Category Archives: EU

Government alarmingly postpones action on climate change

Paul Simons adds to many ‘wakeup calls’ – writing about high temperatures, drought and wildfires.

On Thursday Spain broke the record for its highest temperature with 47.3C (117.1F) at Montoro, near Cordoba in the south of the country.

May and June were also phenomenally hot across Portugal, Italy, the Balkans, Greece and Turkey.

Heat and drought have helped to fuel wildfires in Spain and Italy, and wildfires near the seaside resort of Calampiso in Sicily forced the evacuation by boat of about 700 tourists on Wednesday night. In Greece the heatwave led the culture ministry to close archaeological sites around the country, including the Acropolis in Athens.

Together with a long-running drought, the heat has ravaged much of southern Spain, leading to a devastated wheat and barley harvest. If the arid conditions continue, there are also fears for the olive, walnut, almond and grape harvests and the wellbeing of livestock. Rainfall has been desperately low this year, but the country has been suffering from a lack of rain for five years.

Drought threatens to reduce cereal production in Italy and parts of Spain to its lowest level in at least 20 years, and hit other regional crops. Castile and Leon, the largest cereal growing region in Spain, has been particularly badly affected, with crop losses estimated at around 60 to 70%. While the EU is collectively a major wheat exporter, Spain and Italy both rely on imports from countries including France, Britain and Ukraine.

Deadly heatwaves for much of South Asia – yet many of those living there will have contributed little to climate change

The Guardian adds to the news from Europe: India recorded its hottest ever day in 2016 when the temperature in the city of Phalodi, Rajasthan, hit 51C. Another  study led by Prof Elfatih Eltahir, at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US, linked the impact of climate change to the suicides of nearly 60,000 Indian farmers.

The analysis, published in the journal PNAS, assesses the impact of climate change on the deadly combination of heat and humidity, measured as the “wet bulb temperature” (WBT). Once this reaches 35C, the human body cannot cool itself by sweating and even fit people sitting in the shade will die within six hours.

Prof Chris Huntingford, at the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, said: “If given just one word to describe climate change, then ‘unfairness’ would be a good candidate. Raised levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are expected to cause deadly heatwaves for much of South Asia. Yet many of those living there will have contributed little to climate change.”

Guardian journalists comment sarcastically, “But fear not: by 2040, no new diesel or petrol vehicles will be sold in the UK

This, apparently, is the appropriate timetable for responding to what a parliamentary committee calls a “public health emergency”. A child born today will be 23 by the time this policy matures – by then the damage to the development of her lungs and brain will have been done”.

Cold comfort

According to Professor Eltahir’s study, if emissions are reduced roughly in line with the global Paris climate change agreement there would be no 35C WBT heatwaves and the population affected by the 31C WBT events would fall from 75% to 55%. About 15% are exposed today.

A National Geographic article says most people agree that to curb global warming a variety of measures need to be taken. On a personal level, driving and flying less, recycling, and conservation reduces a person’s “carbon footprint”—the amount of carbon dioxide a person is responsible for putting into the atmosphere.

At present, lorries shifting identical goods in opposite directions pass each other on 2,000-mile journeys. Competing parcel companies ply the same routes, in largely empty vans – a theme explored by MP Caroline Lucas and Colin Hines in 2003 – the Great Trade Swap.

It describes airports as deadly too – yet government and opposition alike are ‘apparently hell-bent’ on expanding Heathrow, exploring airport expansion projects elsewhere and seeking post-Brexit trade deals with distant countries.

To reduce the risk of ever more extreme weather, we must reduce the amount of fossil fuel we are burning – and the measures taken will have other desirable consequences as the following cartoon shows:

Parliament must listen to its Committee on Climate Change – chairman John Gummer. As the East Anglian Times reported in June, its annual progress report calls for “urgent” plans to meet legal targets for carbon cuts by 2032 as greenhouse gases from transport and buildings continue to rise.

The committee advocates action to bridge the gap between existing policies and what is needed to achieve required emissions reductions by the mid-2020s – boosting electric vehicles and cutting greenhouse gas emissions from the heating of homes to help to meet UK climate targets.

 

 

 

 

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Will the small print exclude some EU citizens living & working in Britain?

An EU citizen working in this country thinks it will.

She emailed a downbeat response to the announcement made by Theresa May to European leaders that no EU citizens living lawfully in Britain when it exits in March 2019 would be asked to leave. She added that EU citizens already in the UK – and those who arrive lawfully during a subsequent “grace period”, expected to be up to two years – will be given the opportunity to build up five years’ worth of residence.

