La Treizième Étoile: European Union Edition
News from the European Union with a focus on the South West UK and Gibraltar region and its MEPs
History made as the South West elects its first ever Green MEP at the expense of its longest-serving Lib Dem MEP of 20 years

Monday, 26 May 2014
• Greens win their first ever MEP in the South West of England and Gibraltar
Sir Graham Watson loses seat after representing region for 20 years
• 65% of voters in Gibraltar voted for the Liberal Democrats
• Tories and UKIP miss out on third seat as Labour regain seat lost in 2009
• Conservative MEPs Ashley Fox and Julie Girling re-elected
• UKIP MEP Earl of Dartmouth re-elected
• Turnout across the region was 37% (down 1.8% from 2009)


History was made in the South West last night as the region elected its first ever Green MEP to the European Parliament. Labour also regained the seat it lost in 2009 in a result that saw the region’s longest-serving MEP Liberal Democrat Sir Graham Watson lose his seat. Sir Graham first won a seat in the European Parliament in 1994 and has been named as one of the most influential Brits in EU policy making.

"It has been an honour and a pleasure to serve the south west of England and Gibraltar in the European Parliament. I shall miss it but I wish my successors well. Politics is the kind of profession that you live with winning and you live with losing and I have no doubt the Liberal Democrats will be back. Naturally I am disappointed but not terribly surprised. The Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives have taken a beating," he said.

Responding to the news, George Ferguson, the Mayor of Bristol who was grateful for Sir Graham’s support in the successful bid for the city to be crowned EU Green Capital 2015, tweetedIt's sad that the South West loses Sir Graham Watson one of UK's very best MEPs. Big thanks for all you have done for Bristol and the region” before sending a message to the region’s new Green MEP:


The UK Independence Party topped the poll in 24 of the 38 districts in the region, taking 32.29% of the vote overall, up 10.23% from the 2009 EU election. This gave them two seats: the Earl of Dartmouth and Dr Julia Reid, the assistant of former MEP Trevor Colman. With Cornish party Mebyon Kernow opting not to present candidates, the UKIP vote share in the region increased, with the party polling three times as many votes as the Lib Dems with 53,943 votes.

The Conservatives finished second overall in the region with 28.89% of the vote, which was down 1.36% from 2009. This gave the party two MEPs, with Ashley Fox and Julie Girling retaining their seats in Brussels and Strasbourg. The third seat, previously held by retiring Giles Chichester, was lost preventing double Olympic gold medal winning rower James Cracknell having a crack at EU politics.


Labour increased their share of the vote by 6%, resulting in 13.75% of the regional vote and picked up the MEP seat it lost in 2009, with former Unite union official Clare Moody, who once worked in Gordon Brown's Number 10 Policy Unit, elected. She said: “People are starting to put their faith back in the Labour Party and we will work really hard to deliver on that faith for working people. We'll work to bring investment and jobs to the South West so people can really feel the benefit of our EU membership."

The Greens also increased their vote, recording 11.10%, up 1.8% over 2009. With the Liberal Democrats losing 10% of their vote, this small increase was enough to jump the Lib Dems by a slim margin of 0.4% and give the Greens their first ever MEP seat in the region. Dr Molly Scott Cato, an economist and keen apiarist, will take the seat. She said: "I knew it would be very close and possible for the Greens to win. With the electoral system it wasn't certain and it has been quite a tense evening. It is fantastic that the South West now has a Green voice in Europe."


The Liberal Democrat vote across the region fell and they failed to collect a single second place in any of the council areas; except in Gibraltar where Sir Graham Watson finished top and secured 65.95% of the vote on a turnout of 32.84%, the lowest turnout since Gibraltarians won the right to vote in EU elections. The party was the only one standing in the election to field a local Gibraltarian candidate on their lists.

Reacting the vote result, the Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo said: “Gibraltar has to be at the heart of decision making in EU as it affects The Rock. Need to be more engaged in European debate”. He indicated that he will be conducting a ‘post mortem’ on the poor turnout at the European Election. Deputy Chief Minister, liberal Dr Joseph Garcia told GBC he wasdelighted over the Lib Dem vote in Gibraltar, and a vindication of Sir Graham's work in EU for The Rock”, addingSir Graham Watson would be an excellent candidate for a Gibraltar-Brussels representative role should he not be elected".




