The regional Lab. Euro MEP's held a Policy Forum yesterday (last Saturday) at Sheffield so apart from a chance to escape the purple rain as a pro European campaigner I thought it prudent to attend, upskill, get updated and engage with whats going on all things Europe. This is my take from notes on the event, ie matters that were imo important, it is not a full or complete account, just logged to get the gist:
Alan Billings , the newly elected Police & Crime Commisioner for South Yorkshire was welcomed and given a warm reception.http://www.southyorkshire-pcc.gov.uk/News-and-Events/News/Alan-Billings-... . With a tight win on 50.02% of the ballot, there followed quite a few references to UKIP's 'shift of centre of (political) gravity to the right'. As an aside I thought I would make a tally of how many times UKIP got a mention during todays 'lecture' ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DmDZs93Mjc
Richard Corbett MEP for Yorkshire & Humber ( who gave up his highly paid European Commission work to represent the Region as an MEP) http://www.richardcorbett.org.uk/ went on to explain the threat of UKIP had now three themes: Firstly, Europe - Out - to get out of the European Union, would leave between 4 and 5 million people directly employed through trade with Euope with job insecurity.... ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1eDlZbOkiZA;-))
Secondly; Migration - the net migration benefits to the UK - the people migrating inward were typically young people who were educated in their own country bringing skills and seeking work with over 1/3 in taxes paid more than claimed in benefits. Labour's MEP's were working to tackling unscrupulous employers and agencies that were paying below the national minimum wages and to challenge the tied in housing linked to employment contracts that cuts the wages even further below acceptable levels. The myths about migration must be challenged with facts. facts speak for themselves. http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_explained/index.php/Migratio.... Richard went on; "migration has become a highly emotional debate, fuelled by the media." Farage has had more appearances on Question Time than any other MEP ever. So why is UKIP popular for the media?
The third strand 'None of the Above' - UKIP is seen as an anti-establishment vote. We don't like politicians so we will vote for UKIP. (but do UKIP voters know what they are voting for?) The EU commission subjects each MEP to a three hour public question time. If only they did that here for MP's in the UK...
On the Tory front; Cameron's credibility within the EU is sinking faster than the Titanic, not only on his promised referendum - in or out of the EU, but in his negotiation methods. Does Cameron think he can be part of a European Free Market but dropping or opting out of the clauses he doesn't like, eg the Social Chapter that covers human rights, welfare and employment regulations? Is the EU going to accept a Cameron's Europe or a No Europe? With reference to the UK's EU Budget Arrears did Cameron really think when "our economy is bigger" the contribution to the EU should not be bigger. eg if our economy is bigger then the percentage we pay into whatever agreements the UK holds grow bigger too. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) in May 2014 clearly stated that the UK's economic growth would effect our contributions to the EU. (and other global organisations too). Osbourn's claim that he has cut the £ 1.7billion by a half is ridiculous - the rebate that the UK receives was always there ... On the balance of EU economy ... we are working hard to clamping down on tax evasion and tax avoidence by the big corporations. The figures unpaid are bigger than the EU deficit. We are working in a centre right EU & EC, we have to fight to maintain the laws... if big companies don't pay tax - how can we fund public services?
On balancing the EU's books - this is a paper audit trail, similar to a those of the US Federal Budget if an anomaly is shown it has to be followed it could be something as simple as an invoice for stationery in Scotland being paid from a fund from Wales. One case that is pending high court action is the shifting of EU money promised for regeneration to South Yorkshire being diverted by the Tories and Cameron to Scotland, prior to the Scotish Independence vote. Is this a politically motivated shifting of funds and an abuse of the system?
Next up was Linda McAvan, Chair of the International Development Committee - More people are anti-UKIP than vote UKIP. There is a trend for 'none of the above' accross Europe, the EU needs a progressive agenda. Two things we are looking at is employment and the regulation of banks. On a more urgent basis we have been dealing with the Ebola crisis, as a small example to the crisis, an agreement on how to get Ebola medical staff back home safely ... this needs lots of co-ordination. Why wasn't it contained? The Liberian Civil war resulted in only seven Doctors in the whole of Liberia, in Nigeria, Ebola was successfully contained with the death of only one person plus the brave Doctor who treated him. International development and AID in Africa .... by committing ourselves to AID in Africa we protect ourselves as well, not only in cases like Ebola.
There are more refugees now in the world since WWII, the ongoing crisis in Iraq and Iran ... there is a real humanitarian crisis, compare the 1300 refugees at Calais to the refugee crisis accross North Africa, Erotrea, Sudan, Syrian refugees .... displaced people ... over 1.3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey. The biggest share of refugees go to neighbouring countries, some where 1/4 of the population are now refugees, we must protect the AID budgets, AID does work to tackle global poverty.
