MPs must stop bad-mouthing the prime minister and find a way forward for Brexit

The extension of our departure from the EU does not remove the urgent need to resolve the issue of how we leave. In 2017, all Conservative and Labour MPs were elected with manifesto commitments to leave the EU, in an orderly way into a new, close relationship. Not a WTO Brexit. Not to duck our collective responsibility with a second referendum.

How we leave lays the foundations for our future relationships with European countries for many years to come. Its more than just getting enough MPs to vote for a Withdrawal Agreement and a process that will enable us to disentangle ourselves from years of being in the EU. We need to develop mutually respectful, beneficial and enduring relationships with our neighbours and allies as our future national security and prosperity depend on it.

Now is the time for those MPs who are “trash talking” potential Brexit options and the PM to stop. Now is the time to put the national interest ahead of personal Brexit preferences. Now is the time to back not sack the PM in trying to break the impasse in the House of Commons and leave the EU in the best possible way and before the EU Parliament elections in May.

The Future Political Declaration is the right starting point for discussions between the Government and MPs from across the whole political spectrum. It sets out a negotiating position for our future relationship that offers the potential of bespoke arrangements, a tailor made British Brexit. Other countries such as Norway and Switzerland have bespoke arrangements with the EU that work for them.

Essentially, for jobs and important parts of the economy, it contains potential arrangements so we can continue to trade freely with EU countries, while simultaneously, over time, develop new opportunities to make our own trade agreements. To stay competitive, significant industries need some sort of free trade agreement with the EU which in turn will require some sort of customs arrangements and the agreement of some mutually beneficial terms of trade.

Without a negotiated agreement, including customs arrangements enabling us to trade freely with the EU, we are left outside the EU, with a WTO Brexit.

Pascal Lamy, former Director-General of the WTO, has said he thought that there would be no difficulty in the UK becoming an independent member of the WTO outside of the EU. There may be technical negotiations, around tariff rate quotas and governance, but Mr Lamy saw no legal impediment. The UK would rely upon its commitments regarding tariffs on goods and the commitments made on services in the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).

WTO terms would mean significant extra costs to business that would jeopardise parts of our economy and jobs. Pascal Lamy described the WTO regime as league three in world trade.

We are a creative, innovative, enterprising, first league trading nation and I don’t want to see us relegated to league three of world trade, with a WTO Brexit. After Easter, we should all support the conclusions of the PMs work to break the House of Commons impasse and deliver a British Brexit.

First published in the Times 15/04/19: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/mps-need-to-stop-trashing-the-prime-minister-and-find-a-way-forward-wqn86c9xr

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Breaking the Brexit Impasse

Many people are contacting me about Brexit so I think it’s worth recapping on where we are. In the 2016 EU Referendum I campaigned for and like the majority of people in this constituency voted to Remain. It was a nationwide vote and at that time I said I would honour the result. At the 2017 General Election, I was given a mandate by my constituents to deliver Brexit, with an orderly transition to a new, close and special relationship with the EU.  

I believe the Prime Minister’s negotiated EU Withdrawal Agreement and the Future Political Declaration delivers on that manifesto pledge and will continue to support it. I have voted for it twice and given the opportunity will vote for it a third time.  

The PMs ‘deal’ will give us free, no tariff, unlimited quota trade with the EU, minimal or zero frictions at the borders, complete control over immigration and would avoid a “hard border” between North Ireland and Ireland. There will be no ongoing payments to the EU and we will be out of the Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies and will be free to strike trade agreements with nations outside the EU.  

Two weeks ago, after the negotiations with the EU were complete and the Government lost the second attempt to secure the support of Parliament for the PMs ‘deal’, I resigned from the Government, so that I could vote for a motion that honours my commitment to my constituents, to leave the EU with ‘a deal’. Not a ‘no deal’ Brexit. I have been working with MPs from across the House of Commons to find a way forward. 

It is so disappointing to see the Labour Party led by someone who’s more interested in power grabbing than serving his country, especially at such an important time, his tactics of “trash talking” the Government are frightening. I have a lot of respect for my colleagues in the Labour Party who like me want to honour their commitments to their constituents so it is a great shame to see them be continuously let down by their leader.  

As a result, the House of Commons did not come together last week to deliver the commitments that the majority of MPs, including Labour MPs made to their constituents, to leave the EU in an orderly way to a new, close and deep relationship with our neighbours in Europe. 

