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Study visits to Brussels

LDEG organise regular study visits to Brussels, to meet the people LDEG QUESTION TIME 3 Bxlwho run the EU. Places are available to all members of the Liberal Democrats.

Participants make their own way to Brussels - advice and assistance will be available - and stay 2 nights at reasonable prices in a block booked hotel. A modest grant is usually also available.

On both days we use public transport to attend briefings. Where possible meals are taken with relevant people connected to EU organisations. Schedules are adjusted to reflect who is in Brussels and what events are on.

The content of our visits will vary from time to time and might include briefings at the NATO HQ, talks by MEPs, addresses by the UK Representatives to the EU and other specialist presentations.

LDEG Brussels Visit - November 2006 (Photo credit: Neil Corlett)In the course of two working days, likely meetings include:

  • A European Parliament plenary session
  • Catherine Bearder MEP
  • Catherine's ALDE Group colleagues
  • Commission officials
  • Regional and UK local government pressure groups based in Brussels,
  • Liberal Democrat members based in Brussels
  • and of course, enjoy the gastronomic wonderment that the city has to offer. Phil Bennion-The late Tony Morris and Jeremy Browne (gd)

This is a chance to attend key briefings and get a sense of how Brussels works, both formally and informally.

The visits are planned and organised by LDEG Executive Member Cec Tallack

Cec Tallack 2015

If interested in attending a visit, please send an email to Cec

Here is a report on our October 2015 visit

By Dr.Kirsten Johnson Dr.Kirsten Johnston & Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron-September 2015

I travelled to Brussels with the Liberal Democrat European Group (LDEG) last week. While there we met with the Brussels Liberal Democrats for networking and planning expatriate support for the EU Referendum.

We also met members of Pro-Europa, an organisation of UK professionals working in Brussels who have a keen interest in the UK's continued membership of the European Union. One topic which came up a lot was whether British citizens living in Europe would be able to vote in the upcoming referendum.

At the Liberal Democrat annual conference in Bournemouth we had passed a motion calling on the government to allow all British nationals living in Europe a vote in the referendum; asking that all 16- and 17-year-olds be given the franchise; and calling on the government to allow all European citizens who reside in the UK the right to vote in the referendum.

While in Brussels, the LDEG group toured the Committee of the Regions and learned about their work. The Committee of the Regions is made up of representatives from our Local Government Association and similar organisations of councillors from other EU states. Doreen Hoddart, one of the UK councillors on the Committee of the Regions, spoke to us about their work. The Committee of the Regions represents local and city government interests at the European level. They have the power to influence laws in the drafting stage by submitting Opinions. They also disperse European funding directly to city and local governments, with many grants available for projects at the grassroots level.

We also had a meeting with former Lib Dem MP Jeremy Browne at the City of London Brussels office, Scotland House Conference Centre. Jeremy is representing the business interests of the City of London at the EU. He was able to give us insight into how businesses feel about the referendum (they want to stay in the EU), and the huge impact for businesses and our economy if we were to leave the EU.

The LDEG group visited the European Commission offices for a meeting with Maria Asenius, the head of Commissioner Cecillia Malstrom's cabinet. Cecillia Malstrom, a leading Swedish Lib Dem, is the Swedish member of the European Commission. Ms Asenius was able to speak on the complexity of the TTIP negotiations, and reassure us that the NHS and public services would be protected. There is a new framework being developed to settle disputes with an independent panel overseeing what will be called Investor Protection.

We went to the European Parliament and met with Catherine Bearder's staff to learn more about the UK Liberal Democrat role at the EU Parliament. We also heard from Hans van Baalen MEP (VVD Netherlands) about the work of ALDE (the Association of Liberal Democrats in Europe), the umbrella organization of liberal democrat parties. ALDE is a political sub-group of the European Parliament, with members often voting en bloc on legislation and lobbying for liberal democrat interests in legislation development. We had an engaging briefing from Marietje Schaake MEP (D66 Netherlands) on her party and its recent electoral successes. There is a lot we can learn from D66!

Catherine Bearder MEP joined us to give an insight on her many roles, including serving as a Questor, being on the Environment committee, and represent ALDE on the African Caribbean Pacific EPA countries group.

We had the opportunity to watch speeches in the European Parliament from the public gallery. MEPs were debating aspects of the climate change talks to be held in Paris in November.

The visit wasn't all work - we had a lovely meal at Aux Armes de Bruxelles, in the Old Town. This is an iconic restaurant in a historic venue with super Belgian food. We also saw the Grand Place at night, beautifully lit in the moonlight.

On Thursday there was an Official Visit to the European Parliament. We were joined by Liberal Youth, and together heard more from Catherine and her team on the work of the European Parliament.

Many thanks to Cec Tallack for organizing such a super trip! Another LDEG visit is in the pipeline for the spring, so do register interest if you'd like to discover more about the workings of the European Union.