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..working towards the divorce of the UK and the EU...

Friday, 13 December 2013

Strasbourg Commentary Plenary session 9th - 12th Dec 2013

Strasbourg Commentary Plenary session 9th - 12th Dec 2013

Tuesday I mentioned Western Sahara in my last Brussels Commentary and today there was the vote on the EU-Morocco fishing agreement. I regret to tell you that it was adopted by 310 – 204 votes. Disgraceful, these MEPs are either ignorant or do not care. There is one hope from an unlikely quarter. The Commissioner ‘phoned up our assistant dealing with this and asked for our support for Western Sahara. We’ll have to see what might come of that.

We were also closely involved in further fishing votes, deep sea fishing in the North Atlantic. We have been heavily lobbied over this from those wishing to protect the sea bed from aggressive trawling which scars the bottom and destroys rare species. If you read one account of our vote you might get the impression that we did not care for we voted against a certain amendment which gave protection. But that was only two years protection and what happens then is another matter, we wanted long term protection.

The Estrela Report may come up in the UK press. Ms Estrela wanted comprehensive protection against all kinds of things, including Female Genital Mutilation. Quite horrible, as we all agree. Problem, it was all tied up with so many side issues and conditions that we abstained all through. After all, member states, ie, individual countries, should be putting their own house in order. At the end, since getting insufficient support, Ms Estrela withdrew her name from the report. This was an “Own Initiative” report, ie an MEP’s own idea and it cannot therefore be legislative, so no rules or regs can emerge. What does happen to Own Initiative reports is that the Commission keep an eye and if one looks promising they will sometimes take it up and make a legislative report of it.

Later on I spoke to the Globalisation Adjustment Fund. That’s awarding lots of your money to help workers made redundant when firms close, often when a firm moves abroad because it can’t compete any more due to the crazy EU Rules and Regs it has to obey. See on this link http://www.ukipmeps.org/articles_770_Company-after-company-closing-under-the-weight-of-EU-Regulation.html

We had the EFD group Christmas Dinner that evening in a Strasbourg restaurant and the original schedule showed me speaking at about 6.30 pm,- OK. But the time slipped, as always, and I got to my feet at about 8.45pm!! Raced to dinner, got there just after 9.00. They kept it hot for me, and for Jane who was with me on this visit, but who was lucky not to have been thrown out of the Parliament visitor gallery. She clapped my effort, - strictly forbidden!
Speaking late in the evening is not popular because the session goes on to midnight and slippage always occurs. I once finished a one minute speech at two minutes to midnight!

Wednesday Votes for no less than 5 new members of the Court of Auditors. At least the names were published this time. Any use asking if the new lot will see that the books are properly audited next year?

Pre accession assistance was approved. That means candidate countries being awarded vast sums of (your) money to sweeten them up and help to firm up their public opinion. The Globalisation Adjustment Fund to which I spoke on Tuesday evening came to vote. Guess how that turned out. That’s right, adopted, by 543 to 126,- I had really made an impact!

Most votes today were of just one page of amendments, or less, but one on, “Human Rights in the World”, ran to 3 pages. Priorities!

Much more sinister was the Cutas report on, “Mandatory automatic exchange of information in the field of taxation”. Adopted by 360 – 59, and notice the word, “mandatory”.

Thursday Votes included ,”Progress on Roma integration strategies”. This passed but the last amendment, “Whereas the Roma share responsibility for their current dire situation with the wider society, and whereas Roma communities need to tackle the wrongs and problems within their communities”, was defeated by 293- 309.

Then we voted on the Ukraine, which had been an item at the Vilnius summit recently. Our, ie EFD amendment, not welcoming Ukrainian membership was defeated by 60 to 464 votes. Further votes in favour of Ukrainian membership were adopted, including visa free travel. The whole report favoured Ukrainian membership and, at the conclusion, the leading Lib-Dem member present welcomed the result and displayed a Ukrainian flag, the signal for the whole of the Lib-Dems present, plus some others, to stand up and flourish Ukrainian flags. Such displays are forbidden in the House. Guess who gets away with it and who got the knuckles well and truly rapped a couple of years ago for the same thing!

A “Progress report on Albania” report was not supported, this time.

A Happy Christmas to all my readers.

Derek Clark MEP Strasbourg 12th D ec 2013

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Brussels Commentary Employment Committee 25th - 26th Nov 2013

Brussels Commentary Employment Committee 

During a previous visit to Strasbourg I made a speech in which I deplored the proliferation of "red tape" which hampers small businesses in particular, costing them money and causing closures. I pointed out that SMEs between them employed half the work force and that this therefore raised the unemployment figures.

On that occasion I took the opportunity to remind MEPs that none other than Barroso had mentioned in the House a year or two before, "Red tape was strangling SME's". Following my speech I was "blue-carded", that is, an MEP raised a blue card to demand I answer a question. This turned out to be a query as to what was Red-Tape! I informed the lady that it was the mass of petty instructions and requirements imposed on businesses and which fell more heavily on the SME's because they had few resources to cope with it.

I was amused to realise some while later that this MEP is now serving on the Employment Committee, whose lady president recently tabled a report to reduce the amount of 'Red Tape', so as to benefit small businesses.

I therefore had to keep a close watch on my tongue today. The very MEP who had queried me on the re-tape issue months ago is herself today the rapporteur for 2 reports;-

1) "Effective labour inspections as a strategy to improve working conditions in Europe".

2) "An integrated parcel delivery market for the growth of e-commerce in the EU"

"Inspections" conjures up an image of a whole regiment of inspectors, just like a collection of Traffic Wardens. As for a delivery market to cater for developing e-commerce I would think that the suppliers would have their delivery systems already sorted. Certainly my new hedge trimmer, ordered on line, turned up on time a year ago. They took it away two weeks later when I expressed dissatisfaction, and then returned it again on time. So what's the problem?

I leave to you to consider the red-tape possibilities inherent in these two reports. Suffice it to say that these people just do not listen, they all think that their new set of rules must go through, it's the others we can do without.

By the way, the first of these two reports, all 15 pages of amendments to labour inspections, was adopted by 22 to 15, that's close by EU standards. The second report on parcel delivery passed by 31 - 4 votes, that's more like it, and guess who was one of the 4 against.

I did something a little unusual today. we often get multiple emails about some issue or another. These are often identical having been composed by some kind of central body. Those for the CFP reform ran to 1500. Could not answer all of them so sent a specimen reply.

Today was different. Some 20 identical emails about the disaster about to be inflicted on Western Sahara. This very much third world country is where the Sahara meets the sea. It is poor with hardly any rainfall. They have but two resources, the phosphate mines (in that climate!) and fish. Twice now the EU has made available fishing licences for European fleets to fish these waters but these vessels out-class the locals, fishing as much in a day as the more primitive local boats get in a month.

Not only does this put the locals out of business in a land with no benefit system, these rapacious European fleets strip the waters clean, so the licences are only made out for 5 years. Then, renewed as the stocks recover.

Worse still, in the world of UN guaranteed self-determination Western Sahara does not have its own government. It was once a Spanish colony, given up when Spain joined the EU, now it is run by Morocco, which has turned it into a police state. About half the Sahrawis have fled to Algeria which allowed them to settle in refugee camps, together with their Government in Exile, the Polisario.

Why raise this now? Because the EU is on the point of agreeing an EU-Morocco fishing agreement. An agreement with Morocco which has done more to terrorise and subjugate the people of Western Sahara than any other country!

I have now promised my correspondents to write to the Foreign Office, hoping to get some kind of helpful and civilised answer.

Derek Clark MEP Brussels Nov 26th 2013