Category Archives: Brussels Labour

Jackie Jones MEP visits Brussels Labour

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.

It 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 MEP.

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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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After the European elections, what next?

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 members.

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 President.

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 month.

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.

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Submission by Brussels Labour Executive Committee to the NPF Commission on Brexit

As decided on Wednesday 10th April, the UK will now remain a member of the EU until 31st October 2019, which means it will also take part in the European elections.

We believe it is important that Labour stands on a platform promising a public vote on any Brexit deal.

In question two of the International Policy Commission, the Labour Party asks what steps it can take to follow and build on the motion passed at Labour Conference. This motion clearly stated:

 “If we cannot get a general election Labour must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote. If the Government is confident in negotiating a deal that working people, our economy and communities will benefit from they should not be afraid to put that deal to the public.”

In January, shortly after May’s deal was rejected by Parliament, Labour tabled a motion of no confidence in the government. Unfortunately, the government defeated this option. Since then, May has brought her deal back twice and it has failed both times. There have been indicative votes, and so far, no majority for any Brexit option has been found.

While this happens, pressing issues facing working people are being ignored. The NHS is being ignored. The homelessness crisis is being ignored.

We cannot continue like this. But, even if parliament were to pass May’s deal, Brexit would remain the dominant discussion for years as we try to negotiate the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

This is why any public vote should include the option to Remain. People were not told about how long Brexit would take, what form it would take, and the extent to which it would overshadow all other issues.

It has been three years since the first referendum. Not only is this more than enough time for people to have changed their mind, it is also enough time for demographics to shift: by June 2018, around 1.4 million young people were eligible to have a say in their future who didn’t get the chance in 2016.

All these people deserve a final say. We all deserve a final say. Labour members want a final say.

Please include a promise for a confirmatory public vote with an option to Remain in our European election manifesto.

Download the submission

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Brussels Labour welcomes Lord Andrew Adonis for the John Fitzmaurice Lecture

“To create, by establishing an economic community, the basis for a broader and deeper community among peoples long divided by bloody conflicts; and to lay the foundations for institutions which will give direction to a destiny henceforward shared.”

This is just part of the preamble to the Treaty Establishing the European Coal and Steel Community, signed in Paris in 1951. The preamble itself is worth reading in full, which is exactly what Lord Andrew Adonis did when he gave the annual John Fitzmaurice lecture in February this year.

While many of us do not need reminding of reasons to continue to fight to remain part of the EU, hearing this certainly revitalised our spirits as we approached the dreaded 29 March deadline.

Brussels Labour were pleased to be able to welcome Lord Adonis as our speaker in this year’s John Fitzmaurice lecture. Adonis is no stranger to Brussels. Members who have attended rallies at Schuman may well have spotted him there.

Given the proximity to our expected departure of the EU, this year’s theme was an obvious choice, and Adonis spoke to us at length about the EU referendum, the forces behind it, and the future.

A whistle-stop tour of British history in the EU demonstrated the changing nature of the relationship between the UK and the EU. Adonis was able to conjure up a nostalgia for a forgotten past. This wasn’t the faux past that populists lament losing, but the late 70s and early 80s, when Britain was not just part of the EU but a leader, on a civilising and democratic mission, looking for opportunities not threats.

We also got a view of Adonis’ own character and politics beyond Brexit. He quoted extensively from Roy Jenkins’ diaries with references to his time in Brussels, giving the audience a good laugh as they recognised familiar places and events.

Looking to what might happen next, Adonis spoke of the ‘Sherlock Holmes principle’; once all impossible options are eliminated, we are forced to have hope. In the end, many left this year’s John Fitzmaurice lecture with a bit more optimism about the future.

About the John Fitzmaurice Lecture

John Fitzmaurice was an administrator, academic and writer, and a founding father of Brussels Labour. He was an author of numerous books and articles on politics, as well as an official at the European Commission and a lecturer at the Université Libre de Bruxelles.

In memory of John, and his unique contribution to democracy, socialism and Europe, Brussels Labour established an annual lecture around these themes, inviting a leading figure from the Left in Europe.

