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Opinion: London's better future in a better Europe - each united in diversity

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Dirk_HazellBy Dirk Hazell, Leader and London Region MEP candidate for 4 Freedoms Party (UK EPP) (pictured, right) - @DirkHazell and Dr NoelleAnne O’Sullivan, London Region MEP candidate for 4 Freedoms Party (UK EPP) (pictured, below) - @PolComms

Today (22 May), the British are the first in Europe to vote in this year’s key European elections. Ahead of this important UK vote, addressing last night’s Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) annual dinner in London, CBI President Sir Mike Rake warned British businesses that the risk of Britain leaving the EU is already causing uncertainty and jeopardizing future UK inward investment.

photo profileThe British government should heed this clear warning. The UK must not be dragged out of the EU because the Conservative Party under David Cameron has been infiltrated by the UKIP militant tendency.

We believe that London’s future is at the heart of Europe. Yes, the EU needs reforming - but this should be done by working with our European partners instead of constantly criticising from the side lines. Britain is a great country with a great people, united in diversity and capable of leading not leaving the EU.

As the EU - steered by Europe’s leading party the mainstream centre-right EPP European People's Party - reforms during the next five years, only 4 Freedoms Party (UK EPP) can offer Londoners a strong voice inside the EPP. The EPP political family plans to create millions of new jobs through wide-ranging European reforms and initiatives such as the EU digital single market.

By working within the mainstream, we will deliver real results for London and beyond – including completing the single market, launched twenty-five years ago as a British Conservative initiative that was substantially conceived by our lead candidate in London Dirk Hazell. 4 Freedoms Party (UK EPP) will bring people together, not drive them apart.

In a recent discussion about the new 4 Freedoms Party (UK EPP) broadcast on BBC TV’s Daily Politics Show, the former CBI head, Lord Jones agreed that Mr Cameron was wrong to flounce out of the powerful mainstream EPP Group. Sadly, Mr Cameron puts his own survival as party leader ahead of the British national interest, as he takes Britain to the brink of Brexit. British Euro-MP Daniel Hannan’s bandwagon of UKIP sympathisers is clearly taking over, dragging the Conservative Party over the edge.

British PM David Cameron has effectively lost control of his fringe Euro-Group. Since January 2013, Tory-led ECR Group MEPs have voted two-thirds of the time with Farage’s UKIP-led EFD MEPs: making themselves jointly amongst the European Parliament’s least influential MEPs.

In contrast, 4 Freedoms Party (UK EPP) MEPs will guarantee British input into EPP action on jobs, prosperity and security. One British MEP in the EPP will be worth more to Britain than UKIP’s entire delegation.

As a past Tory party leader William Hague - and his then-adviser George Osborne - will recall sitting with mainstream centre-right leaders at regular EPP Summits. Messrs Hague and Osborne must now know beyond doubt how serious a mistake Cameron made in ordering Conservative Euro-MPs to leave the EPP in 2009, surrendering the valuable chance to shape European policy from within. Cameron constantly caves into UKIP, but appeasement never works!

4 Freedoms Party (UK EPP) will start to repair the damage Mr Cameron created. We offer London voters a positive platform of policies, reflecting a refreshing and forward-looking interpretation of mainstream centre ground and centre-right values. We embrace the four fundamental EU freedoms of movement for people, goods, services and capital – plus the four freedoms outlined in US President FD Roosevelt’s iconic 1941 State of the Union address, namely: freedoms of speech and worship, freedoms from want and fear.

Our EPP values combine a strong economy with dignity for the retired and vulnerable. We believe in social and environmental justice. We have a cast iron commitment, sadly under attack from others in Britain, to guarantee human rights.

British votes cast today will count toward building political groupings in Brussels. A vote for the wrong party risks creating new hard and far right political groupings in the European Parliament that will try to reduce our European freedoms.

