Donna Lalek – Welsh Liberal Democrat List Candidate for the European Parliament elections 2019
Below is our candidate Q&A – we have approached all parties asking them to circulate our questions to candidates – you can see more replies and details on the election on Wrexham.com/european-elections-2019/ ! All answers are from the candidates and are unedited.
Q1 Are you able to tell us a little about who you are, and what skills you can bring to the MEP role?
I have lived almost all my life in North Wales. I lived in Connah’s Quay until my family moved to Broughton when I was 3 years old. I studied law at Keele University and qualified as a barrister at Manchester Metropolitan University. I also then qualified as a secondary school Religious Education teacher at the University of Chester. I currently work at a major bank.
I have been an activist from a young age and took the step into politics following the EU Referendum. I am the Vice Chair of Flintshire Liberal Democrats and have been a Welsh Liberal Democrats candidate in the 2017 local council elections, where I was elected as a community councillor, and in the 2018 Alyn and Deeside Welsh Assembly by-election.
I am a committed and passionate campaigner. I became involved in politics and joined the Liberal Democrats because I love our country but I know that it can be so much better. The people of Wales deserve better and I will never stop fighting to achieve this.
Q2 How did you vote in the EU membership referendum in 2016, and what are your thoughts on how the outcome of that vote have progressed?
I voted Remain and I have always believed that we are better off in the European Union. I understand why people voted Leave. Many people have very legitimate reasons to feel unhappy but it is our own government that is failing us.
The EU has protected our rights as parents, workers and human beings. They gave us maximum working hours and minimum holiday entitlement as well as legislation on subjects such as equal pay. They have made our holidays within the EU easier and cheaper by significantly reducing roaming charges, providing free urgent health care and making sure we receive compensation for flight delays. The hassle free, tariff free movement of goods, people and services have given us a range of opportunities and kept costs low. Initiatives like the European Arrest Warrant have kept us safer.
The Referendum set us off on a journey but it did not specify the destination. The government have shown that they are incapable of delivering Brexit and we now know a lot more than we did then. There was little to no mention of a hard Brexit being on the table at the time of the Referendum, other than those who stated that no-one was talking about it, and yet politicians are now claiming this is what people voted for. Politicians do not have the right to tell people what they voted for. If one person regrets the vote they cast because of a lie on a bus then, if we truly believe in democracy, we must ask questions as in a democracy every vote should matter. When we elect a government to power we have another election 5 years later. Being a democracy means having the right to change your mind. The only way out of this is a People’s Vote.
Q3 If elected what do you see your role as MEP entailing?
The role of a MEP is to be an elected representative of the people. Someone who listens to them, consults them and learns from them so as to establish how best to represent the interests of the people. It is also the role of a MEP to pass laws which will affect, and should hopefully, benefit everyone’s lives. Whenever anyone represents the views of a large group of people there will always be conflicting views. As a MEP I would listen to, consider and address all viewpoints and without exception I will always do what I believe to be in the best interests of the people in Wales.
This election will be an unusual one as we do not know how long we might be in the European Union. We need to ensure those elected can jump right in, get to work and ensure they make good use of whatever time we may have. I hope we remain in the EU but if we do not then we need people, like myself, who will work relentlessly to repair the divisions Brexit has caused within the UK and with our relationship with the EU 27. No matter what happens there is work to be done and we cannot elect MEP’s who will disrupt and worsen existing tensions. We must have MEP’s who will work hard for the people of Wales and do all they can to get the better, brighter future that our people deserve.
Q4 You are standing for the ‘Wales region’, how have you engaged with constituents to ensure you understand their issues to then represent them?
Wales has always been my home. I grew up here and it has helped make me into the person I am today and because of this many of the problems of the people of Wales are also my problems. However, I appreciate my experience of living in Wales is not the same as everyone else’s experiences and that there are many tales to be told by the people of Wales that I am not aware of. I am eager to hear these stories and will do all I can to help those people get a satisfactory ending.
I am a local councillor, an activist and a campaigner and am therefore often on the street speaking to voters and listening to their concerns. Too many people speak for people without ever really listening to what they have to say. I will be a voice for the people of Wales but I will also be their ears and their champion. You cannot represent the people if you do not engage with the people. I believe it is vital not just to listen to people’s concerns and complaints but also to learn from their knowledge and experience.
Q5 What would be your personal priority if elected?
UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens in the UK have spent the last three years scared and uncertain of their futures. Many of their questions are still unanswered. A mutually beneficial guarantee of citizens’ rights should have been a priority but instead the government treated them as bargaining chips. This is not a game. It is people’s lives.
