1/4 million Brits set to receive EU grants to study and train abroad – Rebecca Taylor MEP

Rebecca ALDE biog photoNearly a quarter of a million students and apprentices in the UK are set to receive EU grants to study or work abroad over the next seven years, following the launch of the new Erasmus+ programme in London today.

Liberal Democrat MEP and European Youth policy spokesperson Rebecca Taylor is urging young people to take advantage of a new EU education programme. The new scheme will see its total funding increased by 40% to £12.1 billion, with the UK expected to receive over £100 million of funding this year.

Since 2007 nearly 162,000 people in the UK have received an EU grant to study or gain work experience abroad, and numbers are steadily rising each year. Under reforms pushed for by Liberal Democrat MEPs, there will now be a particular emphasis on increasing opportunities for vocational trainees and apprentices to gain experience abroad.

Rebecca Taylor commented:

“It’s fantastic news that even more young people in the UK will now be given the opportunity to study or train abroad.

“I’m particularly pleased to see more EU funding for apprentices and those in vocational education. This will reinforce efforts by Liberal Democrats to boost
apprenticeships and give every young person the skills they need to get on in life.

“It is vital that we now get local young people to take advantage of the new opportunities being provided. Working and studying abroad is a unique chance to improve your foreign language skills, gain confidence and increase your future employability in today’s fiercely competitive job market.

“Liberal Democrats are fighting to keep Britain in Europe because being in is the best way to increase opportunities for young people and secure our future as a successful, open and dynamic economy.”

Notes to Editors

More information about the UK launch of the Erasmus+ scheme can be found here.

Posting of workers vote shows being at the EU table gets a better deal for the UK

Groupe ALDEMEPs voted yesterday to adopt the posting of workers directive, which deals with enforcement of the rules when businesses send workers to another EU country for a temporary period. Under the new rules there will be a clearer definition of posted workers to combat bogus-self-employment and other forms of abuse, so as to ensure that home country governments remain responsible for the welfare provision of workers posted abroad.

The European Commission estimates that there are around 1 million workers posted each year in the EU. The UK sends around 38,000 workers each year, primarily in the services sector, and receives around 37,000 per year across different sectors including health, finance and manufacturing.

European Labour and Greens pushed for damaging measures which would have limited the single market in services and introduced heavy-handed liability for contractors across all EU countries. These proposals were adopted as the Parliament’s position back in July, despite strong opposition from Liberal Democrats.

During the negotiations between Parliament and EU national ministers, Phil Bennion MEP employment spokesman for the Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament ensured that these damaging proposals were rejected in favour of a more balanced approach. This approach took UK ministers from blocking the text to supporting it.

This balanced outcome was voted yesterday in the Parliament and received overwhelming support. A last-ditch attempt by Labour MEP Stephen Hughes to re-table the damaging proposals was also rejected.

Commenting, Phil Bennion said:

“This deal strikes a good balance between the protection of posted workers and opening up the EU’s single market in services, the sector that provides the biggest potential for future growth in Europe.

“Labour and the Greens wanted the UK to completely turn its liability regime for subcontracting on its head, which would have required massive and unnecessary changes to our legal system.

“This just shows that Labour do not have British interests at heart in Europe, and that the way to get the best deal for Britain is to have Liberal Democrat MEPs at the table.

“But it also shows the importance of having a say in the EU so we can stand up for British interests. As this is a single market measure, we would have had to comply even if we were outside the EU in order to maintain free trade.

“Leaving Europe would mean losing influence over important decisions that affect British workers and the British economy.”


Notes to editors

The Directive was passed with 474 votes in favour

The full text can be found here

According to government figures the UK sends around 38,000 posted workers receives around 37,000 per year

MEPs approve EU targets to cut plastic bag use by 80% – Chris Davies MEP

Chris Davies MEPToday the European Parliament voted in favour of dramatically cutting plastic bags use across Europe by 80% in 5 years. 539 MEPs voted in favour, 51 against and 72 abstained.

Figures from the European Commission show that over 100 billion carrier bags are used every year within the EU, working out at an average of 200 per person. 8 billion of these end up as litter, many of them in Europe’s seas, including in the English Channel and North Sea.

EU countries will be given the flexibility to choose how they reach a binding target of 50% reduction in plastic bag use within three years and 80% reduction within five years of the legislation coming into force.

Liberal Democrats in coalition government have announced a 5p charge per plastic bag to be introduced across the whole of the UK in 2015. In Wales supermarkets have reported reductions of up to 96% in the use of single-use plastic bags following the introduction of a 5p charge in 2011, suggesting the UK is already on track to meet the EU targets.

However, despite this Conservative MEPs have opposed the EU proposal, and attempted to put down a wrecking amendment that would have created a loophole by exempting all restaurants and cafeterias from the EU targets.

Liberal Democrat European Environment Spokesperson Chris Davies MEP commented:

“Discarded plastic bags are killing millions of marine animals each year. It’s become a massive problem across Europe and one we must deal with together.

“Every country has the right to decide what action to take, but the need to reduce the huge volumes of plastic waste we create should not be in dispute.