We must challenge UKIP’s anti-EU fearmongers and fellow travellers: their distortion of the past and present, their oppressive view of the future. The fictional past that Farage and his UKIP sympathisers conjure up is a betrayal of our real history. We in the UK are a great people with a strong tradition of being fair and open. Farage’s anti-immigrant, xenophobic fear mongering has cheapened this European election campaign. Farage’s gibes distort truth and divert attention from real problems made in Britain - not Brussels.

People are coming through tough times. It is a harshness that saps at the soul of society when billionaires are richer than ever, while food banks have become a tragic need for the vulnerable. British politicians must not get away with blaming ‘Brussels’ for housing shortages, educational shortfalls, archaic transport, aircraft carriers without planes and other domestic problems, such as substandard cancer care, for which British politicians are alone responsible.

As our EPP Commission Presidential candidate Jean-Claude Juncker told a packed press conference in Brussels yesterday afternoon: “Do vote, but do not give your votes to extremists, xenophobes or fascists, as they unfortunately continue to exist in Europe. If we want Europe to function and to serve its citizens, we should vote for people who will work hard in the next European Parliament, who will defend European values and fundamental rights, which continue to come under regular attack both at home and abroad.”

4 Freedoms Party (UK EPP) standing in London – with a full list of eight candidates, including citizens from other EU member states – will be a strong voice in the European Parliament, defending the freedoms of everyone who lives, works and studies in London and beyond.  We believe in bringing people together, not driving them apart.

Elected 4 Freedoms Party (UK EPP) MEPs will join the EPP Group in the European Parliament when it reconvenes in the first week of July. As MEPs we will sit with the powerful EPP political family of Angela Merkel and other mainstream centre-right EU leaders.

We believe in London. We believe in Europe. We believe in people. @UK_EPP

France

Stopping the decline of civil liberties in France

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Recently, French officials announced their decision to rewrite sections of the country’s global security law. The move was announced by parliamentary leaders from the ruling majority dominated by President Emmanuel Macron's La République en Marche (LREM) party, writes Josef Sjöberg.

The controversial sections of the bill known as Article 24 would make it an offense to film and identify police officers carrying out their duties. As per the amendment’s language, the new version of the law would make it an offense to show the face or identity of any officer on duty "with the aim of damaging their physical or psychological integrity". Other sections like Articles 21 and 22 of the proposed law delineate “mass surveillance" protocols. 

The proposed changes have been the subject of immense criticism both at home and abroad since they were first filed on 20 October. Critics point to the unprecedented expansion of government surveillance over its citizens and the risk of police and security forces operating with impunity.

What is ironic about the proposal is that it threatens to undermine the very thing it allegedly seeks to protect. The impetus for this law was the tragic killing of French teacher Samuel Paty on 16 October by a young Muslim man in retaliation for Paty showing his class a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad. The incident prompted President Emmanuel Macron’s commitment to defend freedom of expression and civil liberties. In the name of upholding these values, however, Macron’s government along with members of his party have introduced new legislation that effectively restricts them. 

Concerns over the security law are not merely theoretical. A significant uptick in police violence in France has shown what trends are possible. One incident that has spread like wildfire across the news platforms was the brutal beating of a man, one Michel Zecler, by four police officers in Paris. While the Interior Minister promptly ordered the suspension of the officers involved, the incident sparked nationwide outrage further fueling the flames of animosity toward the police.

The attack on Zecler came just days after a major police operation took place to dismantle a migrant camp in the country’s capital. Video footage of the incident showed police using aggressive force as well as tear gas to disperse the illegal encampment. Two separate probes related to the camp dismantling have since been launched by officials. One of the flashpoints of police violence has in fact been opposition to the security bill itself. In the final days of November, activists organized marches all over the country to protest the proposed amendments. At least eighty-one individuals were arrested by police and several injuries at the hands of officers were also reported. At least one of the victims was Syrian freelance photographer, Ameer Al Halbi, 24, who was injured in his face while covering the demonstration.

