Votes this week in StrasbourgOCTOBER 2010:
THE BRITISH National Party MEPs, Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons, have an extremely busy week scheduled in Strasbourg. This week’s plenary session follows the usual EU format, whereby the business agenda is so absurdly packed that it is impossible to subject the reports presented to any truly meaningful debate.
Nonetheless, this is what the MEP’s must strive to do. The level of legislation emanating from the European super-bureaucracy is immense and the regulations, directives and diktats disseminated encompass just about every aspect of social and economic policy. While the ultimate aim of our MEPs is to withdraw Britain from this unnecessary time, money and resource-draining entity, they take very seriously their responsibility to use their influence as elected Members of the European Parliament to shape EU legislation in accordance with the best interests of Britain and the British people.
The MEPs, along with their Constituency Staff teams, invest many hours in assessing the content of resolutions and motions that are debated and then put to the vote in the plenary sessions held in Strasbourg.
The Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee (FEMM), for example, has a controversial report listed for debate and voting in this week’s session which tables amendments to the Council’s Directive on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health at work of pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding. The FEMM Committee considers that the Commission’s proposed re-working of the Directive falls short of delivering the required changes to effectively promote gender equality in the labour market and to encourage parenting based on shared responsibilities. To redress these shortcomings, the Committee proposes 81 amendments to the Commission’s revised proposals which seek to significantly strengthen maternity rights.
In order to help the MEPs decide whether to vote in favour of adopting a motion the Constituency teams assess all the proposals from a British Nationalist perspective. Given that we are committed to opposing any increase in the level of EU interference in matters which are rightly the concern of national parliament, the proposed amendments have to be considered within this framework. However, our MEPs do not want to abdicate from their responsibilities, so unlike many of the UKIP MEPs, they are not content to simply oppose all new legislation in blanket fashion. Where new laws and regulations are likely to be adopted, the British National Party MEPs will seek, wherever possible, to mitigate the impact and scope of the content.
With regard to the FEMM’s amendments, from a British Nationalist viewpoint, the Committee’s “life-cycle” approach to work, which recognises that male and female workers have different needs and priorities at various stages of their lives, is commendable. Legislation that enables mothers to spend extra time at home with their newborn and facilitates a longer breastfeeding period is wholly desirable; as is the encouragement of shared parenting between mothers and fathers.
Desirable employment outcomes for one particular social group should be assessed, however, within the wider economic framework. Increasing maternity legislation will significantly impact on British business and the perceived benefits to women workers (and family life) must be balanced against the interests of employers. The rightful place for employment legislation to be debated and decided upon is within our national Parliament.
As British Nationalists, we are wary, moreover, of EU-generated proposals which purport to improve the balance between family life and work. Our interpretation of an “improved balance” is likely to differ from the EU’s, which assesses workers primarily in terms of their function as economic units within a global market. Our framework of reference is more holistic: for example, while it may make sense in purely economic terms to increase the activity of women within the workforce, in social welfare terms it might actually be more beneficial to introduce employment and economic measures which promote and facilitate the right of mothers to remain outside of the paid workforce. Motherhood is, after all, a full-time job in itself and in many cases it is economic imperative and devaluing of the full-time carer role which forces mothers into the public workforce, rather than personal choice.
FEMM’s amendments largely serve to further increase European-level bureaucracy and, in line with our opposition to EU interference in our national concerns, a “no” vote is therefore, generally recommended by the Constituency team. However, a number of amendments are identified which are viewed as constituting positive additions or changes to the motion, which will not in effect add to the excess of Brussels bureaucracy which is making life increasingly difficult for British organisations and businesses. A “yes” vote is advised for instance, in relation to a text change which clarifies the protection of pregnant women from performing tasks that pose health risks, and a new point which gives workers on maternity leave the right to receive automatically any general increase in salary.
Another motion likely to court controversy in Strasbourg this week is the Employment and Social Affairs Committee’s (EMPL) Report on the Role of Minimum Income in Combating Poverty and Promoting an Inclusive Society in Europe. Although the EMPL Committee rejected an amendment calling on the European Commission to propose a framework directive on minimum income (which would have established minimum income systems in the EU), this report nonetheless calls on the Commission to present “an initiative” in the area of introducing minimum income schemes in all EU Member States.
The report encompasses an extensive range of economic and social fields with its call for Commission and national policies to ensure universal access to the labour market. The introduction of minimum income schemes (set at the suggested level of 60% of average income in the Member State concerned) in all EU Member States is considered to be an essential measure in order to combat poverty.
Reference is made within the Report to the Europe 2020 strategy, which is founded on the assertion that no Member State can address global challenges effectively by acting in isolation. From a Nationalist perspective, it is unfortunate that neither the EU generally (in its economic and social policy briefings), or the EMPL Committee’s Report specifically, takes this assertion to its logical conclusion. If they did, it might actually be possible to achieve some of the laudable goals set in respect to improving average living standards across the entire European Union. The Eurocrats’ pursuit of their (utopian) European social market economy is doomed to failure because they fail to establish the necessary economic parameters to deliver their dream.
Sustaining a minimum income would serve to reduce poverty, but such a strategy could only work within a closed European market. The reality is that as long as European jobs and the produce of EU workers are not protected from being undercut by imported goods from non-European Union, low-wage economies, raising EU labour costs to a minimum level will in practice, serve to worsen the balance of trade and increase unemployment across the EU. At the present time, an advantage held by the poorer European nations is the fact that their cheaper labour costs enable them to produce goods at lower prices than their more developed and wealthier European competitors. Increasing labour costs across Europe, without introducing measures to protect the European economy from non-European competition, will expose the EU to unfair and unmatchable pressures. European goods and services will be undercut by products and services supplied by Third World countries. The consequent collapse in European GDP levels will be accompanied by a parallel increase in poverty and social exclusion rates... the very opposite outcome of what the EU’s social and economic engineering was intended to achieve.
Whilst the Constituency team is sympathetic to the worthy aspirations embodied within EMPL’s proposals, the view was taken that, the only way they can be achieved in practice is by withdrawing Europe from the global market economy and protecting European jobs and wage levels behind high trade walls. As the EU is unlikely to accept an amendment promoting such a protectionist approach, a vote to reject the motion is advised.