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Labour MEPs: Time to stop grandstanding and start serious business of negotiating

Labour MEPs have warned everyone involved in the Brexit negotiations to tone down the political grandstanding and start the serious business of negotiating, as the European Parliament today set out its response to the triggering of Article 50.

Dame Glenis Willmott MEP, Labour’s Leader in the European Parliament, said:

“It won’t always be easy to take the responsible path in the coming months, but it is what we must do. There are some in the European Parliament, and beyond, who are actively hoping to plunge Europe and Britain into chaos, through a disorderly, no-deal Brexit. Why? Because they have no answers to the questions that constructive negotiations will bring.

“Article 50 has been triggered, and those Leave campaigners who now sit in the cabinet or in parliament must take responsibility for the promises they made. A majority voted for Brexit in the referendum, but not to lose their jobs or make themselves poorer – and certainly not to see public services like the NHS suffer.

“These serious times call for a serious response – the Brexit talks are too important to be dealt with as a political game. It is time to stop grandstanding and start the serious business of negotiating. And in order to get a constructive deal, we will need a more measured tone from the government than we have seen from ministers in recent months.”

Any repeal of new EU laws on medical devices risks patient safety, warn Labour MEPs

Labour MEPs have warned the government that any repeal of new EU laws on medical devices could harm patient safety and risk a repeat of the hip replacement and PIP breast implant scandals.

The new law, which the European Parliament will vote on tomorrow, will strengthen requirements for medical devices and require high-risk devices to undergo additional, pre-market assessment. Stricter rules on post-market surveillance will also ensure a faster response if there is a problem with a device and a new id system will improve traceability.

MEPs are also set to back new laws to ensure in vitro diagnostic medical devices – such as pregnancy tests and blood tests – are accurate and reliable.

Dame Glenis Willmott MEP, the parliament’s lead negotiator on a new Medical Devices Regulation, and Labour’s European spokesperson on health, said:

“It would be unacceptable if Brexit meant patients in the UK got less protection than those in the rest of the EU, or waited longer for access to new medical devices. The government must maintain these new laws after the UK leaves the European Union.

“Not only would patient safety be at risk, but the medical devices industry – an important sector in the UK – and manufacturers based in Britain will still have to comply with these requirements in order to market their products in the EU, so it would make no sense for the government to repeal these laws and require them to apply for authorisation twice.

“There is also no guarantee the UK will still have access to the EU-wide database for sharing information on medical devices after Brexit. The government must ensure continued close cooperation with the EU on monitoring medical device safety.”

Dame Glenis added:

“We all remember the scandals with metal-on-metal hip replacements and PIP breast implants, which highlighted the weaknesses in the previous legislation. Some patients still don’t know if they have PIP implants.

“The new law will make the rules for medical devices much stricter and will ensure all devices are checked thoroughly before authorisation and carefully monitored after being placed on the market, so if a problem does arise, it will be picked up quickly.

“Devices will be fully traceable with the introduction of a Unique Device Identification number, so in the future we will know which device has been implanted into which patient.  Authorisation requirements will be even stricter for the highest risk medical devices, like implants, insulin pumps and pacemakers, which will have to undergo an additional assessment by an expert panel before they can be authorised. And the new standards on in vitro medical devices will increase their accuracy and reliability.

“Patients rightly expect that if a medical device is available on the market then it is safe, but unfortunately this hasn’t always been the case. We have a responsibility to make sure patients have confidence in medical devices.”


For further information, please contact Shamik Das on 0044 7920 441362 or 0032 479 790053.
www.eurolabour.org.uk • @EuroLabour

May’s divided, Brextremist government means we start negotiations on the back foot

In two years’ time, it is likely Britain will have left the European Union, but what kind of new relationship will we have with the rest of the EU? And how should the government go about achieving the best deal? Increasingly, the government is risking the hardest of exits, crashing out on WTO terms with no deal – a real danger as a result of ministerial intransigence and the antagonising of our EU partners.

If the negotiations don’t start well, it will be much harder for them to finish well.

Take the issue of citizens’ rights, Labour’s call to guarantee the rights of three million EU citizens currently resident in the UK: an uncontentious idea, with wide support, yet something the government has refused to do. To have done so would not only have been the right thing to do, but would almost certainly have been reciprocated by other EU countries, giving peace of mind to British citizens living in the EU as well. So now millions living in our country, plus more than a million Brits abroad, are facing uncertainty, finding themselves caught up in the negotiations.

The votes on this issue in parliament did not go unnoticed in Europe’s corridors of power. The EU-27 begin the negotiations united in their concerns about how Theresa May’s government will approach the talks. And so we start off on the wrong foot, and should be in no doubt that the government’s intransigence on this will have hardened resolve on the other side of the table.