“But yet again we see the Conservatives dancing to the UKIP tune by trying to wreck this EU proposal.

“Liberal Democrats in government have already proposed measures to reduce plastic bag use in Britain, we are now leading the way in ensuring that similar measures are taken across the European continent.”

Notes to Editors

The full report voted today can be found here. The final legislation must still be approved by national governments in the EU Council.

Results of how individual MEPs voted will be published here on the European Parliament website at approximately 2pm BST.

Native wildlife to be protected from invasive species under EU proposal – Catherine Bearder MEP

Catherine Bearder MEP - South East EnglandThe European Parliament has backed proposals to tackle the spread of non-native animals and plants throughout the EU. It is estimated that over the past 20 years more than 12,000 invasive species have been recorded in Europe, costing nearly £10 billion annually in damage to local ecosystems. In the UK, where there are an estimated 2,000 invasive species present, the bill is thought to be at least £1.7bn a year.

These species can pose a major threat to local biodiversity. This includes the American mink, which has devastated local wildlife in parts of the UK, or “demon shrimp” which originated from the Black Sea and has disrupted ecosystems in Britain’s rivers and lakes. Some species such as Japanese knotweed have also caused significant damage to buildings while other pests have damaged agricultural yields or threatened human health by spreading disease.

Under the proposals, national governments would have to work together to detect invasive species placed on a list of high concern and to put in place measures to minimise the harm they cause. Initially it was proposed that this list should have a fixed cap of 50 non-native species, but MEPs have called for a more flexible approach that can be rapidly adapted to deal with new threats. The new law will require EU countries to analyse how invasive species enter the country, step up official checks at EU borders and develop long-term action plans on how to manage the troublesome species.

Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder, who was one of the lead negotiators on the legislation in the European Parliament’s trade committee, commented:

“Invasive species can cause huge damage to native plants and wildlife, but they also pose a threat to agriculture, buildings and to human health.

“They do not respect national borders and can be easily spread through trade, travel as well as the pet trade, so it’s vital we work alongside neighbouring countries to combat them.

“We need action at the local level to minimise the damage being caused, but even more important is preventative action at the national and European level to stop these troublesome species being introduced in the first place.”

Notes to Editors

The full report voted on today can be found here. The proposal must now be approved by national governments in the EU Council before it becomes law.

The cost of Invasive non-native species (INNS) to the British economy is estimated at £1.7 billion a year.

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.”

Increased corporate transparency on the way after European Parliament vote

Rebecca ALDE biog photoToday the European Parliament voted in favour requiring large companies to provide greater information on their impact on society, such as the environmental and social impacts their operations have.

The new rules will require the largest companies in the EU (around 6,000 in total) to disclose this information with their management reports.

Liberal Democrat MEP Rebecca Taylor who sits on the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs committee said:

“This vote is a unique opportunity when it comes to improving the accountability and transparency of large businesses in Europe, and I am pleased to have played a part in making it a reality.

“For those companies who already report on their impact on society, non-financial reporting has proven to contribute greatly to their long-term success.

“However this is only a start, and even though the final text is not as ambitious as I had hoped, I firmly believe that it will help investors and consumers better assess large businesses.”

Local and traditional British produce in line for EU funding to boost sales abroad

FoodLiberal Democrat MEP and Agriculture Spokesman George Lyon has welcomed the approval of a new EU funding programme in the European Parliament which could help win over thousands of new customers around the world for traditional British products such as Scottish smoked salmon and West Country Farmhouse cheddar.

The new scheme will fund programmes to promote high-quality agricultural products in Europe and in fast-growing economies around the world such as China and South Korea. It will see a major increase in funding, from £51 million across the EU in 2014 to £165 million in 2020.

Mr Lyon said:

“This new scheme will give local producers the opportunity to bring a taste of Britain to the world.”

“One of our big achievements has been to ensure that traditional products with European protected status such as Scotch whisky will be given extra funding to boost their exports and win over new customers abroad.”

“This is an example of how we can work through the EU to help small businesses, build up the reputation of quality local British food and strengthen our economy.”
Currently 62 unique products in the UK have gained EU protected status, protecting them from imitation or fraud and ensuring that customers know they are buying an authentic locally sourced product. The prestigious award also helps to boost sales by increasing visibility both at home and abroad. A number of new British products including West Country beef and lamb, Anglesey Sea Salt and Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese have been awarded the status in recent months.

Mr Lyon added:

“Liberal Democrat MEPs will now be working with more food and drink producers to encourage them to apply for protected status and for European funding.”

“We should be proud of our unique traditional products, and that means using our membership of the world’s biggest trading bloc to promote small producers on the international stage.”

“At next month’s European elections Liberal Democrats will be fighting to keep Britain in the EU so we can protect jobs and continue delivering for the local economy.”

Notes to Editors

Projects funded under the new scheme will aim to increase awareness about the high quality of these products and the traditional methods used to make them, with a specific focus on winning over new customers in high-growth markets abroad. 70-80% of funding for each programme will come from the EU, with the remainder being paid for by the individual producer or group of businesses.

In November, the EU funded a range of events in Japan and South Korea to promote British products including West Country Farmhouse cheddar Scotch Whisky.

