Sunday

15th Dec 2019

Conflicts of interest loom for Brexit Party MEPs

  • New Brexit Party MEP Alexandra Lesley Phillips at the opening of the European Parliament session. Several of Phillips' party colleagues have joined committees dealing with the specific sectors they work in (Photo: European Parliament)

Almost all of the Brexit Party MEPs have joined standing committees, with several of them joining committees that could lead to potential conflicts of interest.

In fact, Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage is the only one who has not joined any committee.

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  • Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage is the only one in his party not to have joined any committee as full or substitute member (Photo: European Parliament)

In total, 27 of the 29 Brexit Party MEPs have joined at least one committee as full member - and some have joined two - while many are also a substitute member of another committee as well.

Annunziata Mary Rees-Mogg MEP - the sister of leading Conservative Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, the UK MP - is the only Brexit Party member to become merely a substitute member - albeit of three different committees.

Their declaration of financial interests show that many continue to receive income from outside jobs.

Considering that the Brexit Party is working on the assumption that the UK will leave the EU on 31 October - and that their MEPs will then be out of a job - it can be argued that it makes sense they did not quit their day jobs.

But the question does arise why some of them decided to join committees dealing with the exact sectors they are working in.

Take hedge fund manager Robert Rowland, who according to his declaration of financial interests, earns between €1,001 and €5,000 per month as director of Bowdon Capital Ltd UK, and will continue to do so during his tenure as MEP.

Rowland has become a member of the economic and monetary affairs committee.

Any new proposed EU legislation having to do with hedge funds is likely to go through the economic and monetary affairs committee.

The same goes for asset management, a field in which Brexit Party MEP Richard James Tice is active.

Tice has declared that he will continue to earn €10,000 gross per month as partner of Quidnet Capital Partners LLP, which deals in asset management.

Indeed, the parliament's committee on economic and monetary affairs is the most popular amongst Brexiteers, where five of its 60 members now hail from the Brexit Party.

But potential conflicts of interest are the result of other committee choices too.

Brexit Party MEP June Alison Mummery has joined the fisheries committee as a substitute member, while also having declared she would remain director of BFP Eastern - a company offering services and products to the fishing industry.

Andrew England Kerr is director of England Safety Ltd, a company that is active in the defence industry.

Kerr has become a full member of the industry and research committee, whose members previously worked on the details of the European Defence Fund, and a substitute member of the subcommittee on security and defence.

Lance Forman runs H. Forman and Son, a salmon smokehouse. While working in the food business, he will also become a substitute member of the EU parliament committee on environment, public health, and food safety.

According to the parliament's own code of conduct, a "conflict of interest exists where a member of the European parliament has a personal interest that could improperly influence the performance of his or her duties as a member".

The seats of committees are distributed among MEPs according to a system that is proportionate to how well they did in the elections. The parties themselves decide who to put forward.

Substitute members can have the same rights as full members of a committee, with MEPs among themselves deciding when to be substituted.

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