Richard Gupwell is the Stourbridge Labour Party’s Political Education officer. Richard has lived and worked in Brussels for the majority of the last 45 years and was a political adviser to the Socialist Group in the European Parliament. Reproduced below is a short extract from an essay Richard recently wrote on the Brexit process, focusing specifically on the Labour Party’s role. The essay was discussed at Stourbridge Young Labour‘s meeting on the EU on 6th December.
How can the Labour Party influence the Brexit negotiations?
There are two main ways for Labour to influence the Brexit process. The first is to exert influence within the British Parliament – already being done with some success. This needs to be accompanied by an effective public campaign to criticise the Conservative Government’s inept handling of the whole Brexit business.
However, the Party can also exert influence with Labour’s allies in Europe, both in the European Parliament and in the Council and the European Council.
The Labour Party belongs to the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S & D) in the European Parliament, which has 191 MEPs, second only to the Group of the European People’s Party (EPP), which has 221 MEPs. There are no British MEPs in the EPP group but 20 Labour MEPs in the S & D Group. The other political groups are all in the second division. The Conservatives and Reformers have 70 MEPs (including 19 British Conservatives and 1 Ulster Unionist), the Liberals and Democrats have 67 MEPs (with 1 British Liberal Democrat), the United and Nordic Left Group have 52 MEPs (including 1 Sinn Féin member), the Green/Free Alliance have 50 MEPs (including 3 British Greens, 2 Scottish Nationalists and 1 Welsh Plaid Cymru member) and the Freedom and Direct Democracy Group have 48 MEPs (including 24 UKIP members). There are also 52 non-attached MEPs (including 1 Democratic Unionist from Northern Ireland).
The Council of Ministers and the European Council are dominated by the EPP, the S & D and the Liberals and Democrats. These three political families between them control three-quarters of the seats in the European Council, the remainder being made up of Conservatives (Britain and Poland), the Far Left (Greece) and independents. Thus, in the rest of Europe, the Labour Party and, indeed, the Liberal Democrats, are able to exert far more influence that the present British Conservative Government, which has few allies. Indeed, apart from UKIP, it could be said that the Conservatives are the party least likely to be able to obtain “the best possible deal for Britain”.
Jeremy Corbyn recently attended a meeting with other European Socialist leaders in Prague. It is encouraging that the Labour Party is concerting its policy on Brexit with its European partners and that a European Socialist conference has been proposed by Labour to take place in London in the near future.
– Richard Gupwell