As well as traditional products with EU protected status, certain other high quality agricultural products are eligible including organic produce and fresh fruit and vegetables.

More information about the current scheme in the UK, administered by the Rural Payments Agency, can be found here

Victory for Lib Dems as MEPs approve safer lorry designs – Phil Bennion

Groupe ALDELiberal Democrat MEP and Transport Spokesman Phil Bennion has welcomed a European Parliament vote to improve lorry safety through tougher design standards today, which was approved by an overwhelming majority with 604 MEPs in favour.

Under changes pushed for by Liberal Democrat MEPs, the design of lorry cabs are set to be changed to reduce the number of blind spots under the front windscreen and the side of the vehicle. The new designs would also include safer cab fronts to reduce damage caused by impacts with cyclists and pedestrians. It is thought the proposal and could help prevent dozens of fatal accidents each year.

Over the past few years Liberal Democrat MEPs have met with a number of safety campaigners in Brussels and the UK who have called for tighter EU rules to improve lorry safety including Olympic gold medal-winning cyclist Chris Boardman, Kate Cairns from the See Me Save Me Campaign and Nazan Fennell from the ‘Live in Hope’ campaign in Birmingham.

Mr Bennion commented:

“Today’s vote is a victory for all the campaigners in the UK who have worked so hard to bring about these life-saving changes to lorry design.”

“This shows that when individuals engage with MEPs and the EU they can affect the outcome and bring about positive change.”

“With today’s strong backing from the European Parliament I am confident that we can push these reforms through in negotiations with national governments later this

Notes to Editors

MEPs will now enter into negotiations with national governments in order to finalise the new legislation. These negotiations will not take place until after the European elections in May.

Under the new rules lorry manufacturers would be permitted to increase the dimensions of their vehicles as long as they used the extra space to incorporate safety and aerodynamic features. These safety features will then become compulsory seven years after the entry into force of the Directive.

The full text of the proposed legislation voted on today can be found here. The full results of the vote will be published around 2pm BST.

Tory scaremongering on Europe shows they are running scared of UKIP

Groupe ALDEThis morning Conservative MEP Leader Syed Kamall criticised a suggestion put forward by MEPs for number plates across the EU to be standardised, describing it as “idiotic” and saying it was being forced on the UK by “eurocrats.”

However, it has now emerged that the proposal was co-tabled by his senior Conservative colleague Malcolm Harbour MEP.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat MEP and Transport Spokesman in the European Parliament Phil Bennion said:

“We agree that a common EU number plate is completely unnecessary, and so I’m glad this proposal won’t be becoming law and is just a vague suggestion.

“But embarrassingly for the Conservatives, it turns out this was actually co-tabled by one of their own MEPs. This shows just how divided they have become when it comes to the EU.

“The truth is that neither the Conservatives nor Labour know where they stand on Europe.

“Liberal Democrats are the Party of In, UKIP are the Party of Out, while Cameron and Miliband are too weak to take a clear position.”

Notes to editors

Leader of the Conservative MEPs Syed Kamall was quote in the Daily Mail as saying the proposal was “idiotic” and was being forced on the UK by “eurocrats.”


The amendment co-tabled by Conservative MEP Malcolm Harbour can be found here. It was added to a report which will be voted on in the European Parliament on Tuesday, 15th April in Strasbourg

The amendment says the European Commission should “consider whether the obstacles faced by citizens and businesses when transferring their vehicles from one Member State to another could be further offset if there were a possibility of equipping their vehicles with number plates in common colours.” There is no indication that the Commission will make such a proposal and even if it did, it would have to be approved by national governments including the UK and MEPs.

Chris Davies: Electric vehicles required to emit sound to protect blind pedestrians following MEP vote

Chris Davies MEPMEPs have voted to introduce mandatory acoustic vehicle alerting systems (AVAS) to new electric and hybrid cars in order to protect vulnerable road users. Currently these vehicles emit very little sound which is particularly dangerous for partially sighted and blind pedestrians.

Initial EU proposals from the European Commission called for the installation of an AVAS system to be done on a voluntary basis only, but Liberal Democrat MEPs successfully introduced an amendment making this a mandatory requirement for all electric and hybrid vehicles. Following today’s vote manufacturers in the EU will have 5 years to comply with the new rules.

The acoustic warning devices will make a sound very similar to that of cars with a regular combustion engine so that people will be able to clearly hear these vehicles, allowing them to judge how safe a road is to cross.

Liberal Democrat European Environment spokesperson Chris Davies commented:

“Quiet electric cars could become a common sight on our roads in years to come but we have to ensure that this doesn’t jeopardise the safety of blind and partially sighted people.

“Installing sound generators will ensure that all pedestrians are able to hear these vehicles and cross the road safely.

“By working at an EU level we have been able to place this requirement on all car manufacturers and prevent needless accidents in future. It’s a good demonstration of why Liberal Democrats insist that Britain must stay at the heart of decision-making in Europe.”

Notes to Editors

The final text of the report can be found here

Guide Dogs (formerly Guide Dogs for the Blind Association) campaigned for the introduction of AVAS for electronic vehicles at EU level