Published on March 8th, 2016 | by frances0
Reflections on the Brussels Programme
By Honey Lansdowne, Prospect BT Brighton Branch Secretary
I wanted to go to Brussels to get a greater understanding of the EU and understand more about the impact of the referendum. Our trip included a visit to European Parliament where we met an MEP and saw the Chamber where the plenary sittings are held. There are 751 MEPs and they tend to sit in their political groups, which was an interesting indicator of power and influence in Parliament (in my view). European Parliament meets in both Brussels and Strasbourg. There are interpreters to represent 30 languages as approved by the EU. European Parliament has a website with loads of info http://www.europarl.europa.eu/plenary/en/home.html
MEPs are in European Parliament to represent us and anyone can actually take an issue to them. I suspect many people don’t know who their MEP is. You can find yours at http://www.europarl.org.uk/en/your-meps.html
We also met with the deputy general secretary of the European TUC, Head of EU affairs from Uni Global Union and a Senior Policy Officer in the TUC. All these people had interesting views on why we should remain in the EU, but what really stood out was their belief that leaving the EU would weaken workers’ rights and pay deals. A lot of employment and social rights have come from the EU. The EU has brought about policies on the working time directive, maternity leave, sick pay, minimum wage, parental leave, health and safety etc. It allows for collective bargaining.
I found it interesting to hear that the European TUC are giving consideration to ‘active ageing’ and thinking about how workers will be supported as they work later in life. As well as how jobs will be created for younger workers. Digitalisation was also discussed and the bigger picture of considering how we obtain the skills we need to do the jobs required.
For me I have come away thinking that leaving the EU would be a mistake. I can understand concerns around immigration and ‘governance’ by the EU. However, from what I saw I believe that the EU are using decision making which aim to improve collective rights. Business is of course important and so are jobs, but social and economic are interlinked. I found it interesting to hear that some companies are now bigger than countries and being in the EU gives collective governance. If UK leaves EU, we might make a product that meets our own regulations but not that EU, which means we won’t be able to sell it in EU. It means that any substandard products produced in EU that don’t meet EU standards might be sold in the UK!
Being in the EU gives us an area without internal borders in which free movement of goods, persons, services and capital which is in principal, guaranteed.
If the referendum results in a vote to leave the EU, there will be a 2 year transition period where everything will need to be sorted out and consideration given to existing residents and pensioners in the EU.
As a BT Employee I am obviously excited about the opportunities that The Big Deal with EE will bring. I personally think being in Europe will be beneficial in this respect too, due to size of the market. I heard on the radio today that BT support staying in the EU.