Lib Dem MEPs call on Boris Johnson to release the Russia report in European Parliament debate

In a debate they secured in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Liberal Democrat MEPs have warned about foreign interference in European democracies and elections, once again urging the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to publish a parliamentary intelligence and security committee report into Russian interference into British democracy.

In October, the European Parliament adopted a report calling for a range of measures to tackle electoral interference and disinformation in national and European democratic processes and the opaque funding of far-right parties across Europe, despite attempts by
Nigel Farage and his Brexit Party MEPs to vote it down.

The report included a reference to allegations reported in the press in relation to the funding of the Vote Leave campaign. 

Caroline Voaden, Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament, criticised Facebook, following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, for failing to implement various measures to prevent the use of the social platform for electoral interference and unwillingness to fact-check political messages, calling for the principles laid out in the EU code of practice on disinformation to be made legally binding.

Watch Caroline's speech to the European Parliament ⬇️

https://twitter.com/CarolineVoaden/status/1200012584663027714


MEP calls on Twitter to uphold code of conduct after CCHQ misinformation stunt

Caroline Voaden, Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament has written to Twitter's CEO and Co-Founder Jack Dorsey calling on him to take a strong stance against a misinformation stunt staged by the Conservative Party (UK) press office Twitter account in which it posed as an impartial fact-checking service during a key TV debate ahead of the 2019 UK General Election.

Read the full text of the letter below:

Jack Dorsey

Twitter CEO and

Co-Founder

Twitter Headquarters

1355 Market St. Ste. 900

San Francisco, CA 94103

22/11/2019

Dear Jack Dorsey,

I am writing as leader of the Liberal Democrat European Parliamentary Party to outline our grave concerns with the behaviour of the twitter account “@CCHQPress”, followed by nearly 76,000 users, which temporarily rebranded their official party account to make it look like a fact-checking service during a leaders’ debate as part of the British general election on the evening of the 19th November 2019.

We were left shocked and deeply concerned by this dirty trick, a blatant attempt to misinform the British electorate, straight out of Vladimir Putin’s playbook. We all have a duty to combat this type of disinformation, which is a threat to liberal democracies worldwide.

We fear this behaviour, from a once respected and mainstream political party, may set a precedent for authoritarian and illiberal Governments and political movements across Europe and beyond.

Under the voluntary Code of Practice on Disinformation agreed between the European Commission and online platforms in 2018, we would remind you that you committed to recognise the Commission’s conclusions that "the exposure of citizens to large scale Disinformation, including misleading or outright false information, is a major challenge for Europe. Our open democratic societies depend on public debates that allow well-informed citizens to express their will through free and fair political processes".

In our view, obliging by this Code of Practice means acting against this kind of behaviour.

The British Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, has disgracefully since defended the rebranding of the account suggesting that ‘no one gives a toss’.

On behalf of the millions of people we represent, we do care and we are disappointed that Twitter failed to block the account and your subsequent failure to act.

We would ask you to again consider removing the verified status of this account as soon as possible, as we believe your global rules intended to prohibit behaviour that can mislead people have been breached.

Yours Sincerely,

Caroline Voaden MEP`


MEP calls on Boris Johnson to nominate a new EU Commissioner as EU begins legal proceedings

The European Union launched legal action against the UK government as Boris Johnson has failed to nominate a new EU commissioner to send to Brussels - a condition included in the extension of article 50 issued last month.

In a statement the European Commission said it had issued “a formal letter of notice” to the British government ”for breaching its EU treaty obligations” and would be starting infringement proceedings.

Caroline Voaden MEP, leader of the Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament, said:

"A UK commissioner would ensure we are treated as equal partners as an EU member state and fully represented in Ursula von der Leyen’s new commission."

"Boris Johnson should urgently consult with other parties and propose a candidate capable of furthering the interests of the EU as a whole."


