Anneliese Dodds MEP

The South East's Voice in Europe

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In April 2015, a month before the General Election, the Conservative party published its manifesto.  Contained within it was the unambiguous promise: “we will not raise VAT, National Insurance Contributions or income tax” (it’s on page 3).  Whether or not you take issue with the idea that sometimes tax changes need to be made in order to increase fairness or (heaven forbid) pay for better public services, it’s hard to deny the clarity of the message.

Earlier this month, less than two years after the manifesto was published, Philip Hammond stood up in the House of Commons and announced that he would be raising National Insurance Contributions for the self-employed.  He had apparently come up with this policy without realising that it broke a 2015 manifesto promise.  He had presented it to the Cabinet in advance of announcing it, and not one member of the Tory cabinet noticed that they were about to go back on an election pledge.  As the Chancellor had to sheepishly admit, it took the BBC journalist Laura Kuenssberg to spot what the entire Conservative party had missed: they had broken their word.

Just under a week after the announcement was made, under intense pressure from Tory backbenchers, Hammond backtracked and reversed the policy.  This was a screeching U-turn that had the double embarrassment of leaving the government in the position of saying that they still think the policy is the right thing to do, but they’re not going to do it.

This isn’t just political point-scoring by drawing attention to the fact that the Tory party made a terrible mistake.  This matters.  The fact that the Conservatives are happy to play so fast and loose with their promises to the public; the fact that they are so incompetent that they don’t even notice when they have broken a key pledge; the fact that they can believe something is the right thing to do but be browbeaten out of doing it by bad press and the grumbling of their backbenchers - all of this matters.

It matters in particular because what comes next - the Brexit negotiation - is much bigger, more complicated and with higher stakes than anything that has come before.  Theresa May has already thrown out another commitment from that 2015 manifesto - “we say: yes to the Single Market” (page 72) - when she unilaterally announced in January that we would in fact be saying a decisive “no” to the single market.  Again, this was a U-turn made at the behest of her most extreme backbenchers.  Can we trust anything that the Tories say?  They have recently published a White Paper on leaving the EU.  It was disappointing enough anyway, but is it even worth the paper it’s written on?

We are about to enter one of the most prolonged periods of uncertainty that the country has faced outside of wartime.  The implications of how we leave the EU - the impact on people’s lives, their communities, their jobs and their futures - are enormous.  Get this wrong, and it could take decades for the country to recover. 

Given those circumstances, this month’s Budget embarrassment should be a lesson to the Tories, and a warning to the rest of us to hold them to account.  If they are to negotiate on behalf of country in order to define our future place in the world, I want to know that they can keep their promises; that they are on top of the detail; and that they will do what is right for the country, and not just whatever will appease Tory Eurosceptics.  Right now, it’s hard to have confidence that any of that is the case.

If the Tories can’t keep their manifesto promises, what hope for Brexit?

In April 2015, a month before the General Election, the Conservative party published its manifesto.  Contained within it was the unambiguous promise: “we will not raise VAT, National Insurance Contributions...

 

Anneliese Dodds MEP is hosting a discussion on European politics following Brexit.

Focusing on ‘British and German politics following Brexit,’ Anneliese will be joined by Jo Leinen MEP and Jakob von Weizsacker MEP, both MEPs for Germany.

The event will be held in East Oxford Community Centre, and will begin at 3:30pm on Friday, 10th of March. Tea, coffee and refreshments will be provided.

Anneliese Dodds MEP stated ‘The Prime Minister only has 23 days until her self-imposed deadline to trigger article 50. Britain, and her government, are ill-prepared for negotiations, with her Brexit bill stuck ping-ponging between the Houses of Parliament. She has provided meagre assurances that she intends to protect the rights of EU nationals to live and work within Britain, and little to no indication of UK’s aims of negotiation.

As such, relations between the UK and the other countries in the European Union look set to remain uncertain and uneasy. Now, more than ever, it is especially crucial to maintain an open dialogue between the UK and citizens of European economic powerhouses, like Germany, to implement a Brexit that works for everyone.

I am very much looking forward to an interesting discussion between UK MEPs and German MEPs, and look forward to seeing you there.’

Anneliese hosts discussion with German MEPs

  Anneliese Dodds MEP is hosting a discussion on European politics following Brexit. Focusing on ‘British and German politics following Brexit,’ Anneliese will be joined by Jo Leinen MEP and...