Congratulations to the newly-elected and newly re-elected MEPs. I hope the region will be well-represented in Brussels and Strasbourg during the next five years. We'll be watching.

The full list of candidates who stood in the election can be found here.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,


Editorial: why the European elections matter for the South West, and who should you vote for on 22 May

Wednesday, 21 May 2014
Tomorrow, Thursday 22 May 2014, voters in the South West of England and Gibraltar will be given the chance to elect their members of the European Parliament for the next five years until 2019. This is an important election, not least because the European Parliament has grown in stature and its powers to modify and amend European Commission law proposals have increased.

I have worked in and in close proximity to the European Parliament for the past four years and set up this blog to write about and report on what our MEPs are doing for the region in Brussels. (A huge region that includes Avon, Bristol, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Isles of Scilly, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Wiltshire and of course Gibraltar.)

The EU system is complicated, of course it is, but this vote tomorrow is NOT for a vote in an IN/OUT referendum and it is NOT a vote on Westminster politics or national policies. This is a vote to determine who will work with the EU to get the best deal for the region.

The South West of England and Gibraltar elects SIX MEPs – the same number as four whole European countries: Cyprus, Estonia, Luxembourg and Malta. Latvia and Slovenia elect eight. The UK in total elects 73. Worth repeating: the South West MEPs, together, have as much impact and clout in the chamber as all the MEPs of four European countries.

The South West benefits greatly from active membership of the European Union. I could name many reasons, but here are just a few:


So who should you vote for?

Currently, we have three Conservative MEPs (Ashley Fox, Julie Girling, Giles Chichester), two UKIP (The Earl of Dartmouth, Trevor Colman) and one Liberal Democrat (Sir Graham Watson). Giles Chichester and Trevor Colman are retiring; the other four are standing for re-election.

Ashley Fox (Conservative) is one of the leading MEPs in the fight for a single seat of the European Parliament and ending the ‘travelling circus’ and waste of having MEPs travel to Strasbourg every month when the seat in Brussels is perfectly adequate. Mr Fox is part of the cross-party steering group and his amendment in March 2011 removed one trip to Strasbourg from the Parliament’s 2012 calendar. France took this vote to the ECJ, and won. Mr Fox then co-authored a report adopted by MEPs calling for a single seat. He has also been active in other dossiers but for his commitment to ending the travelling circus he should be re-elected to continue with the fight.

Julie Girling (Conservative) has sat on the Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee and has built up such a standing and experience that she is currently the Conservative Party’s spokesperson in Europe for these subjects. Among other things, she has worked hard to ensure the Common Fisheries Policy was reformed properly, that shark finning was banned, and has twice been nominated as an MEP of the Year in this field. She is the only one of the six MEPs to post a regular video blog (a form of 'reporting back' I approve of), was also a part of the historic EU delegation that travelled to Burma and met with freed democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2012, and is not afraid of standing up to and embarrassing UKIP… She will stand up for the region in Brussels so she should be re-elected.

Sir Graham Watson (Liberal Democrat) has served the region in Brussels for almost 20 years. He is by far the most experienced MEP serving the region and has been named as one of the most influential Brits in EU policy making. Among other things, he was part of the team that saw Bristol being awarded the EU Green Capital 2015 prize, he has stood up for Gibraltar, vocally calling for Gibraltar to join the Schengen Area and organising on a number of occasions high-level visits of the Gibraltar government to leading EU figures. He has called for the creation of an EU special representative on climate security and as a long time advocate of renewable energy investment, welcomed the announcement of the South West as the UK’s first Marine Energy Park and has brought European Commissioners to the region. Sir Graham should be re-elected to allow him to continue serving the region.

Current MEP Giles Chichester (Conservative) is retiring, and his spot on the list is now being occupied by Olympic gold medalist rower James Cracknell. It would be interesting to see how his first venture into politics goes if elected. The head of the list for Labour in the region is Clare Moody, while the head of the list for the Greens is Molly Scott Cato. Both of these parties would need a significant change in the vote to be elected, but it's not impossible.