Or look at what’s happening in Scotland, where incompetent and insensitive handling of Brexit by the Tories has allowed Nicola Sturgeon to make a play for another independence referendum. Debate in the last few weeks has reinforced the impression among our EU partners that when the prime minister speaks to them about Brexit, she does not do so on behalf of everyone in the United Kingdom. Ministers have no mandate for their preference of an ever harder Brexit, and in pursuing it they are not only threatening the future of the UK, but are even weakening their own hand in the negotiations.

Meanwhile, one of the more striking aspects of Europe’s response to the Brexit vote has been the capacity of EU leaders to maintain a united line in public and in private. It is clear that they have no desire to see their countries follow Britain through the exit door.

It also looks like the anti-EU tide may be turning amongst Europe’s electorates too. In the Dutch general elections the far-right Geert Wilders performed well below expectations. The French elections look difficult for mainstream politicians, but the staunchly pro-EU Emmanuel Macron leads the Front National’s Marine Le Pen 63 per cent to 37 per cent, in polling for the presidential run-off. In Germany the two candidates most likely to emerge as chancellor are the strongly pro-European Angela Merkel and Martin Schulz, the former president of the European Parliament, whose arrival on the domestic political scene has revived hopes for Labour’s sister party the SPD.

They might not agree on everything, but with regard to the Brexit negotiations, all this means the EU-27 looks set to continue to speak with a single, united and increasingly confident voice, and, as European Council President Donald Tusk recently warned, unwilling to take kindly to threats. Attempts thus far by ministers to pick countries off and try and sow division have fallen flat and succeeded only in souring relations that we’ll need during the talks.

On top of which the EU will not want to get exclusively bogged down with the UK negotiations. Getting the least damaging Brexit deal is important to them, but won’t be the only show in town – terrorism, migration, and the eurozone and banking crises will all be vying with Brexit for the attention of EU leaders.

In addition, discussions have begun on the next steps for the EU. There is talk of building a more rights-oriented, fairer, less corporate “social Europe”. That was one of the main topics under discussion by EU leaders at the weekend’s Rome summit to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the European Coal and Steel Community, the forerunner of the European Union. It would be one of the infinite ironies of Brexit if we leave just as EU-27 citizens begin to benefit from stronger social rights, action that could deal with some of the concerns at the root of the Brexit referendum.

As Keir Starmer, our shadow Brexit secretary, made clear yesterday, Labour will only support a deal that actually works for Britain and benefits working people. The deal the government negotiates must protect jobs and the economy, and we must maintain a strong collaborative relationship with the EU, with continued cooperation in fields such as security, science, research, culture and technology.

We will continue to hold ministers and leave campaigners to account as they seek to dampen down expectations and claim the new lows are what they’ve wanted all along. As the negotiations start, we’ve already gone from promises of £350 million extra per week for the NHS and membership of the single market to no extra money and WTO tariffs in just nine months – how much more will we lose in the next 24? The definition of a “hard” Brexit is being shifted by the Tory right to get tougher over time, and now means something completely different from the morning of June 24th, and utterly unrecognisable from the Vote Leave campaign pledges all the way up to June 23rd.

Mixed messages from ministers; incompetence at the highest level; fears for the future of the UK; Brextremists like Farage, Cash and Redwood appearing to set the agenda; ministers claiming no deal is better than a ‘bad’ deal, when they’ve not even examined in detail the consequences of such a scenario.

The government is taking Britain into these negotiations divided, with nothing to demonstrate they have the competence necessary to succeed. Meanwhile our European partners, defying many people’s expectations, are showing a united front. Britain deserves better than this government.

Blog for Labourlist, 29 March 2017

PM must stop pandering to Tory Right to avoid no-deal disaster, warn Labour MEPs

Responding to the triggering of Article 50 today, Glenis Willmott MEP, Labour’s Leader in the European Parliament, said:

“It is time for Theresa May to be honest with the British public and to challenge the Right of her party who have been leading Britain down a perilous path. We’ve seen a change of tone from the prime minister today, but while the rhetoric may have been toned down, we don’t know anything more about her actual plans for Britain’s future.

“The prime minister has set herself a mammoth task to achieve the objectives laid out in today’s letter – a task made harder by the actions and rhetoric of her and her ministers to date.

“If we are to avoid a no-deal or poor-deal disaster, the PM needs to convince EU leaders that she is serious about securing a ‘deep and special partnership’, and they currently need a lot of convincing.”

Glenis Willmott MEP added:

“Theresa May needs to stop pandering to the Tory Right, who have been consistently lowering the bar of what British people can expect from the negotiations – we’ve gone from promises of £350 million extra per week for the NHS and membership of the Single Market to no extra money and potentially punitive WTO tariffs in just nine months.

“And that is why, over the next two years, Labour MEPs will work to hold this government and its ministers to account for the promises made during the referendum and since. Many people who voted for Brexit did not vote for higher prices, fewer jobs and less money for our public services, all of which risk happening if we fall out of the EU with no deal.”


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