Our reader explained that it’s all in the small print: the way the UK interprets “lawfully” means quite a few in reality won’t qualify.

One category is that of students without “comprehensive” private health care cover (‘comprehensive’ never defined!). Others will be wrong-footed as the number of qualifying years change; those based in the UK who travelled abroad in the course of their work for more than 100 plus days find that year doesn’t count… Our reader adds:

“Those who’ll be unlikely to qualify for May’s offer could also include the retired French widow living off her pension (arrived in the UK as teacher in the 70s), as she’s not ‘economically self-sufficient’ … It is inhumane to leave her (& others in her situation) in limbo (she was interviewed last year after Brexit referendum and I doubt May’s offer has helped her to sleep better!) 😦

Matthew Weaver reports that EU leaders have described the UK’s opening offer to protect EU citizens’ rights as vague and inadequate, suggesting the British government needs to go further. 

Donald Tusk, president of the European council, said the offer was “below our expectations” and would worsen the rights of the EU citizens.

Anne-Laure Donskoy, a founding member of the 3million – which aims to protect the rights of EU citizens living in the UK – agreed, saying “It is like a teaser this statement, it gives you general direction of travel potentially, but there are things in the statement that need to be unpicked.”

Our reader sends a link to an article by another 3million founding member who believes that Theresa May’s ‘outline deal’ falls woefully short of the comprehensive, reciprocal offer by the EU that includes lifetime guarantees of all existing rights for EU citizens in the UK (‘migrants’) and British citizens living in the EU (‘ex-pats’) whose rights are equally at risk.

She adds a link to these right-minded EU proposals which were published early in June: Essential Principles on Citizens’ Rights. They aim to protect the rights of EU27 citizens, UK nationals and their family members who, at the date of entry into force of the Withdrawal Agreement, “enjoyed rights relating to free movement under Union law, as well as rights which are in the process of being obtained and the rights the enjoyment of which will intervene at a later date [for example pension rights]”.

The Guardian reports that the full details of Theresa May’s offer to EU citizens will be published on Monday.

 

 

 

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Murdoch press lists corporate spending on political and lobbying activities

Times journalists Alex Ralph, and Harry Wilson present and comment on material collected by the Times Data Team: Tom Wills, Ryan Watts, Kira Schacht. Links have been added by PCU’s editor to enable readers to learn more if they wish to do so.

“FTSE 100 groups, including banks, defence contractors, tobacco manufacturers and telecoms companies, have spent more than £24 million on lobbying in Brussels and about £335,000 funding all-party parliamentary groups in Westminster”.

They add: “There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing or rule-breaking by companies”.

FTSE 100 political spending (over the last two years)

The Times first focusses on All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs)

APPGs are run by and for Members of the Commons and Lords who join together to pursue a particular topic or interest. Many involve individuals and organisations from outside Parliament in their administration and activities – or as the journalists put it, “help to push industry agendas in parliament”. Read more here.

Unsurprisingly, BAE Systems, which spent £37,000 on a group “to promote better understanding of the Her Majesty’s armed forces in parliament”, is among the biggest backers of the parliamentary groups.

The writers comment that parliamentary groups have proved contentious because of the large amounts spent on reports that often support the views of industry and which grant access to parliament for companies and lobbyists.

BT’s £53,000 included backing the parliamentary internet, communications and technology forum, known as Pictfor, whose members include Tom Watson, the Labour deputy leader and Lord Birt, former Blair adviser and director-general of the BBC. A list of funders may be seen here.

Note: ’Donations to APPGs’ shows spending between Jan 2015 and Mar 2017 as declared on the Register of APPGs. ’Spend on EU lobbying’ shows companies’ minimum estimates for the most recent financial year declared on the EU Transparency Register at the time of research. Here is a snapshot taken from one of 10 pages listing donations/other spending and the companies’ rationales for these sums being given.

The Times’ second focus is on the denial of information to shareholders

Less than £10,000 of identified political and lobbying spending in the EU was disclosed to shareholders in the companies’ recent annual reports. ompanies are not required to disclose details to shareholders and little information on corporate political and lobbying activities is revealed in annual reports, which are published before shareholder meetings. The tens of millions of euros spent each year in the EU go largely undeclared to shareholders.

Corporate Europe, which campaigns for greater transparency in EU decision making, has spent years tracking how the business world moulds policy.

