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Your Update from Catherine 24

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Dear Reader,

Huge congratulations to Tim Farron on his election as our new leader, and commiserations to Norman Lamb.  We were served well by both of them who ran good and fully engaged campaigns.  We are lucky to have two such competent people prepared to lead this party of ours.

As you know I was supporting Tim as I believe he has special skills to revive the fortunes of the party by connecting with the voters and motivating thousands of activists to turn thousands more liberals into Liberal Democrats.

As well as fighting for seats in the Welsh, Scottish and London assemblies and council seats in England next year, I hope Tim can help make an emotional case for why Britain should stay in the EU in the referendum which I am expecting to take place later next year.

And now August is upon us – the schools have broken up and we’re all chomping at the bit for a couple of well-earned weeks off.

I hope none of you need them but I should remind you to order an EHIC card, which entitles you to free healthcare across Europe and the emergency number, 112, which you can call in case of an emergency wherever you are.

Now all that’s left for me to do is to wish you all healthy, happy and restful holidays!


MEPs back TTIP but call for ISDS to be scrapped

I was really pleased the European Parliament is backing the EU-US trade deal (TTIP) that could boost the UK economy by up to £10 billion a year. This deal will benefit the UK as much as any country in the EU, especially the small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

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Thousands of my constituents wrote to me expressing their concern over the controversial Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), which is why Liberal MEPs demanded ISDS be replaced by a transparent and accountable form of investor protection that protects the right of governments to regulate in the public interest.

We are also calling on negotiators to ensure EU environmental and consumer standards are not lowered, public services such as the NHS are excluded and the negotiations are made fully transparent.

The needs of small businesses must be prioritised in the talks, with a focus on lifting bureaucratic barriers to make it easier for small firms and entrepreneurs to export to the US.

The Parliament's seal of approval gives the European Commission a decisive democratic basis to conclude trade talks with the US.


Meeting new Lib Dem members in Guildford

Last Friday I was in Guildford chatting with the local party about my role as an MEP, the EU and the future of Britain’s relationship with it.

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I was very impressed by the number of new members who came along.

For me this was the Lib Dem fightback and it’s happening all across the South East and up and down the country.

As a party we have consistently proved to be the most committed to Europe, the most internationalist and we must continue to make this case.

I will continue to get around the constituency as much as possible to ensure our activists know as much about the EU so you are all armed with the facts on the doorsteps and in debates with friends and family.

This is by no means an easy task we have on our hands but Guildford has proved the knocking we had at the General Election has only made us hungrier to win this battle.

If you want me or another speaker to come and talk policies or campaigning with your new members contact my Oxford office and we will see what we can do to help.


Euromyth Buster

The Daily Telegraph makes a meal of EU embassies buying crockery.

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The Daily Telegraph published an article claiming the EU’s European External Action Service (EEAS) was “ordering a £2m dinner service fit for an emperor”.

Actually the Commission is bulk buying all the crockery, cutlery and glasses, etc that all of its 140 delegations – equivalent to embassies – across the world will need for the next 4 years and doing so in the most economical way, with a flexible contract.

€3m is the absolute maximum that can be spent over four years, but only items actually needed and supplied will be paid for and the real amount spent is likely to be much less.

The bottom line is that all diplomatic operations have to host events and that means buying crockery and replacing it when it breaks or is worn.

The EEAS budget is lower than those of many national diplomatic services.


Right to photograph European landmarks safeguarded

I was relieved MEPs rejected a controversial proposal that would require photographers to get permission from copyright holders before commercially using photos of landmarks and public places.

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Contrary to reports in the media, the proposal put forward by a French MEP  came as part of a European Parliament non-legislative report to feed into new Commission proposals on copyright law and so would not have been binding.

Yet many people in Europe were concerned that if the clause passed it would send a dangerous signal that Freedom of Panorama (FOP) in the EU should be restricted. Over 500,000 people signed a petition calling on MEPs to reject the proposal.

Both UKIP and members of  Britain's right-wing media jumped at the opportunity to stoke fears about the EU infringing on our right to take photographs.

However in the end, only half of UKIP’s 22 Euro MPs bothered to turn up to vote.

It is frustrating to see UKIP spend more time spreading myths in the UK than standing up for their constituents in Brussels.

It makes absolutely no sense to restrict photos of public buildings in the digital age and I am pleased the right to photograph European landmarks has been safeguarded.


EU sets ambitious new limits to curb deadly air pollution

Under the new law, binding targets will ensure EU governments will improve air quality and reduce pollution, much of which ends up flowing across national borders.

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Much of my time lately has been taken up with my work as the ALDE shadow on the air pollution legislation.  Air pollution is an invisible killer we cannot afford to ignore. More than ten times as many people die in Europe each year as a result of air pollution than from accidents on our roads.

If people were being forced to drink dirty water rather than breathing dirty air, no one would be questioning the need to take action.

An estimated 29,000 early deaths occur each year in the UK as a result of air pollution. Recent evidence suggests the real toll could be as high as 60,000, making it one of the country's biggest causes of early deaths after smoking.

The new EU targets would prevent up to 74,000 premature deaths a year across Europe and lead to health savings of between £28bn and £98bn.

While the vote passed, I was disappointed Conservative MEPs voted against the air quality law and the UK government tried to weaken the legislation by lowering the overall targets and exempting methane altogether.

To date many areas in the South East have exceeded European pollution controls. It is the role of local authorities to monitor and enforce air pollution levels. Areas worst affected by air pollution include SouthamptonBrightonMaidstoneThanet and Oxford.

These new national targets will mean responsibility is removed from the hands of local authorities – after all air has a habit of moving around, making it very hard for Councils to control.

 


Did you Know?

There are 28 Commissioners – one from each EU member country and they are nominated by their governments for a five-year term.

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When thinking about who to send to Brussels, governments will consider various factors such as EU experience, diplomatic skills and the Commission portfolio to which they may be assigned.

However a Commissioner's job is to act in the European interest, not to advance the interests of their own country.

Before they can become Commissioners they must be approved by the democratically elected European Parliament who test the new Commissioners on their assigned policy area.

If they are approved, Commissioners act like senior civil servants heading a large department, or in Brussels speak a Directorate General (DG).  Each DG initiates new EU legislation which is voted on by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers (ministers from each member state, see next newsletter).

The current British Commissioner is Lord Hill and his key policy area is financial services.

Best wishes,

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