Airlines based outside the EU could face protectionist measures against them after the European Parliament’s Transport Committee voted to update the EU’s competition rules today.

The revision to the EU’s aviation rules would allow the EU Commission to impose penalties on third-country airlines before complaints against them have been properly investigated. The plans would also allow the Commission to sanction airlines flying under Member States own bilateral aviation deals.

 

Conservative Transport Spokesman, Jacqueline Foster MEP, said: “MEPs have really scored a hat-trick today by backing revisions that could increase ticket prices for consumers, cost jobs and send a protectionist message to our partners around the globe.

“This revision would enable uncompetitive European airlines to complain about their rivals and give the EU Commission the power to punish them before reviewing the evidence. It's right we crack down on unfair competition but it is outright protectionist to sanction airlines, who may not be guilty, before their case has been heard.

“Consumers benefit from having access to airlines from around the world; it drives down prices, provides greater choice and a better service. 

“The EU should not be interfering in Member States own bilateral aviation agreements. It’s a clear power grab by the Commission to claim the right to investigate these agreements and impose penalties on airlines.” 

She added: "The UK has a world class aerospace industry providing thousands of high skilled jobs, with customers around the globe. If the Commission starts cracking down on our trade partners unfairly, it jeopardises those trade links, putting British jobs at risk."

 

Time is running out for countries to make good on their pledges to help Rohingya refugees fleeing from Myanmar before the monsoon season arrives, a Conservative MEP warned today.

Speaking after visiting refugee camps in Bangladesh, Baroness Mobarik said it was not acceptable that 40 per cent of the initial $83 million promised by the international community to the UNHCR had still to be donated. Tomorrow the United Nations is expected to call for hundreds of millions of dollars more to be made available to deal with the humanitarian crisis.

 Baroness Mobarik said: "Almost 1 million refugees are living in makeshift shelters built on steep sandy hills that are at risk of collapse when the monsoon rains arrive. The conditions are desperate now. If the shelters and temporary latrines get washed away the situation will become intolerable, contaminating drinking water and  heightening risk of serious disease such as cholera.

"Bangladesh has stepped up to the plate and is doing its best. So are the aid agencies on the ground. But they cannot look after hundreds of thousands of refugees without help and it's unacceptable that some countries have acknowledged the disaster I saw unfolding, promised money but then do not followed up on their pledges.

"The refugees cannot wait. The monsoon is coming and before that danger of cyclones. They need help now."

Scotland MEP Baroness Mobarik travelled to several Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh the largest of which, Kutupalong, is now equivalent in population size to the country's fifth largest city. She met officials from UNICEF, the UNHCR, Oxfam and the Bangladeshi aid agency BRAC. She also held discussions with the British High Commissioner, representatives of the Bangladesh Government and the EU delegation to Bangladesh.

 Baroness Mobarik added: "Of course the goal has to be a political solution that allows the Rohingya to return to their homes in Myanmar with guarantees over their safety and long term security. But that must not distract the world from addressing the very serious immediate problems the refugees face."

 

 

Only a lack of political will and imagination will stop Britain forging a new, mutually beneficial relationship with the European Union, Conservative MEPs' leader Ashley Fox said today.

Speaking as the European Parliament debated the future EU/UK deal, Mr Fox said it was overwhelmingly in the interests of both sides to have the freest trade and the closest possible security relationship.

Although significant differences remain, he believes progress can be made by listening to each other, building on what has already been agreed and thinking creatively. But he stressed it was not enough to simply look to replicate existing trade deals.

Mr Fox said: "Every deal the EU has ever struck has been different and unique. Arrangements with Switzerland, Norway and South Korea are all bespoke.  There was no Canada before Canada, no Singapore before Singapore."

The European Parliament must approve the final EU/UK agreement and Mr Fox said voters would judge MEPs not on whether they followed every rule and protocol but on whether they "had the common sense to maintain a workable relationship with the world's sixth largest economy."

He concluded: "I have confidence that an innovative solution can be found. To paraphrase the Prime Minister; we both know what we want, we have a shared interest in getting this right, so let's get on with it."

 

Responding to the European Council's draft negotiating guidelines, published today, Conservative MEPs' leader Ashley Fox said:

"Donald Tusk's draft guidelines leave scope for negotiation and I am pleased to hear him echo the UK's desire to strike 'an ambitious and advanced' free trade agreement.  

"Significant differences remain and much tough talking lies ahead, but we share a common goal and I believe a mutually beneficial deal is achievable.

"Equally, I welcome the mention of continued co-operation in areas such as security and research contained in the European Parliament's Brexit Steering Group resolution. However, Parliament should not be attempting to dictate the course of talks."

 

 

Responding to the Prime Minister's Mansion House speech today, Conservative MEPs' leader Ashley Fox said:

“The Prime Minister has today clearly laid out the UK’s position, adding significant detail to her previous speeches in Lancaster House and Florence.

 “The EU can be in no doubt. We intend to honour the referendum result by regaining the ability to control our borders, laws and money while negotiating the world’s most ambitious free trade deal under which the UK and our European partners can prosper.

“To maximise the opportunities both sides must work together constructively. There are no off the peg answers to many of the issues we face but there can be imaginative, bespoke solutions. We are committed to finding them. I hope the EU is too. 

“We have the opportunity to go beyond any precedent. It is time for the EU to put jobs, security and people first and join us in positive talks.”