Vicky Cann, the group’s UK representative, said that the banking and energy industries were the most active lobbyists. “The financial services industry is a huge spender and even then we think the real scope of their spending is probably bigger than we can currently see,” she said. Her colleague gave the example of recent emissions legislation that was the subject of intense lobbying by BP and Shell.

As Peter van Veen, director of business integrity at Transparency International, said, “Corporate transparency over political activities is important to ensure the public can have the confidence that their politicians and industry leaders are conducting business ethically . . . If companies are not voluntarily willing to disclose their political activities and funding of these, then stronger legislation should be considered and a possible starting point may be to broaden the definition of political activities and expenditure in the Companies Act 2006.”

 

 

 

 

Molly Scott Cato MEP: Theresa May has triggered Article 50, formally notifying our European partners that we’re leaving the EU

She writes:

The decision to leave the EU is the most destructive political decision of my lifetime. It sets us on a dangerous path towards extreme Brexit and will leave our country isolated, impoverished, and more divided than ever I can remember.

Brexit is likely to prove catastrophic for our businesses, particularly SMEs and for the environment and lead to confusion and distress for many people.

For these reasons I cannot support triggering Article 50 and it is why I have set out, along with my fellow Green MEPs Jean Lambert and Keith Taylor, five Green Guarantees that must be met to ensure social, economic and environmental justice post-Brexit.

 

 

 

Taxpayers unwittingly fund GM trials as the prospect of leaving wiser European counsellors looms

Will agri-business be allowed to charge ahead, imposing genetically modified food on an unwilling public?  

This is Rothamsted research centre, one of the country’s largest agricultural research stations.

The work is publicly funded through a £696,000 grant from the government’s UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and $294,000 from the US Department of Agriculture. Other partners include the universities of Lancaster and Illinois.

https://gmandchemicalindustry9.wordpress.com/2017/03/29/taxpayers-unwittingly-fund-gm-trials-as-the-prospect-of-leaving-wiser-european-counsellors-looms/

 

 

 

Eva Amsen adds to the apprehensions of many readers who have friends or relatives living and working in Britain as EU citizens

brits-in-euNote also that David Gray solicitors reminds us there are large numbers of Britons working and running businesses in EU states.

Recent estimates by the UK government are that around 2.2 million British citizens live in other EU countries.

EU states could also impose visa restrictions upon British nationals.

 Her account of the situation is summarised here (Ed: preamble and graphic added):

Misconception 1: Any Europeans who are already living in the UK will be able to stay

We have been trying to get the government to make exactly this promise, which a lot of people take as a given, but they have not done so. They’re waiting for all other EU countries to make a similar promise for UK residents abroad. Both Europeans in the UK and British citizens in EU countries are being used as bargaining chips. If you see anI’m not a bargaining chip image on social media, that’s what this is about. The insecurity about the future status of EU residents in the UK is already causing people to leave, creating labour shortages.

Misconception 2: If you’re a skilled worker with degrees, you can definitely stay

There is an immigration route into the UK for skilled workers from outside of the EU (and you might, for example, have American friends who moved here via that process) but this immigration pathway is NOT currently available for Europeans to use. There is only one immigration pathway for all Europeans regardless of degrees or jobs, and the system is malfunctioning (more on that below).The immigration requirements are actually extra hard for scientists and other academics, who can get disqualified either because they didn’t have the right insurance during their full-time PhD . . .

Misconception 3: If you have strong ties to the UK, like a British spouse or children, you can definitely stay

Ironically, some of the people who have lived here the longest — who did their degree here and/or raised kids here — are now told they might not be able to stay. Having a British spouse or British children is entirely irrelevant for the immigration procedure for Europeans in the UK. You can only apply to become a permanent resident if you have “exercised treaty rights” for five years in the UK. That either means that you have worked during that period, and paid national insurance contributions via your employment, or that you had your own “comprehensive sickness insurance” during the years you were not employed.Until people started looking into immigration after the referendum last summer, most EU citizens in the UK had no idea that they were supposed to have had this kind of insurance. Nobody ever told them. Nobody ever asked for it. Nobody ever checked. Until now. In particular students and stay-at-home parents are affected by this insurance requirement. Many people who have been married to a Brit for decades are now being told that they are not qualified to become a permanent resident of the UK. A British spouse cannot be a “sponsor” for their immigration application.So, ironically, some of the people who have lived here the longest — who did their degree here and/or raised kids here — are now told they might not be able to stay.