Caroline Voaden elected new leader of UK’s Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament

Caroline Voaden MEP was today chosen to lead the delegation of Liberal Democrat MEPs in the European Parliament, following the announcement last week that Catherine Bearder MEP was standing down.

Since beating Labour and the Conservatives in May’s European Parliament elections, Liberal Democrat MEPs have been at the forefront of the fight against Brexit and the battle to restore Britain’s tarnished reputation in Europe.

Partnered with Emmanuel Macron’s MEPs in the Renew Europe Grouping in the European Parliament, with MEPs elected to chair the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee and the Committee on Legal Affairs, Lib Dem MEPs have cemented their position as the most powerful delegation of British parliamentarians in Europe. 

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Caroline Voaden MEP, the new leader of the Liberal Democrat MEPs commented:

“I am honoured to have been chosen by my colleagues to lead the Liberal Democrat delegation in the European Parliament. Catherine Bearder has done a fantastic job since returning to Brussels in May with 15 new colleagues, after a long five years here as the only Liberal Democrat MEP.”

“I joined the party to fight Brexit and I represent a growing force in British politics. The election of 16 of us in May’s European election was proof of the Lib Dems’ strength as the biggest, strongest party of Remain in the UK.”

“We were elected on a mandate to Stop Brexit and build a brighter future for Britain and we will do all we can to help our colleagues win seats right across the country on December 12th.”
 
“I look forward to working with all my colleagues in the Renew Europe Group to develop our priorities for this five-year mandate of the European Parliament, and to working with Jo Swinson and our colleagues in Westminster to stop Brexit and restore Britain’s tarnished reputation among our allies and partners across the European Union.”

Jo Swinson, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said:

“I am delighted that Caroline has been chosen as the new leader of the Liberal Democrat delegation.

“The European Elections showed that the Liberal Democrats are the strongest party of Remain, and in this general election we are the only national party campaigning to stop Brexit.#

“Liberal Democrat MEPs are doing a fantastic job in the EU and I am planning for them to be serving in Europe for their full five-year term at least.”

Catherine Bearder MEP commented:

”It has been an honour and a privilege to lead this new large delegation into the European Parliament. I continue as an MEP for the South East and to fight to stop Brexit. Caroline will be an excellent and determined leader of our delegation.”

“The European elections were a turning point for the Liberal Democrats, as the strongest party of remain, and we are looking forward to making substantial gains in the general election. The British Lib Dems will do all we can to fight for our place in Europe, and to make the madness that is Brexit stop.”


MEPs block move to weaken EU rules on bee-harming pesticides

SW MEP Caroline Voaden voted this week to block legislation that would have weakened EU rules protecting bee colonies from toxic pesticides.

The European parliament vetoed the move by member states and the European commission on Wednesday.

Caroline said: "I'm proud to have signed this objection in my group, and supported this vote in the European Parliament. It's exactly the sort of work we need to do - and can do - in this chamber."

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Stop Brexit - Start fighting for better mental health across the EU

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Too many women, men and young people are affected by this life-changing epidemic and it’s our duty to work together to tackle it.

Over 84 000 people died of mental health problems (2015) and suicides across EU countries According to the latest IHME estimates, more than one in six people across EU countries (17.3%) had a mental health problem in 2016 (Figure 1.1) – that is, nearly 84 million people.

The economic costs of mental illness are also significant. This chapter estimates total costs related to mental ill-health at more than 4% of GDP – or over EUR 600 billion – across the 28 EU countries in 2015. EUR 190 billion (or 1.3% of GDP) is direct spending on health care, another EUR 170 billion (1.2% of GDP) is spending on social security programmes, while a further EUR 240 billion (1.6% of GDP) is caused by indirect costs in the labour market, driven by lower employment rates and reduced productivity due to mental illness.

As a result, of the joint action on mental health and wellbeing, launched in 2013, and the European framework for action on mental health and wellbeing were developed. Within this framework, the Member States are supported in reviewing and improving their policies. The EU Compass for action on mental health and wellbeing is a platform that assists Member States in sharing policies and good practices.

