Condemning Trump’s Trophy Hunting Madness

Condemning Trump’s Trophy Hunting Madness

John has signed a cross-party letter urging Donald Trump to halt attempts to lift the ban on elephant trophy hunting imports from Zimbabwe. 

The letter, written by Catherine Bearder MEP, gained the support of 63 cross-party MEPs and calls on Trump to instead work together with the EU and tackle rapidly declining biodiversity.

If successful, Trump’s plans would support the trophy hunting industry in Zimbabwe, a highly profit driven trade which employs a very small number of people, with very little benefit to local economies and conservation programmes.

John said, "I welcome my colleague's initiative and I am happy to sign this letter along with MEPs of all parties – it is very important that there is concern right across the political spectrum on this appalling action. The trade trophy hunting relics undermines the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) agreement. The actions of Mr Trump will bring the extinction of important species closer."

Like so much President Trump does, the measures have an uncomfortable closeness to the proclivities of the Trump family. His offspring are pictured above with wild animals that they have bravely killed from a distance and an elephant tail trophy. African elephants are endangered species listed under CITES since 1976.  

The text of the letter reads as follows:

8th March 2018

Dear President Trump,

We are disturbed by your administration’s decision to lift the ban on elephant trophy imports from Zimbabwe. Elephants are endangered species and play important roles in the ecosystem maintaining the environment for hundreds of animal and plant species. African elephants have suffered catastrophic declines and studies have shown that trophy hunting is contributing to this downward trend.

Unlike poaching, trophy hunting is legal in Zimbabwe, however trophy hunting does not help with conservation efforts. The hunting business in Africa is a highly profit driven trade which employs a very small number of people and the revenue that trickles into local communities and conservation programmes is insignificant. In reality, wildlife management in many African countries is fraught with corruption.

In the European Union we have a comprehensive Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking which sets out a strategy for EU Member States to curb the scourge of the illegal wildlife trade which is causing irreversible damage to the planet and our society. Trophy hunting is proven to feed that illegal market and encourage the trade in illegal ivory.

We believe that the EU and the US should be working together to tackle the issue of rapidly declining biodiversity. The idea of killing elephants to protect their survival is counterintuitive and shown to be wrong. The hunting business is distorting conservation efforts and must be stopped if we want to preserve these and other endangered species. The combination of poaching and trophy hunting will lead to the extinction of elephants. We therefore press upon you to retract your decision to lift the ban and join the EU and the global community to conserve and protect endangered species.

Yours sincerely.

Catherine Bearder MEP (United Kingdom)

Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy MEP (Netherlands)

Keith Taylor MEP (United Kingdom)

Sophie Montel MEP (France)

Kateřina Konečná MEP (Czech Republic)

Ivo Vajgl MEP (Slovenia)

Jude Kirton-Darling MEP (United Kingdom)

Stefan Eck MEP (Germany)

Petras Auštrevičius MEP (Lithuania)

Theresa Griffin MEP (United Kingdom)

John Howarth MEP (United Kingdom)

Petr Ježek MEP (Czech Republic)

Alyn Smith MEP (United Kingdom)

Ernest Urtasun MEP (Spain)

Molly Scott Cato MEP (United Kingdom)

Marco Affronte MEP (Italy)

David Martin MEP (United Kingdom)

Patricia Lalonde MEP (France)

Paul Brannan MEP (United Kingdom)

Karoline Graswander-Hainz MEP (Austria)

Fabio Massimo Castaldo MEP (Italy)

José Inácio Faria MEP (Portugal)

Linda McAvan MEP (United Kingdom)

Merja Kyllönen MEP (Finland)

Monika Vana MEP (Austria)

Emil Radev MEP (Bulgaria)

Joachim Schuster MEP (Germany)

Nessa Childers MEP (Ireland)

Emma McClarkin MEP (United Kingdom)

Benedek Jávor MEP (Hungary)

Kathleen Van Brempt MEP (Belgium)

Robert Rochefort MEP (France)

Lidia Geringer de Oedenberg MEP (Poland)

Florian Philippot MEP (France)

Claude Rolin MEP (Belgium)

Yannick Jadot MEP (France)

Jiří Pospíšil MEP (Czech Republic)

David Borrelli MEP (Italy)

Susanne Melior MEP (Germany)

Hilde Vautmans MEP (Belgium)

Carolina Punset MEP (Spain)

Florent Marcellesi MEP (Spain)

Csaba Sógor MEP (Romania)

Guillaume Balas MEP (France)

Lola Sánchez Caldentey MEP (Spain)

Jill Evans MEP (United Kingdom)

Charles Tannock MEP (United Kingdom)

Elmar Brok MEP (Germany)

Eleonora Evi MEP (Italy)

Helga Trüpel MEP (Germany)

Michal Boni MEP (Poland)

Karin Kadenbach MEP (Austria)

Olga Sehnalová MEP (Czech Republic)

Claude Turmes MEP (Luxembourg)

Jytte Guteland MEP (Sweden)

Olle Ludvigsson MEP (Sweden)

Jens Nilsson MEP (Sweden)

Marita Ulvskog MEP (Sweden)

Anna Hedh MEP (Sweden)

Karima Delli MEP (France)

Anja Hazekamp MEP (Netherlands)

Sirpa Pietikäinen MEP (Finland)

Dario Tamburrano MEP (Italy)

Alex Mayer MEP (United Kingdom)

Julie Ward MEP (United Kingdom)

Posted by John Howarth
Red Red Lines – Brexit Update

Red Red Lines – Brexit Update

This week the European Parliament debated the guidelines for the next phase of the Brexit negotiations. The resolution, that was approved by a very large majority, was heavily trailed in advance, though not all of the detail had made it into the media.

