The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP): Short term gain for long term pain?

Link to QCEA blog on US EU negotiations.

The QCEA Blog

From the very beginning, facilitating trade has been a key aim of the European Union (EU) and its predecessors. One of the current trade projects being negotiated is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which enters the second stage of negotiation this week (11th-15th November 2013). TTIP, as it is known, is a wide-ranging free trade pact between the United States of America (US) and the EU. If the negotiations are successful and the treaty is ratified, TTIP would be one of the world’s largest trade agreements, rivalling the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The pact would remove barriers, cut tariffs, and unify regulations between the EU and the US; or, to put it simply, it would further liberalize trade between two of the world’s biggest economies.

In September 2013, Michael Froman, the lead US negotiator for TTIP, presented a short speech to the…

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QCEA Economic Justice Conference Brussels

I am just leaving the Conference centre after a very full weekend. Much food for thought. The enormity of the challenges, youth unemployment, environmental degradation. How can we make best use of QCEA resources to have the Quaker voice heard in the European institutions and how can we better link with QCEA?

Weighty moments…

I found it an inspiring evening with Throssell Hole Buddhists last night, full of rich moments of connection.

Jack Kornfield’s ” Buddha’s Little Instruction Book” quotes one of the teachings of the Buddha: “There are no holy places and no holy people, only holy moments, only moments of wisdom.”

I love this.

I think it would be great if Quakers dropped the use of the term “weighty Friend”.

Could it be that there are no weighty Friends, only weighty moments…


Foodbanks – can you really believe they’re here again?



 Are there Quaker foodies out there who watch the antics and try the recipes of the River Cottage chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall?

You may have seen him recently with a bunch of young people picking fruit on a farm where the harvest had already gone to the supermarkets. These were ‘out of season’ apples and plums which would have been dug in and lost if it hadn’t been for these young people, who are part of an army of volunteers called ‘gleaners.’

Gleaners go back a long way, even to biblical times, when after harvest landowners let people from their estates collect anything that had been missed. It is having something of a revival today and creating a new volunteer opportunity which is making a lot of quite nice fruit available freely to people who might only be able to look at juicy Victoria plums in the shops. I believe this is called a ‘win-win’ situation. The farmer is saved the job of disposing of unwanted fruit, the volunteers have a lot of fun and hard-up people get some bruised but delicious free fruit.

If my tone appears scornful it isn’t intended. This is a great scheme – not least because at last the rejection of agricultural produce that isn’t perfect is starting to look like the obscene practice it is. Gleaners are busy all over the UK now collecting damaged, odd-shaped fruit and veg which is perfectly fit to eat but is usually junked on cosmetic grounds.

Gleaning is just part of a whole new industry developing around the phenomenon of Food Banks. This is the less glamorous side to the story and unlikely to be appearing on any fun foodie programme. More likely they will increasingly appear in news bulletins as their numbers blossom and the UK population becomes aware that they are truly with us once again. Jesus said the poor are always with us – but in tones of disappointment and disbelief.

Quakers in the north-east who read the Friend magazine may know  that it runs an investigative unit which produces The Fox Report, a series of in-depth looks at troubling matters: the stress of members of the armed forces returning from battle; the insidious effect of liberalised gambling legislation; the unfairness of young unemployed people eager to work and learn being exploited with unpaid internships.

Well, Fox is coming to the north-east and Quakers here will have the opportunity to become investigative reporters on an issue of our times. Are you disappointed and disbelieving that people are becoming so poor that they need donated food in a designated centre to feed themselves?  Have you asked yourselves questions about this unannounced development?

Fox needs eyes and ears to report on Food banks, both locally and regionally. There are many issues surrounding the banks and how they will be managed in future. There is already talk in food manufacturing and agri-business about the possibility of newly created markets for that ‘distorted’ and rejected food which is currently a part of some food bank free produce. What will happen if the source of food donation dries up? Thousands have become dependent on food from a bank.  Food commerce, like any other branch of business, is  committed to cutting waste and streamlining production. Its success in this will prove challenging in the world of feeding the poor.


If you have any information to help the Fox Report, or would like to help with reporting, you can contact me at, or through this site. Please let me know if you have any journalistic experience.

Judy Kirby



Let slip the doves of peace

In the current issue of The Friend, Rosemary Burton challenges us to greater engagement with the arms trade. Apposite that the news this week has been dominated by the redundancies in naval shipyards. No doubt the same arguments would be deployed if there were any suggestion to abandon Trident submarine construction. I joined a Friends of the Earth delegation to see Peter Atkinson MP on that subject, where it became clear that jobs were one issue. The other was that we needed to mirror what France had. I hope that the whole subject of the arms trade and why the public implicitly support it continues to be explored in the Hexham Debates. I would interested in other contributions.

Quakers In the North-East QuINE

We agreed at AMWG last night that Northumbria AM would host QuINE in 2014. It seems to me that this is the opportunity for Friends in the NE region to share their concerns, projects to encourage joint working, sharing of good practice etc. We could also review those activities where we share responsibilities, eg Shindig, The Retreat, W&S trust. There could also be the opportunity to include input from YM so that there is greater understanding of Central work locally and local work centrally. Sounds a lot but perhaps if we take themes and invite input. Also some items could be specialist groups and poster displays.

new life

Hi Friends,

I am not sure how all this works but hope this is the right way to start. Jane and I have just moved to Newbrough and we are beginning to find our feet in the local community. I am looking forward to the AM E&O gathering a week on Saturday and hope to share my perceptions of E&O in a very small Meeting. Does anyone know if Friends locally or nationally have any plans to mark the outbreak of WW1? (I have been asked about this by the U of Northumbria Chaplaincy)?.