At today's European Parliament extraordinary meeting on Brexit there will not be a single Republic of Ireland MEP allowed to speak. The core, EPP and S&D, groups have decided that it is wiser to only let group leaders speak. My group fought it but were in the end ignored. The EU has learned nothing. Luke 'Ming' Flanagan, June 27, 2016
GAGGED By Luke 'Ming' Flanagan
Today there was a ‘debate’ in a special Plenary – the sitting of the European Parliament – on Brexit.
Now I think the world knows that this was a fairly significant event for all concerned; for the UK itself, for the EU, but also for Ireland, given our ties to Britain. I was looking forward then to taking part in what was sure to be a robust discussion, contribute my own tuppence-worth.
But here is what actually happened, and here also is all that’s rotten about this place, here is why I believe the UK has taken the right decision.
THE GRAND COALITION
I've mentioned this before but the European Parliament is dominated by what’s known as The Grand Coalition, with the EPP (215 MEPs, the ironically titled European People’s Party which, more than any other, works in the interests of big business; they are the major supporters in parliament of neoliberalism and austerity), the S&D (190 MEPs, the Socialists and Democrats, though in fact they’re neither) and ALDE (70 MEPs, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) having 475 seats between them, a huge majority in a chamber of 751 members.
Between them, and along with the Greens, they have come up with what’s called a Joint Motion for a Resolution on Brexit; this was to form the basis of the debate.
Yesterday our group – GUE/NGL – was discussing our proposed Amendments to that Resolution; just after 4.00pm, in the middle of that discussion, we got word from the Tabling Office that the deadline for amendments had been brought forward an hour, from 6.00pm to 5.00pm. In a group of real politics, a dozen different opinions and all strongly held, this created an utterly unfair situation but we nevertheless managed to squeeze in few amendments before the deadline.
At that meeting the procedure for the Plenary ‘debate’ was also outlined to us, as decided by the Grand Coalition. And it’s a travesty. In this so-called Parliament, the only EU institution (as we’re are constantly reminded) with a true democratic mandate, what we are offered is in fact a denial of democracy.
WHEN IS A DEBATE NOT A DEBATE?
There was no debate. The Council spoke, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert – you know her, right, our Jeanine, Dutch Minister of Defence? Jeanine was followed by the Commission, its egoist President Jean Claude Juncker doing his usual stunt and making this all about him. Each group’s leader was then given a speaking slot but the time allowed was in proportion to the size of the group; EPP got 8’30”, S&D got 6’ – our speaker, Gabi Zimmer, got 3’.
We then got to hear more platitudes about unity and all standing together from the Council and from Juncker, five minutes each, each of the groups getting a minute to reply to that. Juncker though didn’t bother to wait around for that; the important part of the morning – his contributions – were all over.
Two northern Ireland MEPs – Diane Dodds and Martina Anderson – got to speak in this slot but that was it. Then we voted, with the Grand Coalition rejecting all our amendments and forcing through its own Motion for a Resolution.
And that’s it. That’s the European Parliament and the way it operates.
WHAT WOULD I HAVE SAID?
I would have pointed out that, as even a cursory glance at the demographics shows, this was a victory for the disenfranchised, for those who have been most damaged by the grand-plan neoliberal policies of the austerity-promoting EU.
I would have pointed out that this grand plan for the EU was never a project of the left, that it was founded on facilitating big business and that with CETA and TTIP and all the other ‘free trade agreements’ now being pushed through by the Commission, the Council and the EPP-dominated Parliament, that agenda is now accelerated.
I would have told them that in stating over and over again that this was a win for the extreme right, the left is handing over a victory that in fact was the result of an across-the-board effort and that in doing so, they are handing the extreme right a major boost – everyone loves a winner, right?
I would have given them a little history, the fact that it was a British government that gave us the NHS and that is the EU now, through TTIP that threatens to take that away; the fact that it was a British government that gave us modern-day labour laws including the 40-hr week, overtime etc, long before there was ever an EU, but that it is the same EU now, again through TTIP and the like, that is going to dilute those hard-gained labour rights.
I would have said that rather than castigating the British who voted for Brexit, painting them all as racists and xenophobes, we should applaud them in the way we applauded the Greeks who similarly voted in a way that wasn’t acceptable to the EU, despite also the fact that as in the UK, all the major forces were aligned against them and threatening them with Armageddon.
So much that I’ve had said. But I was gagged, and apart from a few at the top table, we were all gagged.
And here’s the really sad part.
‘Lord’ Jonathan Hill is the British Commissioner, a Eurosceptic turned Europhile and a guy who, more than any other, has fought tooth and nail to protect the interests of the financial sector in the City of London but also across the EU, a neoliberal hawk of hawks; he was given a standing ovation by the S&D.
This Parliament, this EU, is now beyond parody. We all need to do what the UK has just voted to do; we need to get out.