As for UKIP. Well, there are many reasons why you should not vote UKIP on Thursday (here are 10 for a start) but the two current MEPs The Earl of Dartmouth and Trevor Colman can rarely be seen and said to stand up for the region’s interests. The former better known for being ridiculed in the plenary or throwing a hissy feat and being asked to leave. Mr Colman has been named as one of the ‘laziest’ MEPs in the European Parliament and has only taken part in half of all votes (52.59%) during his five years in office (ranked 751st out of 766). He confessed to the BBC in January this year, he was in it for the money, which he then has used to fund a website. Mr Colman is retiring and his spot on the list has been given to Dr Julia Reid, Mr Colman’s Parliamentary Assistant. Number three on the list is Gawain Towler, Nigel Farage’s former Press Officer. I frankly don’t expect them to make any notable contribution for the region in Europe and my personal view has always been that a vote for UKIP is a vote to give them a five-year mandate to do absolutely nothing at all, with no obligation to justify themselves doing nothing because they are anti-EU. They will of course then moan the UK has lost influence etc. Personally, I’d have a lot more time for that argument if they didn't then draw the maximum possible amount of expenses MEPs are entitled to.

---

When the floods hit the Westcountry earlier this year, our Liberal Democrat MEP and Conservative MEPs came together to call on the Prime Minister to apply for EU funding and assistance. He did not and none came. Presumably because he was afraid that calling for EU help would be a sign of weakness. That is disappointing.

We need MEPs who will stand up for the region in Europe. The South West of England and Gibraltar elects as many MEPs as four other EU countries. We need, and deserve, to have a strong constructive voice in Brussels and Strasbourg. This is why I urge you to use your vote on Thursday, and cast it for a candidate who will do this, not one who is only there for the money.

Vote Conservative.
Vote Liberal Democrat.
Vote Labour.
Vote Green.
But don’t vote for UKIP if like me you’d like our region to have a strong voice in Brussels.

Labels:


'If you go on holiday, never tell anyone you're an MEP', SW MEP tells the Guardian

Saturday, 10 May 2014
South West Conservative MEP Julie Girling is in the Guardian this week talking about her working week as an MEP as part of the newspapers’ collaboration feature about Europe. In her piece (wrongly named as Julia Girling) she admits that “being an MEP is you lose touch with your friends a bit”, laments at the sheer size of the South West constituency, and says she “tries not to do anything on Sundays” but perhaps a bit of gardening. She also offers the following tip for MEPs:

"If you go on holiday, never tell anyone you're an MEP. If it comes out – because I forget and say I live and work in Brussels - I say that I work for a thinktank. It sounds awful, but people are very aggressive. Most people have got strong views on Europe considering how little they know. Very often they're anti. If you were to do a word association game with people and say "Europe", "member of European parliament", the next thing which would spring to their mind is expenses, not hard work. I'm very happy to defend my corner on that, but not on holiday."

Click here to read the full piece.

Labels:


‘Of course Gibraltar is in the EU’, says European Commission President Barroso

Thursday, 10 April 2014
On 11 February, Spanish Green MEP Iñaki Irazabalbeitia Fernández submitted a written question to the European Commission in which he asked: “What is the status of Gibraltar with respect to the European Union?” adding “Does the Commission intend to clarify the situation to the Spanish authorities? If so, in what respect?

Two months later and the reply has arrived, from the European Commission President José Manuel Barroso himself. His reply in full, not answering the final two part questions:

"The European Union does not dispose of a territory in the way states do. The European Union is founded on the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) which provide for a territorial scope of application (Articles 52 TEU and 355 TFEU).

By virtue of Article 52(1) TEU, the treaties apply to the Member States. By virtue of Article 355(3) TFEU, the treaties apply as well to European territories for whose external relations a Member State is responsible; Gibraltar is considered to be such a territory.

"As a consequence, European law applies in principle to Gibraltar. However, it is not part of the customs territory of the Union (Article 4 of Regulation (EU) No 952/2013), and Union legislation in the areas of the common agricultural policy, the common fisheries policy and the common system of the value added tax does not apply to Gibraltar (Article 28 of the 1972 Act of Accession).
"

Jamie Oliver’s apprenticeship scheme in Cornwall wins EU funds best practice prize

Monday, 31 March 2014
Jamie Oliver’s restaurant Fifteen in Watergate Bay near Newquay, Cornwall, has been recognised by the European Union as a model for others by being awarded a RegioStars 2014 prize, an award being billed as the EU regional funding ‘Oscars’. The aim of the RegioStars Awards is to recognise good practice in regional development and to highlight original and inspiring projects financed by either the European Regional Development Fund or the European Social Fund, which prove a model for other regions.

