I read with interest comments made by Janice Atkinson about the work that Godfrey Bloom does on 'the EU's Women's Rights and Gender Equality committee'. Not only is the above quote factually incorrect but her blog post was also a pretty simplistic rendering of the European legislative process. Given that it was about an IEA event, perhaps it was simply due to lack of space, but I thought I'd respond just in case.
Before continuing, I would, as I usually do, emphasise that I am wholeheartedly eurosceptic. Since moving to Brussels to work in the European Parliament, my views have hardened against the EU and I would vote to leave if a referendum on the UK's membership took place tomorrow.
I am not, as some have asserted, a bleeding heart socialist treehugger. Far from it. I also find the debate about women on boards incredibly boring (no offence to my female friends and colleagues) and think it distracts from much more important discussions about parasitic banks. That said, I felt the need to clarify what exactly is happening in Brussels, given that so few politicians and journalists seem to know or care in the UK.
In November last year, Viviane Reding, one of the high priestesses of the European Commission, published a proposal to introduce a requirement for listed companies to have at least 40% women on their boards by 2018. Ms Atkinson implied it was the 'EU's Women's Rights and Gender Equality committee' that has introduced the proposal and that it would take place in November of this year. Not quite the reality of the situation.
Even before the proposal was published last year, Reding was shouted down by her colleagues in the European Commission, the EU's civil service which drafts ideas for laws and regulations, resulting in it being significantly watered down by the time of its publication.
Having been published, it then entered the European Parliament's Women's Rights and Gender Equality Committee (not 'the EU's' committee, as Ms Atkinson stated), where it was supported in March of this year. Godfrey Bloom is indeed a member of this committee, but does nothing on it apart from grumble and guffaw, so it was slightly odd to read her suggestion that he had been instrumental in battling against the lefties there.
However, even though a majority of the European Parliament (not all MEPs voted for it) has endorsed the proposal for quotas, the council, the body that represents member states, has yet to agree on a position. Given the irreconcilable divisions between the countries who are in favour of a quota and those against it, an agreement in the near future is unlikely.
Even if the council did finalise a position, it could then take many more months before the European Parliament agrees to it, something required before any proposal can become law. Add to this the fact that the European elections are taking place next May, the system is already beginning to shut down which means a lot of legislation simply won't get done.
Oh and let's give credit where credit is due. The introduction of quotas in the UK is far more likely to come from Vince Cable than from the EU.
I apologise if this makes no sense. On reading it back, I myself got confused. But such is the byzantine European legislative process. As I argued in a blog post a few months ago, it is designed to take place at a snail's pace, and also only after a huge amount of compromising has occurred. Whether or not the quota is introduced, I don't know. But rest assured it will be full of loopholes and exemptions, as is the case with most European legislation, and probably won't enter into force until the early 2020s.
Regarding Ms Atkinson's comment about Godfrey Bloom's work in the European Parliament, I would like to politely let Huffpost readers that Ukip MEPs don't do that much work here. They do not take part in the legislative process, which involves hundreds of hours of meetings, amendment drafting and consultation with affected industries. This is of course not what Ukip MEPs are elected to do, since participation in a system they want to destroy makes little sense. Ukip supporters, and probably most Brits in fact, don't seem to be that phased by amendment deadlines and committee voting lists. But they are an integral part of the system and ignoring them has huge repercussions.
Given that we are in the EU whether we like it or not, and we may well end up staying in it even after a referendum, surely it makes more sense to continue being constructive and engaged rather than angry and red-faced? As I mentioned above, I would vote to leave if asked tomorrow. Our departure would let Europe get on with whatever it wants to do, be it euthanise the Cypriot economy or crown Merkel Empress of the United States of Europe. However whilst we are in it, we need to stop behaving like pubescent teenagers and continue engaging, if only as part of a damage limitation exercise.
Forgive me if this final point sounds patronising. However having worked on European financial services legislation for the past two years, I can assure readers that Ukip does not do a great job of fighting for the UK's or UK industry's interests in the European Parliament.