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Summary

  1. The sitting began with a debate on falling dairy prices in the EU.
  2. MEPs then discussed how to improve the European single market for goods and services.
  3. At the voting session, they gave their backing to the Commission's decision to give Sweden an extra year to take its share of asylum-seekers under an EU relocation scheme.
  4. They also set out their position on Privacy Shield, the EU's proposed data sharing agreement with the United States.

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Session comes to an end

European Parliament

Brussels

With the explanations of votes finished, today's plenary sitting in Brussels comes to an end. 

MEPs will next sit in plenary between 6-9 June, when they will hold a week-long sitting in Strasbourg. 

The next "mini plenary" sitting in Brussels will be on 22-23 June. 

Explanations of votes begin

Voting session

European Parliament

Brussels

And with that, today's voting session comes to an end. 

MEPs will now get the chance to make short speeches to explain how they voted. 

Exemption 'problem' with data transfers

Centre-right Luxembourg MEP and ex-Justice Commissioner tweets:

MEPs dismiss four-year limit for EU-US data pact

Voting session

European Parliament

Brussels

MEPs approve a motion stating that Privacy Shield, the proposed EU-US data pact, must comply with EU law as well as “relevant judgments of the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights”.

It adds that criteria determining the six cases in which US authorities can continue to collect bulk data “do not meet the stricter criteria of necessity and proportionality” in the EU’s Charter of Fundamental rights.

However, MEPs reject an amendment tabled by the Green group calling for the agreement to be limited to a four-year period.

The agreement, which has still to be finalised, will set the terms under which tech companies would legally be able to send personal information for processing in US data centres.

It is intended to replace Safe Harbour, a previous data agreement which the Court of Justice ruled incompatible with EU fundamental rights law last year. 

Data
Reuters

MEPs give backing to extra year for Sweden on asylum seekers

Voting session

European Parliament

Brussels

In a motion vote, MEPs decide not to reject Sweden’s application for an extra year to take its share of asylum-seekers agreed under an EU relocation scheme last year.

MEPs vote by 410 votes to 170 against an amendment which called for the measure, approved by the European Commission, to be rejected.

The final decision on the matter will be taken by national governments – the MEPs’ opinion is only advisory.

Sweden is due to take 5,727 asylum seekers out of a total of 160,000 people to be relocated from Italy and Greece - this would apply once the one-year exemption expires. 

However the country asked the Commission for an extension last year, saying that it had one of the highest asylum application rates per capita of any EU country. 

Amendment 4
BBC

MEPs approve retraining grants

European Parliament

Brussels

MEPs approve two EU grants worth €5.1m and €6.4m to provide re-training to warehousing workers in France and supermarket workers in Greece.

The money will come from the EU’s Globalisation Adjustment Fund – the UK government does not apply for money from the scheme, believing it to be inefficient.

Votes to begin soon

European Parliament

Brussels

That’s the debate on EU legislation relating to the single market finished – MEPs are now taking their seats for today’s voting session.

MEP calls for end to price discrimination

Debate on single market rules

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Czech social democrat Olga Sehnalova says politicians need to "shoulder their commitment" to end discriminatory pricing structures which offers consumers "different prices in different places" for the same products. 

This can be an issue in the way websites re-direct online shoppers depending on their geographical location - the subject of new EU measures announced yesterday. 

Olga Sehnalova
BBC

Over-regulation 'real issue in the room'

Debate on single market rules

European Parliament

Brussels

UKIP MEP Margot Parker says that "blaming member states" for poor application of EU rules is a tactic to "deflect" blame from the issue of over-regulation, which she calls the "real issue in the room". 

By way of example, she claims that manufacturers wishing to sell toothbrushes within the single market have to comply with 31 EU laws. 

The single market, she says, has become an "instrument that favours big businesses" by setting rules that only they have the capacity to follow. 

Margot Parker
BBC

MEP states opposition to proposed EU protection scheme

Debate on single market rules

European Parliament

Brussels

Conservative MEP Daniel Dalton says he supports a number of the ambitions in the motion, including greater mutual recognition of skills and efforts to cut red tape. 

However, he says he cannot support the text's call for an EU protected status scheme for non-agricultural products such as local craft techniques, which he says is unlikely to work. 

Such a scheme already exists for European foods, such as Parmesan cheese or Cornish pasties.

MEPs called for a craft technique protection scheme in a motion vote last autumn, but the EU Commission is yet to put forward measures to make this happen. 

Daniel Dalton
BBC

Free trade area v single market - what's the difference?

By Jonty Bloom, Business correspondent, BBC News

European Parliament

Brussels

The UK economy could thrive outside the European Union, but may not form part of the single market, Leave campaign leader Michael Gove has said.

We would have a relationship of "free trade and friendly co-operation" with the EU, the justice secretary insisted on the BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

He said that after Brexit the UK would be part of a European "free trade zone", one that already exists from "Iceland to the Russian border" but not part of the single market as we are at the moment.

But what is the difference between a free trade area and a single market?

Read more here

Port cargo
EPA

'Too many barriers' to trade - Commissioner

Debate on single market rules

European Parliament

Brussels

Italian centre-right MEP Lara Comi, the author of the motion, says single market reforms must aim to bring out Europe's potential as a "single economic power" rather than an "aggregate" of its different economies.

Industry Commissioner Elżbieta Bienkowska says that the EU Commission is determined to focus on "real life problems" faced by businesses. 

She adds that there are still "far too many bureaucratic barriers" to trade within the single market - highlighting geographical restrictions on websites as an area where the EU executive wants to see barriers come down. 

She also mentions that the Commission is working on the idea of a "services passport"  which would help professional services companies operate across borders.

