Our next Branch meeting will take place on 11 September. We are very pleased to be joined by Rory Palmer MEP who represents the East Midlands in the European Parliament. He is also member of the Committee for Environment, Public Health and Food Safety.
Where: FEPS, Rue Montoyer 40, 1040 Brussels When: 11 September at 19:30 (Doors open 19:00)
Brussels Labour was delighted to
welcome newly elected Jackie Jones MEP to speak at our June branch meeting.
Jackie was elected in May as the Labour Party MEP for Wales. Since there is now
unfortunately no Labour MEP in Scotland, Jackie is the only Labour MEP of a
devolved region in the UK.
Prior to her election, Jackie
taught law at Cardiff Law School at Cardiff University. She then taught at
Bristol Law School, University of the West of England, where she was Professor
of Feminist Legal Studies. Jackie is active in the voluntary sector on Wales on
human rights for many years.
As such, it is fitting that she
will now be working on both the legal affairs (JURI) and women’s rights and
gender equality (FEMM) committees in the European Parliament.
was refreshing to hear from a new voice at the branch meeting, and members were
eager to hear more about Jackie’s plans for her time in Brussels, whether that
be a few months or a few years. Brussels Labour hopes we will hear more from
Jackie Jones in the near future and looks forward to having her as a Labour
At the next Branch meeting on 26 June we will be joined by Professor Jackie Jones, the new Labour MEP for Wales, who will share her thoughts on the recent European Parliament elections and what the next few months might bring as the next parliamentary term gets underway
Where: Foundation for Progressive Studies (FEPS), Rue Montoyer 40, 1040 When: 26 June | 19:30 (Doors open 19:00)
We held our meeting in May on
the first Wednesday after the European elections, giving us an obvious topic of
discussion. Rather than invite in external speakers, we decided to use the
expertise already present in our executive committee, with Frazer Clarke and
David Earnshaw giving an overview of the elections and taking questions from
It was easy for many of us to
feel pessimistic about the elections. Although many excellent Labour MEPs were
elected, including one new face, there was almost an equal number who sadly
lost their seats.
Meanwhile, both the Brexit
Party and the Liberal Democrats successfully portrayed this vote as a proxy
second referendum, with themselves as the parties of Leave and Remain
respectively. Despite the issue of a second referendum not being an EU
competence, this was still a successful strategy for these elections, with the
Brexit Party winning 29 seats, and the Liberal Democrats 15.
However, things look more
positive for us at European level. The Socialists and Democrats remain the
second largest party, with 154 MEPs. At the time of the meeting, it also still
seemed possible that Frans Timmermans could be nominated as the next Commission
Unfortunately, since the
meeting, the outlook has changed. Last week, the European Council not only
chose not to nominate Timmermans as the next Commission President, but decided
against nominating any of the lead candidates of the political groups. Instead,
they nominated Ursula von der Leyen, German defense minister, for the top job.
This decision has been
presented as a victory for either Macron or for Orban, depending on your
source. However, whoever engineered this, the rest of the council approved it,
save for Angela Merkel, who abstained. This could cause difficulties for the
lead candidate process in the next elections. Of course, it is not a done deal;
the European Parliament will decide whether to approve von der Leyen later this
In this meeting, we also
discussed a branch submission to the National Policy Forum. The discussion was
led by Jos Gallacher, who is the Labour International CLP representative on the
National Policy Forum. Jos proposed a submission to the economy, business and
trade commission, which is currently consulting on democratic public ownership.
There were lots of excellent
ideas from members in the meeting. If you’d like to find out more about the
National Policy Forum or this particular submission, don’t hesitate to get in
touch with the executive committee.
The next Branch meeting will take place on 29 May, at FEPS, Rue Montoyer 40, B1040 Brussels at 7:30pm
There will be a discussion of the results of the recent local and European elections and the proposed Branch submission to the current National Policy Forum Consultation on Democratic Public Ownership.