UK Labour MEPs abstained on the final vote on the resolution. It is properly the position of the EU27 and there were some aspects of the wording that, while largely statements of fact, could be misrepresented as being against the UK Government pursuing a successful negotiation. The Green Party and the sole LibDem voted for the resolution while, perversely, the Conservatives and UKIP voted against (with the exception of two who had the good sense to abstain). Aside from the strangeness of voting on the negotiating position of the other side when you want to leave, had the Tories and UKIP got their way the negotiations would have been unable to progress for the moment. The Conservatives took the whip away from two of their number who voted for the statement of fact that that sufficient progress had not been made in October (when there was no agreement between the UK and the EU27) yet now they vote against getting on with the job.

You can read the whole resolution, as amended - though there were very few amendments carried, here or via the European Parliament website. In summary, however, the following highlights are worth drawing out:

The draft withdrawal agreement

This is the draft legal document that is the basis of a treaty between the EU27 and the UK confirming the terms of the UK’s withdrawal. It is the ‘first phase’ agreement from December turned into formal legal language - so there are no real surprises. It can, however, still be changed and improved as agreed between the two parties. It does NOT answer the outstanding dilemma over the Irish border.

Citizens’ rights

This area, of great concern to many in through the EU, was covered in the first phase, however, aspects of the agreement on the rights of EU Citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU27 left a lot to be desired. In particular the rights of UK citizens living and working in the EU27 would be limited and qualitatively different to those enjoyed at present. The language of the resolution indicates that the EU27 is open to the current level of rights to be recognised and extended to include the right of future spouses. Future children had already been brought into the framework because of the Parliament’s influence, hopefully the UK government can now see it will be pushing at an open door to achieve better rights for its citizens who have built careers in the EU27.


The resolution confirms the EU27 view that the transition period from 29 March 2019 to 31 December 2020 will be under the current EU law and under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and that new EU legislation will apply to the UK during that period. You might ask then what is the point of transition at all? Because the UK would then be technically outside of the EU institutions the UK would be able to negotiate its own agreements with other ‘third countries’ (that’s the Euro jargon for countries outside the EU).

Though there is much talk of the transition providing stability and certainty for business, as things stand it simply puts off the problem by extending a plank over the cliff edge. 21 months isn’t long as international agreements go. There is also the distinct possibility that the UK could agreed to ‘park’ some of the more difficult issues to be sorted out during the transition when in fact the real purpose is to hide from the public the almost uniformly negative consequences of Brexit until it is too late.

The exact terms of the transition are the next thing that will be negotiated between the UK and the EU27, with hopes for an agreement at the March EU summit. In truth, given that the UK has little option but to accept the EU acquis (pron. a-kee) will apply there is not much top negotiate. Progress may depend upon the ongoing discussions on Ireland.

The future relationship and all that trade stuff

There is a difference in the cultures of the EU27 and the UK toward the negotiation. The EU prepares and issues detailed documents while the UK makes announcements in speeches. This is not my jaundiced take on things, it’s also what the UK Government says. This is all very well, but it has put the UK at a serious disadvantage and not helped. Part of a negotiation is understanding the other party and its mindset. It would appear that this has not really sunk in in Whitehall. The UK continues to talk in general and vague terms about what it wants while. The Parliament resolution (something else rather useful that Westminster doesn’t really do - not that the Government would allow mere MPs a say over that sort of thing) is, however, very clear about the kind of relationship that might be possible for the UK. The resolution states repeatedly that the ‘red lines’ set out by the UK Government (it seems more able to say what it doesn’t want than what it does want) rule out some forms of future relationship, nothing else does. It is crystal clear that the EU27 remains open to talking about a wider range of relationships should the UK government wish to approach the latest phase without pre-conditions. Everything from remaining in the single market, a relationship encompassing financial services to customs unions (and of course cancelling the whole self-harming Brexit project) on still available if only the UK government approached the negotiations with an open mind.

Given that this would seem unlikely, the resolution states that the best available option for the UK is a ‘Canada like deal’. That is a free trade agreement covering goods, not services and certainly not financial services. Such a deal would mean customs checks at Dover and elsewhere and the UK would have to meet EU standards to ensure access for UK goods. For an economy which is 80% services this is somewhat less than half a loaf.

On matters like fishing and agriculture the EU27 make it clear that for products to enter EU markets at all every standard will need to be met and that historic fishing rights will have to be respected. So much for controlling territorial waters.

Outside opting in

The Prime Minister of Luxembourg has described the situation thus: “The UK is inside opting out but will soon be outside opting in”. But what does ‘opting in’ mean?

The Parliament resolution is very clear in stating that the UK cannot expect to ‘cherry pick’ the aspects of EU markets and rules that it likes and avoid that things that are inconvenient. The EU27 have said all along and the Parliament resolution repeated the point that it simply won’t be possible to make an exception for this or that sector - say automotive and chemicals, while the rest of the economy sits outside the internal market. The UK can, however, opt in to EU programmes at a price.

