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.


Wiltshire businesses face chaos of No Deal Brexit

A No-Deal Brexit will wreak havoc on companies across the UK as delays and tariffs start to bite, said Caroline Voaden, Liberal Democrat MEP for the South West, after meeting business leaders in Melksham, Wiltshire.

The impending damage is keeping business leaders up at night worrying about the impact on their staff and livelihoods. Any responsible Government would rule out No Deal immediately.

Caroline, along with Lib Dem PPC for Chippenham Helen Belcher, was given a tour of Coombe CastleInternational’s Creamery which exports cheese to Canada tariff-free under the EU-Canada trade deal, set to be ditched under No Deal. The tariff on a £500 block of cheese would rise to a staggering £1,200, and increase from 0% to 300% on the company’s cream products.

Darren Larvin, Managing Director, Coombe Castle International said: “We are extremely concerned about the effects that a No Deal Brexit will have on our business, which will see revenues more than halve overnight, affecting our cheesemakers and farmers around UK who have supported us for nearly 40 years. We will be left with little or no access to some markets and our products rendered uncompetitive when operating under WTO tariffs with no significant trade deals in sight.”

Caroline commented: “It’s not just trade with other European countries that will be harmed by a No deal Brexit. Coombe Castle International is one of many companies that will no longer benefit from access to EU trade deals with countries like Canada and Japan. This isn’t just about the economy – it is about jobs and livelihoods and the wellbeing of everyone involved in these businesses and their supply chains.”

Helen Belcher, Liberal Democrat PPC for Chippenham, added: “Speaking with local businesses confirmed the negative impact Brexit will have on jobs in Chippenham and Melksham. As a result, I will continue campaigning to stop the UK from crashing out of the EU on 31 st October.”

At the same meeting, the heads of C&P Medical, a medical products wholesaler and importer based in Melksham were brutal and unequivocal about the impact of Brexit. They confirmed the Government’s own warnings, leaked in a report at the weekend, that supply chains for medicines and medical products will be vulnerable to severe delays in a No Deal Brexit. “Brexit is going to be carnage,” said Managing Director Peter Shaw. “No amount of jingoism or propaganda will change the reality of what we are going through. This is not scaremongering - it is going to be awful.”

Peter warned, "A no deal Brexit risks losing the supply base we have built up around Europe over 21 years of business. The main risks to our supply of medical products into UK are delays at the port due to customs clearance and extra paperwork, new WTO tariffs and price increases due to a fall in the pound. We supply medical  products to pharmacies, hospitals, laboratories and vets and delays to our products like enteral feeds and blood transfusion sets could prove life-threatening. As a small business, we cannot stockpile as the government suggests due to a lack of cash and space. As a business, we cannot invest or move forward whilst this threat of no-deal hangs over us. Brexit is harming businesses large and small and needs to be stopped.”

Caroline concluded: “What we’ve heard today shows the complete fantasy that is Boris Johnson’s idea of post-Brexit Britain. It is simply not possible for companies like Coombe Castle or C&P Medical to operate with these potentially ludicrous tariffs and delays. The uncertainty for businesses like this must end, and in my capacity as elected Member of the European Parliament, I will work with others to prevent the damage this reckless government is intent on causing.”


No Deal Brexit an unacceptable risk for businesses

The chaos surrounding a No Deal Brexit is already harming local businesses that trade with other EU countries and putting jobs and investment at risk, South West Lib Dem MEP Caroline Voaden said on a visit to a factory in Poole on Tuesday.

“What we saw today confirms that what our Government is doing to businesses across the UK is a disgrace, causing them uncertainty, costs and a drain on resources. And to think the Conservative party used to be the ‘party of business.’ Those days are long gone."

Caroline visited Ishida, a Japanese food packaging company that uses its UK locations in Birmingham and Poole to export products to Europe. With her was Vikki Slade, Lib DemParliamentary Candidate for Mid Dorset & North Poole and leader of BCP council.

