Category Archives: Branch meetings

Branch Meeting | 26 June

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 look forward to seeing you there

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Jude Kirton-Darling MEP joins Brussels Labour and GMB Brussels to discuss workers rights after Brexit

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.

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June Branch Meeting| Discussion Brexit & Ireland

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.

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Brussels Labour meets John Howarth MEP

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

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Thangam Debbonaire speaks to Brussels Labour

Isobel Laing

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.

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BRANCH MEETING – 1 March 2017

Keir Starmer MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union will speak to the Brussels Labour Branch this Wednesday 1 March 2017.
The meeting will take place at the Foundation for Progressive Studies (FEPS), Rue Montoyer 40, Brussels, and will start at 18:00 sharp. Please arrive by 17:45. 
If you plan to attend please register with the secretary:
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Branch Meeting with Sion Simon MEP – Time to devolve England

Sion Simon is Labour MEP for the West Midlands and also Labour candidate for West Midlands mayor. He has launched his campaign to win the elections on 4 May and he was able to find time in his busy schedule to come to Brussels Labour and talk about his vision for renewing local government.

Regional devolution has been long overdue. The previous Labour government took bold steps to devolve the UK along national lines but regional devolution in England was not a priority. As a result, the UK remains the most centralised country in the industrialised world.

Only 19% of public spending is determined at regional level in the UK, compared to 50% in Germany. Most UK cities have a GDP per capita under the national average. Cities are centres of decay and inequality. Brexit makes reform all the more important because of the economic uncertainty and the need to attract investment.

A regional devolution process has been launched by the government, but it is quite gradual. Whereas the 1999 national devolution package established a complete framework with clear division of powers, the current process is open ended and starts with a bidding phase this May.

What powers and budget will the new Mayors have ? This is as yet undefined because the first question is what do we need to do ? We need to develop a vision about where do we need to get to in eleven years from now. Then we infer what powers should be devolved as a function of those goals. The first term of the new Mayors will be essentially spent on consultations but by the second term we should have a defined set of policies, in particular as regards housing; development planning; transport; health and social care.

As regards budgets, Sion Simon argued that the Barnet formula allocates substantial per capita grants to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But Birmingham has a lot higher unemployment and lower living standards so there is no quantitative argument to spend less on the West Midlands region.

However, the election challenge in 2017 will be to raise awareness in the electorate because the regional devolution process is unknown. The real test will be in 2020. However there is a need to deliver real change in the meantime. Areas where it should be possible to make a difference in the short term include transport ticketing; lowering rents on private housing; improving mental health care.

In the discussion that followed Sion clarified his position that whilst this government’s approach is insufficient, nonetheless he believed that it was an opportunity that had to be seized. Chancellor Osborne had realized that the regional economic imbalances were too great and that the South East was buckling. The new devolution had many flaws but was still an opportunity “to run our place”.

This devolution is based around the main connorbations and the West Midlands electorate comprises 2 million voters.

The new framework has a lot in common with the County Councils which were established in the 1970s and then abolished by Thatcher. In effect the Tories took away our manufacturing base and then took away our means to build it back.

Sion believed that England did have regional identities e.g. the Northeast but we didn’t have a tradition of regional government or a language to express our regional identities. The West Midlands has an identity linked to manufacturing, from steam engines and spitfires to electric cars. It is a creative engineering identity. A big part of the job of Mayor will be to articulate that identity, make it real and create a sense of pride.

He concluded by saying that the HS2 high speed rail link will be good for the West Midlands. The project itself will create jobs and in the longer term a 4% spike in growth is expected from the rail link to London. But Mayors will not have any say in the project, all power is in the hands of the HS2 company. There has not been enough local consultation and there is a risk of highly congested roads for decade to come during the building works as the local train service will be disrupted.

Martin Dawson

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