e-news, 15th October 2014

Hinkley verdict: Molly pledges to fight on

Despite the intense lobbying of the out-going commission from Molly and other Green MEPs, a majority of commissioners voted in favour of the financial deal that will result in massive public subsidy for the construction of a new nuclear power plant in Somerset. Molly says:

“In waving through the massively problematic Hinkley C deal, the outgoing Barroso-led EU Commission is giving a cynical boost to nuclear power. There can be no doubt that the generous terms being offered by the UK government to EDF on Hinkley C amounts to illegal state aid under EU rules. It is a scandal that one of the final acts of the Barroso Commission is to turn a blind eye to the illegality of the Hinkley deal.”

Molly also points to the precedent that this deal sets and what a massive setback it will be for renewable energy in the South West and the rest of the UK. Small scale renewable energy producers will find it difficult to compete with large scale subsidised nuclear, meaning the thousands of potential jobs that could be created in the renewables sector will be lost.

Molly and other Green MEPs have pledged to fight on. There is now a threat of a legal challenge from the Austrian government and possibly others too.

Molly says: “The Commission will not have the last word on this. We can not allow the path to be cleared for further exorbitant public spending on this dated and dangerous technology, when we should be promoting a safe and sustainable energy future for Europe. Greens will fully support any legal challenges.”

We received good coverage in the press (for the wrong result!), including in the Financial Times, a letter in the Guardian and an opinion piece in the New Statesman.

Second opportunity to grill Hill

Jonathan Hill was called back for an unprecedented second hearing because many MEPs felt he failed to adequately address concerns regarding his appointment. Greens in particular have been highly critical of the planned appointment believing that his previous role in the City of London will make him reluctant to take a tough stance on financial regulation across Europe.

As a member of the Economics and Monetary Affairs Committee in the Parliament, Molly got to ask Lord Hill a further question. Molly says:

“I have serious concerns about Cameron’s man to take an independent position in the role of Finance Commissioner. The government he represents has consistently challenged EU regulation on a range of financial issues. Hill being grilled for a second time by MEPs demonstrates a huge lack of confidence in his abilities to work independently of the Tory government and for the benefit of Europe. To try and get an idea of how close he is to the government, I asked him a specific question about how many times he has met David Cameron or George Osborne, formally or informally, in the past six months”

Lord Hill responded saying that he used to meet David Cameron ‘a couple of times a day’ when he was Leader of the House of Lords, but denied that he was ‘part of the Chipping Norton set’ and did not ‘hang out with these sophisticated, well-connected types.’

Molly’s response is: “It is clear that Lord Hill has done plenty of hanging out with those well-connected to the city as well as with leading members of the Tory Party. Are we really to believe that he is suddenly going to drop all those contacts from his past and not be influenced by his connections to them?”

Lord Hill was subsequently sworn-in as Finance Commissioner following the hearing; MEPs will now vote on whether to accept or reject the entire commission, which also includes Miguel Arias Cañete – with extensive links to the oil industry – as Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy.

TTIP update

Molly joined protesters in Bristol last Saturday who were taking part in a European day of action against the TTIP trade deal between the EU and US. Greens in the European Parliament have been at the forefront of the campaign against TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) and have pointed to new evidence of the threats that the treaty poses.

The current EU Commissioner for Trade, Karel De Gucht, has reportedly said that the EU must ‘speed up GMO approvals in order to facilitate TTIP negotiations’. Meanwhile Canada is rumoured to have successfully used another trade agreement, with glaring similarities to TTIP – the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) – to water down regulations that would have discouraged the EU importing highly polluting tar sand crude oil. Molly has been campaigning hard with other Green MEPs to scupper the TTIP deal. She says:

“Our worst fears are happening. The push from agribusiness and Big Oil demonstrates that these trade deals are nothing more than corporate charters that will ride roughshod over Europe’s environmental protection rules at any and every opportunity. It was great to be part of this European day of action against TTIP and to see so many campaigners out in force to try and stop this juggernaut.”

Link: http://www.ttip2014.eu/blog-detail/blog/FQD%20CETA%20Jadot.html

In the media

Molly appeared on BBC Points West responding to the decision by the European Commission to give the green light to Hinkley. Despite offers to BBC Somerset, Gloucester and Bristol for interviews on Hinkley, none responded; the BBC’s coverage of the decision was very biased and resembled a PR exercise for EDF, the government and local businesses and councillors championing ‘growth’ and jobs. Molly took part in an action against fracking outside the European Parliament organised by Friend’s of the Earth and she has been part of a short film about this.

There were a few other notable mentions in the press not listed elsewhere in this newsletter: Molly was quoted in a Telegraph article (yes, Telegraph!) why ‘the resurgent Green Party could prove fatal for the Lib Dems’. Unfortunately though, they couldn’t avoid stereotyping Molly as ‘an avid bee-keeper’; in fact she has never kept bees. We wrote a letter to the Telegraph pointing this out and emphasising her economics credentials, but they didn’t publish it. The Financial Times clearly has a better grasp of the fact that Molly is an economist and quoted her in response to the Hinkley decision.