News Releases | 2013

Dismay over EU legal action

30-May-2013 @ 17:0

Conservative MEPs today reacted to European Commission plans to take court action against Britain over benefit-tourism safeguards.
Anthea McIntyre and Timothy Kirkhope spoke out after the Commission announced so-called infringement proceedings against the UK over the ‘right to reside’ test applied to EU migrants seeking certain welfare benefits. Commission officials claim the test breaches EU law because British citizens pass it automatically.
Miss McIntyre, Conservative employment spokesman in the European Parliament, said: "Commissioners don't seem to realise how thin the British public's patience with Europe is wearing. This is no time for unnecessary provocation.
Mr Kirkhope, a former Home Office minister and Conservative spokesman on Justice and Home Affairs in the parliament, said the case demonstrated the need for a Europe-wide overhaul of the way benefits rules are applied.
The Commission considers that criteria already laid down by EU law are strict enough and thus ensure that only those people who have actually moved their centre of interest to a Member State are considered habitually resident.
Mr Kirkhope observed: "The UK was not the only member state on whom the Commission launched infringement proceedings today. Spain has had complaints about the refusal by Spanish hospitals to recognise the European Health Insurance card, the Commission has asked Finland to remove restrictions on migrant workers entitlements to unemployment benefits, and the Commission continues action against Lithuania to uphold EU citizen's rights of free movement for their families across Europe.
"Britain already has support from Germany, the Netherlands and Austria. The UK has an opportunity to lead and build strong coalitions in Europe which create reform, allowing only those that contribute to British society to access to social welfare, but still ensure freedom of movement in order to allow the British economy to grow, the single market to flourish, and allow the millions of Britons who have chosen to live elsewhere in the European Union to have fair access and rights to other Member States social welfare systems.
Miss McIntyre said: "Britain has very good reason to apply these tests. Our benefits tend to be universal and means-tested, whereas those some other parts of Europe tend to be earned through insurance payments - that is, by long-term residence.
"That's why these rules are entirely appropriate for Britain. Similar rules also exist in Holland, Germany and Austria.
"I certainly welcome efforts to increase mobility for those what wish to work, but I do not welcome measures that will inadvertently provide incentives to those who want to come to the UK not to work.
"This decision to target the UK is disproportionate and downright unhelpful at a time when the Britain's future in Europe is the subject of so much controversy."

Online gambling reforms - odds-on steady progress

30-May-2013 @ 14:0

Proposed measures to revamp regulation of the online gaming industry represent a small step forward.

Stevenson welcomes fish-talks result

30-May-2013 @ 10:0

Years of negotiation over the future of European fishing reached a successful conclusion in the early hours today.
Three-way talks between the EU Parliament, Commission and Council eventually reached final agreement on reform of the controversial Common Fisheries Policy, subject to only a few formalities.
Struan Stevenson, Conservative fisheries spokesman in the Parliament, welcomed the deal as one which finally offered British fishing a future.
The Scots MEP, who is senior vice-president of the Fisheries Committee, said: "It is fantastic news that after many years, months, weeks and finally late-night hours of dedicated work, we have arrived at a sensible compromise on the future reform of the Common Fisheries Policy which will enable us to deliver a better future for our fishermen and fishing communities.
"The final compromise thrashed out in the wee small hours has delivered a meaningful element of regionalisation, devolving day to day management of fisheries back to the member states and to the fishermen themselves and wresting control away from the micro-managers in Brussels who have done so much damage to the industry over decades."
"We have also reached a reasonable compromise on the controversial issue of discards, which will see this wasteful practice phased out over the next few years in a way that is both practical and achievable by our fleet."
"Against the background of improving fish stocks in UK waters, I believe that this agreement can now provide our fishing sector with a good future."