The Cornish restaurant is being recognised for its apprenticeship programme and work in training and creating jobs for disadvantaged young people at a ceremony held in Brussels this evening. The European Commissioner for regional policy, Johannes Hahn, will be handing out the awards.

Fifteen was built in part with EU money and has received just over £2million (€2.5million) from the European Social Fund and European Regional Development Fund for its work in trying to get young people with a history of anything from suspended prison sentences, mental illness or substance abuse back on track.



Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson, who has long fought for more EU funding for Cornwall, said: “Fifteen has done a fantastic job of taking the most disadvantaged youngsters and giving them another chance in life. It has become a champion of local Cornish produce and created a host of jobs in the restaurant’s supply chain – not to mention the extra tourism.

Giving these young men and women a job – something they can really sink their teeth into – and an opportunity to prove they are worth their salt has in many cases turned their lives around. I am pleased that Cornwall is being showcased to the rest of Europe at the awards tonight.

Fifteen Project Manager Matthew Thomson said: “The Inclusive Growth award from RegioStars is an important step for our social enterprise because it shows how tackling social problems can contribute to the economy. European recognition has helped us to celebrate and reaffirm what we have achieved; we’re looking forward to the future now and how we can expand our reach.

EU regional policy is aimed at levelling out the differences in economic development between richer and poorer parts of the EU. Cornwall is set to receive £535m between now and 2020.

Between 1999 and 2009, Cornwall received over £1 billion of EU funding. This funding has helped build new roads, business parks, better rail connections, one of the fastest rural broadband connections in Europe and contributed to the establishment of the Combined Universities of Cornwall.

Labels:


EU-funded conservation effort brings local South Devon bird back from extinction

Tuesday, 18 March 2014
A South Devon bird which faced extinction in the 1980s is now starting to recover thanks to an EU-funded recovery programme.

Thanks to the European Rural Development stewardship fund which began in 2003 and CAP agri-environment funding, the RSPB and local farmers have been able to build up the bird’s population from just over 100 pairs in 1989 to almost 900 in 2009. By the end of the 2013 breeding season over 60 young Cirl Bunting birds had been spotted, which was especially high given the number of breeding pairs that had been sighted in the same period.

Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson has hailed efforts to save the Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus), a small bird with a yellow and black crown, which almost died out 25 years ago due to the lack of food and nesting sites.

The bird is now only found in South Devon between Plymouth and Exeter, even though at its peak it was seen across Southern England.

Commenting, Sir Graham said: “I am pleased that the 10-year EU scheme has allowed local charities to bring this little bird back from the brink.

I have told the RSPB and others that they will have my full support in Brussels if they need to renew the funding. We must do our utmost to protect our precious wildlife and preserve the tranquil and unspoilt environment in which they live.

Labels:


MEP 'deeply frustrated' UK didn't apply for emergency EU funds to help flood clear-up

Thursday, 13 March 2014
Sir Graham Watson MEP 'helping with the school run in #Muchelney' - Photo: Twitter/@GrahamWatsonMEP One of the region’s MEPs Sir Graham Watson is ‘deeply frustrated’ at reports that the Government will not be submitting an application for emergency EU funds following the flooding in the region.

Sir Graham, who is based in Langport in the Somerset levels, immediately called for the government to use the EU’s Solidarity Fund following devastating floods across Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire on 8th January.

During a debate in the European Parliament, he even accused the Environment Agency of ‘Ganderflanking’ over the response to persistent flooding over the past few years with a lack of action taken to dredge rivers, particularly on the Somerset levels.

He says had initially received notice at the end of January from Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis with the news that they were unlikely to use the fund, but then received news that a Cabinet sub-committee had been tasked with looking into the possibility.

If reports are true, Sir Graham believes the government is wrong to suggest that the UK is ineligible for the fund as the Government point out, commenting: “Whilst the UK may not have reached the threshold of £3 billion of damage to qualify for national emergency relief, I believe that there is a clear case to access funds for regional disasters.

Exceptions have been made in the past, notably for Austria back in 2005. That is why I am deeply frustrated that the Treasury are baulking and turning to a blind eye to this pot of funding from Brussels that we pay into in the first place. I’ll leave the reasons why George Osborne is not applying for the public to decide for themselves.

