STOP PRESS As we go to press with this newsletter the terrible situation of the Kurdish community in Afrin in Northern Syria is becoming much worse with Turkey using military force to kill peaceful civilians. The Kurds have been instrumental in the successful fight against Da’esh (or Isis) and an ally of the US and U.K. yet our government is still doing business with the fascistic President Erdogan, selling arms and military hardware in their desperate attempt for trade deals at any price. Please join with me and others in calling for Theresa May to take an ethical stance against Erdogan’s regime. If not we face a further humanitarian disaster with many more refugees fleeing Syria.
2018: A Year for Change
When the Leave camp won the 2016 referendum on the narrowest of margins after a divisive campaign full of lies, promising an extra mythical £350m a week for the NHS and scapegoating migrants in the process, the government should have realised the scale of the task ahead and made proper provision for consultation to assess the impact of different Brexit scenarios. However, Theresa May, who campaigned for Remain, has wasted nearly 2 years trying to stop the squabbling in her own party, leaning further right to appease hard Brexiteers and the unpleasant posse of DUP MPs who now prop up her administration. We should never forget that the DUP is a right-wing, anti-abortion, anti-EU party with homophobic views. They are deeply implicated in dodgy deals with Vote Leave, now uncovered by Open Democracy and Guardian investigative journalist, Carol Cadwalladr.
As each day passes the Brexit disaster reveals more misery and heartache for ordinary working people, with job losses and increased food prices. We hear about many businesses closing down or relocating abroad. Citizens from the EU 27 who have lived and worked in this country for years are cutting their ties with the U.K. and moving to a more welcoming place where their rights to enjoy family life will be guaranteed. Meanwhile, the xenophobia and racism that was stirred up by Nigel Farage and his friends and amplified by the right-wing press, continues to grow with a particular focus on Islamophobia. The recent spate of vile letters advocating ‘Punish a Muslim Day’ demonstrates that hate-speech and hate-crime are out of control in our country. Theresa May’s road to a hard Brexit cannot heal these rifts, and her own Ministers threaten the integrity of The Good Friday Agreement which was an EU initiative that has brought peace to Ireland. I am one of 20 MEPs who has written a letter to Boris Johnson condemning his use of ‘war-like’ language on this and other Brexit-related issues.
It is now known that economic growth in the North West will take a 12% hit if we leave the European Union with no deal. Neither is it any better if we have a free trade deal (FTA) or simply remain in the single market, with both options showing drops of 8% and 2.5% respectively We there need a deal that not only secures our place in the Custom’s Union but within the Single Market too and enshrines Freedom of Movement.
Whilst I welcomed Jeremy Corbyn’s recent speech in Coventry, it did not go far enough. We cannot simply say we will remain in a Customs Union. We need a deal that protects our economy and our businesses and we will only be able to do that by also remaining in the Single Market.
A recent Panorama investigation into immigration unearthed some very worrying attitudes, with the majority of people interviewed in small towns asking for less immigration. However, not a single person could specify which job an immigrant shouldn’t be allowed to do. From farm-workers to skilled tradesmen, from high-tech jobs to health professionals, from personal carers for the disabled and elderly to teachers and educators in our schools, colleges and universities, we need migrant labour to help run our country. Disturbingly the number of EU citizens coming to live, work and study in the UK is already dropping. The far-right celebrate this development, but it is incredibly damaging to our economy, our businesses and our communities.
From a shortage of 50,000 lorry drivers to caps on immigration limiting the level of doctors in our NHS, it is clear that we need Freedom of Movement now more than ever to halt the max exodus of EU nationals leaving our country and provide the access to various levels of skilled employment our businesses need. The Creative and Cultural Industries are particularly vulnerable to Brexit risks and Freedom of Movement is vital for arts and sport to flourish in a post-Brexit environment. The Creative Industries Federation has produced an excellent report which can be accessed here. The Association of British Orchestras echo CIF concerns and I was pleased to be on a panel at their annual conference in Cardiff recently where many musicians and producers from the North West came to speak to me. If we want to project a positive image of an outward-looking Britain beyond Brexit we need to invest in the arts at all levels of education now and enable mobility across borders. You can read my response to a Times article here.
