Belgian delegation discuss renewable energy, Brexit and regional representation
BGIPU hosted a delegation from Belgium on 4 and 5 July. The delegation included Stephanie D’Hose, President of the Belgian Senate, Andries Gryffroy, President of the 12+ Group in the IPU and Vice-President of the Belgian Senate and Michel De Maegd, Member of the Belgian IPU Group and they were accompanied by Peter Vercammen, Official of the Belgian Senate and Secretary of the 12+ Group. The delegation was composed of Members from both opposition and governing parties, and from the Belgian Senate, the Flemish Parliament, and the Belgium Chamber of Representatives. This allowed not only a fruitful discussion but also a good understanding and representation of the Belgian political environment.
The visit began on Tuesday morning with a tour of the Palace of Westminster introducing the delegation not only to the history of our Parliament but also some of the working practices, such as the way votes are conducted through the voting lobbies. The first meeting of the visit was with Angus MacNeil MP, Chair of the Energy Security and Net Zero Committee, Barry Gardiner MP, and Mark Garnier MP. On this occasion, they had an interesting exchange about both countries’ energy policies and supplies. Both parties explained their national strategies to work towards Net Zero and shared their views on the geopolitics of energy supply. This was followed by a working lunch in Strangers Dining room hosted by Karen Bradley MP, chair of the BGIPU, joined by BGIPU Executive Committee Members Dan Carden MP and Alex Sobel MP.
The first meeting after lunch was with Stephen Doughty MP, shadow Minister for Europe. He started by presenting to the delegation the role of a shadow minister in the British political system. The conversation then moved on to the consequences of Brexit and the future of UK-Belgium and UK-EU relationships. The group finally discussed the overall geopolitical situation of Europe, and the international order. They explored how both countries could support each other in these two scenes, improving the already existing collaboration. The last meeting of the day was with the Committee on European Affairs in the House of Lords. The Committee shared with the delegation its report on The future of UK-EU relationship prior to the meeting. The delegation discussed it with the Committee and both parties agreed on the importance of youth mobility. They also discussed the importance of collaboration on energy policies. The day ended with a private tour of Apsley House, hosted by the Duke of Wellington, and a welcome dinner in the presence of Baroness D’Souza, Karen Bradley MP, Alex Sobel MP, and Chris Law MP.
Wednesday morning began with a meeting with the APPG for Belgium, chaired by Damian Moore MP. The APPG and the delegation discussed the future of the UK-Belgium relationship post-Brexit and post-Covid. They had a conversation about the possibility of the UK re-joining the EU and the importance of collaboration in the Council of Europe in which regional parliaments are represented. This was followed by a meeting with Lord McFall of Alcluith, the Lord Speaker. It was a good occasion for Stephanie D’Hose, as president of the Belgium Senate, and the Lord Speaker to share their views on the importance of this role in both systems. After attending another lively session of Prime Minister’s Question time, the working lunch that day was hosted by Baroness D’Souza in the Peers Dining Room. She was joined by Lord Touhig, vice chair of the APPG for Belgium, Baroness Nicholson, Baroness Hooper, and Lord Balfe. After lunch, the delegation had an opportunity to observe a debate in the House of Lords and finally the day ended with a discussion with Baroness Blackstone and Baroness Bennett on gender. Among other subjects, parity in both chambers, as well as maternity leave adjustments in Parliament, were discussed.