Misconception 4: Okay, I think I get it: If you worked continuously in the UK for at least five years, you will definitely be allowed to stay

Well….maybe. This is currently the most likely guarantee, but there are snags in the system. First of all, we don’t know for certain that permanent resident status achieved on the basis of fulfilling EU treaty requirements will indeed remain valid after Brexit. That’s again something we would like the government to confirm. Many people are applying anyway, because it’s the only immigration route we qualify for, and the non-EU route (which we might have to use in the future) is twenty times as expensive. Second, the evidence required to prove that you have indeed fulfilled all the requirements to be here legally is enormous and elaborate. Do you still have all your old payslips? I didn’t, and I have now had to go back to two previous employers to request them (and a letter) to be able to complete the employment evidence section of my application. if you thought you were being environmentally friendly with paperless billing and electronic bank statements, that is a huge disadvantage.Employment evidence alone is not enough. To prove that you lived in the UK continuously, you also need things like old utility bills or other pieces of official mail sent to your address throughout the years. Electronic documents do not count, so if you thought you were being environmentally friendly with paperless billing and electronic bank statements, that is a HUGE disadvantage when you need to prove that you lived in the country all this time. And if you were living with housemates or a partner, you better have been the person the bills were addressed to! Finally, the Home Office wants to see proof that you were an EU citizen during the five year qualifying period, so if you renewed your passport recently you will need to still have the old one. Many embassies keep the old passport when they give you a new one, so this also a challenge for a lot of people!

Misconception 5: UK citizens in other EU countries are having similar problems.

They are not! Each country sets their own immigration procedures, and the Members of European Parliament that looked into the situation have not found evidence that the procedures for UK residents to settle in other EU countries have been as challenging.The permanent resident application system has lots of bugs in it. One commonly encountered issue is that someone who used to receive child benefits in the past, but doesn’t anymore, is technically unable to fill in the online application form. When they follow the steps in the online application, the thread of questioning brings them to a dead end where it is impossible to answer that they don’t currently receive any benefits.

It’s a weird, broken, application process and it needs to be fixed.

Eva ends: I will be visiting parliament on February 20 as part of a mass lobby for EU residents rights in the UK. We are mainly pushing for the government to make a firm statement about our status, i.e. to make it official that everyone who was already here can stay. This has been hinted at, but is not yet certain. (See “misconception 1” above). Everyone will try to speak to their MP about their own experience. Even if you can’t be there in person, anyone in the UK can contact their own MP to ask them to push for clarity and security for EU residents in the country. If I manage to get to talk to my MP, I want to focus in particular on the challenges that academics/researchers face with the current application system (see “misconception 2” above)

There is a petition asking for a reform of the permanent resident application, which addresses some of the same issues I described above.

Eva Amsen: Writer, science communicator, musician. I’m a biochemist by training, but now I work with scientists rather than as one.

 

 

 

Seeking food supplies from Turkey and Morocco?  Time for change!

On BBC Radio 4 today it was reported that some supermarkets are limiting sales of fruit and vegetables.

veg-2shortage

A newspaper elaborates: “Morrisons and Tesco have limited the amount of lettuce and broccoli after flooding and snow hit farms in Spain. Shortages of other household favourites – including cauliflower, cucumbers, courgettes, oranges, peppers and tomatoes – are also expected. Prices of some veg has rocketed 40% due to the freak weather. Sainsburys admitted weather has also affected its stocks”.

HortiDaily reports on frost in Europe in detail (one of many pictures below) and the search for supplies from Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia.

A former Greenpeace Economist foresees these and more persistent problems in his latest book, Progressive Protectionism.

Read on: https://foodvitalpublicservice.wordpress.com/2017/02/03/seeking-food-supplies-from-turkey-time-for-change/

 

 

 

EFRA Minister: at least 36,000 farms have vanished

Alice Thomson continues: after Brexit there is a chance to redefine our relationship with the countryside. The system is skewed to the largest farms. Khalid Abdullah al-Saud received £400,000 last year in subsidies for his vast Juddmonte Farms, which breed racehorses. Such wealthy landowners are already benefiting from the inheritance tax exemption on farming land, and most don’t need the nearly £3 billion in direct subsidies from Brussels – mere pocket money.

Andrea Leadsom, the new environment secretary, said before the referendum that “it would make so much more sense if those with the big fields do the sheep and those with the hill farms do the butterflies”. But Britain should be going the other way, tapering payments so they promote small, innovative, often part-time farms to keep the countryside alive.

With the weak pound, supermarkets should be trying harder to champion local producers

food-trucks-importMore than 40% of food is imported. Environmentally it makes sense to cut down on transport by buying from British farms.

