When we received the email from Daniel Hannan’s office inviting applications for a visit to Strasbourg and the European Parliament, we jumped at the chance.
We joined the coach party at Dover, and stayed the night in Rheims after a couple of hours at the Mumm’s Champagne House. We left early in the morning for Strasbourg.
We arrived at the Parliament and walked past a row of black chauffeur-driven limousines waiting for their VIP passengers. We were astounded at the huge size of the building in front of us. As it turned out this huge tower was just the offices, the actual chamber is housed in a massive dome behind a glass façade.
MEPs meet in plenary sessions just twelve times a year and the building is only used for three-and-a-half days a month and heated 365 days per year. The rest of the time MEPs meet in Brussels. The building is empty the rest of the time.
After an airport style security check we were ushered into a meeting room where we met Daniel Hannan. He introduced a bureaucrat from the Parliament who gave us an introduction to the building and the organisation of the Parliament. He explained how it worked with the relationship between the Commission, the Council of Ministers and MEPs.
Daniel then introduced us to Syed Kamal, an MEP for London, Ashley Fox, the Conservative Chief Whip and MEP for South West England and Gibraltar. We had some very lively discussions and it became clear that our Eurosceptic MEPs' thinking is along the same lines as ours.
After this session, we made our way to the debating chamber to witness a committee on Crime, corruption and money laundering, reporting to Parliament. The Chambers is huge with seats for 766 members with continuous translation facilities for 28 languages of the Community. Every word spoken is recorded and subsequently translated and printed. Unfortunately there were only 40 MEPs present for this session so it did look rather empty.
After this session we made our way out of the building to re-join our coach for a short trip to our hotel in the delightful small town of Obernai around 20 miles from Strasbourg.
Daniel Hannan and Martin Callanan entertained us to dinner at a traditional Alsatian restaurant with more face to face discussions. After dinner, Martin Callanan, MEP for North East England and Chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists group, gave us a talk. Again, there were many questions. Daniel followed his talk and took more questions. It was all very lively and an excellent evening was enjoyed by all.
It was another early start the next day as we returned to Strasbourg for a further meeting with our hosts.
Daniel led us into the meeting room where the Conservative and reformist group meets. It was very impressive, Daniel introduced us to another two MEPs; the first was Jan Zahradil the Leader of the Czech Group and Chairman of the ECR group. The second guest MEP was Emma Mclarkin MEP for the East Midlands and, when elected at 30 years old, was the youngest MEP in the Conservative group. Jan, Emma and Daniel tackled our questions with skill. It was very informative and exciting.
It is clear that our MEPs are working very hard for reform of the Parliament. Here are a few examples.
- Scrap Strasbourg, some 754 MEPs, 3,000 staff and 25 trucks leave Brussels destined for Strasbourg every month and Conservative MEPs want it to end.
- The ECR group is gradually expanding and with 54 members it is now the fourth largest political grouping in the Parliament. They are becoming a more powerful force.
- Firmly Eurosceptic they are working hard to reform the EU. They fully support the Referendum.
- Daniel Hannan is convinced that Britain’s best interests will be served by leaving the EU altogether.
It is very important that we campaign to get Conservatives elected to the European Parliament. Only Conservatives can make a difference in Europe.
After we left Strasbourg we returned home via Ypres where we visited the Cemeteries and Battlefields of the first war. It was all very emotional.
If you get the chance to pay a visit to the European parliament it is well worth while. The political discussions were amazing.
Look out for Daniel’s emails and make sure that you look out for dates when he is speaking. He is a truly inspirational speaker and not to be missed.
Mike Perkins, October 29 2013