Keeping the United Kingdom intact
But settlement must devolve powers for England too
I warmly welcome the will of the Scottish people who voted in the referendum against becoming an independent country by 55% to 45%.
But there is now serious work ahead for the constituent of nations of the United Kingdom if its union of some 300 years is to continue prospering. A ‘No’ vote on separation does not mean no change. A white paper will be published in November, with legislation drafted by January 2015.
This means significant further devolution for Scotland – major new powers over tax, spending and welfare are all being passed to Scotland.
This must also bring about a new settlement for each of the nations of the UK, including addressing the thorny ‘West Lothian Question’ whereby Scottish MPs have been able to vote on English matters, but English MPs have not been able to vote on Scottish matters - since these are addressed in the separate Scottish Parliament.
The new settlement must also examine the Barnett formula, the system that allocates public expenditure to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. This has led to public spending per head being typically 20% higher in Scotland than in England. Last year under the formula, Scotland got £10,152 per head, Wales, despite being much poorer, got £9,709, and England got only £8,529.
In my view, the new constitutional convention must address this financial inequity and advance towards a fairer UK with devolved powers for England as well.
I met with representatives from the Countryside Alliance in Brussels to discuss rural affairs and listened to concerns about EU legislation affecting country sports.
Standing up to the threat of ISIS
ISIS, or Islamic State, in its murderous rampage poses an existential threat not just to the security of the Middle East and its minority communities but also to UK domestic interests. Given the number of British jihadis fighting for IS who might return and commit terrorist acts here, this is not an issue that the UK can ignore. In September, I addressed a rally campaigning for the protection of Assyrian Christians in Iraq in my capacity as a patron of Save the Assyrians (see below).
At the Unity Rally For Action I thanked the British Government for delivering humanitarian aid to relieve the besieged Yazidis on Mount Sinjar and supplies and military equipment to the embattled Kurds.
I also called on British Parliament, if put to a vote again, to fully back Prime Minister David Cameron over the NATO initiative to defeat IS and end its medieval reign of terror. I am pleased that Parliament has since approved strikes although the argument must now be made to allow those strikes to target ISIS in Syria too.
I have been involved in efforts to protect Christian and other minorities in the Middle East for more than a decade. In 2006 I called in the European Parliament for the establishment of a protected autonomous region for Iraq’s Assyrian Christians under article 5 of the Iraqi constitution where they can feel secure and manage their own affairs, and I was the first MEP to call for arming the Kurdish Regional Government of President Barzani, now done by the USA and Germany.
Meeting representatives from the City of London Corporation’s Brussels office. Ahead of the new Parliament, I was pleased to discuss potential legislation that will affect the City which holds a crucial position in the wider economy of London and the UK.
Civil war in Syria
With the International Republican Institute’s Program Director for Syria and Lebanon, Paul McCarthy, and Richard Milson, Chief Executive of the Alliance of European Conservative and Reformist parties. We discussed the IRI’s work on the ground, particularly in Syria with regards to the on-going civil war.
John Paul II
With Professor Zbigniew Zaleski MEP at the launch of the Pope John Paul II exhibition at the European Parliament. John Paul was a hugely influential and historical figure, encouraging millions of people across Eastern Europe to rise up and reject communist tyranny.
France 24 appearance
Appearing on the French edition of France 24 discussing the issue of the US led coalition fight against ISIS after the recent murder of a French hostage in Algeria and how to deal with the 2000 or more EU citizens including at least 500 UK citizens fighting as jihadists in Syria and Iraq.
Lord Hill confirmed
With Lord Hill who has won the financial services post in the new European Commission, with UK Conservative MEPs David Campbell Bannerman, Anthea McIntyre, Richard Ashworth, Jim Nicholson, Timothy Kirkhope, Syed Kamall, Jacqueline Foster, Geoffrey Van Orden, Emma McClarkin and Ian Duncan.
With Jana Hybášková, Head of the EU Delegation to Iraq, and Ambassador Ahmad Bamarni of the Iraqi Foreign Ministry. It is now imperative that the newly established Government establishes itself as a Government of Unity that is able to include all sections of society.
Journalists in Egypt
With the Egyptian Ambassador to the EU, His Excellency Ehab Fawzy, to discuss the situation in Egypt and the wider Middle East. I took the opportunity to again raise the cases of the British, Al-Jazeera journalists who have been convicted to lengthy jail sentences in absentia.
Foreign affairs confirmation
Meeting as ECR Foreign Affairs Coordinator, the Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini ahead of her confirmation hearings before the Foreign Affairs Committee as the new EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs.
East Europe focus
Meeting Commissioner Hahn, Commissioner Designate for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, ahead of his confirmation hearing. I took the opportunity to raise the wide array of issues and areas that the portfolio encompasses, particularly in terms of Ukraine, the Western Balkans and the South Caucuses.
With Baroness Berridge, the Reverend Nadim Nassar and Rachel Joyce at a rally campaigning for the protection of Assyrian Christians in Iraq.