Vicky Ford – MEP talks about Europe

I asked Vicky how things are going in Europe and what the impact of our recent vote on prisoners right to vote was. Read her very interesting reply here:

” I believe that the decision to NOT give votes to prisoner was the right decision by MPs but won’t have much have an impact on the “EU” as the European Courts of Human Rights are totally separate from the legislative side of the EU … i.e. the Parliament Council and Commission.   No member of the European Parliament was ever consulted let alone voted on this issue.   I am far from being an expert on the workings for the European Courts but this whole issue has added to my layman’s long standing view that the UK should pull out of the European Convention on Human Rights  and instead have its own UK “rights” agreements.

My views on prisoner votes are simple – if you remove yourself from society’s rules by your actions then you also remove your right to vote.   It is in the interests of everyone to ensure that our justice system enables prisoners to be helped to return to play a part in society, if they are capable and willing.  There may be some good arguments that part of a prisoner’s reintroduction to society should be allowing him/her to take a more active part in our cherished democratic process as they move towards release, but this should have been allowed to be debated freely in Westminster NOT because of the spotlight of an European Judge’s ruling.  This is not an issue where I think there needs to be an identikit approach across European countries.

Your wider question is how is the UK doing in Europe.  When I was elected 20 months ago there was hardly anyone who was prepared to listen to a UK point of view.  We “the Anglo Saxon Model” had caused the financial crisis and were to blame.   I am glad to say that this attitude has changed and increasingly I am finding that through making friendships, detailed discussions and fine print negotiations we are winning friends and votes in the European Parliament.  Its hard work trying to get representatives of 27 countries to agree.

There is a big difference between the way the current UK government is engaging in Europe to those of many pervious decades.  Instead of staying out of the detailed debate and then waging in with a UK view at the last minute there has been a constant stream of UK ministers trying to shape debate from the beginning.    UK government’s achievement in getting a block of countries to agree to cap the EU budget over the next 7 years would not have been possible without this level of engagement.

I find that I need to keep a clear line in my own head between areas where I do not see the need for international agreement – where the EU is meddling in issues which should be decided locally or nationally (prisoner votes, maternity leave, how long we work etc. and where we do need to work internationally.

My own personal work is largely involved in financial services legislation post the crisis, global agreement has been made at G20 level but there is a massive amount of “devil in the detail”  all of which can affect UK businesses and Uk consumers let alone the entire economy if we get it wrong.  We need to negotiate internationally on the detail and the EU is just one of the places this needs to happen.  I can’t even begin to explain how much boring time I spend mulling over the accountancy text books noodling about how banks should account for  deferred tax assets or minority interests etc but it is really important economically.

Aside from the big complicated stuff, as a South Cambs mum I am looking forward to the moment next year when I will be able to walk into a supermarket and know that if I pick up a packet of “British” ham, bacon or spicy chicken wings this will mean that the  animal was actually reared in the UK.

To sum up.  I am happy to see the UK focus on what the EU is meant to do for us internationally, and stop it meddling in issues that should be taken nationally or locally – and I think we need to take a lot more waste out of the EU budget.”

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