Conservative MEP Julie Girling also called on the government to apply for EU funding, and in the past has called for increased EU cooperation on flood preparation know-how, calling on the European Commission to “focus on setting up some regional connections so that we can learn from each other about how we cope with this, because it clearly is not going to go away”.

Labels: ,


Lib Dem MEP accuses UKIP of hypocrisy hosting its Conference in EU-funded venue

Friday, 28 February 2014
Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson has accused UKIP, the political party advocating full independence from the EU, of hypocrisy as it kicks off its annual Conference today at the English Riviera Centre in Torquay, a venue that has received more than £3 million in grants from the EU.

The town of Torquay itself has benefited to the tune of £7.4 million from European Regional Development Funds (EDRF) since 2007.

Commenting on the revelations, Sir Graham said UKIP had “managed to embarrass themselves again before anyone had even uttered a word”.

They can’t be trusted to organise their own conference, let alone run the country.

Being in the EU has brought huge benefits to this town. Over £7.4mn of European funding has been invested in recent years to regenerate the Torquay harbour front, build a new coastal zoo and fund local businesses, helping to create over 1300 new jobs,he continued.

Liberal Democrats are determined to take on UKIP and protect British jobs by ensuring we stay in the EU and make the most of the opportunities it provides.”

UKIP’s spokesperson on Trade and SW MEP the Earl of Dartmouth is due to address the conference later today.

Labels: ,


SW UKIP MEP Trevor Colman exposed by @FactcheckEU as peddling an 'extreme whopper' lie about EU

Friday, 21 February 2014
South West UKIP MEP Trevor Colman - who admitted to the BBC recently that one of the reasons he attends the sessions in Strasbourg and Brussels is to secure the Parliamentary allowances - has been exposed by Factcheck EU as telling an 'insane whopper' lie about the role and function of the European Parliament.

The MEP, who is standing down at the next election in May, stated in an interview with the BBC that the European Parliament “has no power, it can't make or change legislation”, a claim that the new organisation decided to investigate. They write:

"The European Parliament (EP), formerly called Common Assembly, was originally a mere consultative body. Its powers, however, have been substantially increased over the years with successive changes to the treaties. While the right of legislative initiative remains with the European Commission, the Lisbon Treaty has placed the EP on an equal footing with the Council of Ministers in deciding on the vast majority of EU laws."

"The two co-legislators - the EP and the Council of Ministers - adopt legislation jointly, having equal rights and obligations. The procedure consists of up to three readings with the possibility of the two co-legislators to conclude at any reading if they succeed to reach an overall agreement on a joint text. During the first reading, the EP can reject the Commission's proposals as a whole; approve it without amendments; or approve it subject to amendments. The text of the proposal as approved by the EP is then forwarded to the Council and the Commission as the EP's position. In turn, the Council can: accept the EP's position, in which case the legislative act is adopted; or adopt changes to the EP's position, leading to a Council's first reading position, which is sent to the EP for a second reading. Just a glimpse at the procedure shows how utterly inaccurate is Mr Colman's claim that the EP cannot change legislation."

Referring to Mr Colman's poor record of involvement since being elected to the European Parliament, they conclude: "His limited involvement in the EP might explain why he knows so little about how legislation is made in the European Union. A well-deserved 'Insane whopper'!"...

Labels:


Debate between South West European election candidates to take place on 28 April in Bristol

Saturday, 8 February 2014
The University of Bristol is to host the first political debate between the head of the list candidates from each of the five most voted parties in the 2009 European Parliamentary elections: the Conservatives, Green, Labour, Liberal and UKIP parties.

The discussion, to take place at the Wills Memorial Building on Queen’s Road, pictured, from 6pm on Monday April 28th, will touch upon key issues of interest to the UK as part of the EU such as its future role in the EU, the free movement of citizens and the environment.

The confirmed speakers are:
Booking is required via the online form.

Click here for a full list of candidates in the South West region.

Labels: , ,


‘Clock-in Colman’ – SW UKIP MEP Trevor Colman admits allowances 'a factor' in parliament attendance

Monday, 27 January 2014
UKIP MEP Trevor Colman has admitted in an interview on BBC’s Sunday Politics West that one of the main reasons he attends the sessions in Strasbourg and Brussels is to secure his parliamentary allowances.

Mr Colman is one of the ‘laziest’ MEPs in the European Parliament and has only taken part in half of all votes (52.59%) during his five years in office (ranked 751st out of 766).