Earlier this week I received a reply from the European Commissioner for Competition to a letter that I sent the week before. In my letter, I expressed my concerns about the allocation of prize money in Formula One and its wider impact on the competitiveness of the sport following the recent collapse of Manor Racing, which is based in my constituency. Currently, bigger teams are guaranteed prize money, regardless of where they end up in any race, whilst smaller teams do not benefit from this guaranteed payout.

I also inquired as to why the Commission did not rule on the sale of Formula One to Liberty Media. The motor sport industry is an important employer in the South East of England, and recent local developments, including some smaller teams experiencing severe financial difficulties, have suggested to me the need for more scrutiny of whether the sport is still truly competitive. 

Original Letter

In the Commissioner’s response, she explains that she was unable to rule on the sale of the sport because it did not meet merger thresholds. This has been widely reported as the Commission being unable to investigate any aspect of Formula One, with one outlet reporting that the letter rejected the recent vote in the European Parliament calling for an immediate investigation in competition concerns in Formula One.

This also does not mean she cannot investigate the sale of the sport, or a possible conflict of interest from the regulator concerned.

The Commissioner has, however, not ruled out any investigation into competition concerns in the sport, not least because there is still an on-going investigation arising from complaints from the F1 Teams Force India and Sauber. In addition, the Commissioner maintained in her letter that she would look at tax affairs in relation to the sport. 

I will continue to push to protect highly skilled employees in the South East working in the motor sport industry; as I would for any other industry. 

Earlier this week I received a reply from the European Commissioner for Competition to a letter that I sent the week before. In my letter, I expressed my concerns about the allocation of prize money in Formula One and its wider impact on the competitiveness of the sport following the recent collapse of Manor Racing, which is based in my constituency. Currently, bigger teams are guaranteed prize money, regardless of where they end up in any race, whilst smaller teams do not benefit from this guaranteed payout. I also inquired as to why the Commission did not rule on the sale of Formula One to Liberty Media. The motor sport industry is an important employer in the South East of England, and recent local developments, including some smaller teams experiencing severe financial difficulties, have suggested to me the need for more scrutiny of whether the sport is still truly competitive. 

 

 

Reply from the European Commission to my letter on Formula 1

Earlier this week I received a reply from the European Commissioner for Competition to a letter that I sent the week before. In my letter, I expressed my concerns about...

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The Conservatives’ conversion to industrial policy: Plasticene, not Damascene

Finally, it appears that the phrase ‘industrial policy’ is no longer banned in Westminster and Whitehall. Indeed, the Conservative government has even produced a green paper on ‘building our industrial policy’, suggesting a full-blooded conversion to many of the policies Labour has been pushing for years. The green paper even includes a mention of ‘regional’ approaches, a term which was virtually banned under David Cameron’s administration.

It is pleasing to see a recognition of the need for the UK to learn from the US’ Small Business Administration, a measure previously called for by Chuka Umunna when Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary.  Likewise, it is encouraging to see a desire to ensure more relevant vocational qualifications and provide more and better apprenticeships - again, two Labour initiatives, this time included in the Husbands Review of Vocational Education and Training.  The Green Paper also included recommendations to rebalance the economy across the country (funnily enough, pushed by Labour), including by improving the availability of business finance across the UK (previously advocated by - you guessed it - Labour).

However, the new strategy includes some gaping holes. There is no indication in the Green Paper of how the government’s professed conversion to promoting green energy can occur, when its seesawing approach to renewable energy and energy conservation has led many investors to abandon trying to support this nascent industry in Britain (not to mention the impact the legislative U-turns have had on jobs, especially in home insulation).

Similarly, trade unions appear to be almost entirely absent from the government’s vision, despite their well-evidenced role in promoting innovation, new working practices and workplace-based learning.  It is all very well for the government to want to emulate Germany’s success when it comes to manufacturing, but it is disingenuous and short-sighted to fail to acknowledge the essential role that good industrial relations play in delivering that German success story.

And for all the green paper’s rhetoric on more localised approaches, aside from reference to metro mayors, combined authorities and the new growth and devolution deals, there appears to be virtually no commitment to provide local authorities with the powers they need to grow their local areas’ economies. Aside from reference to potential new devolution deals (which appear to depend on the government’s backdoors dealing rather than being part of a transparent process), the only clear suggested change for local government is the engagement of private sector expertise- something that many local authorities already engage with, but which others have used to the detriment of their populations.