In the UK media the fact that the UK Government has expressed desire to be part of the European Arrest Warrant, Europol and the Medicine Agency (that’s the one moving from London to Amsterdam) in the form of one of Theresa May’s speeches is sufficient to make it so. The reality is a little different. Participation in programmes, agencies and treaties (some for which there is no precedent - the EWA for example) will need, according to the Parliament resolution and Commission and Council statements, to be wrapped into an ‘Association Agreement’, the rationale being that the plethora of requirements of these very different areas of work will be best brought under a single umbrella agreement between the EU27 and the UK. In the end this is what will provide Theresa May with the fig leaf of having achieved “a deep and special partnership” - even when it is a good deal more shallow and considerably less special than that enjoyed at present.


One area where the Parliament resolution builds on the seeming consensus between the parties is security co-operation. The EU27 are highly likely to want the UK involved in these essential networks. Even so, the Parliament resolution, while very positive about security co-operation, highlights the terms on which the UK can take part which is, essentially, accepting the EU rules and requirements on data an other sensitive issues.

So finally ...

The Parliament resolution takes a stage further Theresa May’s acceptance that ‘things will be different’ by setting out exactly how they will be different if the Tories maintain their current ‘hard Brexit’ approach expressed by their ‘red lines’. The EU27 position is open to the UK government changing its mind and dropping the red lines. The best that’s on offer right now is an agreement like that of Canada but, even though we’ve played out 21 months of this tragedy, the UK government still hasn’t said what they actually want in their ‘deep and special partnership’.

Oh and then there’s the Irish border ...

Posted by John Howarth
The Port of Dover – friction, Brexit and fiction

The Port of Dover – friction, Brexit and fiction

On 7 March, I hosted a reception on behalf of the Port of Dover for MEPs and policy specialists in the European Parliament, entitled ‘Brexit and cross-channel fluidity - Protecting a strategic link for the future of EU/UK trade: a UK perspective.’ (The EU specialises in snappy concise titles). Guest speakers included Tim Waggott, Chief Executive of the Port of Dover (pictured above with myself).

The purpose of the event was to build understanding of Dover’s role as the principal artery for trade from the UK to and from continental Europe; to discuss the challenges posed by Brexit, in particular traffic fluidity, customs, border formalities and transportation rules; and to enable the Port of Dover’s senior management to engage with MEPs and EU officials on the arrangements that might come into play at the point the UK leaves the European Union.

The political background is, of course, the promise by the Brexiteers that trade between the EU and Britain would remain ‘frictionless’ were the country to leave the EU. In the light of reality this is clearly a false promise. After hosting the event for Dover I am clearer than ever that the only way to maintain frictionless trade and safeguard our economy is to avoid the kind of hard Brexit that would take us out of the single market and customs union. Anything else is fiction.

The Port of Dover by (big) numbers

Dover is vitally important to the economic wellbeing of the UK:

  • It is one of the world’s busiest port for freight lorries: 2.6 million each year;
  • It is the single most significant point of entry for UK goods into the EU and EU goods into the UK, as well as providing the land route for goods moving by and from Ireland and the continent;
  • It has an economic value of £119 billion - 17% of the UK’s trade in goods;
  • It is also essential for supply chains relying on just-in-time deliveries.

The growing success of Dover has been based on frictionless trade enabled by Britain’s EU membership, the customs union and single market. In 1992 the Dover route accounted for around 1 million lorry movements, by 2016 that had almost trebled - once the Channel Tunnel is included it is almost 4 million.

At present, less that 1 percent of Dover’s arrivals have driven all the way across the EU to get to the UK, meaning documentation must be checked for only a few hundred lorries a day going to and from non-EU countries such as Switzerland, Turkey and Ukraine.

There is no getting away from the physical realities of these trade volumes and no amount of fantasy technology and magic thinking can hide the fact that any kind of customs border imposes a requirement for inspections - otherwise it simply cannot work. So unless the current customs regime is safeguarded, every lorry that passes through Dover will have to undergo customs processing and in many, if not most cases, physical inspection. That is many thousands per day, 2.6 million per year. Currently, the facilities simply do not exist for this vastly increased workload and recent estimates suggest even two minutes spent processing each lorry would create 17-mile tailbacks.

No strategy from the Conservative government

The UK government talks of frictionless trade but doesn’t have a strategy to achieve this, nor does it seem to have contingency plans ready for Dover or other Ports. The government needs a plan and the public needs to know what that plan is. That they don’t appear to have one after all this time is shocking. They need to take this seriously.

The Port of Dover is quite right to say that if arrangements work at Dover, they will work for the UK but if they don’t work, it will be a disaster for the UK. If the Port of Dover stops working, there is a danger we will have food shortages in shops within days.

The Government is clearly banking on a transition arrangement maintaining the status quo for long enough to put new arrangements in place. Theresa May needs to come clean with people in Dover and east Kent on the reality of the new infrastructure needed to allow Dover to continue to function and to prevent Kent from becoming a car park for lorries destined for Europe.

The Port of Dover is vital to the economic wellbeing of the UK, but also Ireland, France Belgium and many other European nations. It is only through the UK remaining within the single market and customs union that we can avoid chaos at our borders, queues on our motorways, shortages in our shops, and a significant hit to the economic wellbeing of our country.