In return farmers should be expected to become true custodians of the countryside – as many already are – planting more trees and hedgerows, helping with flood management, promoting good animal husbandry and richer soils.

Government’s penchant for relying on imported food involves increasing traffic flows, more congestion, more pollution, more road accidents, more calls for more motorway widening and more HGVs doing local deliveries clogging up roads.

Relying on imported food also reduces self-provisioning and self-reliance as impacts of climate change and overpopulation outstrip our ability to feed ourselves.

 

 

 

It’s good to be able to say “Hats off to DEFRA”!

. . . if they continue to ‘reboot’ farm policy in favour of small family farms

“Not only do small family farms (defined as covering less than 250 acres and requiring the labour of one or two people) employ more people per acre and provide a wider variety of locally produced food than larger farms, but there is increasing evidence that they are less damaging to the environment.”

private-eye-logoThis passage in the latest Private Eye (1429) mentioned research findings published in a new state funded study carried out in the Netherlands and an online search added detail from the FT.

lidwien_smitDr Lidwien Smit, an environmental epidemiologist at Utrecht University, found that the biggest contribution to deaths linked with air pollution in Europe comes from agriculture, as risky to breathe as that in a traffic congested city.

She recommends that intensive farms in particular should be subjected to the same strict pollution rules as other industries. 

In September, the study was presented to the European Respiratory Society’s international congress in London. Professor Stephen Holgate, the society’s science council chair said that the findings underline the need for governments to take tougher action on farm pollution: “It raises a very important issue; there needs to be much better monitoring of intensive farming’s pollution plumes that spread out across the neighbourhood”.

farms-not-factories-tracy-logo

Private Eye reports that DEFRA is to use part of a £16m EU emergency dairy aid fund to help farmers ‘hit’ by very low milk prices to encourage grass-based farming systems.

The NFU, whose ‘lobby’ is often said to be dominated by large farmers that pay the biggest subscriptions) has, however, made ‘counter proposals’.

defra-logoThe farmer who writes for Private Eye, hopes – as we do – that DEFRA will ‘stick to its guns’ and also that all the UK’s regional governments and national assemblies will go on to make discrimination in favour of small-scale family farms central to farm policy in post-Brexit Britain.

First published on another site: https://foodvitalpublicservice.wordpress.com/2016/10/13/hats-off-to-defra-if-they-continue-to-reboot-farm-policy-in-favour-of-small-family-farms/

 

 

 

Is the only response a progressive alliance?

With thanks to the reader working in Uganda who sent this link from which we give extracts:

Peter Hitchens writes:

peter hitchensIt will be good for Britain if Jeremy Corbyn wins his fight to stay as leader of the Labour Party. I agree with the late Queen Mother that the best political arrangement for this country is a good old-fashioned conservative government kept on its toes by a strong Labour Opposition.

There’s no sign of a good old-fashioned conservative government. But Mr Corbyn speaks for a lot of people who feel left out of the recovery we are supposed to be having, and they need a powerful voice in Parliament.

There is nothing good (or conservative) about low wages, insecure jobs and a mad housing market which offers nothing but cramped rooms and high rents to young families just when they need space, proper houses with gardens, and security.

I wish the voiceless millions of conservative patriots had a spokesman as clear and resolute as Mr Corbyn is for his side.

globalisation imagesThe truth is that both major parties have been taken over by the same cult, the Clinton-Blair fantasy that globalism, open borders and mass immigration will save the great nations of the West.

It hasn’t worked. In the USA it has failed so badly that the infuriated, scorned, impoverished voters of Middle America are on the point of electing a fake-conservative yahoo businessman as President.

So far we have been gentler with our complacent elite, perhaps too gentle. Our referendum majority for leaving the EU was a deep protest against many things. But it did not actually throw hundreds of useless MPs out on their ears, as needs to be done. They are all still there, drawing their pay and expenses . . .

If Mr Corbyn wins, our existing party system will begin to totter. The Labour Party must split between old-fashioned radicals like him, and complacent smoothies from the Blair age.

And since Labour MPs have far more in common with Mrs May than with Mr Corbyn, there is only one direction they can take. They will have to snuggle up beside her absurdly misnamed Conservative Party. And so at last the British public will see clearly revealed the truth they have long avoided – that the two main parties are joined in an alliance against them.

And they may grasp that their only response is to form an alliance against the two big parties. Impossible? Look how quickly this happened in Scotland.

greenhouse header

Is such an alliance gathering now? See http://greenhousethinktank.weebly.com/uploads/4/8/3/2/48324387/green_house_progressive_alliance_july_2016.pdf