European Policy Forum 2018 – a moment to celebrate Labour’s achievements in the EU
21 November 2018
Earlier this month, I and Richard Corbett MEP held our annual Yorkshire and the Humber European Policy Forum in Sheffield. This year’s forum was a poignant event as it could well be our last one before Brexit in March 2019. It was great then to see so many familiar friends and party members who’ve supported and campaigned with us so many times over the years.
We met on the Saturday morning following the resignation of Jo Johnson from the government – a good backdrop for our first debate of the day where Richard and I were joined by Paul Blomfield, Labour’s Shadow Brexit Minister, to take stock of where we are on Brexit. This was before Theresa May announced her botched Brexit deal to Parliament! Paul made it clear that Labour will vote against Theresa May’s deal unless it delivers on our key priorities of protecting our economy, our jobs and preventing a hard border on the Northern Ireland/Republic border - a position confirmed by Jeremy Corbyn in response to Theresa May in the Commons debate last week where he stressed that Labour’s six tests would be the yardstick for measuring the deal.
Paul Blomfield MP, Labour's Shadow Brexit Minister
Richard gave an update from the Brussels perspective, emphasising that other EU governments were trying to get an agreement with the U.K. but talks are difficult because of problems inside the Tory Party. I emphasised that while Westminster is convulsed by Brexit, the work of the EU goes on and a whole range of progressive policies are in negotiation: bans on single-use plastics, new laws to cut Co2 emissions, a new law to tighten up on zero-hours contracts and action against unfair trading practices by supermarkets. Meanwhile, the big issues that most people in Britain really care about - housing, the NHS, elderly care, poverty, low wages - are not getting dealt with and we are getting poorer as uncertainty damages our economy. The Tories have a lot to answer for.
In the second half of our forum, we reflected on Labour’s achievements in the EU over the last 40 years since the first direct elections to the European Parliament in 1979. Richard and I have produced a document ‘40 Years of Labour Achievements’ to not only mark the rights and protections that have been won in Europe, but to celebrate the work of Labour MEPs over these years.
We were also thrilled to have Baroness Joyce Quin as our guest speaker. Former MEP and Minister for Europe with decades of experience, she was able to bring a wide perspective into her review of 40 years of Labour in Europe. Joining her for this special celebration were some former MEPs: Roger Barton (1989-99), Veronica Hardstaff (1994-99), Michael McGowan (1984-99). David Bowe (1989-04), who had hoped to attend but had to cancel at short notice, sent his good wishes.
Baroness Joyce Quin, former MEP & Minister for Europe
A special short video (see below) was shown with messages from these former colleagues and other former MEPs from our region: John Prescott, leader of Labour MEPs before direct elections, Barry Seal (1979-99), Richard Caborn (1979-84). All leave a legacy of real achievement: workers’ rights, environmental protection, cleaner beaches, EU funding for regeneration in our region, EU funding for the Anti-Apartheid movement and victories against unlawful discrimination. These policies have made a real difference to the lives of millions of people in our region.
This year’s forum was a great opportunity to come together and reflect on all the rights, protections and Labour achievements gained in the EU over the last four decades. Thank you all for coming and making this year’s forum such a special one!