Anneliese Dodds MEP

The South East's Voice in Europe

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This year’s “I love Unions” week, running from now up to Valentine’s day, could not have come at a better time. Working rights are increasingly under pressure from changing patterns of work like the so-called ‘gig economy’ and false self-employment. At the same time, the British government seems determined to shut trade unions out of our workplaces and industrial relations.

David Davis, the Minister for Brexit, has made much of the fact that his first Ministerial meeting was with Frances O’Grady, the leader of the TUC. Yet much of Davis’ actions, and those of his government, demonstrate a deep antipathy towards working peoples’ self-organisation.

This is clear from the government’s White Paper on Brexit released last week. There are many criticisms that can be made of this poorly-thought through, repetitive and confused document. However the section on working rights is one of the most concerning. First, the White Paper argues that, post-Brexit, the UK will seek to maintain its ‘status as a global leader on workers’ rights’. This is a surreal statement given that until recently the government was seeking to impose stronger controls on British workers who had voted to strike than exist in any other developed economy, through its Trade Union Act. Concerted action by the TUC and other trade unions, working with Labour MPs and peers, led to a climbdown in some areas but this Conservative government has still made it much, much harder for ordinary people to join trade unions and participate in trade union activity.

Secondly, the White Paper refers to a desire to ‘enhance’ working rights, but omits to mention huge swathes of employment protections. In particular, the need to prevent discrimination against Black and Minority Ethnic, LGBTQ and disabled people is not even deemed worthy of mention in the White Paper. Nor is there mention of preventing sexual harassment or guaranteeing equal pay, especially worrying given the precipitous drop in cases being taken to employment tribunal following the imposition of new tribunal fees. And finally, no mention is made of the need to secure British workers’ safety and health at work. These rights are more important than ever, whether we are talking about safety for a Deliveroo cycle-deliverer navigating London’s busy streets without insurance, a care-worker trying to lift a heavy patient as part of a 15 minute appointment, or a salon manicurist working with toxic chemicals.

Theresa May has professed to make Britain, post-Brexit, a country that works for everyone.

This ‘I love Unions’ week, we must reflect on how we can hold her to that promise, when the Brexit White Paper suggests a very different vision for our country – and especially for its working people.  

Working Rights are for life, not just for conference speeches, Theresa…

  This year’s “I love Unions” week, running from now up to Valentine’s day, could not have come at a better time. Working rights are increasingly under pressure from changing...

Click here to see the letter sent by Anneliese and the Labour MEPs.

Labour MEPs have written to the Home Secretary calling for urgent unilateral action from the Prime Minister to secure the rights of EU citizens living in the UK.

 

Dear Home Secretary

We are writing to you as Labour MEPs regarding the plight of EU citizens in the UK.

A number of our constituents who are EU citizens living in the UK have expressed grave concerns about their rights to permanently remain in the UK, some are being treated unfairly or in a threatening way by the Home Office since the Brexit vote.
EU nationals have complained that in order to obtain permanent residency, applicants are being presented with an 85-page form requiring huge files of documentation, including P60s for five years, historic utility bills and a diary of all the occasions an individual has left the country since they settled in the UK. Some have received letters inviting them to prepare to leave the country after failing to tick one of the boxes on the form.

As elected representatives we need to represent and protect the rights of EU citizens living in the UK as well as the rights of British citizens living in Europe.

The Labour Party has joined us in calling for urgent unilateral action by the Prime Minister to secure the rights of EU citizens living in Britain and call on her to abandon her position of refusing to act without securing equivalent guarantees for the 1.2 million UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU.

EU citizens have been feeling very anxious about their future since the referendum result and as their representatives in the European Parliament we are calling on the government to guarantee the right of EU citizens currently living lawfully in the UK to remain in the UK after Brexit. We believe this is a necessary first step before article 50 is triggered and UK’s Brexit negotiations begin.


Yours sincerely

Labour MEPs

MEPs sign letter calling for EU citizens to be protected

 

 

Holocaust Memorial Day is a day to remember and commemorate those who have been killed in genocides across the globe, both throughout history and in the present day.

The word ‘genocide’ was defined in 1948, as ‘any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) killing members of the group; (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, (d) measures intended to prevent births within the group, or ( e ) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. ‘

This year’s Holocaust Memorial Day asks us to view genocide through an alternative lens- when one has seen and lived through genocide, how can life go on?