He has made a total of 19 contributions (17 speeches and just two questions to the European Commission) since being elected in 2009. The average for the South West's five other MEPs is 345…

The UKIP MEP, who costs taxpayers in the South West in the region of £156,415 a year, said that "if I don't come and put my card in the slot to vote, I don't get my money".

"I wouldn’t say getting the allowances is one of the main motivations, I’m trying to be fair about it, it is a factor, of course it is.

He defended his small contribution, saying that just because he did not stand up and say anything in debates, did not mean he was not doing anything.

"Why make a speech when you know that it is totally ineffective? That you are there talking to a gallery of about six people, I don’t quite see the point of me doing that. It's not that I'm not doing anything, I'm trying to get us out of this mess," he said.

He refused to reveal how he spends the estimated £200,000 in allowances he's received, but some of it is spent on employing staff to run an anti-EU website, www.th-eu-nit.com (which can’t have much of a larger audience…)

Before being elected, he served in Devon & Cornwall Police, rising to the rank of superintendent. He left the force in 1995, and then spent four years advising the ITV detective series Wycliffe.

Commenting on the disclosure, South West Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson said he wondered why Trevor Colman stood for election in the first place: "There is a massive amount that goes on in the European Parliament and that's why most of the members are there full time, doing their jobs. I'm sorry if Trevor Colman finds it so boring, but I would have to ask the question why did he stand in the first place."

Labels:


European Commission Vice President @SiimKallasEU visits Bristol Airport, Bristol Port and Airbus

Sunday, 26 January 2014
The Vice President of the European Commission responsible for transport policy Siim Kallas today paid a visit to Bristol Airport and Airbus today at the invitation of South West Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson.

After landing from Brussels, Mr Kallas met with Robert Sinclair, the chief executive officer of Bristol Airport to discuss issues affecting the European aviation industry, including passenger rights, security regulations and competition. He also visited Bristol Port and Airbus during his visit, as well as sustainable transport groups in Bristol ahead of the city’s year as European Green Capital in 2015.

Speaking afterwards to the Bristol Post, Mr Sinclair said: “We were delighted to welcome the Transport Commissioner to Bristol Airport, and took this opportunity to share with him our experiences as a successful European regional airport.

Aviation is an international business so developments at European level have a direct effect on UK airports and the passengers who use them. Liberalisation of the airline sector has changed the face of air travel in Europe for the better. The Commission can help us improve connectivity and drive improvements to the passenger experience by developing a supportive regulatory environment and ensuring that aviation remains an open and competitive market that is not distorted by public subsidies.

Sir Graham Watson MEP said: “It was useful for the commissioner to see first-hand the important role air travel plays in connecting the South West with the rest of Europe. He was also able to hear how changes to regulations in the aviation sector could impact on airports like Bristol who act as a key economic driver in the region.

Labels:


After eight year campaign, beef and lamb from Devon and Cornwall awarded EU protected status

Saturday, 18 January 2014
Following an eight year campaign, West Country beef and lamb has this week finally been awarded EU Protected Status by the European Commission.

The Implementing Regulation for West Country Beef (pdf) and West Country Lamb (pdf) were recorded in the Official Journal of the European Union on 15 January. As a result, this means that meat from the West Country joins the ranks of Cornish pasties, Cornish clotted cream, Somerset Cider brandy and more than 60 other UK foods as having protected EU status.

To qualify for the status the meat has to come from animals born and reared and slaughtered in the West Country which comprises of the six counties in the south west Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), Devon, Cornwall, Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset or Gloucestershire. The beef or lamb must also have at least a 70% forage-based diet.

The West Country Protected Food Name scheme gives products protection from unauthorised imitation and helps consumers know they are buying the “genuine article”.

South West Conservative MEP Julie Girling was delighted with the news. In a statement she said: “I am delighted to hear the European Commission has awarded animals born and reared in six counties in the south west Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status. The PGI status is so important for our farmers in the West Country and as the UK Spokesperson for Agriculture in the European Parliament I see this as a massive victory for our local farmers and is testament to the work that goes into rearing such high quality livestock.

This is a good day for South West Consumers and a great day for South West Farmers.

Similarly, the regions’ Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson commented: “Such status gives consumers peace of mind, knowing that what they are eating or drinking is the genuine article and is good quality.