Posted by John Howarth
Fusion after Brexit?

Fusion after Brexit?

John writes:

On 20 February I hosted a reception for MEPs in the European Parliament entitled ‘Fusion after Brexit: Implications of Brexit and the UK’s departure from EURATOM on European Nuclear Fusion Research’. Guest speakers included Ian Chapman, CEO of the UK Atomic Energy Authority and Director of the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (pictured back left above); Tony Donne, Programme Manager for EUROfusion (next left above); Jan Panek, Head of Unit ITER in DG Energy (right above) and Clare Moody MEP for South West England (front left above).

All spoke passionately about the leading role played by JET in paving the way for ITER and the delivery phase of nuclear fusion. This cross-party event was also an opportunity to discuss the impact of the UK’s departure from the EU, and significantly from the EU’s nuclear community – Euratom – which is putting this leading role in jeopardy.

JET and the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy are based in Oxfordshire, in my South East England constituency, and in November 2017 - ahead of our reception in the European Parliament - I was given the opportunity to tour JET and witness this incredibly impressive feat of science.

I’ve long been aware that fusion offers the prospect of plentiful clean energy when developed on a commercial scale, the first successful proof of concept experiments having been carried out at the centre. JET is an EU venture through and through, not only because it is far too big a project for any one nation state, but because it hinges on cross-border collaboration and involves scientists from every EU member state and beyond. The hundreds of scientists, engineers and technicians who visit the centre to conduct experiments, as well as the parts used to assemble the world’s biggest nuclear fusion reactor so far, come from all around the Union. Crucially, so does the €283 million that underpins the JET program for the five years through 2018.

All of this is threatened by Brexit, and the UK government’s decision to leave Euratom threatens the future of fusion research in which Britain has led the way. If and when this happens, any future progress and ground-breaking scientific research and collaboration could be threatened, losing the UK access to EU funding, inhibiting easy movement of scientists and stifling rapid and responsive cross-border work. The current funding for JET also ends in December 2018, so experiments in 2019 and beyond – vital for ITER preparation – are endangered if ongoing close collaboration between the UK and Euratom cannot be negotiated.

If the UK Government gets Brexit wrong, it will seriously damage Britain’s world-leading scientific reputation and with it the wider international fusion program. It is essential to both the UK and the rest of the EU that we somehow keep the UK as part of the Euratom community after Brexit - assuming it does, in fact, go ahead.

Fusion research will always be an international effort. By holding this event we helped to build support in Brussels for finding a way to sustain the partnership that will benefit Britain, Europe and the wider international fusion community.

Posted by John Howarth
Calling for action on the Rohingya crisis

Calling for action on the Rohingya crisis

I have co-signed the following letter to the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs calling for urgent action on the Rohingya refugee crisis. Labour MEPs Wajid Khan and Richard Corbett recently visited the refugee camps in Bangladesh. There is little doubt that this massive ethnic cleansing is one of the greatest crimes against humanity we have seen in this young century. The situation will get much worst when the monsoon rains hit the area soon. Action on a world-wide scale is now required to avoid further catastrophe.

Dear High Representative / Vice President Mogherini,

We are writing to you ahead of the Foreign Affairs Council meeting on 26-27 February, which will take place exactly 6 months after the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar begun.

Since 25th August 2017, around 700,000 Rohingya refugees have crossed the border from Myanmar to seek shelter in Bangladesh. The UN says the Rohingya's situation is the "world's fastest growing refugee crisis" and describes the Myanmar military offensive as a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing" bearing “the hallmarks of a genocide”.

According to recent research by Amnesty International[1], the Myanmar security forces’ devastating campaign against the Rohingya population is far from over, and there are ongoing violations that have forced hundreds more people to flee in recent weeks. This means that the agreed return of the refugees back to Myanmar is premature.

Therefore, we urge you to take additional measures as called for by the European Parliament in its resolution on the situation of the Rohingya people of 14 December 2017. In particular, we believe it is of the utmost importance that the EU Foreign Affairs Ministers adopt the following measures in order to exert significant pressure on Myanmar’s military to stop the violence:

  • Condemn the ongoing violence, grave human rights abuses and loss of lives, livelihoods and shelter in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States;
    Explicitly acknowledge that most likely crimes against humanity have been committed by the Myanmar security forces;
  • Impose travel bans and financial sanctions against those responsible for perpetrating criminal acts in Myanmar, including military commanders and senior officers, as requested in the Parliament’s resolutions of September and December 2017;
  • Suspend military assistance programmes, extend the scope of the existing arms embargo against Myanmar, and support the establishment of a UN-mandated global arms embargo;
  • Insist on immediate, unfettered and sustained humanitarian access to all people in need in Rakhine State and on access for the UN Fact-Finding Mission to carry out its mandate of conducting investigations into human rights violations;
  • Press the Myanmar Government to refer jurisdiction over grave human rights crimes committed since August 25, 2017 to the International Criminal Court, as a court of last resort under Art. 12(3) (acceptance of (ad hoc) jurisdiction under the Rome Statute) and urge the government to ratify the Rome Statute; explore all avenues for justice and accountability;
  • Insist that if any returns of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar do take place these are voluntary, dignified, safe and informed, with full UNHCR and OHCHR oversight of the process and fully compliant with international law;
  • Support the full implementation of the Rakhine Advisory Commission report;
  • Increase financial and material assistance to support durable solutions for refugees, making sure that the assistance is conditioned on non-discrimination, non-segregation and equality;
  • Pursue an EU long-term strategy in supporting the self-reliance and improved protection of Rohingya in Bangladesh, e.g. by ending limitations on their freedom of movement, improving access to livelihoods opportunities and job markets, ensuring children’s access to education; and providing for civil documentation with a view to securing status;
  • Call for the freedom of speech to be respected, for an immediate release of the Reuters journalists and urge Myanmar to bring its legislation on freedom of expression in line with international human rights law and standards.