Elżbieta Bienkowska
BBC

MEPs begin debate on single market

Debate on single market rules

European Parliament

Brussels

That’s the debate about the crisis in the milk sector finished. MEPs are now debating a non-binding motion with a number of recommendations for how to improve the single market.

The motion, prepared by MEPs on the Internal Market committee, is a response to a review of single market rules published by the European Commission last autumn.

The draft text expresses support for the Commission’s plans to end “unjustified” geographical restrictions on streaming websites, and calls for greater action to combat a lack of digital skills.

It also calls for the Commission to look into the “possibility of a simplified VAT approach” across the EU for related products sold online. 

Commission 'not blaming producers'

Debate on dairy process

European Parliament

Brussels

Summing up the debate, Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan says the diary sector is facing "something of a perfect storm" having lost access to the Russian market at the same time as production from international competitors has been increasing. 

He says he is "not at all blaming producers" but pointing out that they too "must take responsibility" for the ultimate balance between demand and supply. 

He defends the Commission from some of the accusations of inaction made by MEPs during the debate, telling the chamber that he has taken "23 measures" since last September to aid the crisis.

He adds that a number of EU member states have "not yet spent" money allocated to them under EU schemes to help dairy producers. 

Phil Hogan
BBC

MEP highlights mental health impact of crisis

Debate on dairy prices

European Parliament

Brussels

Mairead McGuinness
BBC

Irish Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness says she would encourage member states to put in place measures to help farmers with deteriorating mental health caused by the crisis. 

Conservative MEP Richard Ashworth says that ultimately, the low prices will not last forever - and milk producers need to secure their own future by searching for new markets and improving productivity. 

He adds, however, that this is not something that can be commanded by the state but "something the industry has to do to help itself". 

Richard Ashworth
BBC

CAP and end of milk quotas criticised

Debate on dairy prices

European Parliament

Brussels

The DUP's Diane Dodds picks up on the Commissioner's comments that all tools available under the EU's Common Agricultural Policy have been used up as evidence that the policy is "broken". 

She says that milk farmers in Northern Ireland may conclude that "Europe can't help anymore". 

French Socialist Jean-Paul Denanot blames the fall in prices on the phasing out of the milk quotas, which he says was always "going to lead us into crisis". 

Jean-Paul Denanot
BBC

Retailers 'laughing all the way to the bank'

Debate on dairy prices

European Parliament

Brussels

Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson says that some milk producers "need to be aware" that "they are continuing to make the problem worse not better" by not reducing production. 

He adds that "some member states" are encouraging producers to keep up production levels in order to increase their market share. 

Whilst he says some retailers are "laughing all the way to the bank" due to low prices, smaller producers are going to "go to the wall". 

Spanish left-winger Maria Lidia Senra Rodriguez says she opposes greater direct aid, which she says will see producers in poorer states "lose out". 

Instead, she calls for the compulsory reduction and relocation of dairy produce. 

Jim Nicholson
BBC

Background on the end of milk quotas

Debate on dairy prices

European Parliament

Brussels

EU milk quotas have been scrapped after more than three decades of efforts to prevent overproduction.

The system, set up in 1984, is ending so EU dairy businesses can compete with international rivals in supplying fast-growing markets in Asia and Africa.

The Irish Republic, the Netherlands and Germany are all expected to increase production sharply.

But UK farmers have said it could lead to further falls in the price they receive for their milk.

Read more here

Dairy farm
Getty Images

Commissioner: Milk production 'clearly not sustainable'

Debate on dairy prices

European Parliament

Brussels

Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan tells MEPs that the crisis in the dairy sector is acute "in virtually every member state".

He adds that average milk prices have seen an 11% fall since this time last year. 

He says that the opportunities to boost prices by increasing demand are "limited", despite some opportunities in emerging markets - so regulators will "have to look at supply".

He outlines a number of measures taken by the Commission to shore up prices, including public buying-in of butter and milk and public aid to help farmers put milk into storage to take it off the market. 

However, he says that milk producers "must take responsibility as well" - and that the current level of milk production is "clearly not sustainable". 

Phil Hogan
BBC

Milk prices 'a European crisis'

Debate on dairy prices

European Parliament

Brussels

Hans Hoogeveen, an agriculture minister at the Dutch Economic Affairs Ministry, says national governments are "fully aware" of the difficult situation faced by farmers. 

He says that agriculture ministers meeting yesterday had "quite different" views on the best way to help solve the crisis. 

However, he tells MEPs: "this is a European crisis which needs a European answer". 

He says agriculture ministers will discuss the possibility of activating a "crisis reserve", but says there was agreement that any further emergency measures "have to be linked" to lowering production. 

Hans Hoogeveen
BBC

Milk prices 'below cost of production' - MEP

Debate on dairy prices

European Parliament

Brussels

From the Agriculture Committee, Polish centre-right MEP Czeslaw Adam Sierkierski says the dairy sector has "always been volatile" but it is going through a "difficult" time at the moment. 

He says milk prices in the EU have even dropped "below the costs of production". 

He says the effect of action taken at EU and national level has been "scarce" - and that further measures need to be taken to shore up prices by lowering milk production. 

He suggests that farmers might be persuaded to cut production levels by receiving "some sort of payment" in compensation. 

Czeslaw Adam Sierkierski
BBC

Good morning

Debate on dairy prices

European Parliament

Brussels

Hello and welcome to coverage of this plenary sitting of the European Parliament in Brussels.

The sitting will be getting underway shortly, when MEPs will be joined by Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan to debate falling prices in the dairy sector.

Dairy farmers have protested that a Russian embargo on food imports, as well as the phasing out of EU milk production quotas last year, has led to falling prices for their produce.

MEPs on the Agriculture Committee have tabled an oral question to ask the EU Commission what it intends to do to support farmers in the medium term. 

Milk protests
Reuters