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While the UK is paralysed by Brexit, with a government unable to pass its Brexit deal, finance bill or indeed any other significant legislation, the EU continues to get on with the job of delivering solutions for the future and addressing people’s concerns - including the concerns of many of those who will have voted for Brexit, writes Seb Dance MEP, Labour’s Deputy Leader in the European Parliament.

As Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn rightly pointed out at PMQs today, poverty is rising, youth unemployment is too high, deprivation continues to blight our communities, and the prime minister and this Tory government are doing nothing to address these issues - and even if they were minded to do so, Brexit is taking up the entire bandwidth of state, with its disastrous economic impact set to deprive government of the resources to do so.

Meanwhile, in the European Parliament this week, key issues that affect people’s lives and impact the economy are being dealt with - from tackling unemployment and poverty, to fighting tax avoidance and protecting the environment, to increasing funding for research and preparing the economy for the future.

Among the policies Labour MEPs have worked on and voted for this week, proposals that will improve citizens’ lives across the EU, are:

- European Social Fund Plus: MEPs have backed the enhancement of the existing European Social Fund for the period 2021-27, an upgrading that will ensure national governments are able to do even more to promote employment and social inclusion, especially with regard to young people. Furthermore, Labour MEPs and our colleagues in the Socialists and Democrats Group have proposed a new initiative to tackle child poverty, the European Child Guarantee, with a dedicated budget of €5.9 billion (£5.2bn).

Labour MEPs believe children and young people, especially those most in need and in the greatest deprivation, must be provided with the best opportunities – opportunities they will be denied if the UK leaves the EU and opts out of ESF+ and any future child guarantee.

- European Globalisation Adjustment Fund: MEPs have backed the latest proposals for the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund, which helps workers who have been made redundant as a result of changes in world trade and globalisation, and whose redundancies have a deep impact on the economy of the local or regional area. In particular, the proposals seek to address the impact of ecological and technological transition, on industries like the car sector, and the need for more to be done to assist workers who lose their jobs to reskill and upskill and find new and different employment.

If the UK leaves the EU and does not remain part of the EGF, British workers in vulnerable industries who are made redundant will lose out.

- InvestEU Programme: MEPs have backed the establishment of the InvestEU Programme, which aims to bring together financial instruments including EFSI (the European Fund for Strategic Investments), to take effect in time for the next period of the EU's long term budget, the 2021-27 MFF (Multi-Annual Financial Framework). InvestEU aims to realise additional investment of €650 billion (£575bn) over the MFF period, with the fund split into four policy areas: sustainable infrastructure; research, innovation and digitisation; SMEs; and social investment and skills.

Like ESF+ and the EGF, the InvestEU programme illustrates how the EU is addressing the problems of the present and investing new money in the future.

- Greater cooperation in the fight against tax avoidance: MEPs have backed proposals to establish a new programme, 'Fiscalis 2020', to enhance EU efforts to fight tax fraud, tax avoidance and tax evasion by providing greater support to tax authorities. National cooperation is the best way to deal with the problems of tax dodging, and Labour MEPs believe the UK must not opt out of any new EU measures even if Britain were to leave the European Union.

We cannot become a country in which there is a race to the bottom on standards and regulations, a Brexit Britain for the few, not the many, with an economy that works only for the one per cent.

- Euratom: MEPs have backed a report calling for greater parliamentary scrutiny and legislative powers over Euratom, to ensure greater oversight of the research and training programme and alignment with other EU research programmes like Horizon Europe. The report also highlights the role nuclear research plays in contributing to environmental sustainability and the fight against climate change by reducing EU dependence on imported energy - vital to protecting the environment.

If we are outside Euratom, not only will the UK miss out on any new funding and innovation for research and training, but patients may miss out on vital cancer treatment due to the unavailability of isotopes. People were not told of the threat to medicine supplies when they voted for Brexit.