Our first meeting of 2019 was a joint meeting with the GMB Brussels Branch to talk about British workers post-Brexit, and, more broadly, workers’ rights in the EU. We were lucky to be joined by Dave Clements, who sits on the GMB Brexit working group for the southern region, and Andy Newman, branch secretary of Wiltshire and Swindon GMB and Labour parliamentary candidate for Chippenham. The speakers shared their experience of working with the ETUC on workers’ rights, as well as their views on the political situation in the UK, including how voters feel towards a public vote. For Brussels Labour, it was heartening to hear GMB’s backing for a final say on the Withdrawal Agreement, particularly as we creep ever closer to the cliff-edge of March 29th. Jude Kirton-Darling, MEP for the North East of England, also addressed the meeting. Before becoming an MEP, Jude was a Confederal Secretary of the ETUC, and she is currently working to strengthen links between trade unions and the European Parliamentary Labour Party. Jude gave us insight into the work she’s been doing, and offered her own thoughts about a People’s Vote, the Withdrawal Agreement, and where we go from here. After hearing from the speakers, we held a question and answer session. Many members were eager to hear more about the prospect of a People’s Vote, but we also discussed other topics. This included the impact of the UK leaving the EU on different policies; in some areas, Brexit may well be seen as an opportunity for the EU to push forward in areas where UK reluctance has hindered progress. We also considered what other, more palatable deals could be an option to the UK, and in doing so were reminded that even if the ‘Norway option’ was supported by the UK, it would not necessarily be supported by Norway. The conclusion from this, of course, is that the deal we have now is the best that we can get.
Just in time for the Council summit when the UK was supposed to
have found a solution on the Irish border, Brussels Labour heard from its very
own Paul Hagan. We heard not just about the impact of Brexit on the border in Ireland,
both in relation to goods and the Common Travel Area, but also on how it has
affected the Republic of Ireland. It was fascinating to hear the process, and a
good reminder that politicians still aren’t talking about this as much as they
should be.The meeting came just as
revelations came out about possible
collusion between DUP, the Leave campaign and Cambridge Analytica.
At the meeting we also passed a motion reaffirming Labour’s six
tests for a Brexit deal and the decision of part conference in 2016 to gain
approval for the final settlement through Parliament, and potentially through a
general election or referendum. The motion also calls for our branch delegates
to party conference to vote in line with these goals.
John Howarth became an MEP in June last year, after the snap general election saw the departure of Anneliese Dodds to Westminster. In our April meeting, we heard about John’s experiences so far from an MEP, including the strange feeling of coming to Brussels knowing your time is limited. Nevertheless, John has been incredibly active since taking up his post, making the most of the opportunity of being in the European Parliament before we leave. We’re also lucky that he’s another MEP who is not afraid to call out the pitfalls of Brexit. As we creep ever closer to March 2019, it’s crucial that people like him are speaking out, and Brussels Labour looks forward to hearing more from him
As a former Bristol West constituent, I was excited to hear that Thangam Debbonaire MP was coming to speak at Brussels Labour. Having campaigned with her on her hugely successful 2017 General Election campaign, I was anticipating a meeting full of the joy and verve that Thangam brings to everything she does, and I was certainly not disappointed. With typical vigour, Thangam ranged from issue to issue, taking time to speak frankly and expertly about issues as varied as the 2017 General Election, drug policies in Bristol, interaction between MPs and the European Parliament, her experience of being an MP since being elected in 2015, and the importance of representing your constituents in everything that you do. The challenges presented by Brexit were discussed at length, and questions from concerned Brussels Labour members were answered with candour. It was really heartening to hear Thangam’s thoughts on the specialist knowledge of Labour members here in Brussels, which she argued should be made as available as possible to those in Westminster, as we all work together to mitigate the harsher impacts of Brexit. She also spoke on the importance of maintaining the UK’s relationship with the EU, and the impact that Brexit will have on her constituency and around the UK, particularly when looking at young people. It is always an honour when politicians from Westminster take time to visit the Brussels branch, and particularly at this time it is good to know that Labour members across Europe are not being forgotten by MPs. Thank you so much for coming Thangam, it was a truly memorable evening.