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reunification

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Snippet Contents:

It is useful for us to be able to review the European Council discussions. It is useful to have a debate beforehand and afterwards. It is where so much of our key political discourse is taking place and it is appropriate for the House to spend time giving attention to it. This brings us to the big issues. It brings us out of the local and into the international and the great forces shaping our world and times. It is important that we address those. It is interesting to look at the key issues which dominated the Council. These were the movement of refugees and our treatment and management of the refugee crisis and the management of goods, having particular regard to CETA, the Canadian-European trade arrangement which does not look like it will be signed tomorrow. It seems to me that the approaches we are taking to these issues are connected.
I turn to the refugee issue first. I share the concerns that have been raised here and elsewhere that what I read in the Council conclusions and in the reporting from the summit suggests a certain sense of satisfaction about the worst aspects of the crisis which we saw last year, in particular with a large number of people crossing the Aegean from Turkey into Greece and from there into the Continent of Europe. The figure quoted in the Council conclusions is that 98% of the level of travel has ceased. The real fear is that, whatever about the management of the joint arrangement with Turkey, the management of those who have been caught in the middle in Greece in particular is indicative of an approach which sees the European Union failing to learn or change or improve its procedures. We have gone from an open-door approach to a complete shut down, which will serve neither Europe nor the people who are trying desperately to flee conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas neighbouring the EU.
I note in the Council conclusions references to the rapid deployment of permanent co-ordinators in the Greek hotspots. However, the reports from people engaged with those desperately isolated and vulnerable refugees caught in the middle of this whole policy change suggest that there is no sense of that actually happening. I go back to our own local example which is that only 69 of the 4,000 refugees we promised to take almost eight months ago are here. To take 69 out of 4,000 when the 4,000 are sitting in camps where they are mobile, easily accessible and easily identifiable is an indication of the wider problem. We can only fear that it reflects a European Council approach which is perhaps pleased that we have sealed off the problem on one immediate border and can now resort to restoring Schengen as if the current arrangements are working. They are not working. They are not working on a humanitarian basis or even in terms of the European Union living up to its promise to be a safe haven and an enlightened Union which treats people in flight from danger in an appropriate manner. I must raise concern on behalf of my party. The clearing of the camp in Calais, the horrific situation whereby a whole range of young people are now completely lost in the international response and the lack of a co-ordinated European approach to managing that and the restoration of national controls are signs that our European refugee policy is not working.
I referred earlier to the related issue of trade because the two are connected.