We hope to be able to count on your support in this crucial matter.

Yours sincerely,

Wajid Khan MEP
Barbara Lochbihler MEP
Pier Antonio Panzeri MEP
Soraya Post MEP
David Martin MEP
Richard Corbett MEP
Amjad Bashir MEP
Urmas Paet MEP
Lucy Anderson MEP
Giacomo Zucchelli MEP
Miguel Alexandre Da Horta Cardoso MEP
Rory Palmer MEP
Margrete Auken MEP
Jude Kirton-Darling MEP
Jordi Solé MEP
Linda McAvan MEP
Hilde Vautmans MEP
Alyn Smith MEP
Baroness Nosheena Mobarik MEP
Clare Moody MEP
Bart Staes MEP
Mark Demesmaeker MEP
Barbara Spinelli MEP
Judith Sargentini MEP
Jose Inacio Faria MEP
Josef Weidenholzer MEP
Theresa Griffin MEP
Mary Honeyball MEP
John Howarth MEP
Maria Arena MEP
Maria Dolores Lola Sanchez Caldentey MEP
Dietmar Koster MEP
Margot Parker MEP
Arndt Kohn MEP
Goffredo Bettini MEP
Marie-Christine Vergiat MEP
Ernest Urtasun MEP
Younous Omarjee MEP
Sirpa Pietikäinen MEP

Posted by John Howarth
Love Trade Unions, love your rights

Love Trade Unions, love your rights

Last week was the TUCs’s Heart Unions Week, a week of celebration of the work trade unions and their representatives and stewards do across the country.

I joined a trade union as soon as I started work and I’ve been a member ever since. My Union, the NUJ, represents all sorts of people who earn their living with their pen - including a lot of self-employed and freelance staff working in all kinds of media businesses.

Despite some bad press over the years, the achievements of the trade unions remain relevant to the people who need their help most. Take the ‘McStrike’ at McDonalds; thanks to a small fraction of the workforce joining the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union, bad working practices were challenged, and zero-hours contracts were stopped for all McDonalds staff in the UK. Clearly, union organisation in the workplace can benefit all employees and create better working conditions for everyone.

The simple fact is the more people who are members in a workplace the stronger the union and the better results they can deliver.

Trade unions have helped to apply pressure to successive UK Governments, forcing them to pass legislation that has allowed everyone to enjoy the workplace rights we now take for granted. This includes sick pay, enhanced maternity and paternity rights, and the implementation of anti-discrimination laws in the workplace, prohibiting discrimination based on gender or disability.

However, whilst pressure from trade unions has helped to change laws, we must remember that this pressure can be ignored unless coupled with pressure from another authority. 
In many cases, this has been the European Union.

The Labour Government elected by a landslide in 1997 delivered its promise to opt in to the Social Protocols of the European treaties within days of its election. It was a key, popular manifesto pledge and it made union membership by choice a right. The European Union has helped to set a minimum standard of rights and expectations in the workplace. The Working Time Directive has placed restrictions on the number of hours that employers can require employees to work. The EU has set essential workplace health and safety requirements, and again, thanks to EU membership, UK employees are entitled to four weeks of paid annual holiday.

Whatever the Tories say, leaving the EU will risk making Britain’s employment laws vulnerable to future Tory Governments lowering labour standards - and recent reports have expose the fact that the Tories are already planning to role rights back once the dust has settled on their hard, job-destroying Brexit. David Davis has said that a post-Brexit Britain will not be like some sort of ‘Mad Max’ style dystopian race to the bottom, but then Mr David contradicts himself for fun these days. The Conservatives and their mates have allowed a ‘race to the bottom’ to take place over terms and conditions and through contracting-out of jobs and by allowing cowboy employers to get away with zero-hours blackmail and institutionalised workplace bullying.

So do you really trust the Tories with your employment rights?

After Brexit, if and when it happens, UK citizens in the workplace risk being stuck with outdated and unfit workplace standards. There will be no obligation for future UK Governments, of any political stripe, to implement future EU regulations and directives, so there will a risk that the UK’s employment law will fall behind that of our European neighbours.

From conversations I have had with trade unionists and employers alike there is an increasing understanding that Brexit will hit ordinary people hardest and seriously damage many of our key industries. Key figures in the trade union movement are backing the UK staying in the single market and customs union to minimise the damage.

That’s great, but the best deal for working people in the UK is remaining in the EU. Any sort of Brexit will cost rights, jobs, and reduce living standards, with UK regions such as the North East and the Midlands, but also cities like Brighton, Oxford, Medway and Southampton being among the hardest hit.

If you are not a member of trade union, do consider joining one, and encourage your colleagues to do the same. If and when Brexit happens, it will be more important than ever to be part of a movement that will look out for your workers’ rights. Do not trust the hard Brexit Tories to do that for you.