Fresh boost for single seat campaign

28-May-2013 @ 16:0

Further backing for the European Parliament single-seat campaign came today in a key decision by MEPs on the Petitions Committee - despite attempts to cut short the debate and suppress the initiative.
Conservative MEP Giles Chichester, who has responsibility for drafting the committee's opinion on the issue, stoutly resisted attempts by French, Greek and Romanian MEPs to declare the opinion out of order.
He said: "Some MEPs for some reason want to continue the wasteful travelling circus between Brussels and Strasbourg. They were trying every trick in the book to stop this opinion going ahead. But we stuck to our guns and continued work on an opinion which I hope will add clout to the campaign for a common sense solution."
The Parliament's Constitutional Affairs Committee, under the guidance of another Conservative MEP Ashley Fox, is preparing a report on how the Parliament should bring its will to bear on the single seat question.
The advice from Mr Chichester's Petitions Committee will now feed into that report.
Most of the European Parliament's work is done at its huge complex of offices and debating chambers in Brussels, but once a month 754 MEPs, 3,000 staff and 25 trucks carrying documents and equipment all decamp to Strasbourg in France.
The trek costs an estimated £160 million a year, in a report now 10 years out-of-date, and needlessly pumps 20,000 tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere. Despite a clear majority of MEPs opposing the arrangement, it remains in place because of a stipulation in the EU treaties to stage 12 sessions a year in Strasbourg.
Today's committee opinion notes that the parliament has received several petitions in protest, one signed by more than a million EU citizens. Despite that, repeated attempts by the committee since 2006 to put the issue on parliament's agenda have been obstructed.
The opinion says plainly that the Parliament would be "more effective, cost-efficient and respectful of the environment if it were located in a single place."
It notes: "The continuation of the monthly migration between Brussels and Strasbourg has become a symbolic negative issue among most EU citizens which is detrimental to the Parliament's reputation."
Finally, the opinion calls for Parliament to stage a defining debate on the issue and "if an appropriate majority vote is recorded, recommends that Parliament propose treaty changes under Article 48."
Mr Chichester said: "Stubborn self-interest and backroom fixes are the only reason this arrangement is still in place. We are saying: let's get the whole thing properly debated and decided by elected representatives, let's have the whole discussion out in the open and let's come to a solution that shows some accountability to the electorate."

Single seat - constitutional arguments support common sense

28-May-2013 @ 10:0

The European Parliament's members must ultimately be allowed to decide how the institution should organise its own business.
That is the message from a hearing at the Parliament in Brussels organised by its Constitutional Affairs Committee.
Most importantly, the will of MEPs should be paramount in deciding the key question of where the Parliament holds its sessions, the hearing was told.
Ashley Fox MEP, a leading figure in Single Seat Campaign to scrap wasteful parliamentary sessions in Strasbourg, helped organise the hearing and is the co-author of a report for the committee on "The location of the seats of the EU institutons".
In advance of the meeting, the Conservative MEP for South West England said: "Most MEPs want the parliament to sit only in Brussels and that majority is growing all the time. They know that the monthly trips to Strasbourg are a huge waste of money, time and energy.
"The travelling circus is an attack on the environment, an insult to the taxpayer and an affront to common sense."
Most of the European Parliament's work is done at its huge complex of offices and debating chambers in Brussels, but once a month 754 MEPs, 3,000 staff and 25 trucks carrying documents and equipment all decamp to Strasbourg in France.
The trek costs £160 million a year and needlessly pumps 20,000 tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere.
Earlier this year the European Parliament voted by 429 MEPs to 184 to call for a single seat. However, stopping the yoyo travel schedule would require a treaty change.
Mr. Fox has launched an e-petition - www.stopthestrasbourgcircus.com - which aims to persuade the UK Government to intervene on this key issue by pressing the EU Council to amend treaties to ditch the dual-seat farce.
Experts addressing the hearing included Olivier Costa, of the Institut d'Etudes Politiques, Bordeaux, Richard Whitaker of Leicester University, Herwig Hoffman of Luxembourg University, and Andreas Maurer of Innsbruck University.
Professor Costa told the hearing the parliament's inability to decide its seat impacted not only on the physical organisation of the assembly but also on its agenda and reactivity.
Professor Whitaker said MEPs suffered negative media coverage over the seat of the parliament even though they were not permitted to decide it. Giving them power over their location would increase the accountability of MEPs for the way they conducted their business.
Mr. Fox said: "The practical and economic arguments for ending the dual-seat system are clear and undeniable. I hope today's hearing will also start to put in place the key constitutional, legal and philosophical arguments which will underpin our campaign."

US Trade talks herald a win-win boost for Britain

23-May-2013 @ 14:0

Britain can expect to benefit hugely if a comprehesive free trade agreement can be negotiated between the European Union and the USA, a leading champion of the talks said today.

