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Interviews with Euro candidates: Glenis Willmott, Labour

We put the same 6 questions to a number of prospective MEPs ahead of this Thursdays elections, on austerity, the far right, European integration, the CAP and more. Here are Glenis Willmott's answers.

ourKingdom editors
21 May 2014

1. Where do you stand on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership?

Labour supports the EU-US trade and investment partnership (TTIP), which has the potential to bring significant benefits to British consumers, workers and businesses, with a projected increase in UK national income of up to £100 billion over a decade.

Labour welcomes the ongoing negotiations on this deal and will continue to monitor its progress, in particular with regard to the impact TTIP may have on vital national policies and services, such as the National Health Service. This is a red line for Labour MEPs, and we will not support TTIP if the NHS is not protected.

This government has tried to expose the NHS to the full force of EU competition law - the next Labour government and our MEPs will work to make sure the NHS is protected from that body of law, so patients are always put first.

Labour MEPs have also voted for environmental, health and employment legislation to be safeguarded from corporate legal challenges and will continue to argue against investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), which gives foreign investors the ability to challenge EU or national legislation if they believe it violates their right to fair treatment under an EU investment agreement, in the EU-US trade agreement.

2. Does the eurozone require fiscal integration if it is going to survive?

Labour MEPs believe there needs to be a sustainable solution for the eurozone. Exposed countries need to tackle their deficits, but instead of ever-more unrealistic demands being made of countries already struggling to cope, there need to be joint solutions for a shared problem threatening to engulf the eurozone.

Between 2007 and 2009 the global financial system experienced its worst crisis in almost 80 years with banks worldwide facing losses of more than €1.4 trillion. The eurozone economy was plunged into a crisis which threatened the very survival of the euro as a currency and the long-term stability of the eurozone economy.

The collapse of Lehman Brothers showed us there is no such thing as an orderly default of an organisation the size and complexity of a global bank, and the same applies to a European state.

Labour MEPs believe that, within the Eurozone, the European Central Bank should be stepping up to its role as lender of last resort, while there should also be greater fiscal integration and a firewall sufficient to stand behind the Spanish and Italian economies.

3. What will you do about the expected rise of the far right in Europe?

In the European Parliament, Labour will continue to stand up for our shared values, fight anti-semitism and defend religious rights and freedoms.

We know that across Europe, the far-right are on the rise, with parties like Front Nationale in France, Jobbik in Hungary and Golden Dawn in Greece, predicted to make gains in the elections. It is a deeply unpleasant and dangerous prospect.

History has taught us economic hardship provides fertile terrain for a politics of division and hatred to take hold, and we need to deal with the source of people’s concerns over jobs and growth - some 26 million people are out of work across Europe. In countries such as Greece and Spain, the jobless rate among young people is above 50 per cent.

So in these serious times, there is a heavy burden of responsibility on democratic politicians to speak up, to call out antisemitism for what it is, and to be willing to speak on behalf of a different and more decent politics. Labour in Europe will not shy away from this task.

4. What will you do about migrants drowning in attempts to reach Europe?

Labour MEPs support the new information-exchange system for border controls (EUROSUR), which aims to protect migrants and save lives.

A few days after the Lampedusa tragedy, the EU for the first time explicitly set out that the goal of border controls must be to fight irregular immigration, combat cross-border crimes and human traffickers, and protect and save the lives of migrants.

Our Group in the European Parliament specifically insisted EU countries should be obliged to give priority to the special needs of children, victims of trafficking, asylum seekers and persons in distress at sea, and these are now included in the rules.

Twenty thousand migrants died in the Mediterranean last year alone. It is our responsibility to do everything in our power to stop tragedies like Lampedusa from happening.

5. Does the Common Agriculture Policy need to be reformed? If so, how?

Labour MEPs are committed to ensuring Europe’s agricultural policy works effectively and efficiently to deliver benefits not only for our farmers but also wider benefits for society and for the environment.

Successive CAP reforms have set a direction of travel moving away from production linked support towards greater competitiveness and a greater focus on the delivery of public benefits. We want to see this process continued. CAP funds should be geared to the benefit of society at large, meeting the social, economic and environmental concerns facing rural communities.

We will work for a more effective and efficient CAP, supporting our farmers in meeting the challenges they face. We want to see an increased share of the agriculture budget going towards delivering environmental benefits and towards rural development, helping diversify the rural economy and increase agricultural competitiveness.

Labour MEPs are committed to ensuring Europe’s agricultural policy works effectively and efficiently to deliver benefits not only for our farmers but also wider benefits for society and for the environment.

6. Austerity across Europe has had some very mixed results. Is fiscal tightening and balancing budgets still the best way forward or is it time for a new approach?

Labour will work with our allies in Europe to advance a reform agenda which promotes economic growth and more secure, better paid jobs across the EU. At a time of tough choices at home, this not only means restraint in the EU budget but also reform.

The budget should focus on those items where spending at an EU level can save money at the national level, and resources should be shifted from areas such as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and put into areas of more productive economic development, such as research and development for new technologies and industries.

Labour are proposing a new Commissioner for Growth, bringing together some of the existing Commission portfolios on economic policy, to help ensure the EU is focused on growth and held accountable for progress.

Alongside this, Labour are proposing that the EU establish its own equivalent of the UK’s Office for Budget Responsibility with the narrower mandate of auditing all EU spending decisions based on the impact that they have on promoting growth and jobs across the EU.

7. Taking the EU as a whole, do you support the continued policy of "ever closer union" or do you favour moving back towards more national autonomy?

There are no proposals for a further transfer of powers to Brussels, but given the uncertainty about the future of eurozone integration, though unlikely, it remains possible.

Therefore the next Labour government will legislate for a lock that ensures no future government can transfer powers to Brussels without the explicit consent of the British people. This would not just be a referendum on the narrow question of whether to allow a transfer of powers from Britain to Brussels, but an in/out referendum.

Labour is calling for national parliaments to have more of a say over the making of new EU legislation. Currently the ‘yellow card’ system - which the Lisbon Treaty initiated - gives national parliaments the ability to push legislation into review if there is significant opposition to it from a third of member states.

Labour is looking at extending this to form a collective emergency brake procedure - a ‘red card’ system - that could further amplify the voice of national parliaments within the EU law making process.

 

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