The firm has been forced to make extensive and costly contingency plans to cope with a No Deal Brexit. This includes opening a European Distribution Centre (EDC) in Best, Netherlands, to enable the import of their products directly from Japan into the EU in the event of Brexit disruption. The company has also increased its stock of spare parts, mainly in the Netherlands, to ensure it can maintain service levels if supply chains are seriously disrupted by Brexit.

She commented during the visit: “Ishida have gone to considerable lengths to prepare for Brexit, but they are no clearer now about whether they will face tariffs on the products they export from to Europe, than three years ago. You can understand why they have set up a new base within the EU, given the Brexit uncertainty and No Deal chaos they are facing.

“It’s clear the uncertainty and disruption around Brexit is causing real problems for businesses across the South West. It is also deterring foreign companies from investing in the UK, with a knock-on effect on job creation. But this is about more than jobs – this is about impacting people’s livelihoods, their security and their families."

Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate Vikki Slade said: “With a key channel port in Poole, this area could well be negatively affected by Brexit, especially a No Deal Brexit. Whatever the outcome, businesses and public bodies are already having to divert vital funds and give up time to prepare. It is crucial that the government rules out No Deal.”

Guy Dix, Engineering Manager, Ishida Europe commented: “With Brexit approaching, we have measures in place to minimise the impact to our European customers and partners. We have ensured there will be no price increases for customers and have invested in stock holding facilities in the Netherlands to cover potential supply issues. Long term we are continuing with considerable investment in the development of our products and workforce skills to keep us at the leading edge of our industry. Through innovation and technology, Ishida will continue being the brand of choice.”

Caroline concluded: “I’m impressed with the time and effort made by businesses across the South West, like Ishida, to try to ensure their business can weather the impact of a No Deal Brexit. But they shouldn’t have to do this. I want the UK to remain in the EU so our businesses can continue to trade freely with the rest of Europe and benefit from trade deals agreed by the EU. A No Deal Brexit, or indeed any Brexit, is already hurting our communities and we have barely even begun.

“I dread to think what will happen if Boris Johnson’s reckless government pushes ahead with its crazy No Deal plan. No Government in its right mind should be putting people through this madness.”


Cornwall faces major investment shortfall due to Brexit

The government must firm up plans for rural funding post-Brexit so that Cornwall can plan for a major investment shortfall.

I met with officials and local businesses on Friday to discuss their concerns over Brexit, including the loss of substantial EU funding and investment and access to European markets.

Access to the rest of the UK, be it physical or digital, is crucial for Cornwall’s economy to thrive. And being a rural and coastal community, Cornwall is also at the sharp end when it comes to climate change – the cancellation of Boardmasters and recent flood and storm damage are clear examples of how we have to be ready for more disruptive weather events.

On my visit, I heard about fears from local businesses for the Cornish economy, jobs and the environment if Brexit happens on October 31st, including concerns that EU investment would not be fully replaced by the Government’s own Shared Prosperity Fund. These concerns were recently expressed in a Joint Statement to the Government from the leaders of Cornwall and other parts of the UK.

I’m glad to see that Cornwall Council has voted to support a people’s vote on the Brexit deal. While not everyone’s ideal scenario, the Liberal Democrats do believe this is the best way to resolve the Brexit crisis. People were duped. They were fobbed off with hollow promises and the result is a region that will see the tap cut off for funding to vital social programmes, employment programmes and infrastructure – all of which have improved the quality of life for thousands across the peninsula.

I visited Trewithien Dairy in Lostwithiel, which received a £6m grant from the EU’s Rural Development programme in 2010, matched by private sector funding. This allowed the dairy to dramatically increase production – it now boasts an annual turnover of £50 million and employs 200 staff. Voaden also met with representatives of Superfast Broadband, to praise the rollout of the scheme which has received over £50m in EU funds, improving productivity and connectivity for thousands of businesses.

There is no indication that the Government will match these investments. These kinds of opportunities will disappear if Brexit happens, especially in the
event of No Deal. We must stop Brexit before it causes irreversible damage to the future development of our precious counties.


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