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