Posted by John Howarth
UK should stick with the EIB says Labour MEP

UK should stick with the EIB says Labour MEP

It would be a mistake for the UK to end its involvement with the European Investment Bank, according to South East England MEP, John Howarth.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) provides investment in the infrastructure, business and social requirements of communities all over the European Union but also invests in projects outside the immediate boundaries of the European Union. Because the UK holds 16% of the EIB’s shares it would be entirely logical for the UK to continue its involvement and continue to benefit from the bank if and when the UK leaves the European Union.

Importantly the EIB lens in line with EU social and economic priorities, not just commercial lending criteria, at rates well below those of the commercial markets. In other words also for need, not just for profit.

Among its investments, the EIB’s lending has backed:

  • Crossrail in London and the Thames Valley
  • New secondary schools
  • The Thames Tideway Tunnel
  • The Port of Dover’s Western Docks expansion
  • 7 million smart meters in UK homes
  • The National Grid Upgrade  

John was speaking in a debate on the EIB’s annual report in the European Parliament and explained that the future infrastructure needs of a competitive Europe urgently require investment in low carbon infrastructure and inclusive digital networks and that the EIB would empower “the changing face of cohesion policy”(1). He also hit back at false UKIP claims, challenging them to campaign for the real interests of the UK and continued involvement with the EIB.

John adds; “The UK has received more than 30 billion in investment from the EIB for a 3.5 billion capitalisation stake in the Bank – the same as Germany, France and Italy. The UK, along with the other member states also provides guarantees on the EIB’s lending – but this was never a cash contribution. The phase withdrawal agreement clearly states that the UK’s guarantee ‘liability’ will be written down over the period of the outstanding loans it backs while the cash capitalisation contribution will be returned in a number of instalments (2).

“There is no question of the UK ‘not getting its money back’ as UKIP falsely claim. I think, however, it would be a much smarter approach to remain involved with the bank. There are all sorts of projects in the UK that badly need investment – not least the critical shortage of social housing.

“UKIP either don’t understand how an investment bank works, they can't add up or they are deliberately trying to mislead people. You decide.”

Despite the uncertainty over Brexit the UK continued to benefit from EIB continuing investment to the tune of 2.1 billion in 2017 alone.



(1) ‘Cohesion policy’ is the EU jargon for investment that improves the competitive position of poorer regions, including in the UK, through modernising infrastructure and social investment.

(2) UK officials regard the ‘liability’ of outstanding EIB loans as largely theoretical and the chances of the guarantees being called upon so unlikely that they have not included the figure in any part of the proposed financial settlement with the EU.

Posted by John Howarth
Reforms to the Media in the FYR Macedonia

Reforms to the Media in the FYR Macedonia

Speech to the Joint Parliamentary Committee - 7 February 2018

MEPs take part in delegations representing the European Parliament. In John's case he is a member of the delegations for the Caribbean states (CARIFORUM) and for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Speaking at a meeting of the Joint Parliamentary Committee, John, a member of the National Union of Journalists, talks of the challenges facing states in seeking to enhance media freedoms alongside reforms to judicial, parliamentary and public institutions and argues that similar challenges now face long-established democracies.   


President, fellow MEPs, Ministers and representatives of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. At the outset I was to emphasise that the nature of reform to the media, while part of the same set of essential reforms to enhance freedom and democracy, are qualitatively different to reforms to the judicial process, parliament, public administration and so on. Different because they take place against a rapidly changing backdrop of technological change that has transformed the industry in my working life as a media communications professional.

The challenges facing journalists and media organisations in countries inside and outside the European Union are in many respects the very same challenges. Financial, technological and political challenges that threaten the basis of the fundamental freedoms that this Union was established to protect and enhance.

The inability of first world democracies effectively to address these challenges has become only too evident through the events that have come to pass over the last few years.

So it almost seems to me a patronising process to talk with national representatives wrestling with fundamental problems of evolving democracy and I have no desire to appear to lecture. Nonetheless to join a club there are entry requirements and standards to be met and that’s the context in which this discussion takes place. The EU regards as essential:

  • Reform of the Public Service Broadcaster in order to ensure its independence and increase the quality of its reporting and overall content production
  • Establishing mechanisms for transparency and accountability in regard to government advertising
  • Addressing the media obstacles which journalists face in obtaining access to public information
  • Revising the legislature and procedural rules related to defamation, and promotion of self-regulation and arbitration as alternative to court action

The ‘Copenhagen Dilema’, in which the European Union seeks to assure itself of standards in candidate countries and accession states while there is no real means of maintaining those standards within member states, has always been there but is an escalating dilemma given the modern media landscape.

In this context the state is far from being the only actor of critical mass that can manipulate media to the benefit of vested interests. The same tools of disinformation are available to major corporations, to well funding interest groups and to rival states. While the techniques of disinformation have always existed their channels of influence on the population have been a great deal fewer and less direct.

In the end, however, the channels offered by new media technology are just channels - they be either can be channels of free expression or channels of control. The challenge for this Union and democratic states it to ensure they are the former.

I don’t often agree with the Australian/US media magnate Rupert Murdoch, particularly in view of the approach of his outlets toward the European Union and the UK’s membership, but he was absolutely right when he said that “professional journalism is not free, it has to be paid for”. To extend that, neither is a free media in a free society without cost.