Two-and-a-half years since she became prime minister, more than thirty months since the referendum, Theresa May’s disastrous Brexit deal has failed, and we are at risk of crashing out of the EU altogether, and all the while, key issues go unaddressed by the UK government - issues the EU is tackling.

It isn’t too late to change course, and as I told MEPs in the European Parliament Brexit debate today, we cannot let the logistics of the ticking clock defeat the politics - we have a chance to turn this around. The British people will never forgive us if we don’t.

Seb Dance MEP is Labour’s Deputy Leader in the European Parliament

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

While UK is paralysed by Brexit, the EU is addressing people's concerns on key areas

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Following the defeat of the Brexit deal in the meaningful vote in Westminster last night, Labour MEPs reiterated calls for a rethink from the UK government, and for the EU to allow more time for a different course.

Seb Dance MEP, Labour's Deputy Leader in the European Parliament, told MEPs:

"Let's be clear about the process that got us here - governing in the interests of the Conservative Party and the Conservative Party alone, and not even being very good at that, has got us to this situation, and we very, very firmly believe that this government has had its day, but that is of course a discussion that has to take place in the UK.

"Whichever party is in power, they will find themselves, when it comes to Brexit, faced with this choice: you either move away from the EU structures, and destroy jobs, destroy life chances, reduce workers' rights and environmental protections, or you stay within the structures of the EU, and lose all say and power over what those structures are. That is the fundamental and unavoidable choice when it comes to Brexit. Neither of those things is right for any country, and certainly not the United Kingdom.

"But I want to give you here a message of hope, because Britain, thanks to the people opposite, and their ludicrousity, we have now got the biggest pro-European movement on the continent. We have millions and millions of people who are prepared now to go out there and defend the values of this place, to talk about, in open terms, about why we are proud of what the European Union has achieved and will achieve.

"We will defend free movement, we will defend what the structures of this place have given not the current generation but generations to come, and the nonsense and fantasies of the people opposite have been found out. There is no majority in the British parliament for no deal, but whether there is a new government, whether there is a new referendum, or whether or not parliament has a majority for another way forward, we must recognise that we might need more time.

"Please, colleagues, do not let the logistics of this defeat the politics of this - we have a chance to turn this around and we need your support and your friendship."

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Labour MEP tells European Parliament: "I want to give you here a message of hope... we have a chance to turn this around"

Following the defeat of the Brexit deal in the meaningful vote in Westminster last night, Labour MEPs reiterated calls for a rethink from the UK government, and for the EU...

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Britain must not become a tax haven for tech giants if it leaves the EU, Labour MEPs warned as the European Parliament this week backed Socialists and Democrats Group (S&D) proposals for a digital services tax.

The new proposals to reform corporate tax systems seek to ensure multinational companies are taxed where they create economic value, regardless of their physical presence. Labour MEPs believe international tech giants like Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon must pay their fair share of taxes, and not continue to be able to get away with being severely under-taxed.

Though Labour MEPs and the S&D Group pushed for a rate of five per cent, the European Parliament voted for the less ambitious rate of a 3 per cent tax on turnover, and also backed for S&D proposals for with digital provider companies such as Netflix and iTunes to be covered by the digital services tax.

More than 725,000 citizens EU have signed a petition calling for tax justice, and for tech giants to pay their fair share of taxes - Amazon made almost $200 billion (£160bn) in revenue last year, yet their net tax rate was 0%.

If the UK leaves the EU under a Tory Brexit, there are fears progressive EU legislation like the digital services tax will be watered down or ditched entirely, with the UK becoming a tax haven for tech giants.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Notes to Editors:

  1. For more background on the S&D proposals for the fair taxation of digital companies, see: https://paultang.nl/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/PvdA-Digital-tax-report.pdf
  2. 2. For more information on the tax justice petition, see: https://secure.avaaz.org/campaign/en/tech_tax_104e/

UK must not become tax haven for tech giants, Labour MEPs warn as European Parliament backs new tax on digital companies

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