I am therefore proud to work closely with Another Europe and joined trade union leaders, Labour Students, Momentum activists and others on the left of the party, in writing an open letter to The Guardian calling for Labour to champion continued Freedom of Movement.
Another Europe has now produced an excellent downloadable document that outlines a clear case for Jeremy Corbyn to lead a renewed pro-European socialist movement by Remaining in the EU in order to Reform.
I’d like to hear your views on this, and other aspects of Brexit. Do you think we should remain in the Customs Union, the Single Market, and safeguard Freedom of Movement? Do you worry about the impact of Brexit on our local economy and how it will affect your family and future? Click here and take part in my Brexit survey, and help me to better represent your views in the European Parliament.
Whilst Brexit negotiations stop and start with far too much right-wing Tory bluster and not enough detail and substance, it is business as usual in the European Parliament where I am proud to be one the most active MEPs in the Socialist and Democrats group, responsible for reports and opinions, tabling more than 1,500 amendments so far, and asking 85 parliamentary questions. My work tends to focus on ensuring equality and inclusion for women, children and young people, BAME groups, LGBTIAQ+, people in deprived communities and people with disabilities. In respect of the latter, I am very proud of my recent work on the Marrakesh Treaty which enhances the rights of blind and visually impaired people to access published material. You can read more here.
March 8th was International Women’s Day and I have been very active in the run-up to this important moment, attending the Europia Women’s Awards in Manchester, for example, speaking alongside Rebecca Long-Bailey MP in Chorley, addressing the inaugural meeting of the Denton & Reddish CLP Thinking Women’s Forum, participating in parliamentary debates on FGM and the importance of ending all violence against women and girls through the ratification of the Istanbul Convention - which our government has to their shame still not progressed. I was also proud to speak at the screening of the film Suffragette in the European Parliament alongside the director, Sarah Gavron, and my colleague Clare Moody, Labour MEP for SW England and Gibraltar.
Along with my staff, I attended One Billion Rising actions in Preston and Rochdale, joining people from all walks of life in a global dance of defiance against the unacceptable scourge of gender-based violence. It was particularly moving to be with women from Rochdale Connections Trust, having also attended their AGM in December along with Tony Lloyd MP.
Last month, I had the privilege of hosting Congleton Labour women and their #MeToo menfolk in the European Parliament. We host many such visits throughout the year as well as providing job shadowing opportunities and work experience. If you are interested in seeing the Parliament in action, email us here and request more information. Although we are now fully booked for 2018, we are hoping to have a small number of groups come out at the beginning of 2019 prior to our exit
In January I spoke at a Brexit and Child Rights event in Liverpool. Children and young people have been consistently left out of the Brexit discussions and yet it is their future which will be most affected. As a co-founder of a Children’s Rights Intergroup in the European Parliament I work with a wide range of organisations and experts in the field as well as directly engaging with children and young people. The Universities of Liverpool and Central Lancashire have been working with European partners to assess these risks and, most importantly, to listen to the concerns of the under 18s. Children with disabilities face specific risks as do children in Northern Ireland. You can read a report about this research here.
Brexit presents risks to all of us regarding a loss of rights and this is especially so for EU citizens in the U.K. and British citizens in the EU. Working closely with award-winning civil liberties group New Europeans, I recently initiated a Citizens Rights Friendship Group in the European Parliament in order to keep the rights of citizens at the forefront of MEPs work, as well as providing a space for civil society groups and various stakeholders to gather and share information and campaign more effectively.
I am also the European Parliamentary Labour Party National Policy Forum Representative on the Early Years, Education and Training Policy Commission where I have been working with Angela Rayner's Shadow Education Team to build better bridges between education in Europe and the UK. I encourage everyone to make submissions to the National Policy Forum here.
That’s it from me for this month. I will continue to keep you updated on my work in the European Parliament and across the North West. I will also report back on our Brexit survey, , where I want to hear your voice.
If you have an event you'd like me to speak at, an issue you'd like me to address in Parliament, or a personal problem you are having that involves European legislation, please don't hesitate to contact my office on the details below.
Office of Julie Ward MEP
Tel: +44 (0)161 9743 200
Jactin House, 24 Hood Street, Manchester, M4 6WX