The legal default now is that the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union on 12 April. This is not enough time to agree, legislate for and ratify a ‘deal’, and yet the House of Commons has been clear it will not permit leaving without a deal. If we can agree a way forward, to enable it to be implemented, the PM will need to secure an extension of our EU membership before this date. 

I am continuing my work with other backbench colleagues, from across the House of Commons, to enable Parliament to consider a range of options, to find the common ground, that could enable us to leave the EU with ‘a deal’ if the PMs ‘deal’ continues not to secure enough support. 

I understand the frustration and anxiety the current Parliamentary impasse is causing as well as the desire for some certainty and clarity about our future relationship with the EU. I also appreciate the damage that is being done to our economy, the reputation of our parliamentary democracy and standing in the world. Please be assured that I will continue to work hard to resolve the impasse in the best interests of my constituents and our great country.   

Some people have asked about the current EU funding that Cornwall is receiving now. My colleagues and I have ensured that the U.K. government has underwritten the programme so we will not miss out. In the future Cornwall will benefit from dedicated funding from the Shared Prosperity Fund.   

Having lived overseas for a number of years I know how important it is to feel a sense of belonging and understand that this is a very difficult time for our neighbours, friends and workmates who are from EU countries. You are welcome! We are leaving the EU but we are not leaving Europe.  

Working to remove the Brexit impasse

Many people are contacting me about Brexit so I think it’s worth recapping on where we are. In the 2016 EU Referendum a majority of people in this constituency voted to Remain. At the 2017 General Election I was given a mandate by my constituents to deliver Brexit, with an orderly transition to a new, close and special relationship with the EU. To deliver Brexit with ‘a deal’ not a ‘no deal’ Brexit.  

I believe the Prime Minister’s negotiated EU Withdrawal Agreement and the Future Political Declaration delivers on that manifesto pledge and will continue to support it. I have voted for it twice and given the opportunity will vote for it a third time. 

The PMs ‘deal’ will give us free, no tariff, unlimited quota trade with the EU, minimal or zero frictions at the borders, complete control over immigration and would avoid a “hard border” between North Ireland and Ireland. There will be no ongoing payments to the EU and we will be out of the Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies and will be free to strike trade agreements with nations outside the EU. 

Last week, after the negotiations with the EU were complete and the Government lost the second attempt to secure the support of Parliament for the PMs ‘deal’, I resigned from the Government, so that I could vote for a motion that honours my commitment to my constituents, to leave the EU with ‘a deal’. Not a ‘no deal’ Brexit. 

This week, I am continuing my work with other backbench colleagues, from different political parties, to enable Parliament to consider a range of options, to find the common ground, that could enable us to leave the EU with ‘a deal’ if the PMs ‘deal’ continues not to secure enough support. 

Labour and Conservative MPs were all elected at the last General Election on a manifesto to leave the EU with ‘a deal’ so we must honour our commitments.  

I understand the frustration and anxiety the current Parliamentary impasse is causing as well as the desire for some certainty and clarity about our future relationship with the EU. I also appreciate the damage that is being done to the reputation of our parliamentary democracy and standing in the world. Please be assured that I will continue to work hard to resolve the impasse in the best interests of my constituents and our great country.  

Some people have asked about the current EU funding that Cornwall is receiving now. My colleagues and I have ensured that the U.K. government has underwritten the programme so we will not miss out. In the future Cornwall will benefit from dedicated funding from the Shared Prosperity Fund.  

Having lived overseas for a number of years I know how important it is to feel a sense of belonging and understand this is a very difficult time for our neighbours, friends and workmates who are from EU countries. You are welcome! We are leaving the EU but we are not leaving Europe. 

First published in the West Briton 28/03/19

The “Deal” and supporting Cornwall’s schools

I had hoped that by the time you read this column the House of Commons would have passed the Withdrawal Agreement (EU) and Future Political Declaration. This is usually summarised as ‘the deal’. Along with all Labour MPs, I was elected at the last General Election to deliver Brexit with ‘a deal’ negotiated with the EU and I will continue to work hard to achieve this.

I believe that ‘the deal’ the PM has negotiated with the EU will give us free, no tariff, unlimited quota trade with the EU, minimal or zero frictions at the borders, complete control over immigration and would avoid a “hard border” between North Ireland and Ireland. There will be no payments to the EU and we will be out of the Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies and there will be no customs union, so we will be free to strike trade agreements with nations outside the European Union.