Those who have survived systematic genocide have inevitably witnessed and experienced untold horrors. Survivors are likely to be living with incomplete support networks and mental and physical health problems, either within the country where the atrocities happened, or within another country, having sought refuge from altogether hideous circumstances.

Testimonies show that both sets of locations pose challenges.

Wherever they live, they harbour severe mental scars.
They will have borne witness to the political, societal, and cultural breakdown of their nation. They are likely to have seen or experienced the death of their loved ones. 
They may be survivors of rape, torture, or other forms of physical and sexual violence.

Whilst those who have sought refuge in another country may be physically removed from the situation, mentally, many survivors speak of immigration processes forcing them to relive their trauma. A report conducted by MIND UK found that when relocated to the UK, pressures of the interview process put a ‘tremendous strain’ on individuals, as they experienced being questioned in a confined space by an authority figure very soon after interrogation and torture during the genocide. The anxiety associated with the wait to find out whether they have leave to remain, in some cases, further exacerbated mental health conditions, as did the overhanging threat of being held in a detention centre.

For those who stayed in the country where the atrocities happened, they will bear witness to the political, societal, and cultural recovery of their nation. Testimonies found on the Holocaust Memorial Day website show us that these processes are often long, fraught, and uneasy. Legislation may have to be repealed, executives may have to be removed, and divided communities must be reunited.  

For life to go on for survivors in these countries, the UK and the European Union must offer help to those that require it. Labour figures like Alf Dubs, Stella Creasy and Yvette Cooper have rightly campaigned to support unaccompanied child refugees and set up Labour’s Refugee Taskforce, and help to lead the Labour charge against the Tories.

However, we must do more. Whilst help needs to come on a larger scale, including through our international aid budgets and through institutional action, we as people should stop and think how we can support survivors of genocides. This may be through volunteering in refugee communities or camps, offering to foster or take in refugees, donating to a charity supporting refugees and groups that work in countries affected by genocide, or seemingly little things, like calling out xenophobic hate speech and making refugees feel comfortable in their country of settlement.

For survivors of genocide, it is unlikely that life will ever return completely to normal. 
We must not allow their experiences to happen in vain. It is vastly important that we acknowledge and commemorate the atrocities that have been committed, and dare to hope  that through concerted global efforts, such acts will never happen again. 

There are a number of events being held in and around the South East of England to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day, which can be found here:

http://hmd.org.uk/events/find/South%20East?page=1

If you would like to know more about Holocaust Memorial Day, or would like to read any testimonies from survivors of genocide, the link to their website can be found here:

http://hmd.org.uk/resources/theme-papers/hmd-2017-how-can-life-go

To take action against hate crime in the South East, see the link here:

http://www.anneliesedoddsmep.uk/stopping_hate_crimes

 

 

Holocaust Memorial Day 2017

   

 

 

 

"Brexit means Brexit," Theresa May has said for months on end – a fatuous phrase that has infuriated our EU partners and done nothing to enable British businesses to plan for the future.  Then as 2017 dawned, after forcing out our most experienced EU civil servant for trying to deliver honest advice, the Prime Minister promised to set out today what Brexit really means.

And now we know.  Brexit - to this supposedly moderate Prime Minister – means leaving the Single Market altogether and almost every element of the Customs Union in order to "go it alone".  That's the Single Market which one Theresa May MP said, in a speech in April 2016, “accounts for a huge volume of our trade” and which, once completed, “would see a dramatic increase in economic growth, for Britain and the rest of Europe”.  The Theresa May of 2016 said that continued membership of the Single Market would mean “greater economic growth in Britain, higher wages in Britain and lower prices for consumers - in Britain.”

And why does the Theresa May of 2017 want to take the UK out of this incredibly prosperous and beneficial trading bloc?  The spurious reason she gave in her speech today is that it was what the British people voted for on 23 June 2016: "both sides in the referendum campaign made it clear that a vote to leave the EU would be a vote to leave the Single Market."  But that is simply untrue.  Many Leave campaigners quite specifically said that they wanted a future where the UK was outside the European Union but still inside the single market.  Take Daniel Hannan MEP as just one example: "to repeat, absolutely nobody is talking about threatening our place in the Single Market."

