Being a UK MEP at a time of Brexit
The process of leaving the European Union gives rise to so many questions but the ones people mostly ask me are the personal ones! People are really interested in how my colleagues from other European countries are treating me and what it feels like being an MEP in a country that is leaving the EU.
It’s really important to challenge the nonsense that is being spouted by various right-wing newspapers about some kind of ‘punishment Brexit’. Nothing could be further from the truth in terms of the treatment I’m getting as a Brit who is still working in Europe. It’s true that other EU countries are frustrated that we haven’t been clear about what we want in terms of leaving, but the main reaction is one of sympathy and concern.
Somewhat ironically, we have always been seen as the strong and stable democracy of Europe. Most European countries have suffered a political and constitutional meltdown in their time and so they understand the process, but they are surprised to see this happening in the UK. The last thing they want is an economic and political basketcase on their doorstep and so they will do everything they can to support us in our transition to a stable future. Everything, that is, except allowing Brexit to damage the European Union they have spent generations building.
The Parliament is in recess at the moment. When I return in September I know I will be greeted with civility and respect, while colleagues will also ask questions about what is going on in the UK but always in the tone of helpfulness and never one of hostility.
Will Tories abandon poorer areas post-Brexit?
The Local Government Association has called on the government to guarantee that it will match the £8.4bn local authorities are receiving in funding from the EU between 2014-2020 for regeneration projects.
I wrote an article for the Guardian in response to this, questioning whether we can really expect a Tory government to support poorer regions post-Brexit. Given that successive governments have allowed the UK to become increasingly unequal and more unbalanced than almost any other country in Europe, I fear we already know the answer. The full article can be read here.
Further grim economic news
Any form of Brexit – hard or soft – will have a devastating impact on the economic performance of our towns and cities, concludes a new study by the Centre for Economic Performance. Swindon is the city in the South West facing the worst economic impact from Brexit – ranked 4th, while Bristol is ranked 8th – in a list of 62 UK towns and cities. The study looks at the predicted negative impacts of trade barriers associated with Brexit. More on this study here.
My conversations with businesses across the region over the past year have made clear that they are strongly in favour of remaining in the single market. But the customs union is also critical. Manufacturing businesses like Honda, whose main European production centre is in Swindon, are clear that leaving the customs union would necessitate time-consuming checks and paperwork for components to pass across currently open borders. The insistence by shadow trade secretary Barry Gardiner that a Labour government would leave the single market and customs union shows he has little interest in those who voted Remain and how little he understands the damage this would inflict on the British economy. I have written about this in more detail for Politics.co.uk. You can read the article here.
Time for Labour to support a ratification referendum
It turns out that Brexit was after all a crucial issue determining the result of the 2017 general election. A survey of 30,000 voters reveals that Labour’s unexpectedly good result was in no small part due to Remain voters seeing the Party as the best bet to stop a hard Brexit. With Corbyn mirroring the hard Brexit position of the Tories, millions of people must now be feeling deeply let down. Indeed, Labour appear to be focused instead on appeasing the 61% of Leave voters who say that damage to the UK economy is a price worth paying to leave the EU.
Labour is also letting down its own membership. Just 4% of Labour members believe we should leave the Single Market.
I am therefore calling on Labour members to press the Party leadership to support the Green policy of a ratification referendum on the final Brexit deal. Such a referendum offers a way out of the destructive Brexit shambles that the Conservative government, backed by Labour, are creating. Only 9% of Labour members oppose such a referendum, and London mayor Sadiq Khan has thrown his weight behind the idea. More about Labour and the ratification referendum here.
Taking back control of borders
The travel chaos at borders this summer, lambasted by Brexit headbangers at the Daily Mail, is a useful foretaste of what British travellers can expect post-Brexit. Isn’t this exactly what the Mail et al wanted? Taking back control of our borders? A useful wakeup call to the kind of checks – and yes, red tape – that awaits us when we want to travel to Europe after leaving the EU has been provided by the Independent here.