Responding to the European Commission's proposed negotiating mandate today, Conservative MEP for the South West and Gibraltar, Ashley Fox, said: “We fully expect Gibraltar to be part of the transition period and for the EU to be cooperative in negotiating this arrangement. It's in no-ones interest that Gibraltar suddenly leaves the EU in March 2019 without time for businesses and workers to adapt.

"If we are to reach an agreement that protects Gibraltar's sovereignty and their interests then we must enter these talks with the spirit of co-operation, not confrontation, with Spain and the rest of the EU. However, under no circumstances will the UK discuss Gibraltar's place in the British family.  

"The UK government has been clear that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, that includes Gibraltar's participation in the transition period and the future arrangement."

 

Conservative MEPs' call for an inter-governmental summit to end the ongoing persecution of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims was backed today by the European Parliament.

Over 600,000 Rohingyas have been forced to flee their homes and seek refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh and at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed in August alone. The crisis has been called a textbook example of ethnic cleansing by the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Today's resolution follows an extraordinary debate on the crisis in the European Parliament this week which was secured by Conservative MEP Amjad Bashir's impassioned plea to Parliament President Antonio Tajani. Mr Bashir hopes that an inter-governmental conference would guarantee the safe return of the Rohingyas to Myanmar, restore their citizenship rights and set up an inquiry into all allegations of crimes against humanity.

Mr Bashir said: "Inaction is simply unacceptable in the face of such cruel persecution and such human disaster. I am pleased colleagues from across the European Parliament joined Conservative MEPs today in calling for the international community to act to end the ongoing crisis."

"I believe there is now real momentum, a growing international consensus that the world cannot stand by and watch as a whole people are wiped out and driven abroad."

Pope Francis felt unable to even mention the Rohingyas by name in a speech in Myanmar last month as the situation is so delicate. Instead he only referred to the Muslim minority as he encouraged the country to "respect the rights of all who call this land their home".

Conservative MEP Sajjad Karim, who has also campaigned for an end to the persecution of the Rohingyas, said: "For many, many years now Member after Member of the European Parliament have stood in this chamber and highlighted the plight of the Rohingya. It seems that those calls have fallen on deaf ears and today we arrive at a situation where even the Pope cannot go there and call these people by their true identity.

“It is clear that whilst there is much that is being done by the European Union today, unless and until we insist on a regularisation and status for these people, they are going to continually find themselves in this position time after time. I hope today's vote offers the Rohingya a chance and spurs on the international community to act."  

 

Labour MEPs were today accused of surrendering sovereignty after they backed proposals for Member States to hand tax setting powers to Brussels.

Voting on recommendations from the European Parliament's Panama Papers tax avoidance inquiry, Labour members supported a clause which "calls on the Member States to reach a political agreement on applying a minimum effective tax rate in Europe."

This goes against the policy of successive UK governments which have always regarded national control over tax policy as a key lever with which to control the economy.

Elsewhere the report proposes a common corporate tax base across the EU and the elimination of tax competition amongst Member States.

Conservative MEPs leader Ashley Fox said: "Just days after Labour indicated it may be willing to continue handing huge sums to the EU in return for access to the Single Market, we now have Labour MEPs voting to surrender elements of our tax powers as well.

"It is yet another clear indication that not only is Labour in confusion over Brexit, it cannot be trusted  to run our country."

Conservative MEPs voted in favour of individual tax avoidance measures but abstained on the report as a whole. 

The European Parliament should stick to its brief and not try and tie the hands of Brexit negotiators, Conservative MEP's leader Ashley Fox said today.

Mr Fox welcomed the vote by MEPs to recommend the European Council agrees that talks between the EU and UK can move onto discussions about a transitional deal and the future relationship.

He also backed the Parliament's call for future relations to be "as close as possible".

But he regretted that the Motion for Resolution approved by MEPs also attempts to dictate the course of the forthcoming talks.

Mr Fox said: "It is unfortunate but not surprising that once again Guy Verhofstadt and his colleagues cannot resist attempting to interfere in the negotiations.

For instance, laying down red lines to Michel Barnier's team on what the transitional arrangements must contain is not their job and helps no-one. We need to enter the next round of talks in a spirit of co-operation, not confrontation, and be open to fresh, innovative thinking if we are to secure an outcome that enables both sides to prosper.

"Too many parts of this resolution set the wrong tone and resort to political point scoring. Indeed,  Mr Verhofstadt's amendment accusing David Davis of 'undermining the good faith' that has been built up is the kind of personal attack that I'd hoped would be beneath this Parliament."

Conservative MEPs voted for the recommendation that the talks move forward but abstained on the resolution as a whole.

 

Moves which could have threatened one of Europe's favourite fast foods have been defeated with the help of Conservative MEPs.

Socialists and Greens wanted to veto a European Commission proposal to formalise and regulate the use of phosphates in kebab meat.

If they had succeeded it would have placed a question mark over the doner kebab sector which employs an estimated 200,000 people across the European Union. Phosphates bind the kebab meat and prevent it falling apart on the spit. They also ensure it cooks more evenly, reducing health risks.

Speaking after the motion failed to secure an absolute majority in the European Parliament today by just three votes,  Conservative MEP John Procter said: "This was a daft and damaging proposal which has quite rightly been skewered.

"Once again some MEPs want to ignore the principle of evidence-based decision making and believe they know better than the EU's own scientific experts.

"It is irresponsible to play fast and loose with people's livelihoods in this way and I am delighted other politicians joined Conservative MEPs to block this motion."

Two studies suggested a connection between phosphate additives and heart disease but the EU's European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has found no such link. The EFSA aims to conduct a new risk assessment and a general re-evaluation on all foodstuffs containing phosphates by the end of 2018.

Mr Procter added: "The use of phosphates in doner kebabs makes up a tiny part of our overall exposure. Kebab shops are an integral part of many high streets and can remain so after this vote." 

Phosphates are authorised for use as food additives in a variety of products, including sausages. Although phosphates are permitted in the final cooked product, the Commission wants to extend the formal authorisation to raw frozen vertical meats spits, where phosphates are currently used but not regulated.