Well, they are now, Daniel.  If the Prime Minister had been honest when giving her reasons for taking us out of a market of some 500 million consumers, she would have admitted that she was being driven once again by the pressures of Conservative party management rather than national interest.  She has chosen to appease her rabid Eurosceptic backbenchers, and to prioritise slapping an arbitrary figure on migration levels rather than allow British businesses to continue benefiting from membership of the world's largest trading area.  She claims to be doing so on the basis of popular opinion, but that doesn't stand up to scrutiny: a poll for the Independent conducted just after the referendum vote showed that, given the choice, 48% of people would rather have single market access than a cap on immigration, compared to 37% who said their preference was the other way around.

In fact, contained within May's speech was the answer she needs on immigration that would allow us to remain members of the single market in any new deal with the EU.  She said, rightly, that there is pressure within the UK on public services, housing and wage growth.  That pressure stems from six years of Tory underinvestment in public services; decades of not building enough houses; and the government turning a blind eye to highly dubious undercutting of workers' pay.  All of these problems could be fixed without capping the number of people who arrive in our country and make an overall net contribution to government coffers – and so allowing us to keep our membership of the single market.  There was no need for the choice that May now suggests was inevitable.

May, with all the zeal of a convert, has decided that her "hard", "clean", "red, white and blue" Brexit must mean an economic hit to the country (which will, inevitably, be felt by the poorest) so that she can appease the xenophobic right wing of her party.  She demands that the EU play ball in helping her to deliver this.  And if they don't?  The threat could not have been clearer: the UK, she said, would then be free to set "competitive tax rates" and "to change the basis of Britain's economic model".  A leaf taken straight out of the newly minted Trump Playbook.  Play ball with us, or we turn the UK into a giant tax haven and undercut the lot of you.  The starting gun fired for a trade war. If Theresa May stays on this course, it will end badly for everyone.

 

Today we learned what Theresa May's 'Brexit' really means- making Britain poorer

      "Brexit means Brexit," Theresa May has said for months on end – a fatuous phrase that has infuriated our EU partners and done nothing to enable British businesses...

Small Businesses contribute enormously to our local economy, making our high streets more diverse and providing greater choice.  In fact, over 99% of all businesses in the UK are classed as small or medium-sized enterprises, and there are almost a million such businesses in the South East alone.  They are the lifeblood of our economy.

This is why it is important for politicians to have our fingers on their pulse when it comes to small business, to be able to support them in the best way possible.

Yesterday, the Federation of Small Business (FSB) reported the good news that small businesses' confidence is up – back to similar levels seen at the start of 2016, according to their Small Business Index.  A net balance of 2.9% of small businesses report to have hired more people between October and December 2016.

Export-oriented businesses in particular are confident about the next three months, where they expect exports to grow. One of the main reasons for this is the plummeting of the pound in the recent months. However, currency depreciation is a double-edged sword.  It's good news if you export to other countries, where they will be inclined to buy more of your products.  But if you import from elsewhere in the world, the price of your raw materials just got more expensive.  Nearly one third of all small businesses report that the exchange rate is a major cause for the cost of doing business going up. This is worrisome on several levels: it's worse for businesses, because their profitability will go down as a result; but also for consumers because it will lead to a rise in prices - making ordinary people worse off when they buy their groceries or clothes.

Investment intentions also remain subdued compared to 2015. Most commentators suggest this could be due to uncertainty regarding the Brexit deal, as well as other issues such as the affordability and availability of credit.

The government needs to take these issues seriously, and look behind the good news in the headlines of the FSB's report.  They should take note of the warning signs within the report, and act now to protect businesses and consumers alike.  Instead, Theresa May has left a complete policy void regarding the kind of relationship with the EU she wants to achieve. It is now over 6 months after the referendum and the Tory government is still not clear if they are going to seek membership of the single market.  If we see such damaging uncertainty continue, the next issue of the FSB's report may contain much less good news, and a lot more gloom.

Small Business confidence has rebounded - but we need to look behind the headlines

Small Businesses contribute enormously to our local economy, making our high streets more diverse and providing greater choice.  In fact, over 99% of all businesses in the UK are classed as...


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