Consumers can now be 100% sure that when they purchase beef and lamb sourced from the south west, it will be a product that has been reared and sourced where farmers know best, where the grass is greener and where the sun shines on our countryside.

Peter Baber, chairman of Meat South West, told the Western Morning News: “We are delighted to be awarded PGI status for West Country beef and lamb. We look forward to working with farmers and processors in the south west region to market top quality beef and lamb under the West Country PGI banner.

Labels: ,


Lib Dem MEP accuses Environment Agency of 'ganderflanking' over flooding response

Wednesday, 15 January 2014
Sir Graham Watson, the South West Liberal Democrat MEP, has continued his battle to secure EU solidarity funding for the recent floods to the European Parliament chamber and in the process introduced an old English word originating from Wiltshire into the European lexicon.

Speaking in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Monday evening, Sir Graham accused the Environment Agency of ‘Ganderflanking’ over the response to persistent flooding over the past few years with a lack of action taken to dredge rivers, particularly on the Somerset levels. He also reiterated his calls for flood management powers to be devolved from the Environment Agency down to local drainage boards, made up of local farmers, businesses and experts.

Ganderflanking is an old English word for ‘moving around aimlessly’ that originates from Wiltshire, but is rarely used these days. There is currently a campaign for the word to be inserted into the Oxford English Dictionary and this was the first ever recorded use of the word in the European Parliament [I’d love to know how the live interpreters managed to translate this!]



In his speech, the Somerset-based MEP said: “I am working with my constituents to secure help from the Solidarity fund for the costs of the clean-up and urgent investment in water management schemes.

Sir Graham wrote to the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson and Flooding Minister Brandon Lewis last week, calling on the government to apply urgently for EU solidarity funding. Such funding is accessible to governments to use for repairs and rebuilding in the event of a natural disaster.

After the speech, he commented further: “This is a 'once in a hundred year event' that has happened two years running. It’s time to show the people most affected that their government - be it at local, national or European level - will listen and not stand idly by.
The growing unpredictability of the weather patterns is an early sign that with the onset of man-made climate change, such weather will become harder, not easier to predict and more, not less severe in its impact.

Labels:


South West MEP calls on UK government to apply for emergency EU funding after more flood misery in the region

Friday, 10 January 2014
Sir Graham Watson MEP 'helping with the school run in #Muchelney' - Photo: Twitter/@GrahamWatsonMEP South West Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson is calling on the UK government to urgently act and unlock emergency funds available from the European Union to help support those struck by the recent flooding across the South West.

Persistent rain over the past month has left thousands of acres of countryside flooded across Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire. With major local rivers bursting their banks villages are cut off and many local roads have been impassable at one point or another.

Sir Graham has now called on the government to apply for aid from the European Union's Solidarity Fund to help rebuild communities devastated by the flooding. The funds have been used extensively to help communities across Europe and in particular for the devastating floods along the Danube river in 2010.

The fund, which has a budget of up to £414 million for 2014, was set up to provide financial assistance to EU countries struck by major disasters. To benefit from the EU Solidarity Fund, governments must submit an application no more than 10 weeks after the first damage caused by the disaster.

Together with other British Liberal Democrats MEPs, he has penned a letter to Environment Minister Owen Paterson and Flooding Minister Brandan Lewis calling for urgent action to ensure the UK benefits from the fund.


The Somerset-based MEP commented: "We were told last year that the floods around the Somerset Levels in particular were a once in a hundred year event. Yet twelve months later we have even worse flooding. Thousands and thousands of acres of farmland under water across the west has caused chaos and misery for residents and businesses. These increasingly frequent extreme weather events are a sign we are beginning to feel the impacts of a changing climate.

"It's time this ended once and for all. We must return to annual dredging of the rivers and banks for the sake of people's livelihoods and safety. Pressure is being brought to bear by local government, MPs and myself across Somerset to get this done. But let's make sure that once the waters recede, once the clear up has taken place, we see a real, long term solution to end what is now becoming an annual tragedy.

"We must also look into potential sources of EU funding for long-term infrastructure to help combat the problem at source – like dredging and flood management schemes – and structural funds and rural development funding are both possible sources of money for this. We also need to get our three Local Enterprise Partnerships together to apply for low-interest loans from the European Investment Bank."

Labels:


Last election:
THURSDAY 22 MAY 2014


Click here to see which six MEPs were elected.