It has been a period of chaos, turmoil and upheaval. These are indeed troubled times and it feels like everything has changed. Yet until the UK negotiates an exit from the European Union, it remains a member, and Labour MEPs we will continue to work hard to ensure our constituents’ voices are represented in the EU and in any negotiations over Britain’s future relationship with the EU.
Until the exit negotiations are complete, rules made in the EU will continue to apply in our country, and may still apply after, it all depends on the nature of a deal that leave campaigners and the Tory government have yet to spell out. And that is why we will continue to fulfil our role as MEPs, working and voting on EU legislation, and working with colleagues to ensure these policies are in line with our values. We will also work hard to hold the Leave campaigners and the Tory government to account for their European actions.
Despite having been campaigning for years for this to happen, Eurosceptics have failed to answer the simple, single question of what comes next with any consistency. They failed to answer it during the campaign and they can’t answer it now; what is their alternative to our current EU membership?
Although this is not an easy time, there is work to be done.
As Labour’s European spokesperson on trade Jude’s main priorities are the upcoming trade deals between West and East Africa, the TTIP negotiations, and the finalised deal between Canada and the EU, known as CETA. This latter deal is reaching the final stage of ratification. Jude is pushing to make sure EU trade policy and deals benefit working people, as well as businesses. She feels this is important as, without Labour scrutiny on the deals at all stages, we could see a backslide towards some of the worst parts of the deal that the Conservatives have championed.
In addition, Jude has, for a long time, been interested in the opportunities which the ‘North Sea Grid’ project will have for the North East, championing a cross-party manifesto on what a grid could deliver if promoted. This would provide cheaper energy for the region by sharing resources with other North Sea countries by physically connecting national electricity networks, and increasing offshore renewable production. It would also support our existing industrial leadership in the energy sector and bring much needed jobs to the region.
As Labour’s European spokesperson on agriculture Paul will be focusing on the future of the food and farming industry. Britain leaving the EU will bring up significant challenges for the future of British food and farming, not least the removal of the Common Agriculture Policy payments. Paul will be focusing on how the industry moves forward from here and will continue to seek a better deal for customers and farmers on issues such as milk prices. Paul will look to see how any changes can benefit the forestry industry which can help tackle climate change and also create jobs in the North East.
Both MEPs will be continuing to focus on the issue of tax justice. The leak of the Panama Papers has shown that an international response to issues around tax is sorely needed. Jude and Paul will seek to pursue this response through the European Parliament.
A top priority over the coming months will be to make sure that the North East is well represented in the negotiations between the EU and the UK. They will hold an extensive consultation in the region and present the findings to negotiating teams on both sides.
We’ll keep fighting for our constituents to get the best we can for Britain, whatever happens next.