Opinion: “I’ll spend every day fighting to keep us in the EU”
- Credit: Archant
While the Brexit Party were turning their backs on the jobs they’ve been elected to do during the opening plenary session, I was clad in my “Stop Brexit” t-shirt thinking how grateful I was to be there.
Just a few months ago, it looked like British MEPs would no longer sit in the European Parliament. And yet there I was, ready to represent Londoners in a place where decisions would be made affecting them. Being there means I can ensure our capital's voice is heard.
The parliament building in Strasbourg is less difficult to navigate than the one in Brussels, where I am headed as I write this. Last week in Strasbourg, I spent most of the time darting in and out of meetings of my political grouping, where we were discussing how we were going to vote in plenary, and the plenary sessions themselves, which involved voting on the parliament's top jobs.
Old hands tell me the events of last week were "unusually chaotic".
Eleventh hour changes in proposed candidates for top jobs in the European Union drove this frenzied approach.
David Sassoli, now president of the European Parliament, was only put forward as a candidate the day before we needed to vote on whether to back him. His candidature was the result of a cross-party agreement between the left-leaning political grouping the S&D, the right-leaning EPP and the liberal-minded progressive group the Lib Dems sit in, Renew Europe (formerly ALDE).
Still, Lib Dems are not ones to simply do as they are told. Myself and colleagues, among others from our sister parties, requested that Mr Sassoli appear in front of us to answer questions the next morning, before deciding on whether we would back him.
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It might sound like a strange way of conducting such an important process, and in future, I would like to see the role of the parliament strengthened.
This is what grown up, democratic politics looks like. That the three largest political groupings from across the parliament, encompassing representatives from countries and regions all over Europe, were able to agree in principle on a single candidate was quite a remarkable feat.
Doing so meant that, collectively, more moderate MEPs were able to block extremist candidates from succeeding.
We also sent a strong signal we will work together to stop the rise of the far right.
This week, amid having our first committee meetings, our political group will question Ursula von der Leyen, the proposed candidate to head the European Commission. She will be asked tough questions too. Whether we choose to ratify her position in Strasbourg next week will depend on her answers.
Only by being there can pro-European British MEPs influence the outcome. That is why I'll spend every day fighting to keep us in the EU, as I have done since joining the Liberal Democrats after the referendum three years ago.