Socialist Schulz - the Oliver Twist of Brussels

22-May-2013 @ 18:0

European Parliament President Martin Schulz should learn the meaning of budgetary discipline and stop forever demanding more, the leader of Britain's Conservative MEPs said today.
Richard Ashworth said of German Socialist Mr Schulz: "He has an answer to every budgetary difficulty, but sadly it is always the same one - demanding more money from the hard-pressed taxpayer.
"He must start to appreciate that there is more than one way to balance the books. In such tough economic times the right way is to spend less."
Mr Ashworth was speaking as Mr Schulz was expected to deliver a stubborn ultimatum to Europe's national leaders at today's European summit in Brussels. The president has infuriated proponents of budgetary restraint by insisting that national governments immediately pay in full €11.2bn to cover the EU's unpaid bills from last year - before negotiations can restart to settle the bloc's long-term budget blueprint up to 2020.
South East MEP Mr Ashworth said: "He is the Oliver Twist of Brussels. Always wanting more, never able to make do with less, a stranger to the idea of budgetary discipline.
"He may be trying to blackmail Europe's elected leaders by adopting such an aggressive and uncompromising position, but the people he is really holding to ransom are Europe's taxpayers.
"When tough spending choices are being made across the continent, when police officers, soldiers, carers and labourers are all losing their jobs, nobody can remotely justify handing over more money for the EU to lavish on vanity projects, pork-barrel politics and its own bureaucracy."

EU banking union sets in place the basis of a multi-speed Europe

22-May-2013 @ 13:0

An agreement reached on the EU Banking Union is a 'seminal' moment that sets in place a mechanism for a multi-speed EU, Kay Swinburne MEP said today as MEPs held a vote on a single supervisor for Eurozone banks.

MEPs in dust-up over Euro

22-May-2013 @ 12:0

In an unprovoked attack today, German MEP Elmar Brok criticised Yorkshire and The Humber Conservative MEP Timothy Kirkhope over his continued opposition to the Euro currency.
During a debate on European monetary union, Mr Brok accused Mr Kirkhope of failing to understand the benefits of membership of the euro for all European countries - including the UK.
As one of the leading opponents of UK involvement in the euro and a staunch supporter of the pound, Mr Kirkhope was angry at the astonishing attack.
"I was surprised at Mr Brok's outburst," said Mr Kirkhope.
"He may be frustrated at the fact that Germany has been baling out other Member States who subscribe to the Euro currency, but he has no right to criticise me or the UK for its decision to remain outside of it.
"I will be asking Mr Brok for an apology and reminding him that I will continue to fight against any proposal to oblige the UK to lose its pound.
"These matters are for the British people to decide and I am sure they will always want to keep the pound."

Callanan: EU summit should bring concrete results on energy prices and tax evasion

21-May-2013 @ 17:0

Speaking in a debate in the European Parliament ahead of tomorrow’s European Council meeting, European Conservatives and Reformists group leader Martin Callanan said that the agenda contained two ‘worthy’ and ‘concrete’ issues – tax evasion and energy prices – that need concrete action to make Europe more competitive.
Speaking on tax evasion, he welcomed the focus on clamping down on illegal means, but said that cooperation should not be used as a cover for tax harmonisation, and that the best way to prevent tax fraud is to have a more competitive and simple tax regime.
As for energy, he called for a ‘thorough trawl’ through all EU policies with reform or repeal of those that exacerbate energy prices. These could range from climate policies like the ETS through to financial services legislation, which could impede private investment in infrastructure.
Mr Callanan also warned against a one-size-fits-all approach, and said that following the Greens down a road of closing off certain energy options would be ‘the sure way to make the lights go out in Europe.’

Conservatives win through for UK Offshore Oil and Gas industry

21-May-2013 @ 13:0

British MEPs today declared victory in their long-running battle over offshore oil safety rules.
Since the Gulf of Mexico crisis there have been continual calls from some MEPs effectively to shut down oil and gas drilling in Europe. EU officials made a power grab over the offshore industry by proposing a European super-regulator for the industry and one-size-fits-all safety legislation.

North Sea oil and gas companies pointed out that the European draft legislation would make the industry less safe and would cost over £140 million in legal and administration fees to implement.

Yes to tackling tax evasion - No to a common euro-tax!