Neil Kinnock gave the inaugural lecture in October 2004, and since then we have welcomed a number of distinguished speakers from British and European politics.

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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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Chair’s new year message

Happy New Year!

2019 will be a year of change – again!  This could be the year of a second referendum in the UK and also the year of elections, for the European Parliament, in Belgium and of course the election by the new Parliament of the next Commission President.  Who knows, to top it all it might even be the year for an early UK general election.

I know many of us are exasperated about the ambiguity of our leadership on the most profound issue facing working people in Britain today.  Despite our unyielding commitment to social justice, equality, and the redistribution of wealth, we appear myopic to the need to create and genuinely guide the creation of European institutions capable of supporting and implementing the values for which we stand.

Jeremy Corbyn appears to be more interested in appeasing nationalism and privileging the role of national institutions than in continuing to build a European Union able to control multinational capitalism and achieve social change for the better across our continent.  Giving the appearance of preferring little Englander nationalism over a socialist Europe is not where we should be.  Nor is it why many of us joined the Labour Party.

We have always believed that we have more in common than we have apart, and this is why Brussels Labour will always campaign for a better Europe in which British people are not exiled from the construction of a peaceful, fair and just Europe but one in which we continue to contribute actively, in different ways and through our different walks of life.  Whatever happens this year that will not change.

Closer to home, this year we will also have the Labour International elections, a chance for Brussels Labour activists to shape our party more deeply beyond Brussels.  We need to make sure that Labour International’s agenda focuses on British Labour members’ real and tangible interests and preoccupations such as our rights in EU countries, our right to vote in the UK and definitely not least, the fight to keep the UK in the EU.

Our Brussels Labour executive is looking forward to seeing everyone at forthcoming branch meetings during the year.  Please continue to be as active as ever, and please, if you have ideas for activities and for the development of our branch, please do not hesitate to get in touch – we need your views and support – we can’t do it without you!

David Earnshaw
Chair, Brussels Labour

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Brussels Labour goes local in the Belgian Communal Elections

Two Brussels Labour executive members running in the local elections; Jo Wood in the City of Brussels, and Keir Fitch in Etterbeek. Though neither won a seat, they both ran great campaigns and we would like to thank everyone who showed up to support them.

We were pleased to see PS win in the City of Brussels with Philippe Close as mayor However, for the rest of Brussels and Belgium we need to ensure that the PS and SP.A stay strong, particularly in the approach to the European elections. On the left, the greens made gains, whilst the far-right, though far from a successful night, did win the commune of Ninove.

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Brussels pays tribute to Jo Cox

On 27th September, the city of Brussels honoured the memory of murdered Labour MP Jo Cox, by naming a square beside the Ancienne Belgique music
venue she often visited in the years she lived here, as Place Jo Cox, in a formal ceremony.

We heard from different speakers during the ceremony, including Jeremy Corbyn, and Jo Cox’s sister, who gave an incredibly moving speech to those gathered.

Also speaking was Richard Corbett, leader of UK Labour MEPs, which was fitting as Jo Cox spent various campaigns for ActionAid UK, an international development charity, focusing primarily on fighting poverty and tax avoidance by multi-national companies.

He said to those gathered, “All of us were very touched when we heard of the decision of the City of Brussels to name this square after Jo Cox. The gesture will live on for many years, reminding us of the values she stood for, and of her time in Brussels, in the European Parliament. Many of us remember how enthusiastic and lively she was, and the commitment she gave to everything she did. It was a privilege to work in the vicinity of her, let alone closely with her.
I think for many of us, not just in our political family, but of course, especially in our political family, our hearts were torn apart when we heard the terrible news that day, just a few days before we voted in that terrible referendum in which she was campaigning to remain part of our European Union.
But we must take courage. We must live up to the values that she stood for, live up to the principles that she lived by. We must fight on for the politics that we believe in, which will make our society a better place. We must create a better world, where people all take to their hearts the words of Jo that are so widely remembered, “we have more in common than that which divides us.”


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