Richard Corbett

For those of a similar name, see Richard Corbet (disambiguation).
Richard Corbett
Member of the European Parliament
for Yorkshire and the Humber
Assumed office
1 July 2014
Preceded by Andrew Brons
In office
20 July 1999  13 July 2009
Preceded by Constituency created
Succeeded by Andrew Brons
Member of the European Parliament
for Merseyside West
In office
23 December 1996  19 July 1999
Preceded by Kenneth Stewart
Succeeded by Constituency abolished
Personal details
Born (1955-01-06) 6 January 1955
Southport, Merseyside, England
Nationality British
Political party Labour
Alma mater Trinity College, Oxford; University of Hull

Richard Graham Corbett (born 6 January 1955) is a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the Labour Party for Yorkshire and the Humber. He represented Merseyside West from 1996 to 1999 (under the system that predated the present proportional representation regional system), Yorkshire and the Humber from 1999 until 2009, and Yorkshire and the Humber again after being re-elected in 2014. He is the Deputy Leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party, Chair of the European Movement in the UK,[1] and Chair of the Labour Movement for Europe in the European Parliament.[2]

Between January 2010 and February 2014, Corbett was an advisor to the first full-time and long-term President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy. In this capacity, and as a frequent writer and commentator on European affairs, he was voted by a panel of retired diplomats, journalists, academics and think-tankers on 14 November 2012 as the fourth most influential Briton on EU policy, ahead of the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and Commission Vice President Baroness Ashton.[3]

In 2003, Corbett became the first MEP to write a regular personal blog, and in 2015 he became the first to develop and release a phone app.[4]


Corbett was born in Southport, Lancashire to parents of working-class background from Wales and London. He attended primary school at Farnborough Road School in Southport. When his father was offered a post as a statistician at the World Health Organisation, the family moved to Geneva, Switzerland and Corbett attended the International School of Geneva (attended mostly by children from UN Agencies in Geneva), obtaining the International Baccalaureate. He was captain of the football team and also played for the junior team of a Swiss second division club.

He won a place at Trinity College, Oxford, the first generation of his family to be able to go to university, and obtained a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. He was the Secretary of the Labour Club and chairman of the Oxford Committee for Europe. He co-ordinated the Oxford student 'Yes' campaign in the 1975 referendum on membership of the European Community. He also skied for Oxford against Cambridge.[5]

Corbett later completed a doctorate in political science at the University of Hull.[6]

Political career

Before the European Parliament

Richard Corbett's activities in the European Students at Oxford led on to him being elected first to the youth board of the European Movement in Britain and then to the international presidency of the youth wing of the European Movement and of the Union of European Federalists, the Young European Federalists (JEF), a post he held from 1979 to 1981, drafting their manifesto which was the first to coin the phrase "democratic deficit" in relation to the European Parliament's then lack of power over European legislation.

Corbett was secretary-general of the European Co-ordination Bureau of International Non-Governmental Youth Organisations from 1977 to 1981, representing youth organisations in the Council of Europe's European Youth Foundation and European Youth Centre. He also helped to set up the European Youth Forum and represented Western European youth organisations in negotiations with Eastern European organisations pursuant to the Helsinki Treaty (as well as at the World Festival of Youth in Havana in 1978 along with Charles Clarke and Peter Mandelson). He worked with Altiero Spinelli MEP on the latter's proposal for a draft treaty establishing a European Union, adopted by the European Parliament in 1984.

Before being elected to the European Parliament, Corbett worked in the voluntary sector and as a civil servant,[7] later becoming a policy advisor to and then Deputy Secretary General of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament. He worked on drafting the parts of the treaties of Maastricht and Amsterdam that increased the powers of the Parliament, notably helping to draft the "codecision procedure" which now applies for adopting European legislation through successive readings of the Parliament and the Council.

In 1992, Corbett was made Ambassador of Goodwill of the US State of Arkansas, by its then Governor Bill Clinton.

