The Times 7 June 2019 – Opinion piece by Ellie Chowns MEP

We must unite against the forces of raw nationalism and rapacious neoliberalism

Ellie Chowns June 7 2019, The Times

Being a Green in Brussels is inspiring and energising: it’s wonderful to be part of a group that more than doubled its parliamentary numbers in one election, being in meetings helping to democratically decide what our positions should be in shaping the next five years of the European Union.

Hearing how other groups in the EU are scrambling to talk about our issues and pick up our language on the climate emergency and social justice, there is an enormous sense of possibility.

As a development specialist, I’m excited about the work of the parliament’s trade committee, taking up issues crucial to social and environmental justice.

But at least for the next four months, that’s going to be topped by another priority — the debate in the West Midlands about the future of the UK within the EU.

I’m exploring how I can best contribute to that.

One thing I’d like to do is bring Europe to the West Midlands; bring people over from Brussels who can add to understanding of what the EU does for us. I also want to take the West Midlands to Brussels, to showcase our diversity, creativity and innovation.

So much of this debate is about emotion, not data. Crucially what I’ll be doing is getting out and listening to people’s concerns, ensuring they know I’m a direct conduit between them and Brussels. I’ll also be doing my best to ensure that Westminster, which is so distracted, again, by the Tory leadership question, listens and learns.

I want to be part of building a bridge, helping the people of my region to understand more of what happens in Europe, and helping them see its relevance to their lives, from fighting tax-dodging and exploitative employment contracts, to cleaning up our beaches and protecting our wildlife.

I also want to help them get involved, engaged and doing politics themselves, working with their friends, neighbours and communities to take control of their own lives. That means fighting for radical changes in our UK political system, which is so clearly broken. We need to make the most of this political crisis to rebuild a fairer and more democratic UK politics from the ground up.

But this weekend will be a small break, a chance to travel north to Scarborough, where the Green Party is gathering for its conference, a celebration of our wonderful results in the European and local elections.

That Green wave took me to Brussels, elected in a region that even Greens were not talking about as a possible win a week before the vote.

And just a few weeks earlier we doubled the number of Green councillors in England, including many great wins in my own West Midlands.

In Scarborough, which was like my own West Midlands a majority Leave-voting area, we’ll also be seeking to build bridges, joining with local pro-European groups in an “Our Europe” rally that will focus on the benefits of Europe.

Greens have particularly highlighted the rich possibilities that free movement brings to all our lives: the chance to live, work and love anywhere across Europe, and the benefits that people from other parts of the EU bring to our societies.

We’re also staunch defenders of the EU’s record in protecting and extending environmental, social and human rights.

There is much more to do. We face big challenges: social and environmental emergencies, no less. These are problems we can best tackle together, working across Europe, united against the forces of raw nationalism and rapacious neoliberalism and building instead a Europe of hope, fairness and collective action.

Ellie Chowns is a Green MEP for the West Midlands

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