That's why I used my chance to question the Commissioner-Designate for Health in the European Parliament to ask what more she would do as Commissioner to put mental health back on the agenda. 

We need to stop Brexit and focus on the environmental and economic factors which contribute to this desperately important issue. By working together with our colleagues across Europe we can push for real change.


Caroline Voaden MEP welcomes the Supreme Court’s judgment that Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue Parliament was unlawful.

SW MEP Caroline Voaden reacts to UK Supreme Court ruling

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Liberal Democrat MEPs welcome the Supreme Court’s judgment that Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue Parliament was unlawful.

A Prime Minister that behaves unlawfully and undermines democratic standards is clearly unfit to hold the office of Prime Minister.

Caroline Voaden MEP commented today;

Boris Johnson attempted to trample on the UK’s constitution and in doing so he tarnished Britain’s reputation in Europe. I am delighted the Supreme Court has intervened to restore the rule of law.”

Prime Minister Johnson’s decision to shut down democracy was motivated by his desire to shut down debate on Brexit. His attempt to silence the voices of the people at a time of national crisis was a disgrace."

"I am determined to maintain the voice of the SW of England in Europe.

The Brexit crisis will not be resolved by silencing debate or suspending democracy. We need more democracy, not less.  As Liberal Democrats, we believe the UK’s best possible future lies within the European Union, not outside it - and the best future for the SW region remains as part of this union of nations.

Antony Hook MEP, Liberal Democrat MEP for SE England with 16 years’ service as a barrister, said:

"Restoring a supposed supremacy of the British institutions was central to Boris Johnson’s campaign to wrench us out of Europe. The irony has been lost on few people that he has since tried to suppress Parliament and it has fallen to the courts to intervene.

It’s time for us to join the modern world by codifying our constitution and the conventions that we rely on for the smooth running of the state. A written constitution could secure a fair balance of powers and create a democratic basis for change in the
future.


Gibraltar plans airlift of food and medicines for No Deal Brexit scenario

The Government of Gibraltar is exploring chartering an aeroplane to bring in food, as No Deal Brexit threatens a ‘siege-like’ situation not seen since Franco’s blockade of The Rock.

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An all-parliamentary party delegation of UK MEPs, Members of Northern Ireland’s Assembly and Peers including Lib Dem MEP Caroline Voaden were this week briefed by Gibraltar’s leaders on costly and complex contingency plans for No Deal Brexit.

Top officials warned a No Deal Brexit will radically affect the delivery of fresh food, pharmaceuticals and waste disposal, as well as the free movement of people across the border.

Caroline Voaden, representing the South West and Gibraltar, said: “This is the first time since 1948 that a logistical exercise of this scale will be needed to bring fresh food and medicines to people in Europe. Gibraltar is preparing for the worst-case scenario.

It is shameful and deeply irresponsible for Boris Johnson’s Government to have placed the people of Gibraltar in this predicament – which they have compared to being under siege.”

This year marks 50 years since Spain’s dictator General Franco closed the border in 1969, during his siege of the British territory. People had to make a day-long journey by sea to visit friends and family rather than walk across the frontier. The border was reopened only in 1982, several years after Franco’s death.
 
Most at risk from Brexit is delivery of fresh food and pharmaceuticals and the management of waste. Gibraltar’s Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Garcia warned: “The main change is that foodstuffs coming from the UK will have to enter and exit EU territory for thorough checks at Border Inspection Posts - but we have none here.

“There is no certainty as to what framework the Spanish will work under after Brexit. Normally, 300 trucks a day come into Gibraltar, 30 of them bringing perishable goods. We are exploring the costs of chartering a plane or ferry to bring food in if necessary, as a last resort, and fresh goods by sea from Portugal.”

MEP Voaden remarked: “We heard today that as well as disruption to food and medical supplies, Gibraltar also produces 100,000 tonnes of waste a year which goes to Spain. To think they may have to store their rubbish for up to a year under the majestic rock is
preposterous.”
 
Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabien Picardo said he thought it unlikely they would leave EU on October 31st but know they can survive because Gibraltar produces its own water and electricity. “But just because we know how to survive in a situation of siege, does not mean we want to do it again,” he said.

The delegation is on a fact-finding mission at the invitation of the Gibraltar Government to attend events to mark Gibraltar’s National Day and discuss the impact of Brexit. They were also briefed on Gibraltar’s public information campaign urging the public and businesses to get ready for a No Deal Brexit. A live exercise will take place in early October to war game the No Deal scenario.

Voaden concluded: “The UK Government’s own assessment in the leaked Yellowhammer report warned of several hours delay for tens of thousands of residents and workers who cross the border delay, as well as a major disruption to the flow of goods that will harm the economy.

How is it right or democratic for the UK government to create such hardship in a territory that voted to remain in the EU by a massive 96% majority?”

Cross party group of UK MEPs pledge joint action to protect Britain's future

A Cross Party Group of UK Members of the European Parliament has signed a Declaration committing themselves to work together in the face of Brexit, and have called upon continental colleagues to support their efforts.

Meeting in Brussels, representatives of the Green, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Alliance, Plaid Cymru and Scottish National Party were able to sign the “Brussels Declaration"; stating:

We, the undersigned UK Members of the European Parliament, representing England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, declare as follows:

The proroguing, or shutting down the UK Parliament in order to limit scrutiny of the implications of a potential no-deal Brexit is completely unacceptable. Limiting the opportunity for MPs to debate, vote and crucially, to legislate, cannot be the response to a
referendum in which Leave campaigned for the UK Parliament to “take back control”.

In the continuation of the spirit that UK MEPs have worked in since the 2016 Referendum, we commit ourselves to continue to work across party lines and declare that it is vital that MPs do likewise.

We were all elected just four months ago with clear mandates. We are working together. We call upon our European friends and colleagues to assist domestic efforts in keeping the door open to us.


The Declaration was signed by:

Green Party
Molly Scott Cato MEP
Alexandra Phillips MEP

Magid Magid MEP
Scott Ainslie MEP
Ellie Chowns MEP
Gina Dowding MEP
Catherine Rowett MEP

Labour Party
Richard Corbett MEP
Seb Dance MEP
Jude Kirton-Darling MEP
Neena Gill MEP
John Howarth MEP
Theresa Griffin MEP
Jackie Jones MEP
Julie Ward MEP
Rory Palmer MEP
Claude Moraes MEP

Liberal Democrat Party
Catherine Bearder MEP
Caroline Voaden MEP
Chris Davies MEP
Phil Bennion MEP
Jane Brophy MEP

Judith Bunting MEP
Dinesh Dhamija MEP
Barbara Ann Gibson MEP
Anthony Hook MEP
Martin Horwood MEP
Shaffaq Mohammed MEP
Lucy Nethsingha MEP
Bill Newton Dunn MEP
Sheila Ritchie MEP
Irina Von Wiese MEP
Luisa Porritt MEP

Alliance Party
Naomi Long MEP

Plaid Cymru
Jill Evans MEP
Scottish National Party
Alyn Smith MEP
Aileen Mcleod MEP
Christian Allard MEP


The first ever MEP Podcast!

Ever wondered what an “average” week is like for an MEP? Well there isn’t one…

But to try and give a bit of a flavour for what this unique job entails, I am recording a weekly podcast from Brussels and Strasbourg with my colleague Judith Bunting, MEP for the South East of England.

You can listen to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, SpotifyStitcher, Player FM and Radio Public.

So far we’ve covered all sorts of things, from why MEPs move from Brussels to Strasbourg once a month, to speed voting and shoes. It’s a mixture of politics and behind-the-scenes chat and should, hopefully be entertaining as well as informative!

Have a listen – and do let us know what you think. You can listen on most podcast platforms and do leave us a review! Tell us what you’d like to hear more about, too.


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