The European Parliament

Corbett was a member of the Parliament's Constitutional Affairs committee and the spokesman for the Labour Party, as well as the whole of the wider Group of the Party of European Socialists, on European constitutional affairs. In 2006, he was elected Deputy Leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party, which he remained until the end of his period as an MEP, declining (to some surprise) to challenge for the leadership when Gary Titley stood down in 2008.

In 2003, his proposals to re-write the European Parliament's Rules of Procedure were largely accepted. In 2004–2005, he was the co-rapporteur (with Iñigo Méndez de Vigo) for Parliament on the Treaty establishing a constitution for Europe. This report formed the basis of Parliament's official position on the treaty, which he was then invited to present to several national parliaments.

In 2005, he was appointed as Parliament's negotiator (along with Joseph Daul MEP) to broker a new system of parliamentary scrutiny over Commission implementing measures (under the previously much-criticised "comitology" procedure), which led to an agreement among the Council of ministers, the Commission and the Parliament in 2006 giving Parliament the right to veto quasi-legislative implementing measures. This represented a major increase in Parliament's powers over the Commission.

In 2007–08, he was again co-rapporteur with Iñigo Méndez de Vigo for Parliament on the Treaty of Lisbon, which replaced the constitutional treaty after two member states declined to ratify it, and was again rapporteur for a new overhaul of Parliament's procedures in 2009.

Throughout his career, Richard Corbett has been a strong advocate of EU reform and has a particular interest in improving democratic accountability by continuing to increase the European Parliament's power within the EU institutional system. Professor Juliet Lodge of Leeds University has named Corbett as one of five "movers and shakers" in the European Parliament who "have brought the European Parliament from being a mere talking shop to a legislature with genuine power".[8]

Corbett's voting record and other parliamentary activities can be found on the VoteWatch website.[9]

Richard Corbett versus the UK Independence Party

Richard Corbett has been critical of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).

In this context, he courted controversy in June 2004 by drawing attention, in The Independent newspaper, to UKIP links with the far-right British National Party in the local elections: "In Yorkshire, where both the BNP and UKIP put up candidates, they appear to have come to an arrangement not to stand against one another".

Richard Corbett's pamphlet "25 Things You Didn't Know When You Voted For UKIP",[10] published by Britain in Europe in 2004, was the subject of further controversy in October 2004, when UKIP demanded that the pamphlet be pulped, claiming that one item in the pamphlet "breaks a court order banning publication of details of a legal action involving one of the party's MEPs", namely the fraud case against Ashley Mote MEP. In practice, this gave further publicity to the pamphlet, which was not pulped, as it did not break any court order.

Following Ashley Mote’s imprisonment in September 2007 for fraud,[11] Corbett called on the government to change the law which allowed the former UKIP MEP to be paid in full during his spell in jail. The Minister responsible for payment of MEPs (and MPs), Harriet Harman, promised to look into the matter.

Corbett continued to campaign vigorously against the UK Independence Party in the run-up to the 2014 European elections. After they secured the biggest share of the vote in these elections, he subsequently wrote "I think it is a mistake to focus exclusively on UKIP's racism. That unsavoury side of UKIP has been adequately exposed by others [...] We need to expose them on their policies".[12]

Five years out of the European Parliament

Corbett lost his seat in the 2009 European Parliament elections, which saw a big fall in the Labour share of the vote in the wake of the Westminster expenses scandal. The BNP took the seat. The BBC website carried the following comment from their European editor, Mark Mardell:

The saddest moment of the night: Labour MEP Richard Corbett lost his seat. Irrespective of party politics, there are some people who are good for politics as a whole. Mr Corbett, a decent, thoughtful politician, is also one of the few people who understand how the European Parliament actually works and explained it well. He'll be missed on all sides of the chamber.

Mark Mardell had previously referred to Richard Corbett as:

an example of a conscientious and hard working politician if ever there was one.

