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.
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!
Chair, Brussels Labour
Brussels Labour members joined 700,000 people in London to march for a People’s Vote to Stop Brexit on 20 October.
The third anti-Brexit march this year, it was by far the most well-attended as the Brexit process entered the final few months. As the negotiations for Britain’s departure from the EU on 29 March 2019 began to reach a climax, attention was also turning to the “Meaningful Vote” in the House of Commons where MPs will have to decide whether or not to ratify the final Withdrawal Agreement between the United Kingdom and the EU. The march aimed to put pressure on MPs to legislate to allow the British people to have their say on the final deal when it finally comes before Parliament.
The biggest demonstration in London since 2003, Brussels Labour members joined up with the Labour ‘bloc’ to show the opposition to Brexit which also exists in the Labour movement. The total number of marchers far exceeded the expectations of the organisers and the police, and it took our group almost five hours to walk from our starting point in Park Lane to Trafalgar Square – by that time the rally in Parliament Square was long over, even if we’d been able to walk down Westminster to get there. Never have so many European flags been seen in London, as people not only protested against Brexit but also marched to show their support for the European project and appreciation of the benefits of working together with our European neighbours through the European Union.
The Withdrawal Agreement has now reached Parliament, and all eyes will be on the Commons on 11 December when the Meaningful Vote finally takes place. We will only know then if the march, and the different campaigns to stop Brexit have had an effect, and if a “People’s Vote” on the deal with an option to remain will be allowed to take place. However, whatever happens, it is clear that in one of the most Eurosceptic EU member states, a large pro-European movement has been borne, which will fight to stay as close as possible to the EU, regardless of the outcome of the vote on 11 December.
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.
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.”
Imogen Tyreman, Vice-Chair Brussels Labour
I was lucky enough to be one of two Brussels Labour members who were elected by Labour International as delegates to this year’s Labour Party Conference.
While Brexit was a big issue at conference last year, it was nothing compared to this year, held just six months before the UK is scheduled to leave the EU. Although Conference heard a range of motions, the Brexit one undoubtedly caused a stir. From a delegate meeting to agree on the exact wording of a motion for a public vote on Brexit after so many CLPs submitted motions concerning this, to Keir Starmer telling Conference that he believed Remain should be an option in any public vote, it was clear that nobody was happy with the costly, chaotic Brexit Theresa May is trying to force upon the country.
The Brussels Labour event at Conference, Where Next for Labour in Europe, was well attended, and it was an opportunity to hear from a range of speakers we do not always have the chance to see speak. Alongside Richard Corbett and Clare Moody, we heard from Rupa Huq, Brendan Howlin and Olivia Bailey, and I was able to talk to members of the Labour party from the UK about what Brussels Labour does.
Walking to the conference venue, I was greeted by various anti-Brexit groups formed by people of varying positions on the political compass. As I flicked through the conference guide, I realized it was going to be quite a task to attend all the Brexit fringe events, not least because there were multiple ones happening at the same time. I think this really showed the urgency Labour party members feel regarding Brexit.
Although it was difficult to do so, I was pleased I managed to find time to attend some fringe eventsgreat opportunity to reignite passion for certain topics and discover and get involved in great campaigns and initiatives. I heard Luciana Berger MP and others speak about mental health and local governments, as well as Stella Creasy and others talk about violence against women activists.
Overall, conference was a great opportunity and I would thoroughly recommend the experience to anyone that hasn’t been and encourage those who have to go again. When I went this year, I really expected it to be the last conference before Brexit, but with Labour passing a motion calling for a general election or a people’s vote, and with the events of the past few weeks, I’m not so sure.
Wednesday 3 October
- Place Ambiorix | 18:00: Evening canvassing
- Etterbeek | evening: Addressing envelopes to send out election literature
Thursday 4 October
- Etterbeek | Evening: Leafleting or canvassing
Friday 5 October
- Etterbeek | 8.00 : Morning distribution of leaflets at Merode or Thieffry metro stations
Saturday 6 October
- Place Amborix | 14:00 : Afternoon canvassing and leafleting with members of Islington North Labour
- Etterbeek | afternoon: Leafletting
- Marolles | 19:30 : Out and about with members of Islington North at Nuit Blanche. Meeting point here at the info point at Place du Jeu de Balle. Please RSVP by 4 October so we can book a table for dinner nearby
Sunday 7 October
- Square Amborix | 8:00 : Brocante – Come and spend time meeting local residents – don’t forget to wear some RED!
- Etterbeek | 11:00 : Meet the PS/s.pA candidates at Place Jourdan
- PS final meeting | 12:00 – 13:30 : 85 Boulevard Anspach – 1000 Bruxelles. All Brussels Labour are invited!
Thursday 11 October
- European/Schuman quarter | all day : Massive leafleting session
- Square Amborix | 18:00: Leafleting
Sunday 14 October
- Bar St d’Hic, Place Rouppe | 18:00 onwards Election results
Any time you can give will be really appreciated by Jo and Keir. Contact email@example.com if you’d like to get involved. We look forward to seeing you!
Europe’s future will be in the spotlight at Brussels Labour’s joint event with the Foundation of European Progressive Studies.
Where next for Labour In Europe?
24 September | Concourse Room 1 | ACC, Liverpool | 8:00am
- Brendan Howlin TD, leader of the Irish Labour Party
- Rupa Huq MP
- Richard Corbett MEP, leader of the EPLP
- Clare Moody MEP
- Olivia Bailey, Deputy General Secretary, Fabian Society
This year Brussels Labour is practicing what they preach in Brussels’ commune elections. Not one but TWO members are on lists to become councillors in the city. Former Chair, Jo Wood, and executive committee member Keir Fitch are standing in the elections on 14 October.
Jo Wood is standing in the Ville de Bruxelles commune, which stretches from the centre of the city over to the European quarter. She is #36 on the Parti socialiste list for the commune.
Take a look at Jo’s Parti socialiste page for her manifesto. Or be a hero and spread the word on Facebook and Twitter!
Meanwhile, Brussels Labour executive committee member Keir Fitch is 23 on the Parti socialiste list in Etterbeek, one of the communes that makes up part of the European quarter.
See the Parti socialiste website for the full manifestos for the commune elections.
10:30 Departure from Brussels
12:00 Tyne Cot Cemetery & visitors centre, Zonnebeke
13:00 Lunch/Visit to Passchendaele Trench Museum
14:00 Visit to German Cemetery and Poppy Memorial at Langemarck
14:45 Visit to the Welsh National Memorial at Langemarck
15:45 Visit to Yorkshire Trench (Ypres)
17:00 Ypres – visit the Cloth Hall, St George’s Memorial Church and the Menin Gate
20:00 Last Post Ceremony
20:15 Return to Brussels
Brussels Labour members, friends and family are all welcome. If you have not registered already, we do hope you will be able to join us on 16th September – the cost will be approximately 25-40 euro depending on final numbers which will be confirmed when registration is closed.
Deadline 31st August.