New EU-wide online copyright rules cleared a major hurdle today when they were approved by the European Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee.

Members backed a deal struck in talks between the Parliament and European Council, which followed two-and-a half years of negotiations and prompted intensive lobbying by internet companies.

Conservative Legal Affairs spokesman Sajjad Karim MEP, who took part in the inter-institutional talks, welcomed this afternoon's vote.

He said: "The updated rules will benefit users and rights holders alike, while also stimulating research, science and innovation in areas including artificial intelligence.

"It is important that creators and rights holders are paid fairly for their works on platforms in the digital age. This has been secured by today's vote, while burdens and obligations on smaller platforms will be proportionate.

"I am confident that the Parliament will endorse our agreement during next month's plenary session, securing the future of the UK’s creative sector, which contributes enormously to the economy."

The draft legislation enables newspapers and other publishers to seek compensation if their material is displayed by online news aggregators, such as Google News. Exemption is granted for "very short extracts".

Another clause forces internet platforms such as YouTube to agree licensing deals with artists and other rights holders who seek them. Platforms would be responsible for the appearance of copyrighted content online for which no licence had been granted if they could not prove they had made their "best efforts" to prevent it.

The Copyright Directive is now expected to be approved by the European Parliament next month



 

 

Zimbabwe must release political prisoners and return to the path of democratic change, Conservative Security and Defence spokesman Geoffrey Van Orden told the European Parliament today.

 Mr Van Orden contrasted the current crisis with the feelings of optimism and change when Robert Mugabe was ousted in November 2017.

 However, the clampdown and suppression of free speech following protests in January have seen that hope quashed. MEPs today condemned the brutality by the security forces and urged the government to get back on the road to democracy.

 In a personal plea to President Emmerson Mnangagwa from the floor of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Mr Van Orden, who chairs the friends of Zimbabwe group in the European Parliament, said: “Many of us have campaigned for Zimbabwe over the past 20 years to deliver the freedom and prosperity that your people of your bounteous country have cried out for, for so long.

“Fifteen months ago there was a moment of hope when Mugabe was overthrown you assumed power.

“But very rapidly the system was allowed to lapse into its old ways with shootings, mass arrests and terrible brutality against protestors.

“Six months ago, when you formally took office, you promised change with a bright, shared future for all Zimbabweans, with a government unwavering in its commitment to democracy and the rule of law, with policies that would project harmony and stability and attract foreign investment.

“I urge you to get back on the right road, to break clean from the evil forces lurking in your shadow; to dismiss those responsible for the recent brutalities; to release the political prisoners; and work with the opposition forces and civil society in  a great national dialogue that will lead to the genuine and sustainable democratic change that your people so desperately want.

“Do this, and I feel sure the international community - the United Kingdom, the EU, the Commonwealth, the United States - stands ready to give you every assistance.

 “Do the right thing and your people and history will judge you well.”

 

 

Stronger measures to enforce legislation to protect live animals being transported across the European Union have been backed today by Conservative MEPs.

The report calls for implementation of existing rules will be stepped up with more on the spot inspections and the confiscation of transportation lorries for repeat offenders. The report also recommends a reduction in journey times where possible and advocates alternatives to live animal transport, such as expanding the trade in frozen meat and carcasses.

Conservative Agriculture spokesman Anthea McIntyre MEP stressed that the UK already strictly enforced welfare standards and inspected millions of animals before travel. But some other member states carried out no inspections at all.

She said: "UK farmers employ the highest standards and are invested in the welfare of their animals, including during transport. Sadly these standards are not always replicated across the EU and this report suggests some sensible safeguards, including the greater use of technology to track animal journeys and engagement with third countries about their welfare standards.

"Animal welfare is a top priority. Where unacceptable practices exist, they must be detected and stamped out."

Jacqueline Foster MEP, Conservative Transport spokesman and Vice President of the European Parliament's Animal Welfare Intergroup, said the aim was to reduce live animal transport of animals to a minimum.

"Slaughtering should take place as close to the source as possible and we must continue the shift towards the transport of meat. Where live transport is unavoidable, such as for breeding or for further rearing, lorries should be equipped with watering, feeding and cooling systems and the highest standards of stockmanship demanded."

The report was authored by Danish MEP Jorn Dohrmann, a colleague of Conservative MEPs in the European Conservatives and Reformists Group. It was approved today by a large majority in the European Parliament.

The Irish backstop, far from preventing a hard border post-Brexit, will create one if not amended, Conservative MEPs' leader Ashley Fox warned the European Parliament this afternoon.

Speaking in a set piece debate to discuss last night's votes in Westminster, Mr Fox urged the European Union to engage constructively with the Prime Minister to amend the Withdrawal Agreement and secure the approval of MPs.

He said: "There is now a clearer road ahead – if we choose to take it.

"My government and the House of Commons want to leave the EU in an orderly manner and with a deal. And to achieve that we need to amend how the Protocol on Northern Ireland operates.

"We must do all we can to support the Good Friday Agreement. But it is a paradox that the backstop, whose purpose is to avoid a hard border, may – in just 58 days time – be the cause of creating such a hard border on the island of Ireland.

"It is simply not good enough to repeat ad nauseam that the deal cannot be amended. That leads to no deal. And that leads, as the Commission confirmed last week, to a hard border."

Mr Fox pointed out that EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said last week that in the event of a no deal the bloc would find an alternative "operational way to carry out checks and controls without putting back in place a border."

He added: "Let us look at that now. Let us consider whether time limits and exit mechanisms offer a solution. Let us proceed with goodwill, remembering that flexibility and generosity are not signs of weakness but of strength.

"At stake is the future partnership between the EU and the UK. Let us ensure that we can construct a long term relationship to promote our common values and our shared interests in an uncertain world.

"Let us find a way to move forward together."

 

The Irish backstop, far from preventing a hard border post-Brexit, will create one if not amended, Conservative MEPs' leader Ashley Fox warned the European Parliament this afternoon.

Speaking in a set piece debate to discuss last night's votes in Westminster, Mr Fox urged the European Union to engage constructively with the Prime Minister to amend the Withdrawal Agreement and secure the approval of MPs.

He said: "There is now a clearer road ahead – if we choose to take it.

"My government and the House of Commons want to leave the EU in an orderly manner and with a deal. And to achieve that we need to amend how the Protocol on Northern Ireland operates.

"We must do all we can to support the Good Friday Agreement. But it is a paradox that the backstop, whose purpose is to avoid a hard border, may – in just 58 days time – be the cause of creating such a hard border on the island of Ireland.

"It is simply not good enough to repeat ad nauseam that the deal cannot be amended. That leads to no deal. And that leads, as the Commission confirmed last week, to a hard border."

Mr Fox pointed out that EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said last week that in the event of a no deal the bloc would find an alternative "operational way to carry out checks and controls without putting back in place a border."

He added: "Let us look at that now. Let us consider whether time limits and exit mechanisms offer a solution. Let us proceed with goodwill, remembering that flexibility and generosity are not signs of weakness but of strength.

"At stake is the future partnership between the EU and the UK. Let us ensure that we can construct a long term relationship to promote our common values and our shared interests in an uncertain world.

"Let us find a way to move forward together."