Tuesday, 8 October 2019

EU soft power

Last month, the European Parliament published a briefing (pdf) on the soft power of the Parliament. I was going to leave it to a weekend to comment more fully, but an intervention by Tory MP Vicki Ford yesterday unconsciously pointed up one of the advantages of our EU membership.

Vicky Ford (Chelmsford) (Con)
In the most recent general election, more Chelmsford constituents emailed me about the environment and animal welfare than about all other issues put together. I am enormously proud of the way in which the Government are leading the world on protecting the environment and on endangered species. Does my hon. Friend agree that the Lib Dem’s suggestion that this deal, which is to resolve the issues on the Irish border, could somehow be used to undermine our standards on the environment, animal welfare or workers’ rights is pure scaremongering and totally irresponsible?

That lead by UK parliamentarians on animal welfare has been carried on in the European Parliament, too. Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder has led the way, supported by fellow-liberals from other nations and Ms Ford's own party colleagues in Brussels. The EU as a whole is all the better for this. Is Ms Ford not grateful for the fact that throughout most of Europe, there is an animal protection protocol? More than that,  proponents of animal rights have been able to use the power of the EU to improve animal welfare in third world countries. Leaving the EU may not weaken our own environmental protection laws, but it will reduce our power to improve protection elsewhere. Moreover, it will increase the pressure to weaken our farming standards, especially if we are bullied into an adverse trade agreement with the US.

As to workers' rights, Ms Ford may not remember the prolonged resistance by the Labour government to EU measures to reduce excessive overtime and to counter ageism in the workplace. Before Blair-Brown, her own governments had shown no great enthusiasm to legislate in this area, either.

1 comment:

Frank Little said...

There is another example here, in this case using trade agreements to press overseas trade partners to reduce their ecological impact. One cannot imagine this very laissez-faire Tory government even attempting this in post-Brexit trade agreements.