The much debated “backstop” in the EU Withdrawal Agreement, if used at all, would allow us continued, contribution free access to the EU whilst having total control over migration. This is why it is designed to be, and will prove to be, temporary; for the first time ever, and contrary to the EU’s oft-repeated position of not splitting the ‘four freedoms’, they have done exactly that. Any suggestion that such an arrangement would, in effect, become permanent would cause an existential crisis within the EU. Their incentive not to use it, or to leave it quickly, would be at least as great as ours.

In addition to preparing for Brexit, I am working on a range of other important matters. One such key issue is ensuring all our young people have the opportunity for the best education. Thanks to the hard work of local teachers, governors, parents and all those who support our local youngsters, more children are receiving a good or outstanding education here since 2010. This is despite challenging funding settlements. While school funding is at a record high and increasing, I know it is not enough and am pushing the Chancellor for more.

The Schools Minister has visited Cornwall twice to meet with teachers and head teachers organisations to hear first-hand local concerns.

Some local parents are being sent letters citing information provided by the Schools Cuts campaign. The information used by the Schools Cuts campaign was referred the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA), the watchdog for the use of statistics. In January, it said that Schools Cuts uses “misleading” statistics and flawed methodology in its calculations to deliberately downplay funding received by schools.

This deliberate scaremongering aimed at parents using misleading and discredited statistics is deeply concerning. Schools Cuts needs to come clean on its links to the hard left of the Labour Party.

On my website I have a webpage dedicated to my long-standing campaign to increase funding for our local schools and FE colleges. There you can see the sums of money allocated to Cornwall and each school.

First published in the West Briton 21/03/19

Honouring the Referendum result

On Tuesday, the Prime Minister updated Parliament on the progress that she is making to enable the U.K. to leave the EU with a Withdrawal Agreement and Future Political Declaration, by the end of March. MPs will be voting on a motion to approve these documents on 12th March and I very much hope it is passed. This will enable an orderly exit and two years of transition to a new, close and special relationship with the EU.  

A new relationship that will enable tariff free, quota free, frictionless trade with the EU, close collaboration on security, defense, and academic research. At the same time enabling the U.K. to have an independent immigration policy and develop new trade deals. The U.K. Parliament and U.K. courts of law will make the decisions that affect all our lives. We will be coming out of the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy enabling decisions about how we manage the land and the seas around our shores to be made by the U.K. Parliament.  

If the PM does not succeed in securing enough votes for this ‘deal’ another motion will be tabled on 13th March asking the House of Commons if it supports leaving the EU without a Withdrawal Agreement and a framework for a future relationship on 29th March. So the U.K. will only leave the EU without a deal on 29th March if there is explicit consent in the House for this outcome.  

If the House, having rejected leaving with a deal negotiated with the EU, then rejects leaving on 29th March without a withdrawal agreement and future framework, the Government will, on 14th March, bring forward a motion on whether Parliament wants to seek a short limited extension to Article 50 – and if the House votes for the extension, seek to agree that extension approved by the House with the EU, and bring forward the necessary legislation to change the exit date commensurate with that extension. 

Like the PM, I do not want to see Article 50 extended and am urging all my colleagues to vote for the PM’s deal on 12th March.  

At the last General Election, I was elected to deliver Brexit, with an orderly transition to a new, close and special relationship with the EU and I will continue to do everything I can to deliver this.  

To honour my commitment, if the deal that the PM has negotiated does not secure the necessary support in Parliament on 12th March, I will vote against a ‘no deal’ Brexit and if necessary a delay in when we leave the EU. The purpose of the delay would be to secure a deal that does command the necessary support in Parliament and the EU.  

It is clear from the information that I have been given from many local employers, that to leave the EU without a deal on 29th March would be damaging for our economy, employment opportunities, cost of living and future prosperity.  

First published in the West Briton 28/02/19

EU Withdrawal Bill

Last night a majority of MPs, from across the Conservative, Labour, and DUP parties and two Independents voted for an amended EU Withdrawal Bill. A couple of weeks ago, a majority of MPs voted against the original version of this bill.  

