29 Comments

The path to victory lies through Brexit Britain. As Remainers, we need to show them we’re on their side

This week in Parliament we might just have scored the first victory in our long march to a People’s Vote. Now, if a referendum is truly close at hand, the hard work must now start: we need to convince Brexit Britain that it ought to change its mind.

Sure, Remain’s supposedly got an eight-point lead in the opinion polls. But that was true in 2016… plus ça change?

To win, we must convince Leave voters in places like the East Midlands town of Wellingborough, where I live and had the pleasure to be Lib Dem candidate at the last General Election. In many ways this ought to be natural Remain territory: it’s a diverse town, with both a mosque and an ornate Hindu temple. Local voters elected New Labour in 1997, electing a MP who called for the legislation of cannabis, and we even host an annual Pride event in a town centre park. Yet we voted Leave by 63% and are represented by arch-Brexiteer and Sven-Goran Eriksson lookalike Peter Bone.

How did this happen? When you speak to ordinary voters, the mystery becomes clear. Yes, it is true that some voters talk of immigration, a lost identity or misplaced notions of ‘lost sovereignty’. For most Brexit voters, however, the root causes of Brexit are emphatically human: they feel let down and left behind by politicians in Westminster and (yes) Brussels, and they feel buffeted from the consequences of a fragile global economy. Above all they feel they’ve lost control.

These are people who see ever more fragile employment, with an explosion in zero-hour contracts and ten years of pay restraint, coupled with impossible house prices. They see an education system failing to deliver practical skills, with FE colleges where funding has been cut to the bone and where those without a degree are ever more marginalised. In town centres they seem the places they are proud of become ever more empty, bereft of the brands with which they are familiar. And, as they struggle to take control over their lives, is it any wonder that the pledges and half-truths of the Leave campaign were so attractive?

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , and | 55 Comments

Brexit Resolution: statement from Catherine Bearder MEP

Yesterday the European Parliament voted in favour of a Resolution to allow Brexit talks to progress to the next stage.

Both the Commission and Parliament have now recommended to the European Council that progress has been made in the three key areas: on citizens’ rights, Northern Ireland and the financial settlement.

This Resolution is the last piece in the puzzle to allowing the Brexit talks to progress to the next stage.

It effectively moves the UK one step further away from a disastrous “no deal” situation which would risk thousands

Posted in Europe / International and Europe Referendum | Also tagged and | 2 Comments

Lib Dem councillors on a fact-finding trip to Brussels

On the 2nd March at 7.50 am I boarded a Ryanair flight from Manchester to Charleroi in Belgium. It is an hour and a half train journey from Charleroi to Brussels and the first thing that you notice is the friendliness of the people and the matter of fact way they switch from one language to another without pause. The next thing is the extent of the industrialisation of the landscape as it flashes by.

I was travelling to join Catherine Bearder at the EU Parliament in Brussels on the European Information Program in the hope of finding out how Brexit will be affecting us here in the Wirral. I was not surprised in the least to find that Brussels knows as little about Brexit as we do here in the UK.

The visit lasted two packed days and I found it very informative during the conversations I had with colleagues, from across the UK, and the question and answer sessions with MEP’s.

I found out, for instance, that the only country to have left the EU so far is Greenland who had only one treaty to negotiate (fish).  It took over seven years to complete their single negotiation, whilst here in the UK we have over four hundred agreements to unravel.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 1 Comment
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 16th Oct - 7:52pm
    Should there be a confirmatory referendum of party members? (since OMOV).
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 16th Oct - 7:46pm
    Whatever happens, there'll be no end to conflict and division for years to come. What are the options? 1) We remain in the EU. Leavers...
  • User AvatarGraham Martin-Royle 16th Oct - 5:58pm
    If anyone wants to introduce compulsory photo id then they must be willing to issue it free of charge. There also needs to be a...
  • User AvatarSteve Trevethan 16th Oct - 5:49pm
    Has H.M.G., or any other body, produced indicative figures of the number of citizens likely to be obstructed from voting?
  • User AvatarDilettante Eye 16th Oct - 5:48pm
    expats “..according to the Brexit Secretary, Boris Johnson ‘will ask EU for extension’ if no Brexit deal by Saturday…” That’s not quite accurate. What he...
  • User AvatarMark Seaman 16th Oct - 5:45pm
    I agree with Malcolm. The current voting system is all too vulnerable to fraud, and with the high number of repeated non-voters, there is a...