21-May-2013 @ 9:0

Conservative MEPs will today refuse to back moves which they fear would be a first step towards a common corporation tax - imposed right across Europe and decided in Brussels.
The worrying measures come in two reports put before the European Parliament today. Both set out ostensibly to tackle tax evasion - but they spoil that good intent with a raft of sweeping proposals which could be used to pave the way for a common tax regime.
Conservative MEPs are vehemently opposed to the idea of a so-called Common Consolidated Consolidated Tax Base (CCCTB) and so will abstain on the package as a whole, despite their strong support for all sensible measures to ensure that multi-nationals pay their taxes fully, fairly and squarely.
One of the reports, by Slovenian Socialist MEP Mojca Kleva Kekus, not only calls for the CCCTB but would also hugely boost EU powers by allowing the Commission to negotiate tax agreements with third powers.
Kay Swinburne MEP, Conservative spokesman on economic and monetary affairs, said: "It is abhorrent that some multinational companies are working to the best of their ability to pay as little corporation tax as possible.
"The game of cat and mouse with global companies over corporate taxation is not new, yet over the last 15 years it seems that many governments have given companies an easy ride.
"I firmly believe in tax sovereignty. Not only do Member States have a responsibility to deal with their own companies and jurisdictions, they have a responsibility to ensure that their tax law doesn't create perverse incentives globally.
"The only way to address this is via the G8 and the G20. David Cameron is leading the debate internationally to find ways of solving these problems.
"Globally agreed standards for reporting, exchange of relevant quality data and simplified tax systems, collecting tax on world-wide income where appropriate, will ensure fairness in taxation globally.
"The FTT (Financial Transactions Tax) debate and the Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base are distractions, as are debates around EU own resources and creating new EU lists for identifying tax havens.
"We need to focus on overcoming the remaining hurdles in order achieve a new global cooperation that will really make a difference instead of getting involved in new projects that will simply increase companies' incentives to avoid EU taxation entirely.
In these reports the European Parliament has missed an opportunity to make a real difference. The Socialists have insisted on adding their own anti-capitalist dogma which is divisive and very unhelpful. I call on them to drop it and pay attention to the main issue of tackling tax evasion and driving economic growth."

Deva says we must stop the rise of Jihadist states in Africa

15-May-2013 @ 17:00

A conference of donor nations and charities in Brussels today aims to mobilise and coordinate support for strife-torn Mali.

Britain's long-term EU budget goal "in sight"

15-May-2013 @ 11:0

Agreement on an extra €7.3 billion in this year's EU budget should pave the way for a long-term spending settlement which delivers a series of key British objectives, the leader of the UK's Conservative MEPs said today.
Richard Ashworth was speaking after Finance Ministers sitting in the EU Council decided by qualified majority that in theory they would allow the extra spending towards unpaid bills run up last year by member states - including Britain - on EU projects.
The European Parliament, which has co-decision powers with the Council on budget matters, has insisted that key negotiations on the EU's long-term budget blueprint to 2020 could go no further until the matter of the so-called "draft amending budget" for 2013 was settled.
The UK along with Sweden, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands were in a minority in opposing the extra spending, but Mr Ashworth said today that what might appear to be a backward step could help deliver a better long-term deal for Britain in the seven-year Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF).
In announcing its new position, Council said the extra money for 2013 would only be finally approved once MEPs agreed final terms on the long-term budget.
Mr Ashworth said: "If this measure is finally agreed next week between Parliament and Council, it should mean Britain achieving its key goals for the long-term budget - including the Prime Minister's historic deal for the first ever budget reduction. We should see the seven-year budget fall by 3.3 per cent and a lid firmly put on the idea of the EU raising its own funding through own-resources taxation.
"All of those are worth striving for and it is now incumbent on the Parliament to accept the current position and stop coming back with demands for more cash."
As a key UK negotiator in the Parliament on budget, the South East MEP has been concerned that the political log-jam over the 2013 budget could threaten the prospects of a sound seven-year agreement.
He said: "The issue of the amending budget has been a cloud over our talks, but it could prove to have a silver lining if it helps deliver the right agreement on MFF. This puts a good long-term deal in sight."

Welcome for serious action on petrol-price allegations

15-May-2013 @ 15:0

Conservative MEP Vicky Ford, who has consistently pushed for EU action against petrol price-fixing, today welcomed the launch of a major investigation into manipulation of the oil and petrol market.
Working in co-operation with Harlow MP Robert Halfon, Mrs. Ford has tabled a series of parliamentary questions in Brussels urging the European Commission to probe serious allegations of price-manipulation levelled against major oil companies.
Yesterday the Commission announced a wide-ranging investigation as officials raided the offices of leading firms including Shell and BP.
Mrs. Ford, MEP for the East of England and Conservative spokesman on Industry, Research and Energy, said: "We have been working together to give the Commission a serious push on this issue.
"I persistently questioned them and urged them to sit up and take notice of this important issue. It is very pleasing that now they have.
"Sometimes when you ask questions of the EU you feel as though they disappear into a black hole, but it looks as though this time the right people have listened.
"I hope the investigation now underway will be as thorough and wide-reaching as it needs to be to root out any malpractice and reassure consumers that in future they will not be cheated.
"Motorists need be in the driving seat - not taken for a ride."

