Watson: EU must step up sanctions against Russia over Ukraine

Sir Graham Watson MEPLiberal Democrat MEP and Foreign Affairs Spokesman Sir Graham Watson has urged the EU to step up sanctions against Russia in order to de-escalate the rapidly deteriorating situation in Ukraine.

Commenting, Sir Graham said:

“The lack of a firm response from the EU over the seizure of Crimea seems to have encouraged the Russian government to continue acting with impunity as it now seeks to destabilise Eastern Ukraine.

“The EU can now prove itself by increasing the number of people and entities to whom targeted sanctions apply and by speeding up the work of the European Commission in identifying potential economic sanctions.

“Failure to act now would have grave consequences not only for the stability and security of Ukraine, but for that of other countries in Russia’s near abroad with significant Russian-speaking minorities.”

Sir Graham Watson MEP: EU must not sit back while Russia flouts international law

Sir Graham Watson MEPToday the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs committee voted in favour of imposing visa restrictions on Russian officials involved in the Magnitsky affair in 2009. There has been continued speculation over the death in prison of the late lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

After independent investigations it was found that Mr Magnitsky was subject to inhumane conditions, deliberate neglect and torture. The list of names MEPs have asked to be placed on a sanction list will now be passed on to the Council and the Commission.

These proposed sanctions come as Russia continues to have a military presence within the sovereign nation of Ukraine and shows no sign of retreating.

Liberal Democrat MEP, Sir Graham Watson who sits on the Foreign Affairs committee said:

“I very much welcome the outcome of the vote in the Committee this morning. Despite numerous calls by the European Parliament, no action has been taken. It is time for our concerns to be taken on board by the Council.”

“I therefore urge European leaders to place restrictions on the list of those people we believe to be responsible for the mistreatment of Mr Magnitsky.”

He added:

“Today’s annexation of the Crimea by Russia under the false pretence of truly democratic mandate is nothing short of imperialism by the Putin government.

“The EU must continue to use targeted sanctions to put pressure on Russia for as long as it continues to flout international law.

Graham Watson: European Parliament calls for tough new EU rules to combat money-laundering

Sir Graham Watson MEPMEPs today voted on revised EU rules to combat money-laundering and tax evasion, including an EU-wide public register of the beneficiaries of companies.

Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson, who is the lead negotiator from the Liberal group on the legislation, commented:

“For the first time we are asking companies to publicly reveal who stands behind them. This will give the authorities the tools to identify anonymous shell companies and opaque offshore trusts, making it far harder for fraudsters to evade tax and criminals to whitewash their dirty money.”

“Liberal Democrats are the party of In because being in the EU means Britain can work with its neighbours to solve global challenges like tax evasion and organised crime.”

“Pulling out of Europe would weaken our ability to combat money-laundering and recover the billions of pounds of tax revenue being lost each year.”
Commenting on the rejection by MEPs of an amendment that would have excluded small low-risk family trusts from the public register, Sir Graham added:

“It is important to make a distinction between high-risk trusts located offshore and low-risk family trusts in the UK, which if published on a public register could have serious privacy implications.”

“I am disappointed that my Labour and Green colleagues have failed to recognise this and hope that this issue can be resolved in subsequent negotiations between EU governments in the Council.”

Graham Watson MEP: Gibraltar protest Rocks the boat in Brussels

Sir Graham Watson MEPA group of protesters from the Concerned Citizens group in Gibraltar is currently in Brussels to hand over a petition to the European Parliament’s Petitions Committee and protest in front of the European Parliament, Spanish EU Embassy and European Commission.

The group is in Brussels to protest against the continuing delays at the border with Spain due to the disproportionately heavy-handed customs checks when entering and leaving Gibraltar.

Gibraltar and South West Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson handed the petition over to the European Parliament Petitions Committee earlier today.

Sir Graham, who assisted with the logistics of the protest, commented:

“The continuing and disproportionate delays at the border are a scandal of the highest order.

“We have succeeded in our bid to Rock the boat in Brussels today – and will continue to do so tomorrow.

“It’s time that the EU realised the strength of feeling on the Rock about the issue. This problem cannot be solved by the UK and Spain simply agreeing to disagree, we need action from the European Commission to defend citizens’ rights to free movement and we need it now.”

Graham Watson MEP: EU should consider sanctions on Ukraine

Sir Graham Watson MEPCommenting on the deaths of two protestors in Ukraine today following a police crackdown, Liberal Democrat MEP and Foreign Affairs Spokesperson in the European Parliament Sir Graham Watson commented:

“I deplore President Viktor Yanukovych’s heavy-handed approach which appears to have cost the lives of two protestors in the streets of Kiev today.”

“While the Ukrainian government has turned its back on Europe, we must not turn our back on the people of Ukraine.”

“The European Union should consider imposing sanctions on Ukraine until this brutal repression is brought to an end and a political settlement reached.”

Graham Watson: Airbus Group UK says EU single market key to its success

Sir Graham Watson MEP

Airbus Group UK has joined the growing list of major employers who have come out strongly in favour of Britain staying in the EU.

Robin Southwell, President of Airbus Group UK has said that the company’s success depended on “an effective partnership of countries and companies within Europe, which only collectively can deliver the scale required to be globally successful”.

