Blog

  • The resilience of Grimbarians

    Yesterday I spent a day in Grimsby, on the south side of the Humber estuary, meeting representatives of the fishing, ports and food industries that are so important to the town and its surrounding area. Fishing issues in particular are a priority for me in the new Parliament, as I’ve secured a seat on the […]

  • Stirring up nationalism

    Despite the No vote, the Scottish referendum shows just how powerful a force nationalism remains. The big challenges facing mankind — peace, climate change, prosperity, social justice — are not going to be solved more easily by having more states. And solving them might possibly be made more difficult. High turnouts are always to be […]

  • Weasels, wikis and the Beeb

    A rather dubious claim has crept into quite a few recent BBC articles on the process for appointing the new European Commission: The Commission is seen as the most powerful EU institution, as it drafts EU laws, ensures compliance with EU treaties and negotiates far-reaching trade deals with international partners. “The most powerful EU institution”? […]

  • Scotland and the EU: the facts

    I am often asked whether an independent Scotland can become an EU member. The answer is simple: it can, but not without going through a lengthy procedure with several potential pitfalls. The EU treaties list the member states. Scotland is not on that list. To become a member state with a seat at the table […]

  • Deputy leadership

    I am delighted that my fellow Labour MEPs elected me yesterday evening as their Deputy Leader, a position that became vacant as a result of Claude Moraes moving on to become Chair of Parliament’s committee that deals with European police and justice cooperation. It was a contested election, so I am especially pleased to have […]

  • Putin, Ukraine and UKIP

    I was in the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee today when it voted 49-8 in favour of the EU’s trade agreement with Ukraine, preparing the way for a simultaneous ratification of the agreement by both Ukrainian and European parliaments next week. This reaffirms, in a practical and non-military way, the support of 28 European democracies […]

  • Vetting Juncker’s new Commission

    Putting together the next Commission isn’t as vital as you might think. After all, Commissioners don’t make EU laws — they only provide the first drafts, for elected governments and MEPs to debate and decide. But there’s still been a fair bit of fuss among the Brussels media (and predictably almost none in Britain) about […]

  • A fair share of MEPs

    One interesting issue that I didn’t mention in my discussion of the outvoting debate a couple of days ago is the question of the ratio of MEPs to population for each country. The Telegraph seems to be suggesting that there’s a problem: Britain has around ten per cent of the seats in Brussels, and is […]

  • Suck it up, Henry

    A lot of dust has been kicked up in the last couple of days about new Europe-wide rules on hoovers. As usual, things are not quite what the media is making them out to be. The European Commission does a nice job of laying out the facts about the new measures, which are (surprise!) somewhat […]

  • Are British MEPs usually outvoted?

    I sent this letter to the editor of the Telegraph today. Sir, The eurosceptic pressure group ‘Business for Britain’ has attempted to unpick the voting record of ‘the British’ in the European Parliament (How British MEPs are outvoted time and again in Brussels, 1 September). Sadly, their analysis is full of holes. First there’s the […]

  • Tusk: defeat or victory for Cameron?

    After all the fuss about Juncker, it was striking how little comment there was in Britain about the choice of Donald Tusk to be the next President of the European Council (the person chosen by prime ministers and presidents to chair their “summit” meetings). BBC TV news the next morning didn’t even mention it in […]

  • Lessons from history

    Spending my summer break pottering along the Baltic coast from Germany through Poland, Lithuania and Latvia is a reminder of how recently Europe saw horrific slaughters like those now on our television screens in Iraq and Syria. I write these words from Bialystok, where, seventy-five years ago, the Jewish community comprised almost two thirds of […]