Anneliese is refreshingly frank about why she has exchanged the life of a successful academic for that of a Labour MEP.
“It was not something that I had thought substantially about before 2013, but a friend suggested I should apply and the more I considered it, the more I thought I would really like to do it,” explains the long-term Labour Party member. Another strong factor was a determination to become involved in the development of EU policy, rather than simply comment from the sidelines. Since her election in May, her parliamentary work has proved to be “really interesting, very stimulating and extremely busy”.
Other considerations were factors in her decision. Ms Dodds’ academic work had brought her into contact with various European countries as she researched how to improve the safety and quality of health, combat social exclusion and make regulation more effective. As the chair of a debt and housing welfare advice centre on an Oxford housing estate, she had witnessed at first hand the harsh impact of the economic and financial crises, and the responses put in place, on people’s daily lives.
To these, for the MEP with many financial service jobs in her constituency, was added a wider concern. “I felt we were in a bit of a worrying period in terms of Britain’s ability to represent itself in Europe. Basically, the British position was sometimes coming across as no regulation in any area under any circumstances, even when business was actually seen to be saying that it would be helpful,” she explains. That pragmatic approach and wish to see business and workers’ interests fairly represented led the Labour MEP to become a member of the economic and monetary affairs committee.
There, she has been given responsibility by her S&D group for secondary legislation for the many financial services issues decided in the last mandate. These range from MiFID and the European Market Infrastructure Regulation (EMIR) to the Market Abuse Directive (MAD), Market Abuse Regulation (MAR) and measures to control commodity trading. The Labour MEP describes much of the work as “pretty pro-business” as she and her colleagues try “to promote transparency, better knowledge by market participants and ultimately efficiency”.
The issues under discussion may be less glamorous than the original primary texts, but they can be no less contentious for that. As Ms Dodds explains: “Having the right delegated legislation will make a big difference whether the piece of legislation will work or not.”
She acknowledges that it can be quite challenging to ensure, during the lengthy and complex negotiations, that “the spirit and letter of the legislation” are preserved and that what the Parliament decided on the primary legislation is adhered to. The process sheds light on another aspect of an MEP’s work. “Potential problems or issues around timing and the relationship between different pieces of legislation, for instance, may only really come out by the time you put secondary legislation together. So, this is an area where there is potentially quite a bit of discretion in the case of financial regulation for the Commission and regulators,” she says.
As ECON maps out its work programme for this parliamentary mandate, after the legislative roller-coaster of the past five years, there have been growing calls for a more holistic approach towards the financial services sector. The British MEP suggests these reflect two different tendencies. “I believe some people are motivated by a general concern to identify overlaps or gaps. Others, I think, are ultimately keen to have a bit of a moratorium on regulatory development. I would probably adhere more to the first camp. Obviously, we have still got quite a lot to sort out. And, I think that it is only once the architecture is in place you can see if there are other areas which need greater scrutiny.”
Taxation, particularly in the light of the LuxLeak revelations into the aggressive policies certain jurisdictions pursue to attract major multinational companies, enabling them to avoid paying much of the tax they owe, is another issue close to the MEP’s heart. Speaking in a plenary debate in Strasbourg shortly before Christmas, she estimated the tax gap from the widespread avoidance schemes to be some one trillion euro per year.
While Eurosceptics use the embarrassing findings to try to discredit the EU, Ms Dodds argues they confirm that when it comes to tax “there is a strong incentive to race towards the bottom unless you have coordination through international organisations like the EU”. She acknowledges that tax is not an EU competence, but points out that competition, with its emphasis on a level playing field, is. SMEs, in particular, suffer from the controversial practices because, unlike their multinational competitors, “they can’t possibly compete when their costs are that much higher and they can’t hide their profits in different jurisdictions”. She, like many MEPs, is pressing to use the outcry triggered by the scandal to put in place tougher rules and more transparency to close the loopholes.