Rogue MEP's Falklands intervention condemned

10-May-2013 @ 11:0

Conservatives in Brussels are to demand that the European Parliament"s authorities rein in a Spanish MEP after he told Argentina the EP did not accept British sovereignty over the Falkland Islands.

Sturdy: EU solar panels duties are a really dim idea

08-May-2013 @ 17:0

An eye-watering EU duty of 47 percent on solar panels from China, proposed today, puts thousands of jobs at risk in Europe, whilst pushing prices of solar panels through the roof, Robert Sturdy MEP, Conservative trade spokesman and Vice-President of the European Parliament's International Trade committee, said today.
The duties represent the most significant EU anti-dumping response, with China exported solar panels and their components being worth around €21 billion to the EU. The EU responded to a complaint by an industry association called EU ProSun, which claimed that the solar panels from China were being 'dumped' (they were entering European markets at prices cheaper than their market value).
However, Mr Sturdy said that anti-dumping cases must always consider the wider interests of the EU, and in this case such duties will do far more harm than good, costing jobs, forcing up prices for consumers, running contrary to EU environmental policy, and damaging the trading relationship with China. He is calling on national governments to reject the proposal.
The trade spokesman for the European Conservatives and Reformists group in the European Parliament, said:
"This is a really dim idea from the European Commission. The commission has failed to take into account the much wider implications of these duties on companies that import and install solar panels, and their customers who will have to pay much more.
"The European Union wants to promote renewable energy but then imposes a massive duty on solar panels. The left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing.
"This decision will have wide ramifications for our trading relationship with China. Such a significant and punitive duty surely will not go unnoticed or unpunished by Beijing.
"EU trade policy needs to stop putting parochial interests first and start to look at the wider picture. Trade defence is based on strict criteria, but not on basic common sense and consideration of the consequences of these actions on the wider EU economy.
"EU trade interests, consumers and businesses will be hit hard by this decision. The Commission needs to look at this in a different light."

Struan hails black-pudding breakthrough

08-May-2013 @ 14:0

Scots MEP Struan Stevenson today welcomed a decision to grant protected status to Stornoway black pudding.
The decision means that only products made in the Isle of Lewis town can be labelled and marketed as "Stornoway" black pudding and puts it on a par with Parma ham, Roquefort cheese and Champagne.
Mr Stevenson said: "Black pudding from Stornoway is well-known and well-loved around the world and this decision means it cannot be be faked or counterfeited. People will not be allowed to pass off inferior puddings made elsewhere as Stornoway puddings.
"It's a good day for Stornoway and a good day for black pudding."

Accounting standards need scrutiny to make sure banks behave

08-May-2013 @ 18:0

Conservatives MEPs today called for the regime for global accounting standards to be held up to thorough international scrutiny in light of the central role it played in causing the financial crisis.
The MEPs a series of key questions at a hearing in the European Parliament on the future of International Financial Reporting Standards.
With the European Commission set to commit to another six years of funding for both the International Accounting Standards Board and the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group - the bodies which respectively write the standards and grant them the EU's legal endorsement - the hearing flagged up several major areas requiring attention on in depth.
Host Syed Kamall MEP, Conservative MEP for London, said: "It cannot just be business as usual. We need to be sure we get to a regime which is clear and simple but also thorough and a powerful tool for better governance. Time is passing and this needs addressing now."
International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) are globally-recognised accounting standards that have been used in the EU for the accounts of banking groups and other listed companies for more than 20 years. Some investors believe that their complexity allows banks to misrepresent the reality of their balance sheets, making it hard to know what may be wrong with their finances.
Some of the standards are said to have contributed to the crisis, in particular those relating to how derivatives and losses on loans are recognised on balance sheets.
Dr Kamall, Conservative MEP for London, believes that fresh call for European banks to be stress-tested once more, to identify possible capital shortfalls, means transparency in banks' balance sheets should be top priority for the Commission.
He has been fighting hard to raise awareness of the issue at a European level.
At today's event, organised by the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants, he said: "The European accounting model has developed over several centuries and is about far more than simply providing information to the capital markets"
"Accounts in this context are drivers of better governance, not just about information for investors."
"It is important to discuss the extent to which IFRS, which run up to several thousand pages of rules, can achieve these aims. Often the more rules there are, the easier they are to get around."
"The G20 commitment is to strengthen the global financial system. We have to ask ourselves whether converging around complex, wordy accounting standards is something that will stave off future crises."

NATO Secretary General comments on EU defence policy

06-May-2013 @ 18:0

Conservative Security and Defence spokesman, Geoffrey Van Orden MEP, today stated that European defence policy was merely a case of the EU looking for ways to justify its existence and push for more European integration.