THANK YOU Scotland. As the Scottish vote drew closer and closer, eyes from all over Europe focused in on the UK. Politicians from Germany, France, Spain, Sweden, Romania, Poland, Latvia, Luxembourg all stopped to quiz me on what was happening in Britain. There has been a new willingness to listen to British concerns and a refreshing “what can we do to help?” attitude.
The high turnout in the referendum and the intensity of the debate has helped reinforce our Conservative message that the people of the UK deserve a referendum on Europe too – and that the people of the UK want to see reform and change in the EU. Our messages are getting more traction.
In Brussels much of the focus has been on the new Commissioners especially as their job descriptions have been massively restructured. Instead of 28 individual portfolios for the 28 Commissioners from the 28 countries, there is now a top tier of 7 “Vice Presidents” and many overlapping job descriptions for the Commissioners beneath.
The First Vice President, former Dutch Foreign Minister, Frans Timmermans, has been given a job to oversee “Better Regulation”. Will he help rein back the Commissioners when they propose more and more EU laws?
Offering the financial services portfolio to Lord Hill, our British nominee for Commissioner, is seen as holding out an olive branch to Britain. His job will not be easy, there are some who believe that there has been too much EU law on financial services, others (mostly from the left) who want more.
Before they can take up their new roles they need to get a vote of support from the Parliament. In the next couple of weeks each Commissioner nominee will be grilled by MEPs in public hearings.
Five years ago our new group of Conservative and Reformists were allowed to chair just one half of one Commissioner hearing – this year I will help chair three. Elżbieta Bieńkowska from Poland who takes on internal market responsibilities, Věra Jourová from the Czech Republic who will cover consumer affairs, andAndrus Ansip, former Prime Minister of Estonia on digital markets.
I’ve spent the past couple of weeks meeting representatives from a huge cross-section of UK and EU industry to hear their different concerns and questions for Commissioners. I also had an excellent briefing from experts at consumer group “Which?” when I visited their call centre in Hertford earlier this month.
Science and Research
I have continued to meet many experts in medical research and patient organisations both in the East of England and in Europe.
One Cambridgeshire based group explained how their project, working with many international partners, is dramatically improving understanding of how nerve cells of individual epilepsy sufferers react. This is helping to develop personalised treatments tailored to each patient’s own cell responses. New technology and the ability to process “Big-data” are bringing huge advances in treating many different diseases.
What next for England
Finally! It is about time that the West Lothian question received some proper focus – of course it is not acceptable for Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish MPs to be able to vote on purely English matters. As a former local councillor I’m all for giving local councils more oversight over local issues too.
However, I do not want to see a reincarnation of the Regional Assembly structure that existed under the last Labour Government. In the East of England this was hugely bureaucratic and wasteful – I saw first-hand how it reinforced central government control and made it even more difficult for local councillors to represent local views.
The Clacton by election is coming up fast, with the date now set for Thursday 9th October. Many hundreds of residents attended the open primary and local Councillor Giles Watling was selected. He’s a great local character and is working very hard.
In recent years I’ve been very happy to help local councillors in Clacton and across Tendring District as they have fought (successfully) to bring more investment into the area and to keep local services.
It was great to be out and about with Giles on the day after his selection and see what a warm welcome he is getting. But he does need volunteers if the campaign is to succeed. Many thanks to those of you who came all the way from Norfolk on Saturday. If you can spare some time to help with the by election please do email firstname.lastname@example.org
Promooted by Vicky Ford of 153 St Neots Road, Hardwick, Cambs, CB23 7QJ
Vicky Ford MEP, UK Office, 153 St Neots Road, Hardwick, Cambridge, CB23 7QJ
Telephone: + 44 (0)1954 211722 | Email: email@example.com | Website: www.vickyford.com