• Hill hearings: a preview

    One of the most highly anticipated Commissioner cross-examinations kicks off today in the European Parliament at 12:30 (UK time): that of the British nominee, Lord Hill. By way of setting the scene, I’ve been asked many times in the last few days whether Parliament is ‘gunning for’ Lord Hill, or indeed any of the other […]

  • Tweets for birds

    In the build-up to this week’s public hearings in the European Parliament of European Commission candidates, one of the issues I’ve most been contacted on by constituents is illegal bird hunting in Malta (thanks to the visibility brought to the issue by Springwatch’s Chris Packham). The many passionate emails and tweets I’ve received wanted to […]

  • How to improve scrutiny

    As I said yesterday, the Conservatives’ claim that they’re trying to claw back an over-active EU, which has over-regulated and inflicted red tape on hapless countries against their will, should be taken with a pinch of salt. No EU legislation can be adopted without the support of an overwhelming majority of national governments. A ‘qualified […]

  • Yes, reform — but what reform?

    On the EU, there is scarcely a politician of any mainstream party who isn’t saying “reform!”. But what reforms? There’s no agreed cross-party reform agenda in the UK, nor is there an agreed a coalition one. There isn’t even a single Tory agenda, given the deep divisions on Europe in the Conservative party. Nonetheless, 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 […]