Joint security now is more important than ever
'Brexit: the Security Dimension', my paper laying out the key issues surrounding Brexit and security, has been well received with positive feedback by those who have read it.
Since my paper’s publication, Article 50 has been triggered by Prime Minister Theresa May. With negotiations not starting for a couple of months it is too early to comment on progress.
However, I do not support using security as a bargaining chip in those negotiations to gain better trade terms.
The European Union is by no means perfect but it has brought peace and prosperity to Europe for the last half century and is a force for good in a modern world in which globalisation makes cross-border cooperation more necessary than ever.
During the referendum campaign there was no accepted view of what leaving the EU would look like and the terms for leaving were poorly outlined.
In particular, little debate was seen on the issues of security and foreign or defence concerns beyond the exaggerated threat of a standing “EU army” which is most unlikely to see the light of day any time soon - as my paper makes very clear.
That there was a clear majority in London for the UK to remain a member of the EU emboldens me to oppose the hard-line Brexiteers seeking to interpret the referendum as a means to completely detach Britain from Europe and all vestiges of political cooperation with the EU, and thus reject continued coordination on the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).
My report makes ten key recommendations and you can read it in full here.
Canada trade agreement proves worth of EU bloc
The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), and its lesser-known but still important companion political agreement, the Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) - for which I was the rapporteur in the EP - represent a major success story for the EU.
CETA is now the benchmark for all future EU Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements (DCFTAs), as well as for many existing trade deals the EU is seeking to upgrade. Just as CETA is successfully brought to a close, all eyes are now looking to Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
One of the sad ironies underpinning this for me as a British MEP is that just as many of these most ambitious trade deals negotiated by the EU start to take effect, the UK will be exiting the club as part of the regrettable result of the Brexit referendum.
CETA shows the value added brought by the EU in leveraging its influence as a combined bloc. It also disproves suggestions the multilateral model of the EU prevents trade deals with more advanced economies. Similar agreements have already been concluded with South Korea, Central America and a future one is being negotiated with South America.
It had been hoped that the success of CETA could provide the boost needed to reinvigorate talks on the much- publicised Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the US, called TTIP. However, the election of President Trump is discouraging given many of his comments during the campaign - rhetoric that is translating into isolationist policy in government.
Questioning the merits of globalisation and liberal free trade is by no means unique to America though. Populist parties in Europe and beyond are tapping into fears of wage stagnation and job insecurity felt by many in the Western world following the 2008 financial crisis.
Despite the pro-free trade rhetoric espoused by the political class supporting Brexit, the vote to leave was won on the basis of appealing to more protectionist reactions.
Another of the benefits of the EU approach to trade is the increasingly seen link between the trading aspects of the FTAs combined with the soft power ties seen in the companion political agreements. Indeed, I am currently overseeing the passage through the Parliament of the recently signed political agreement between the EU and New Zealand.
For the more advanced economies this often takes the form of working together at the multilateral level via regular joint-ministerial meetings to fight climate change, working together on intelligence sharing in the fight against international crime and terrorism, and shared foreign policy goals, whilst development goals and capacity building is emphasised for developing economies.
CETA and the Canada-EU SPA have illustrated that despite some hurdles - such as getting the Wallonian Parliament on board - the enthusiasm for ambitious FTAs is alive and well in the EU and such ambition can be matched by results.
Remembering Holocaust victims
Attending Holocaust Memorial service in the European Parliament where victims of genocide were remembered as well as rejection of religious hatred and radicalisation in the EU.
With Prime Minister of Montenegro Duško Markovic, on his visit to EU institutions to discuss Montenegrin EU accession ahead of my annual report on the subject.
Meeting Twickenham constituents
With Twickenham MP Tania Mathias meeting EU citizens in the constituency to reassure them they are welcome in the UK and make valuable contributions to London.
Wandsworth Brexit debate
With Wandsworth4EU supporters after a spirited and well informed debate about where next at the start of Brexit negotiations for pro-EU Londoners.
Interview on Washington visit
Giving an interview in the European Parliament to EuranetPlus TV on EU-USA relations ahead of UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s visit to Washington to meet the US President.
Macedonia crisis talks
Discussing in the European Parliament with Nikola Poposki, Foreign Minister of Macedonia, its constitutional crisis, EU accession progress, as well as post-Brexit UK-Macedonia relations.
Irish business meeting
Celebrating St Patricks and shared Irish heritage with Sean Kelly MEP at a reception organised by IBEC, Ireland’s business representation organisation.
US foreign affairs
With former US Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad and cross-party MEPs and the US Mission to the EU Chargé d’Affaires to learn about likely US President foreign affairs priorities.
Helping in Camden by-election
Supporting Camden Conservatives campaigning for Marx De Morais, Camden Council by-election candidate for Gospel Oak ward.
Meeting Canada PM Trudeau
Meeting Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau - he thanked me for my report on the Strategic Partnership Agreement between Canada and the EU.
India Speaker visit
With Lord Howell and the Speaker of the Indian Parliament Lok Sabha, the Hon. Sumitra Mahajan at India High Commission in London to welcome her official visit to the UK.
With fellow MEPs I met Ahmed Said, Chair of the Egyptian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs committee. Along with European Conservative and Reformist colleagues we discussed terrorism and instability in the region. Egypt as leader of the Arab world is key to peace and stability in the Middle-East. I have enjoyed close relations with London British Copts.
Remembrance in Battersea
With Jane Ellison MP meeting veterans following the Remembrance Sunday service at St Mary’s Church in Battersea.
Hard Brexit challenges
It was an honour to participate in a conference organised by the School of Law at Queen Mary University of London with learned jurists. We debated the huge challenges the UK Government will face to succeed with a hard Brexit policy.
Being awarded the Medal of Gratitude of Armenia by its President Serzh Azati Sargsyan for services in recognition of the Armenia Genocide in 1915.
On the rock
Catalan television with a Spanish MEP colleague discussing Gibraltar and EU guidelines on the Scottish Parliament veto post-Brexit to a Free Trade Agreement with the UK and the next Scotland Independence Referendum.
Western Balkans news
Being interviewed by NRT TV from Kurdistan explaining as the European Parliament Rapporteur for Montenegro its EU accession pathway and needed membership reforms. I am delighted my report on EU accession progress for Montenegro - the good news story of the Western Balkans - was passed by large majority of the European Parliament.
Future Commonwealth relations
Michael Lake, Director of The Royal Commonwealth Society and my MEP colleague Nirj Deva discussing future Commonwealth-UK and EU relations post-Brexit.
Central America and the EU
With Guatemalan Ambassador to the EU Jose A. Briz Gutierrez discussing EU/UK bilateral and regional Central American relations and strengthened cooperation.
Welcoming Ian Brady, CEO of homeless charity Depaul International and Simon Dow, Executive Chairman of the London Housing Foundation to the European Parliament.