Advertisers, if they can find a more direct route to consumers and decision makers through more cost-effective technologies, will take it. Consumers, if they can gain information in a more-timely and more cost-effective manner will take that route. Viewers who can watch programmes at their convenience and not at that of schedule managers will choose to do so.

All this adds up to declining profitability for print media and new formations for broadcast media, both of which mean fewer journalists, less investigative reporting - which is expensive and news that is harder to verify as factual. When coupled with an environment where immediacy is everything all this adds up to less professional, less reliable news.

This is the market context in which journalism and the media now operates but in which progress on issues of media freedom must nonetheless take place.

Progress there has been. The civil society organisation, the Observatory of Media Reforms, is monitoring the implementation of the 3-6-9 Plan re the reform of the media. They issued a periodical report in November that announced that the Macedonian Government has on the public broadcasting service, government advertising and access to information “partially fulfilled its obligations”. Unfortunately, on defamation, there has been no revision of the legislation at all, and the OBR believe that this is still “completely unfulfilled.” So while we welcome the progress that has been made on media freedoms within the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia we note the further progress to which we must all turn our minds.

State funded public broadcasting, able to compete effectively in the modern context I have outlined, remains an essential element of a free media - in fact I would argue it is more important than ever as a trusted sources on which populations can rely. In this respect establishing funding and regulatory frameworks which put publically funded broadcasters at arm’s length from the state and maintain and enhance journalistic independence are more essential than ever.

Equally, ensuring real balance, real choice and trustworthy journalistic standards in broadcasting networks, maintaining diversity of ownership and ensuring that output reflects cultural diversity will remain the challenge for all broadcasting regulators.

But possible the most important element of all is that journalists are able to operate freely and without fear; are able to challenge powerful interests without attack, are protected by the forces of the state and that those who would intimidated and coerce reporters are held to account. The acid test of this is when prosecutions take place and such attacks are eliminated.

The ability of all forms of journalism to operate effectively independent of pressures brought by political interests, in particular those holding the reins of state power will only remain possible if journalism is effectively funded so that publishers are able to withstand external pressure and financial leverage.

These things, as I have said, are not just a challenge for candidate countries and accession states. The European Union was established to maintain peace and enhance freedom. To continue to carry out that mission in the future this Union will have to give serious thought to how media freedom and journalistic integrity is safeguarded in a changing world where surpa-national powers are able to outgun the legal frameworks of all but the very largest nation states.

I look forward to the point where the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia joins us in meeting that challenge.



Posted by John Howarth
Brexit Undermining Clincial Research at Southampton University Hospital

Brexit Undermining Clincial Research at Southampton University Hospital

Southampton University Hospital is a leading teaching hospital within the NHS. Its ultra-modern cancer centre will open soon following a major fundraising effort. The hospital is at the forefront of clinical trials and new treatments for a range of conditions. Much of that work is funded with assistance from the Europeans Union. All of this is threatened by Brexit.

I visited the Hospital on 1 February and met with Professor John Harrison (pictured below) who heads up the research faculty. He explained a series of factors that together mean that outside the EU and in particular outside the Single Market the UK’s medical science efforts and with them the NHS will be hard hit. These are the factors that will hurt the NHS:

Recruiting leading researchers

Since the referendum it has proved very difficult to tempt leading medical researchers to Southampton. It’s the same story elsewhere. It would be wrong to say there is a single reason, but a string of family, personal and practical reasons, uncertainty over the rights of EU citizens and pension insecurities have led to sought after applicants turning down offers in the UK for offers in Europe and the USA or simply declining to apply.

Keeping EU citizens

There is not a flood of high profile medical staff queuing at the check in with one way tickets to Berlin and Paris, however, there are enough to worry research leaders.

The success of UK Universities

Ironically, these problem are made worse by the success of the UK Universities and research institutions. UK academic qualifications are up with the best and a passport to interesting work all over the world. So talented scientists from the UK will always want to travel and work overseas just because they can. If the salaries are good - and they often are - even more so.

Some will say that people will always leave whether the UK is part of the EU or not - which is true, and it isn’t a problem so long as you can replace those you lose with new recruits. If you can’t it becomes a vicious and decreasing cycle that cannot be easily addressed.

Follow the Money

Researchers follow research money. First of all because it might pay their salaries or provide their job security and secondly because it means they can do their work with a better chance of success. Many of the UK’s programmes are carried out through the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Programme. This funding stream, otherwise known as ‘Framework 8’ ends in December 2020 - the point where the UK intends to end its much touted but yet to be agreed ‘transition phase’. Unless the Brexit extremists like John Redwood get their way the current programmes should continue to their conclusion.

What happens after 2020?

All we can say for sure is that in 2021 there will be a new 7 year EU Budget which will include funding for Framework 9. The UK’s involvement in Framework 9 (which doesn’t yet have a snappy title) won’t be agreed until the negotiations over the UK’s future relationship with the EU and the corresponding price tag is agreed. The Conservative UK Government has, so far, indicated that it wants to be involved BUT, and it’s a big BUT, it is highly probable that while UK institutions may be partners in EU projects they are unlikely to be able to lead them - as many currently do. It is worth saying here that the leading player in a typical project will receive more funding that a partner institution. It is hard to imagine the likes of Oxford, Cambridge, UCL and Imperial - among the top 10 universities worldwide - are likely to be happy to play second fiddle but they may not have much choice. If the Brexit extremists get their way they won’t be able to play at all.