After his defeat, Corbett spent two months in Ireland from August to October 2009 helping (behind the scenes) the "Yes" campaign in the second Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, in which 67% of the 59% turnout voted in favour.

In December 2009, he was invited to join the private office ("cabinet") of the first full-time President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, as his advisor on constitutional issues, but also handling his relations with the European Parliament and national parliaments, with the Committee of Regions and the Economic and Social Committee as well as helping on relations with some governments, including the UK.[13]

Return to the European Parliament

Corbett left the Van Rompuy cabinet in March 2014, in order to stand for election in the 2014 European Parliament elections as the Labour party's second candidate in Yorkshire and the Humber,[14] In Labour's internal ballot of party members to choose their candidates, Corbett came first (with the highest proportion of first preference votes of all new candidates in the country) securing him second spot on the list of Labour candidates, behind the sitting MEP Linda McAvan. Labour won two seats in the election in Yorkshire, and so Corbett was returned to the Parliament.

In Parliament, Corbett returned to the Constitutional Committee and serves also on the Fisheries Committee (as a full member) and the Economic Committee (as a substitute). He was elected again as Deputy Leader of the Labour MEPs in September 2014.

In advance of the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, Corbett launched an app called Doorstep EU for IPhone and Android in order to debunk myths about the EU, deliver authoritative briefings on key issues and detailed statistics of the EU's impact on the United Kingdom.[15]

Other activities

In 2006, Corbett served on the Independent Review of the governance of European Football, set up by several national governments and UEFA and chaired by the former Portuguese Deputy Prime Minister Jose Luis Arnaut. Corbett chaired the sub-group on political aspects. He has maintained an interest in the governance of football ever since, taking up a number of issues with UEFA.

He held a number of offices in the Labour Party. As well as being Deputy Leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party, he served on the Regional Board for Yorkshire and the party's National Policy Forum, a position to which he was re-elected by fellow Labour MEPs in May 2014. He was chairman of the Labour Movement for Europe's MEP group, and was elected national chair of the organisation in 2009, succeeding Mary Creagh MP.

Richard Corbett is also the co-author of an eponymous academic textbook on the European Parliament (now the standard reference book on it across Europe) and several other publications (see below). He was the first MEP from any country to have a blog, which he resumed in 2014 as part of his election campaign . In 2015, Corbett took part in an AMA on Reddit.[16]

Corbett starred in the docudrama film 'Do it like a European?' which won a prize at the international Winton Film Contest.

Corbett now lives in Shipley near Bradford having formerly lived in the nearby village of Saltaire, for whose World Heritage Status he helped to campaign. As an MEP, he has his constituency office in Leeds, where he shares premises with Hilary Benn MP.

He speaks English, French, German and Dutch.



  1. "European Movement UK website". European Movement. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  2. "About me - Richard Corbett". Retrieved 3 August 2015.
  3. organised by the European Media Network EurActiv, see
  4. "Many appy returns (Richard Corbett)". Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  5. "Richard Corbett". Retrieved 20 May 2014.
  6. "Richard Corbett". Retrieved 20 May 2014.
  7. "Richard Corbett". Retrieved 20 May 2014.
  8. "UPDATED: Movers and Shakers: The making of the European Parliament «". Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  9. "". Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  10. Corbett, Richard. "25 Things You Didn't Know When You Voted For UKIP". Archived from the original on 13 January 2011. Retrieved 30 April 2008.
  11. Malkin, Bonnie (5 September 2007). "MEP jailed for benefit fraud". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 30 April 2008.
  12. "Corbett's blog entry". Retrieved 31 May 2014.
  13. "European Council - Cabinet". Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  14. "Richard Corbett". Retrieved 20 May 2014.
  15. "App - Richard Corbett". Richard Corbett. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  16. "AMA: MEP Richard Corbett MEP". Reddit. 21 October 2015. Retrieved 29 July 2016.
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