We also need to protect industries like agriculture, tourism and especially health and social care to ensure Welsh businesses and services have access to the labour, skills and expertise they require. I will strive to ensure not just that the UK can access the EU workers they require but that EU workers still feel welcome. I will also do all I can to make sure future generations of UK citizens can access as many opportunities for employment and education as possible.
No matter what happens we must have a good relationship with the EU. I believe that we would survive Brexit but I want us not to survive but to thrive. The EU 27 are our friends and neighbours. A good relationship with them is vital for our economy and for national security. Brexit has altered how we are perceived by the rest of the world and we must ensure we retain our position on the world stage. As part of the EU we are world leaders. We can achieve more when we work together. At this time it’s not just our country’s future at risk but our planet. We cannot tackle issues like the environment alone. International problems must be tackled on an international scale. We have to be certain, no matter how long we stay as a member, that we can have a good working relationship with them so we can retain our power and influence in the world.
Q6 Wrexham / Deeside are in the north east of Wales, what are the key issues relevant to your possible position as MEP, and what will you do about them?
If we leave the single market and customs union and if tariffs are applied, then jobs will be put at risk. Increases in production costs will be passed on to us as consumers. 1 in 4 people in Wales are living in poverty and, thanks to the devaluation of the pound, prices have already started to rise. When so many families are already struggling how are they supposed to be able to afford to feed their families especially when Brexit is risking jobs?
North East Wales has the biggest private employer in Wales. Airbus employs more than 6,000 people with around a further 11,000 jobs dependant on it. This is just one of many employers who could be impacted by Brexit. Airbus have issued numerous statements about their concerns about post-Brexit Britain. Wales is a net benefactor from the EU so we need to ensure EU investment in Wales is wisely spent including investing in our industries and technologies to protect Welsh jobs and to stop the impact of Brexit hitting our pockets.
The NHS is a major concern for many people, especially with the Countess of Chester no longer accepting new Welsh patients. The EU does not directly impact on the NHS but our relationship with them does have an effect on the NHS. 7% of Welsh doctors are EU nationals and Brexit has already seen some of our NHS and care service workers return to their home states. With waiting times as long as they are, we cannot afford to lose these workers. The EU funds medical research and our co-operation with other member states has led to advancements in medical care. We must ensure that we still have the required access to medications, treatments and the research to give the people of Wales the best possible health care.
Q7 You are standing to be part of something Wales on the whole, and Wrexham and Deeside also voted to leave, were the majority of those who voted wrong
Wales did vote leave and this has to be acknowledged and given due consideration but living in a democracy means people have the right to change their mind. We do not know if people have changed their mind as no one has asked them. People were promised something which the government has not been able to deliver and those who promised it did so without ever having a plan. Regardless of how anyone voted we have all been failed by the chaos that has been Brexit so far.
We hear a lot about how the views of leave voters should be respected and represented, and of course they should, but these cannot be the only people that are represented. We have spent three years and billions of pounds pursuing Brexit. This is time and money that could otherwise have been spent solving the issues our country is facing. The views of Remainers have, however, largely been ignored and unrepresented, as have the views of those who did not vote or could not vote. To unite and heal the UK all views must be considered. I want us to remain in the EU and will fight so we can but that does not mean I am blind to the ways in which things can be improved. Nothing is perfect but we must, nevertheless, always strive for it. I will listen to those who have a different perspective than my own and will seek to address their concerns and look to implement reforms that will be of a benefit to our great country.
Q8 Turnout is notoriously low in EU elections anyway, why should people vote in these elections?
People should vote in these elections as we are at a cross roads in our country’s history and we must make sure we head off in the right direction. This election is about the future of our country and our place in the world. No matter what happens we must ensure our best interests are pursued.
This will be a very divisive election. People who feel strongly, one way or the other, will be very likely to vote but anyone who cares about our future relationship with Europe should not let their voice get lost. They too must have their say as should the EU nationals who are able to vote in this election. They may be impacted by Brexit the most and so they should ensure they vote for candidates who will also look after their interests.
The Liberal Democrats have been very clear: a vote for us is a vote against Brexit. However, we do have clear policies beyond this. We are not fighting this election on a one issue platform. If elected we will work hard for you. It is pivotal that, no matter what, we have people who will truly represent us on all matters and who will work with the EU for the benefit of the people of Wales. A disruption in the workings of the EU benefits no one.
However, this election is not just about Brexit. It is about our place as a world power and what we can achieve together. Our world is in danger. The environment is a major concern but it’s a concern throughout the world and we can only tackle it effectively if we work together. If we want to protect our countries future then we must elect MEP’s from parties with policies that look to the future.
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