Finally, the green paper is almost embarrassing in its failure to genuinely confront the elephant in the room – the lack of certainty following the Brexit vote and the government’s shambolic approach to our future relations with the EU. This was evident upon the green paper’s publication, but has become even clearer with the publication of the government’s white paper on Brexit.

It is all very well, for example, stating a commitment to nuclear research, when the government has prioritised pulling out of Euratom- something that even the most committed Brexiteer would have balked at- given the impact this could have on Britain’s existing world-class nuclear fusion research in Culham. Similarly, discussion of rebalancing our economy makes little sense when the long-term future of structural funds is so unclear- until now, virtually the only regional, needs-based pot of money available for local authorities to promote economic regeneration. Government could use the removal of structural funds to open a debate about reforming local government finance to better reflect intra- and inter-regional disparities. Instead, we seem to have text message deals being made between ministers and Conservative county council leaders, and only a very vague statement on the future following Structural Funds on page 114 of the Green Paper. Again, the roll-out of Smart Meters is quoted approvingly in the strategy, without mention of the fact that it was supported by the European Investment Bank (nor of some of the problems the programme has encountered). And of course, it is pleasing to see the government finally focusing on trying to promote manufacturing, especially automotive industry, yet disturbing to see a lack of recognition of the damage currently being wreaked on that sector by the government’s approach to the Brexit negotiations. One wonders how that sector will be able to produce a new so-called ‘Sector Deal’, including a consideration of ‘helping address market access barriers with other countries’ (as it says on page 101 of the Green Paper), when its warnings about the impact of the government’s strategy on EU market access are currently being ignored by Number 10.

Without a stronger commitment to preserving our access to the single market and dealing with the funding gaps following Brexit, the government’s new conversion to industrial policy is more plasticene than Damascene. 

The Conservatives’ conversion to industrial policy: Plasticene, not Damascene

On Tuesday of last week The Times reported on my concerns about Formula 1 racing (‘F1 facing investigation into “anti-competitive behaviour”’, 14 February).  This seems to have prompted the sport’s regulator, the FIA, to issue a press release in which they seek to rebut comments which they describe as “inaccurately informed or made maliciously”. 

I would like to clarify that not all of my wider concerns in the governance of Formula One are related to the regulator. Neither am I accusing any individual or organisation of wrongdoing. I am articulating the concerns of my constituents in the South East, the businesses based there and the highly skilled workers who are losing their jobs due to what they see as inherent faults in a much loved sport and industry. Last month, Manor Racing became the latest team in my constituency to collapse.

It is my job as their elected representative to ask questions on their behalf.

My concerns in relation to Formula One’s regulator, The FIA, are purely focused on the conflicts of interest that can arise when the regulator of a particular industry also has a financial stake in that same industry.  In that situation, the prospect of the regulator making a profit from developments within an industry that it is supposed to be regulating is something which requires close attention.

As I see it, there are two key instances where such a conflict of interest could have arisen. The first is the $5m ‘signing bonus’ that the FIA received from Formula One during the establishment of the sport’s ‘Strategy Group’. The second and more concerning instance, relates to the FIA’s purchase of a 1% stake in Formula One for a cut-price deal of $458,197.34. As that stake was worth $80m only four years later, I feel that either Formula One seriously undervalue their business, or some other factor was involved.

As an MEP who works closely in scrutinising the financial services sector, if I saw the Financial Conduct Authority take a 1% stake in Barclays, I would be incredibly alarmed. Any decision that the FCA took that could have even an indirect impact on Barclays would affect its share price and therefore any current or future financial gain from that stake.

I don’t understand how these concerns are ‘malicious’ and I feel they should be treated seriously, as does the European Parliament.

While I appreciate the FIA’s attempt to clarify its position, I would welcome a more detailed outline of the reasoning behind its acceptance of these payments. I am certain that any transparency the FIA can provide on the European Parliament’s concerns would help to ease concerns shared by fans of the sport.

Yours faithfully,

Anneliese Dodds MEP

 

Open Letter to the FIA

On Tuesday of last week The Times reported on my concerns about Formula 1 racing (‘F1 facing investigation into “anti-competitive behaviour”’, 14 February).  This seems to have prompted the sport’s...


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