La Treizième Étoile: 21/10/12 - 28/10/12 Blog Archives
News from the European Union with a focus on the South West UK and Gibraltar region and its MEPs
My tweets (@SWUKinEU)
MEP Fox accuses French government of 'using every trick in the book' to prevent debate on EP Single Seat

Saturday, 27 October 2012
South West Conservative MEP Ashley Fox has accused the French Government of “using every trick in the book” to prevent the debate and maintain the seat of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Mr Fox was speaking on a panel debate organised by the Single Seat campaign – a cross party group of MEPs campaigning for a sole seat for the European Parliament of which he is a member of the steering group – on the Wednesday between two plenary sessions in Strasbourg in one week that his amendment created.

Sat alongside French journalist Jean Quatremer who moderated the debate, Mr Fox outlined a two-pronged strategy to achieve the treaty changes which would be necessary: First, within the Parliament's own processes he would work through the Constitutional Affairs Committee to put forward amendments to the Treaty to the European Council. Second, he urged campaigners to work within their member states to persuade their own governments to propose treaty change at the Council. To this end, Mr Fox launched an e-petition to call on the British Government to intervene.

Mr Fox said: "I am going to take issue with Mr Quatremer when he said this is not a question of France against the others, because I think it is […] The French government has used every tool at its disposal to prevent this subject even being debated. When I first came to this parliament in 2009 I wanted a debate on the two seats and it was explained to me that this could not happen without the Conference of Presidents giving its say-so and of course Mr Daul [French EPP group leader] and Herr Schultz [German Socialist group leader, now President of the Parliament] ensured there was never a debate. It was impossible.

So that’s when I turned my mind as to how we could have a debate by proxy and that is when I struck on the idea of using the calendar as a way of expressing our discontent,” he added. He originally tabled a proposal for two sessions in one week but was defeated due to the pressure of the party whips, but he tried again twelve months later in 2011 and found a way to orchestrate a secret vote and thus obtained a majority.

Strasbourg was a symbol of peace when the Parliament came here in 1958. Now it is a symbol of all that is wrong with the EU,” he said. "Since that secret ballot the terms of the debate have changed; we now see a huge majority of MEPs across the Parliament and even across the EPP in favour”.

Indeed, during a vote this week a HUGE majority of MEPs (518) voted in favour of paragraph 90 of the budget resolution which calls on the Council to “start elaborating a road-map with the Parliament towards a single seat and a more efficient use of Parliament's working places [...] by 30 June 2013”.
A full breakdown of the vote can be found here

The Single Seat campaign have recorded and uploaded a large proportion of the debate which can be watched in the player below. Mr Fox’s intervention begins at 07:15.


A hearty round of applause to Ashley Fox – the British Tory MEP who addressed the European Parliament entirely in French

Thursday, 25 October 2012
Today in Strasbourg, South West Conservative MEP Ashley Fox delivered a speech in the chamber of the European Parliament. While that fact in itself may be unexceptional, the fact he decided to deliver it entirely in French is.

In the presence of the French-speaking Belgian Commissioner and presenting his group’s view on a report by a French MEP rapporteur, Mr Fox read his lines in a glorious Franglais and afterwards was lauded and applauded by the Vice-President of the European Parliament chairing the debate on the “European Semester for economic policy coordination: implementation of 2012 priorities”. (See video below)

Without commenting on the content of the speech, as a linguist fluent in French it is extremely refreshing to see a British MEP speaking in a tongue other than English; all the more so as the number of students and university graduates of modern languages continues to fall in the UK to levels far beyond saddening.

I had noted with interest the previous day, during a conference on the Single Seat campaign, that Mr Fox had listened to the contribution of French journalist Jean Quatremer, without the use of interpretation (video, from 11.40).

Indeed, his biography on his official website says he worked for a year as an English assistant in France after his studies, but at a time when it is seemingly grossly unpopular to be remotely pro-European in the Conservative party I would like to take this opportunity to applaud Mr Fox for his act.

I hope he will display a video of this contribution proudly on his website. Félicitations.

(Question: is this the first time a British MEP has delivered a speech to the house entirely in another language? Please let me know if you recall such a occasion previously!)


BREAKING: Two pilot Badger culls in the West Country to be ‘postponed’

Tuesday, 23 October 2012
Conservative MP and Environment Secretary Owen Paterson (who recently walked out in the middle of a debate on the proposed culls muttering "I can't stand any more of this") has today announced in the House of Commons that the two proposed pilot culls of badgers in the West Country to attempt to stop the spread of bovine tuberculosis are to be ‘postponed’ by twelve months. Mr Paterson said the cull will have to be delayed because farmers are ‘not ready’ and the cull had been delayed by the Olympics and Paralympics because not enough police were available to manage protests until after the events had finished.

Earlier this month, Queen guitarist and animal welfare campaigner Dr Brian May travelled to Brussels to hold meetings with UK MEPs and with agriculture and environment officials from the European Commission. Dr May does not think killing badgers – which are a ‘protected species’ - is the best solution: “Badgers are not the cause of Bovine TB [they] have caught TB because it came in with the cattle [...] it is a very serious problem but let’s look at it in cows because it has to be solved in cows; it cannot be solved by killing badgers.

South West Conservative MEP Julie Girling has expressed her desire to see the culls go ahead and refuted suggestions that Brussels could prevent the cull.

Positive reaction to the news came from Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson, who tweeted:

Animal rights groups and campaigners have meanwhile welcomed the ‘temporary reprieve’ and say the battle will continue to prevent the cull happening in twelve months’ time.

Last election:

Click here to see which six MEPs were elected.