Why doesn’t the UK just do its own research?

Because research, particularly, medical research, doesn’t work like that. To trial treatments and drugs and therapies most effectively big populations with different samples in different places reflecting different social conditions and circumstances are needed - I’m not an expert on this but, unfashionably, I choose to believe those who are.

Approved by who, for who?

This is the really sticky bit. Like them or hate them, the pharmaceutical companies invest a great deal in new drugs. Naturally enough they want to see their products approved for use across the biggest market possible. So if there are two different regulatory regimes do you choose to seek approval in that which makes the product available first to around 500 million people or do you seek to make it available to 60 million? The EU Medicines Agency has been based in London for good reason. The UK has led in this field, has great expertise and so it was a logical place to put it. Now the Agency will move if the UK leaves. The scientists tell me that clinical trials will, logically, be based in the area of jurisdiction even if it is not strictly required. If that is outside the EU, and at least the single market, then the future for clinical trials and therefore the early availability of drugs and treatments is clearly affected. In practice this is likely to mean a two year delay. The UK, of course, COULD decide that drugs approved for use in the EU are ‘deemed’ approved for use in the UK but if we were to take such a course what of all that stuff about sovereignty and taking back control?

A spiral of decline

So a decline of leading staff, less funding for projects, fewer engaged institutions, few if any institutions leading research projects, leading edge clinical trials done elsewhere, later approval of drugs and treatments. The result, new treatments available to patients later than would otherwise have been the case and, bluntly, lives lost that may otherwise have been prolonged.

Of course there may be strategies institutions can employ to protect their funding, to maintain their involvement in projects and to assert their leading roles through excellence alone but in the landscape outlined to me at Southampton there is little prospect that this could be successful across the sector. The world leaders may do OK, even well, but the middle tier of Universities and the generality of the NHS will suffer and that is a great worry. What we need, if the UK is indeed to leave, is a framework of free movement for academic, science and research staff, full involvement in Framework 9 programmes and being part of a single regulatory framework - something like the single market? Don’t be surprised, however, if the EU27 were to say, 'well, that’s called the EU'.

It is easy to dismiss all this as the concerns of an engaged elite who have done well from the UK’s EU membership. That’s true, but it’s also true that ordinary patients have done well too. Try telling the cancer patient who can’t get access to a new drug or take part in a clinical trial that two year’s extension of their life is a price worth paying for an abstract concept of sovereignty.


Posted by John Howarth
Words and the Holocaust

Words and the Holocaust

Holocaust memorial day takes place on 27 January each year. The European Parliament marks the day during the week in which 27th falls. These thoughts from our office lest we forget.

Photo: Sign used during the anti-Jewish boycott: "Help liberate Germany from Jewish capital. Don't buy in Jewish stores." Germany, 1933.


John Howarth with Fiona Thomas

Words have always had power. We only have to look at today’s political events to see how much words, or even 140 characters, matter.

The power of words is never clearer than when looking at the Nazi regime.

The Holocaust did not start with the gas chambers. It started with words: hate speech, anti-Semitic tropes, ‘fake news’ and the normalisation of lies. Words and images were pivotal in Hitler’s assumption of power. The campaigns of the NSDAP, from Mein Kampf in 1925, scapegoated the Jewish population, and any people who the regime deemed ‘undesirable’ creating the climate in which violence, coercion and intimidation were normalised. Having seized power in 1933, The Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda churned material that changed German political culture. This prepare the ground for the regime to ‘legalise’ the persecution of ‘opponents’ of the NSDAP.

The Nuremberg Laws were a series of anti-Semitic laws introduced at the 1935 Nuremberg Rally. These forbade marriages and extra-marital intercourse between Jews and other Germans, and stated that only those of German or related blood were eligible to be citizens of the Reich, with the remainder classed as state subjects without citizenship rights. The ‘final solution’ - the euphemism for the systematic murder of the Jewish population, cloaked in the lies and denial of ‘resettlement’ would never have been possible without the systematic cultivation of anti-Semitic hate.

The Soviet Army liberated the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp on the 27th January 1945. In five years of industrialised murder, it had consumed more than 1.1 million ‘undesirable’ people. What started with words ended with the murder of two thirds of the Jewish population of Europe - one in six of whom died at Auschwitz.

However, words can also be a force for good.

On the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in 2005 the UN resolved to create an International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.

This six part resolution:

  • urged Member States to develop educational programmes that will inculcate future generations with the lessons of the Holocaust in order to help prevent future acts of genocide
  • rejected any denial of the Holocaust as an historical event - either in full or part
  • commended those States which have actively engaged in preserving those sites that served as Nazi death camps, concentration camps, forced labour camps and prisons during the Holocaust
  • condemned without reserve all manifestations of religious intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against persons or communities based on ethnic origin or religious belief, wherever they occur, and;
  • requested the Secretary-General to establish a programme of outreach on the subject of the ‘Holocaust and the United Nations’

Through this resolution, the UN works to ensure that the world will never forget the Holocaust. Words keep memories and histories alive; we use ours to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust, to tell future generations of its horrors and to understand that words of hate are never ‘just words’.



Posted by John Howarth