During his speech at a company event tonight in London, he also implied that eurosceptics must come up with a viable alternative economic model that would not undermine growth and employment in the UK.

Airbus currently employs 17,000 people in the UK, mostly at its plants at Filton near Bristol and Broughton in North Wales, where wings are made for the group’s civil aircraft. In total, the company estimates that around 100,000 jobs are generated in the UK by Airbus wing work, both directly and in the supply chain.

Sir Graham Watson, Liberal Democrat MEP for the South West, commented:

“Airbus Group is one of the most successful companies in Europe and has created thousands of highly skilled manufacturing jobs in this country.

“Key to its success has been the ability to trade freely in a single market of over 500 million.

“Liberal Democrats, as the party of In, are determined to defend Britain’s membership of the EU and the massive economic benefits that it brings.

“We cannot let the eurosceptics win the argument and throw our economic recovery away.”

Notes to Editors

Robin Southwell is due to give a speech at an Airbus Group UK reception in London at 19:30 GMT, 21st January 2014

In his speech Mr Southwell will state that Airbus employs 17,000 people in the UK.

The company estimates that around 100,000 jobs are generated in the UK by Airbus wing work, both directly as well as indirectly through an extended supply chain of over 400 companies


Graham Watson: UK government must claim EU aid for flood victims

Sir Graham Watson MEP

Sir Graham Watson, Liberal Democrat MEP for the South West, is calling on the UK government to urgently apply for aid from the EU’s Solidarity Fund to help rebuild communities devastated by flooding in recent weeks.

The fund, which has a budget of up to £414mn for 2014, was set up to provide financial assistance to EU countries struck by major natural disasters. The UK has applied once before for funding in 2008, when it received around £128m in aid to help repair damage caused by devastating floods the previous summer. Money from the fund can be used for clear-up work, infrastructure restoration, providing temporary accommodation, and funding rescue services.

However, under EU rules the Government must submit an application for assistance from the fund no more than 10 weeks after the disaster occurred, including an estimate of how much the damage cost. In a letter to Environment Minister Owen Paterson and Flooding Minister Brandon Lewis, Sir Watson is calling for urgent action to ensure the UK benefits from the fund. Continue reading

Liberal Democrat MEPs call on EU to speed up release of Greenpeace activists

MEPs yesterday called on High Representative of the EU Catherine Ashton to press the Russian authorities over the 28 Greenpeace activists and two freelance journalists who being detained Murmansk, following news that piracy charges had been dropped and replaced with lesser charges. 91 MEPs from twenty countries, including ten Liberal Democrat MEPs from the UK, have signed a statement of solidarity with the Arctic 30 on the Greenpeace website.


Liberal Democrat MEP for the South East Catherine Bearder met many of the crew members aboard the Arctic Sunrise last June when it docked inHastings as part of aUK campaign to support endangered local fishing communities. She commented:


 “I welcome the news that the piracy charges have been dropped. Even President Putin had admitted it’s obvious the Greenpeace personnel and independent journalists accompanying them were not pirates.


“All they were doing is highlighting the risks and dangers inherent in oil extraction in the Arctic region.  They were speaking for all of us who, following theGulfofMexico Oilspill, worry about extraction in even more vulnerable parts of the globe.


“The European Parliament needs to show we are doing all we can to support them. That is why I am calling on High Representative Catherine Ashton to take up this issue at the next meeting of EU foreign ministers on 21st November, just three days before the activists’ pre-detention hearing. That way we can work to secure their release and get them all home before Christmas.”


Liberal Democrat MEP for the South West and ALDE Party Presidet Graham Watson, who has written a letter to Mrs Ashton urging her to take action on the issue, commented:


“My thoughts are with my constituents Alexandra Harris, Iain Roger, Keiron Bryan and their families. I can only begin to imagine what they and their colleagues are going through after being arbitrarily locked up in cold cells and solitary confinement.


“Russiahas to guarantee that all thirty detainees are given a free trial – and I have asked that EU High Representative Catherine Ashton makes sureRussiafulfils its human rights obligations on this matter.


“We owe it to these brave young people not to allow this incident to weaken our resolve in future when it comes to challenging other countries – big or small – over drilling for oil in theArctic.”




Watson: EU-China deal could unlock billions of pounds of investment


Sir Graham Watson MEP

The European Parliament today voted today on negotiations for an investment pact between the EU and China that could open up opportunities for British firms and unlock billions of pounds of inward investment.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson said:

“Using the combined clout of the EU, we can make it easier for British firms to crack the Chinese market by opening up protected sectors and increasing legal certainty. Britain stands tall in Beijing when it stands tall in Brussels. Continue reading

Watson comments on CBI EU poll

Sir Graham Watson MEPCommenting on the CBI/YOUGOV survey that 8 out of 10 firms say the UK must stay in the EU, senior Liberal Democrat MEP Graham Watson said:

It’s welcome news that businesses, both large and small, are speaking out about the importance of EU membership for growth and jobs in the UK. 
“As the party of ‘in,’ Liberal Democrats are convinced that Britain’s future prosperity and influence in the world depends on us playing an active and constructive role in Europe. Sniping from the sidelines is not going to help British business or deliver the kind of job-boosting reforms we need.”