While the UK remains a member of the EU, the work of MEPs continues, and one MEP certainly managed to receive some national media coverage in Britain during our first plenary week in Strasbourg. Yes, it was Nigel Farage who challenged the decision to choose former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt as the key Brexit negotiator for the European Parliament. So the entire week of work by MEPs in Strasbourg was condensed down to one testosterone-fuelled man-in-a-suit insulting another.
This is particularly shameful in a week full of stimulating votes, debates, and political exchanges. Even the Dalai Lama was there, answering questions on China’s approach to human rights – something particularly pertinent in the week we agreed to give the Chinese Communist Party a major role in our nuclear industry (see below).
Elsewhere MEPs harangued commissioners for their role in the Dieselgate scandal; restated the parliament’s commitment to stronger enforcement of existing law to protect workers; and passed by a large majority a report from Green MEP Ska Keller on the rights of migrants including an amendment reiterating Member States’ obligation to ensure the right to family reunification.
For me personally, the high point was an opportunity to debate the Apple tax ruling with competition commissioner Vestager. [see video]
MEPs are still very much part of the formal decision making structures of the EU. But in other ways and places we are being left out. For example, the recent informal summit in Bratislava took place without a British representative for the first time. We are losing influence over decisions and policy directions which will have major impacts on life in Britain.
My hope remains that Brexit will help us recognise the need for significant constitutional reform and that the rejection of a place in the European Union will lead to a revitalisation of our democracy.”
Hinkley: comprehensive review a sham
Following the so-called comprehensive review of Hinkley, the nuclear power plant has been given the go-ahead. Molly has strongly condemned this decision:
“It would be natural to assume that a ‘comprehensive review’ of a major infrastructure project would involve listening to experts and acting on their advice. Had Theresa May done so she would have concluded that Hinkley is economically illiterate, technically flawed, environmentally risky and a threat to security.
“But in post-Brexit Britain the government seems intent on turning its back on experts in the name of political expediency. Having insulted our European partners through an imperfect referendum, the government believes it cannot afford to offend the Chinese. In a desperate attempt to demonstrate Brexit Britain is open for business, the government is engaged in a national kowtow exercise, handing over our energy infrastructure to a French corporation and the Chinese Communist Party.
“This is the exact opposite of taking back control, which would come through a renewable energy revolution. As Germany and other countries have shown, community owned renewables can take power away from foreign corporations and governments and hand it back to the people, generating clean, green energy and thousands of home grown jobs in the process.”
More reactions to Hinkley:
Full statement from Molly
Article published in Left Foot Forward: A serious review would never have given this white elephant the go-ahead
Improve state of farming to improve state of nature
As a new report revealed the worrying state of the UK’s natural environment, Green MEPs have urged Ministers to ensure that post-Brexit agricultural support is reformed to encourage a transition away from environmentally destructive intensive agri-business. The State of Nature report exposed the extent to which current farming practices are driving a steep decline in British wildlife. Molly, who is a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee and the Green Party’s spokesperson on EU relations, says:
“The government has failed to outline its vision for British farming following the vote to withdraw from the EU. But the full-scale marketisation of the 70% of our land that is farmland must be resisted. As the State of Nature report makes abundantly clear, it is imperative for the livelihoods of farmers and the future of British wildlife that any replacement subsidy scheme must encourage a transition away from intensive farming and giant agri-business towards an environmentally and ecologically sustainable small-scale farming system.”
From TTIP to CETA (not forgetting TiSA)
Continuing an agricultural theme, Molly has warned that a trade deal being negotiated between Canada and the EU poses a serious threat to South West food producers as it would involve ‘substantial liberalisation of trade in agricultural products’.
Molly has received hundreds of letters and emails from concerned constituents across the South West about the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), a ‘lesser known cousin’ of the highly publicised TTIP trade deal between the EU and US.
While TTIP is floundering due to French and German opposition and strong public opposition, CETA would include many of the damaging aspects of TTIP and the deal is currently on the verge of being ratified. In particular the deal would erode so-called ‘Geographical Indications’ which ensure, for example, that Cornish pasties can only be called such if they are made in Cornwall. Molly says:
“CETA could be provisionally implemented after consent from the European Parliament, so the UK’s 73 MEPs have a chance to help consign this toxic trade deal to the bin.”
See right: video in which Molly explains the background and dangers of TTIP, CETA and TiSA.
Trumpesque wall is grotesque
As the government agrees to the building of a new wall in Calais to try and prevent refugees and migrants jumping aboard lorries heading for the Channel port, Green MEPs have demanded that refugees in Northern France be treated with dignity and in accordance with international law. They have also repeated a call for the British and French governments to urgently find long-term humane solutions to their plight. Molly said:
“The new wall will turn out to be another hugely expensive sticking plaster that will simply result in people going further to get around it and will push up tariffs for people smugglers. Perhaps a wall fits better with the fortress Britain mentality which seems to be at the heart of those pushing for a hard Brexit. But rather than resorting to counterproductive Trump-esque style tactics, the British Government should be registering applications for asylum in the camps in France to quickly identify those people with a right to enter Britain.”
Switch the Stick
Molly has thrown her full support behind a Bristol based campaign to end the use of plastic cotton bud sticks. The City to Sea campaign has launched a petition calling on retailers to #switchthestick from plastic to paper stem cotton buds instead.
Millions of cotton buds are flushed down toilets every year, and end up in waterways and rivers and so get washed out to sea. Because they are small and can squeeze through sewage filters, they make up an estimated 60% of all sewage related beach litter. Molly says:
“Plastic pollution is one of the most serious problems affecting the health of our oceans. And because no ocean life is free from the effects of plastic waste it finds its way into the human food chain. I commend this Bristol-based campaign for raising the profile of this critical issue and urge retailers to switch the stick. It’s not difficult and would be an important move in protecting our waterways, rivers and oceans.”
Badger cull: mass cruelty supported by bad science
Molly has responded angrily to news that the culling of badgers will be extended to four new areas of the South West: South Devon, North Devon, North Cornwall and West Dorset. Culling will be extended for a fourth year in Somerset and Gloucestershire, and a second year in North Dorset. Molly says:
“In an area like the South West, where farmers are so deeply affected by this disease, we need effective and scientifically grounded policy, not political performance. We should re-focus efforts on humane and evidence-based controls, on extending programmes of badger vaccination, and on investment into developing a cattle vaccine.”
Opinion pieces from Molly
A selection of recent opinion articles from Molly:
Molly writes for the Guardian on the recent Bahamas leaks and how this implicates Amber Rudd and the Conservative government. Molly looks at the implications for Brexit.
Writing for Business Green, Molly argues that the UK must stay inside the single market if we want to deliver a truly green economy.
Writing for the Independent, Molly explains why she believes the forced removal of MPs and peers from the Houses of Parliament for refurbishment work is an ideal opportunity to update our anachronistic democratic structures.
Writing for Left Foot Forward, Molly and Green colleague Rupert Read, argue for change to our archaic and unrepresentative electoral system and how a ‘progressive alliance’ could help bring this about.