After joining us as an intern this year fresh out of university, Elliot visited the Parliament for the first time last week. He has written a blog about his experience, his impression of European democracy, and how it has affected how he feels about Brexit.
My first impression of the Parliament was how cramped it seemed, a towering building amongst the houses, bars, and restaurants of Brussels. The Parliament feels like a modern dropped into an ancient European capital. But this does not take away from its scale and grandeur.
Walking into the Parliament you are immediately hit by the variety of people doing interviews, going to committees, talking over a coffee. It’s a hive of activity that at first can seem intimidating but which, over the next couple of days, I grew to love.
The whole complex has an energy about it. A sense that it is a place where things get done, and that everyone is passionate about what they’re doing.
I sat in on several committees and meetings that Jude and Paul participated in. some were, to be honest, quite dull. Digging into the detail of agriculture policy is not likely to make a great political thriller. But surely this is a good thing? Every detail of every policy is agonised over by members from every nation and every political persuasion. And every now and then someone pops up with a bit of comic relief. In my case one UKIP MEP argued that if the EU was going to ban the incredibly dangerous insecticide DTT, then it had to ban the female contraceptive pill as, according to him, it makes fish change gender. If you manage to find this meeting then you’ll see me behind him looking confused!
At other times though, what was being discussed was genuinely intriguing. I spent one morning in a meeting about the spread of African Swine Fever and how the EU is working to contain its spread into Europe. It struck me how this was clearly an issue that did not recognise borders, and that working together is the best chance Europe has to combat it. This was the purpose of the EU in action. Realising that through our common endeavour, we can achieve more than we can achieve alone. The problems of the modern world are global and we can’t tackle, climate change, the refugee crisis, or corporate tax avoidance on our own.
Overall, my main feeling coming away from my week in Brussels is one of sadness. I have always believed in the idea of Europe and I did all I could during the referendum to campaign for Remain. But seeing it in person, seeing communists, nationalists, liberals and conservatives from 28 different European nations finding a way to work together made me really question why we would ever want to leave. The visit has crystallised in my mind why I voted Remain and why it is now the duty of the British Government not to turn its back on Europe after we leave, and why, as a nation, we must continue to be open to the world.
Elliot is 22 years old and from Sunderland Central Constituency in Sunderland.