“I’m not asking people to love the EU. I’m asking people to understand what it can do,” said Linda McAvan MEP, when she spoke to the group of Fabian Women who visited the European Parliament on 9 November.
The extent of the work of the EU was one of the main messages that came through clearly in the presentations throughout the day. And what was striking was that many of the achievements are due to hardworking Labour MEPs, such as Linda McAvan and Arlene McCarthy – another MEP who spoke to us.
For example, Labour MEPs have campaigned for and influenced policies on food safety, food labeling, bank rules and climate change. “The EU is not all about flags and anthems – it’s about working rights, consumer rights and the environment,” said Linda.
Another key message was that we will always need deal with Europe, whether we are part of the EU or not. “If we haven’t got a place on the table, like Norway, we need to lobby other countries’ MEPs to represent because we still have to trade.”
As well as the themes about the importance and relevance of the EU, we heard from speakers about the structures – the Commission, the Parliament and the Council of Ministers – and an outline of how legislation passes between them. We also appreciated that a crucial skill that MEPs need to have is negotiating, as many decisions are based on consensus-seeking of MEPs in different parties.
The group on the trip, which was made up of women on the Fabian Women’s Network’s mentoring scheme and others, was full of praise for the excellent organisation of the day and the diverse and informative range of speakers. One delegate summed it up perfectly. “I learned more today than on my politics course.”
Laura Nelson, Fabian Women’s Network Mentee