Over the last two weeks a huge amount of work has been done to find the common ground in Parliament. The EU and the PM quite rightly said to Parliament, “we know what you don’t agree upon, so tell us what you do”. The amendment to the EU Withdrawal Agreement is about finding a different way of guaranteeing that we honour the Belfast and Good Friday agreements – the so called “backstop”. Those agreements are about honouring our commitments in securing peace in Ireland and Northern Ireland. 

So what happens next? The PM will spend the next two weeks negotiating with the EU with the aim of bringing back to Parliament a final version of the EU Withdrawal Agreement. 

In the meantime, much good work continues on a wide range of important policies that matter to us all. Last week I held one of my regular meetings with the NFU and local farmers. We discussed the Immigration Bill and the Agriculture Bill that are currently working their way through Parliament.  

On Friday, the government launched an ambitious new strategy to clean up our air – which includes a commitment to support farmers’ efforts to tackle air pollution. 

Agriculture is responsible for 88% of UK emissions of ammonia gas which can travel long distances, be damaging to the environment, and combine with other pollutants to form fine Particulate Matter (PM) pollution, which is harmful to human health. 

The measures set out in the Clean Air Strategy will help cut the costs of air pollution to society by £1.7 billion every year by 2020, rising to £5.3 billion every year from 2030. 

Under the new strategy the government will provide farmers with support to invest in infrastructure and equipment to reduce emissions and will work with industry to encourage low emission, holistic farming techniques. 

Funding has been available through the Countryside Productivity Scheme to help farmers purchase manure management equipment including low-emission spreaders and the scheme is due to run again in 2019.  

Funding is also available through the Countryside Stewardship Scheme for slurry tank and lagoon covers for farmers in priority water catchments. 

In September 2018 the government launched a new £3 million programme through the Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) partnership to fund a team of specialists who work with farmers and landowners in priority areas to provide training events, tailored advice, individual farm visits and support with grant applications. 

Our Agriculture Bill already sets out how future financial support for the farming sector will be focussed on delivering improvements to the environment. We propose that a future environmental land management system should fund targeted action to protect habitats impacted by ammonia. Natural England are already examining options to improve the effectiveness of schemes for mitigating ammonia emissions in protecting these habitats. 

First published in the West Briton 31/01/18

Backing the PM’s deal

The Parliament I returned to on Monday is almost as divided as it was before Christmas. It is still divided into several factions; those who support Mrs May’s EU deal and those who oppose it, those who want a general election and those who want a second referendum. No one has come up with a better deal – including “no deal” – that commands more support than that of the Prime Minister. These same divisions exist across our nation, in our communities and in our homes. 

I have received around one thousand letters and emails from constituents passionately expressing their views one way or another, with each appealing to me to do the ‘right thing’ by representing their position in Parliament. It is my job to listen to the arguments and then carefully draw my own conclusions.  

There is no doubt that the vast majority of people are very supportive of the Prime Minister, and rightly so in my view. I agree that her deal is not perfect, but it does offer a compromise which I can support and I would urge others to do so too. As I have said before, this deal will give us free, no tariff, unlimited quota trade with the EU, minimal or zero frictions at the borders, complete control over immigration and would avoid a “hard border” between North Ireland and Ireland. There will be no payments to the EU and we will be out of the Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies and there will be no customs union, so we will be free to strike trade agreements with nations outside the European Union. These key objectives, which are often referred to as the Prime Minister’s ‘red lines’, actually represent the promises made to British voters in the referendum campaign and at the most recent General Election. 

The much debated “backstop” in the EU Withdrawal Agreement, if used at all, would allow us continued, contribution free access to the EU whilst having total control over migration. This is why it is designed to be, and will prove to be temporary; for the first time ever, and contrary to the EU’s oft-repeated position of not splitting the ‘four freedoms’, they have done exactly that. Any suggestion that such an arrangement would, in effect, become permanent would cause an existential crisis within the EU. Their incentive not to use it, or to leave it quickly, would be at least as great as ours. 

If we do not support this deal, then anything could happen. This would have unknown and potentially untold consequences. The vast majority of local employers who have contacted me want certainty and do not want a “no deal” Brexit. 

There might also be a vote of no confidence in the present Government, which could result in a General Election, which Mr. Corbyn might win. For most, I do not need to explain the consequences of this for our economy, on investment and on jobs. 

I think it’s time to come together and support the deal. 

 First published in the West Briton 10/01/18