There are two issues for 2015 - in Sep 2015 SDG, What are the goals for sustainable countries, we need shared goals. (http://www.twnside.org.sg/title2/twe/2013/554/4.htm) and on climate change. Dec 2015 Paris (http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/international/negotiations/future/ind...)
Judith Kirton-Darling MEP for North East England was elected to the EU's Industry, Research & Energy Committee and is part of the Advisory Group on TTIP. Three arms to TTIP (USA) CETA (Canadian) and CSR - Global, these three interelated impact on each other. The interest in TTIP is growing fast. With TTIP equating to 50% of world trade, the scale and size ... everything is on the table, parts of our economy we want to protect ie public services, and the NHS. The current status and scope (38 Degrees Campaign to stop the TTIP) What has the EU put on the table? as part of the TTIP negotiations that is confidential. However the CETA negotiations are not. All I can say is that they are working along the same themes. So looking at CETA, there is a negative list, an excluding list. Public funded services are excluded. The UK Govt. is to develop its own UK negative list.
Standards - environment and consumer - regulations and co-operations is about lifting standards, not reducing them. In some areas the US have better standards than we do. One area "conflict minerals" not exploiting conflicts, to look at workers rights, to negotiate on labour rights. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gR_asukoqJ0
Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) set up in the 50's to three arbitrators and lawyers from each side. "We need to respect our own judicial systems. Corporations should be balanced against public interest, for people and not for profit." eg following the Arab Spring when Egypt raised the level of the national minimum wages Veolia took the Eygyptian Govt to court for indirect expropriation by loss of future profts. eg Germany is in court for abandoning nuclear power, eg Canada has been challenged by US pharmaceutical giants for restricting the use of high price drugs. Andy Burnham Shadow Minister for Health has vowed to take the marker out for Health & Social Care. These agreements are not set in stone eg Slovakia reversed its Health Insurance policy after is had failed.
John Healey MP - it would be catastrophic if Europe pulled out of the TTIP ... the biggest ever bilateral trade agreement and also the best prepared. Launched in June last year the work started 14 months before that. We need a better understanding to hold the Govt to account, we need the best deal for Britain, for British workers and consumers. If the TTIP is good it is good to stay in Europe. If we have an EU referendum I have been told "Your not big enough to bother with on your own". What is JH doing in TTIP? International idealism? We need to support trade, the terms of trade, TTIP could bring big benefits to Britain with increased economic activity. "We badly need to boost the British economy." This agreement is between two economic equals the EU & US, we have similar standards, economics, consumers, wages. There is unprecedented levels of public interest ... the TTIP agreement has eventually to be approved by EU and Congress. We have argued against ISDS , we believe there is no case. As democratic Govts within the EU there is no room for ISDS. This is happening we need to get stuck in. Public interest is increasing the transparency .. the TTIP is the most transparent trade agreement ever, normally trade agreements are the conserve of the few. Negotiating on space, the GATS Agreement had clauses missing re nationalism.
After using many analogies about dancing and been on the dance floor, John and Jude opened up to Q's & A's
Q from a New Yorker, "Do not underestimate the power and greed of the corporations in the US?" A - We are aware.
DB from Sheffield asked; "is this just an economic extension of NATO?"
My question beginning with "Why haven't you mentioned 'extreme energy'?" "Has the EU via the TTIP encouraged the conflict in the Ukraine?" (I wanted to shout where is your social conscience!) A; "geopolitical ... timing"
I did pull up to JH after and asked why the EU were aligning themselves with the most 'hated' country in the world. What about trade agreements with the rest of the world? The world is shrinking, surely we should be looking at Global trade agreements with other countries. Will the alignment with the US isolate us from the global stage? Surely the whole point of the EU is that we are strong enough to stand alone on the world stage? Needless to say JH avoided my questions. Though I do agree that if these trade agreements are ongoing we need to be a part of them, and as JH said "get stuck in."
Just to add, this may seem a 'boring' piece, but I do hope it dispells some 'myths' and exposes some 'truths' about the Labour Party - a bottom up fed organisation that is all inclusive. With 'debate' and internal heated discussions and an agree to disagree philosophy but promoting the interests of the many over the interests and agendas of the few. The Lab Party is a 'collective' of wonderful people, not a dictorial machine.
Most impressed with the MEP team, Richard Corbett, Linda McAvan, and the exceptional 'Jude' (Judith) along with John Healey for getting 'stuck in' and working extremely hard to represent Labour values within the European Union.
Meanwhile, get a load of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRqVWa4ZUS4