I never thought I’d become a politician but Theresa May’s failure to deliver Brexit changed my mind. As a result, I decided to stand as a Brexit party candidate and, in May, I was elected as an MEP for London. For someone with no political experience, the weeks since have been surreal. Yet the strangest moment so far came last week, when my fellow Brexit party members and I travelled to Strasbourg for the inaugural meeting of the European parliament. My experience there has convinced me that Britain is right to leave the EU.
Even travelling to Strasbourg seemed slightly strange. After all, what is wrong with the perfectly good parliamentary building in Brussels? This being the EU, there is no straightforward answer to this question. The EU’s website offers few clues, pointing out that this arrangement is because of a treaty, without saying why the decision to meet there actually came about.
But regardless of the reason why, every month all MEPs, their staff, parliamentary staff and a whole load of baggage moves from Brussels to Strasbourg and back. This charade comes at the cost of £97 million per annum – a sum which the EU is dismissive of (the website says that while this is a ‘significant amount’ it ‘corresponds to just six per cent of the Parliament’s budget’. So that’s alright then).
Another surprise of my new job is how little time is actually taken up in parliament itself. MPs in Britain might enjoy long holidays (during which time they are expected to deal with issues from constituents) but when parliament is in session, the hours in Westminster are gruelling and the days long.
It’s hard to say the same about the European parliament, which meets for only around four days a month. All of its business – to the extent it has any – is conducted in this time.