The attack on Al Halbi and others seemed to confirm fears of the security bill’s opponents as a primary concern has been the ability to maintain press freedom under the new statutes. Indeed, the trend of police violence has, in the eyes of many citizens, been gaining momentum for the better part of 2020. The wide spectrum opposition to the security law is spurred by the recent memory of the Cedric Chouviat incident in January. Chouviat, 42 at the time of his death, was confronted by police near the Eiffel Tower while on a delivery job. Alleging that Chouviat was talking on his phone while driving, officers eventually detained him and applied a chokehold to subdue him. Despite Chouviat’s repeated cries that he could not breathe, officers kept him pinned down. Chouviat died shortly afterward.

Observers have noted that the introduction of the bill has been yet another regrettable move toward the erosion of France's “soft power” policy. Back in 2017, France was found to be the global leader in welding influence through appeal rather than aggression. This improvement has been largely attributed to the moderate leadership of the centrist Macron. It was hoped this alternate approach to power would also be applied by the French president in domestic policy. Unfortunately, for years the distrust of the citizenry toward police forces has only been growing, as the use of violence by officers has become increasingly common in the French Republic.          

With the incredible public backlash against proposed amendments, it is clear that the additions to the security bill are a step in the wrong direction. A democratic and free nation like France, cannot, and must not adopt policies that explicitly limit the accountability of its security forces, invade personal privacy, and restrict journalistic activity. Macron and his team must reconsider the bill and amend the proposals. Only then can France’s leadership begin to address the problem of police brutality for what it is and ensure the continuity and flourishing of French civil liberties.

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Brexit

EU-UK future relations: MEPs to debate agreement reached on 24 December 2020

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Members on the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Committees will debate the new EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement today at 10h CET. The joint meeting of the lead committees will intensify the democratic parliamentary scrutiny process for the new EU-UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement reached by EU and British negotiators on 24 December.

The two committees will in due course vote on the consent proposal prepared by the two standing rapporteurs Christophe Hansen (EPP, Luxembourg) and Kati Piri (S&D, the Netherlands), to allow for a plenary vote before the end of the provisional application of the agreement.

In addition to the plenary vote, Parliament will also vote on an accompanying resolution prepared by the political groups in the UK Co-ordination Group and the Conference of Presidents.

The meeting

When: Thursday, 14 January, at 10.00 CET.

Where: Room 6Q2 in Parliament’s Antall building in Brussels and remote participation.

You can follow it live here. (10.00-12.00 CET).

Here is the agenda.

Background

The new Trade and Co-operation agreement has been provisionally applied since 1 January 2021. For it to enter into force permanently, it requires the consent of the Parliament.

MEPs on the International Trade Committee held a first meeting on the new EU-UK deal on 11 January, during which they promised thorough scrutiny of the agreement. Read more here.

More information 

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Brexit

Ireland largest beneficiary from Brexit Adjustment Reserve

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The European Commission has published the allocation of pre-financing under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve, the allocation takes into account the relative degree of economic integration with the UK, and the negative implications on the EU fisheries sector. The fund will help counter the adverse consequences arising from the end of the UK’s transition period at the end of 2020.

The largest beneficiary will be Ireland (€1,051.9 million), followed by the Netherlands (€757.4m), Germany (€455.4m), France (€420.8m), Belgium (€324.1m), Denmark (€247.9m).The allocation reflects the needs of those most affected by the new relationship with the UK. While a crisis was averted by the free trade agreement, the new arrangements impose new red tape and barriers for many sectors. The allocation will help assist public administrations in the proper functioning of border, customs, sanitary and phytosanitary controls and to ensure essential services to the citizens and companies affected.

The Brexit Adjustment Reserve will cover expenditure in any over a period of 30 months and will be distributed in two rounds. The vast majority of the €5 billion is allocated in this first round, a smaller tranche of additional support will be distributed in 2024, in case the actual expenditure exceeds the initial allocation.

The Reserve can support measures such as: support to economic sectors, businesses and local communities, including those dependent on fishing activities in the UK waters;support to employment, including through short-time work schemes, re-skilling and training; ensuring the functioning of border, customs, sanitary and phytosanitary and security controls, fisheries control, certification and authorization regimes for products, communication, information and awareness raising for citizens and businesses.

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