Region's new Green Party MEP lays out her priorities to take to Brussels
PUBLISHED: 13:18 28 May 2019 | UPDATED: 13:18 28 May 2019
The East of England's new Green Party MEP says she and her fellow party members will have more than Brexit on their minds as they take their seats in Brussels.
Dr Catherine Rowett was one of seven Green Party representatives elected to the European Parliament by UK voters in last week's election.
Her party snapped up the third largest share of the vote (12.7pc) in the East with 202,460 votes and came top of the polls in Norwich with 26pc of the vote share.
University of East Anglia professor Dr Rowett said it was a "real turnaround for politics in the region".
"One of the greatest pleasures is that we were not the one scrabbling for the seventh spot hoping to get just enough, we were comfortably there," she said.
"It means for many people that for the first time they have voted and there is an MEP going in their name. That is fantastic."
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Despite the UK's October 31 departure date from the EU and little sign of a second referendum on the horizon, Dr Rowett said it was important for British MEPs to think about the work they could do in Europe.
"The Green Party does not think Europe is perfect, but we need to stay there to do something about it," she said.
She said her and her party's priorities include: ensuring a fairer deal for small businesses by changing the "irresponsible tax regime" which favours large corporations and online businesses; working for improved animal welfare standards in areas such as live animal exports; pushing for environmental protections such as bans on pesticides and herbicides which can have harmful effects on insects; and improving public transport as part of a broader package of initiatives to reduce fossil fuel use.
With 70 members of "green" parties elected to the European Parliament in last week's elections - up from 51 in 2014 - Dr Rowett believes a shift in sentiment is taking place across the continent.
"We have been deeply impressed by the message from the youth climate strikes and [environmental campaign group] Extinction Rebellion - it is a way of bringing to people's attention what we have been saying for years," she said.
Dr Rowett added that this shift could bode well for Green Party in the East if another UK general election were called in the coming months.
"There are pockets in the region such as in Bury St Edmunds, Mid Suffolk and of course Norwich where the Green vote is strong enough that a general election could yield more Green MPs for the region," she said.