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What has the European Parliament ever done for me?

Published: 7th February 2014 18:10

 European Parliament About my Area Edward McMillan Scott

What has the European Parliament ever done for me?

Fran Etherington from the online community magazine About My Area interviews Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Edward McMillan Scott.

Meeting MEP Edward McMillan Scott is an educational experience. A consummate politician, he is presently Vice president of the European Parliament making him Britain's most senior MEP, his experience enables hi m to command and audience and powerfully put his message across.

European Parliament About my Area Edward McMillan Scott

Famous for leaving his position as head of MEP's for the Conservative Party to join the Liberal Democrats in 2010 due to opposition to the direction they were being asked to move in, he has worked to promote human rights, encourage sustainable food production, and to create a single seat for the EU to prevent the waste of time resources and money used by their meeting in both Brussels and Strasbourg.

About my Area is an online magazine that is always keen to support people living in the north Leeds community, so when I was asked if I would like to interview Edward McMillan Scott, I was concerned to ask him the questions the local residents wanted to have answered.

Prior to my meeting I asked readers of About My Area in the local community what they would like me to find out - the overriding answers were -What does the European Parliament do? Why should I be interested in it? Why should I vote in the elections of May 22nd?

People's objections seemed to be that the European Parliament is too Federal, not democratic enough, wastes money and the UK should not be part of it. Its relevance to the grass roots business of living in North Leeds is hard to see.

McMillan Scott was keen to point out that the EU is more relevant now than ever and its policy making touches our lives in many ways - the average household will pay £100 taxes per year towards the EU but receives around £3,000 benefit from the UKs membership. The job creation alone of a single market means that in a recent survey 8/10 companies said they would like to stay in the EU. The reform of the Agricultural policies of the EU will ensure that funds are redistributed more fairly with particular emphasis on the sustainable food products that will allow families to afford to eat more healthily. The recent heart breaking success of Food Banks in the area show how relevant this need is becoming.

On the subject of democracy McMillan Scott was clear that he feels that the equal power the EU holds with the 28 governments of the union is its strength "It's job is to compromise and not to confront, the objective is to pass legislation, not to win or lose". In terms of whether Europe will move more towards becoming a federal state such as the USA he felt that  a deeper Europe that operates like a federation even if it not called as such needs to be done steadily, but that the advantages to de-sovereign states is the confidence that being part of a larger group provides. McMillan Scott asked "Would Scotland think about becoming independent were it not for the strength of membership with the EU once it was separate from England - the question over its membership of the EU post devolution is key?" Catalan is another example which would happily exist outside of Spain so long as it was within the European community.

On the subject of finances he was clear to point out that the earnings and expenditure of an MEP was far more open than those of the UK parliament at Westminster. Where there is wastage such as the ancient constitutional stipulation that the EU should meet 12 times a year in Strasbourg - resulting in entire days spent travelling and costing over £150million per year - 78% of the MEP's are supporting a bill to end this inefficiency and have a single seat for the parliament in Brussels, thus making huge savings

European Parliament About my Area Edward McMillan Scott

It became clearer in the course of our conversation, and his subsequent speech to the Liberal Democrats of North Leeds, that the EU has relevance far higher that the sensationalist headlines in the media would have us believe. Once some time is taken to find out about and understand the policy formation, funding provision and legislative powers of the EU it ceases to be the fat cat headquarters derided in the press.

May 22nd will see elections being held in many areas of the UK as well as the Yorkshire and Humber region for our MEP's. The vote should not be ignored or wasted and local residents should be clear about the power of the EU in our area and lives.

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