We store cookies on your device to make sure we give you the best experience on this website. I'm fine with this - Turn cookies off
Switch to an accessible version of this website which is easier to read. (requires cookies)

My last ever week in Strasbourg, probably, was dominated by Brexit, but not entirely.

January 16, 2020 2:56 PM
By Bill Newton Dunn MEP

Bill Newton Dunn MEPThe EP debated and voted on one of the unfinished parts of the Withdrawal Agreement - which is Citizens Rights. Three and a half million EU citizens live in the UK but are not being given the guarantees of Rights which were promised by Boris Johnson in the 2016 referendum. Boris gives himself the right unilaterally to abolish the UK Board which will oversee the granting of rights. We must see how this problem works out during the next two weeks. On 29th MEPs, if they are satisfied, are scheduled to vote on Brexit or not.

Continental MEPs say "The new Withdrawal Agreement is a terrible "deal" for the UK. But if the UK wants it, that is okay."

The EU is basically trusting the UK to keep its word...on rights for a million UK Citizens living in EU and 3.5 million living in UK "to live in the host country as they have chosen to do". The WA given comprehensive guarantees for as long as they want. The UK must implement them. But there are still cases that have not been given papers and other are confused or have not yet applied despite having lived in the UK for forty years or more. We need a guarantee that the independent Monitoring Authority will be truly independent. The EU will monitor this closely.

After the Transition the UK will be a Third Country and will have to negotiate a new way forward. Brussels sees a lack of long term guarantees by the UK government. If individual rights are guaranteed that will give a better basis for ongoing negotiations.

The EU says "A physical document is necessary, London says an email with a pdf is enough. The Independent Monitoring Authority must be truly independent but Johnson has given himself powers to weaken it.

If and when Brexit happens, then there will be negotiations about trade with the EU. If the UK says it wants zero tariffs and zero barriers to trade, in return Brussels will say that there must be zero dumping and therefore very close alignment on social legislation. The EU wants a level playing field and no drain on skills.

Maybe Brexit is a necessary trauma. Because of huge insularity at Westminster which is still uninformed about how the EU and international cooperation work. And the UK's constitution which is no longer fit for purpose. A German said to me : "Brexit is the last act of the British Empire, when the British blow themselves up."

The UK system is broken. As another continental asked me before the general election : "How is it possible in the UK that a prime minister who is unelected can advise a head of state who is also unelected to suspend a parliament which is only half-unelected?"

Other high-lights of the week:

Breakfast with Commission vice-president Dombrovskis, for Economy and Employment. A Latvian, he was re-appointed and is very experienced in financial affairs. He said that the European economy is facing major transformations due to Climate Change, digitalisation, and its age-ing profile. Europe has had seven years of uninterrupted growth and unemployment is at record low levels, but there are still inequalities, the nature of jobs is changing, and the Green transformation.

The six-month Presidency of the Council of Ministers chaired by Croatia began. Its prime minister, speaking in the chamber, revealed he started his political career as a trainee in the European Parliament. In July Germany will take over from Croatia.

Climate Change. It looks increasingly that the planet is near its Tipping Point. Next year the fires in Australia, Brazil, Siberia and California will be bigger because the planet's temperature is rising and we are still pumping more and more gases into the atmosphere.

"What we're talking about is a point of no return, when we might actually lose control of this system, and there is a significant risk that we're going to do this," said Will Steffen, a climate researcher with the Australian National University and co-author of the commentary. "It's not going to be the same conditions with just a bit more heat or a bit more rainfall. It's a cascading process that gets out of control."

Two Leaders of Catalan independence arrived to take their seats as MEPs, having been elected last July but delayed by exile and court hearings in Madrid and the Europe's Supreme Court.

As UK MEPs leave at the end of January, 73 seats will be up for grabs: 27 of those seats will be re-distributed among 14 member states.

The new parliament will have an overall total of 705 MEPs (with one Catalan MEP not having yet taken his seat). The remaining 46 seats will be available for potential EU enlargements and for any possible future creation of transnational lists.

My forecast for the future?

Boris will find himself torn between being at heart a European and his right-wing who will give him a horrible time. And it will serve him right. He is a softie, caring only about being loved for himself. The far-right never give up, Boris will eventually lose and be reviled as a failure.

It feels tragic that UK is closing itself off, cutting itself off outside decision-making and opportunities. Tragic for our young people.

Best wishes,