Working with the new Government to deliver for Truro & Falmouth

By the time you read this we will have a new Prime Minister and a new government will be taking shape. I will be working hard with that new team to deliver our manifesto commitments aimed at improving the lives of my constituents. We have made good progress on cleaning up the economic mess we inherited in 2010. I am pleased that we have made effective investments into our local economy, with more people in work and wages rising. But we need to do more, especially investing in vital public services. We are able to do this now that the public finances are in better shape.  

Last week, I voted for an amendment to the Northern Ireland Bill to try and prevent Parliament from being prorogued (shut down) in the Autumn. As you know, the current deadline for leaving the EU is October 31st. I have repeatedly voted to honour the manifesto commitment I was elected to deliver, to leave the EU in an orderly way with an agreement for a close and special future relationship. The PM has said that is his aim and I will support the PM to deliver this. 

During the EU Referendum campaign and subsequently, many people have asserted that they want to leave the EU so that our sovereign Parliament can take back control of the decisions that affect us all. For Parliament to take decisions it has to be meeting. That is just what I voted for last week. To spin my action as an attempt to stop Brexit, as some have done, is a lie. 

On Sunday, I had the huge pleasure of participating in Sea Sunday in Falmouth, joining the Parade and Service at King Charles the Martyr. This annual celebration reminds us of how important a range of maritime activity is to our economy and way of life. As news of British shipping being adversely affected by Iranian government action in the Gulf has recently reminded us, as a trading nation, we depend on free movement around the global seas. With our allies, the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary play an important role in securing the peaceful passage of shipping. 

I am very proud of Falmouth’s long-standing involvement with both services and delighted that thanks to the award of MoD contracts people in and around Falmouth will continue to benefit from the skilled employment opportunities that these long-term contracts enable. 

The MoD recently announced the building of new frigates so please support my campaign for one of them to be called HMS Cornwall. I am grateful for the support of all my Cornish colleagues in this campaign and have a petition on my website: https://www.sarahnewton.org.uk/campaigns/campaign-new-21st-century-hms-cornwall 

This week, I also secured the commitment of the Government that in future procurement, RFA vessels will be reclassified as warships so that they can be built in the U.K. I am a member of the APPG for British Shipbuilding and we have called for this for some time. 

First published in the West Briton 25/07/19

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We can all be empowered to help tackle climate change

The harrowing scenes from David Attenborough’s ‘Our Planet’ documentary series clearly show the impacts humans are having on the natural world. While the scale of the global challenge facing humanity can feel overwhelming, the latest data shows a record 80 percent of British people are concerned about climate change and support taking action to tackle it. As a Member of Parliament, I meet many constituents of all ages and backgrounds who want to do more. 

Scientists from around the world have shown that we need to reach net zero emissions of harmful greenhouse gases by 2050. They warn that inaction risks the world reaching tipping points at 2°C warming that will see the melting of permafrost releasing greenhouse gases that have been stored for millennia. Furthermore, they say this will severely impact our food, water and air quality.  

The Government’s independent advisors, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), have recently published a report showing that it is entirely possible for the UK to reach net zero emissions by 2050 if we act now.  

This will require a rethink for many policies across Government to enable our public services, businesses, communities and people reduce harmful emissions. That is the task before politicians now. Work by leading businesses, engineers and the Bank of England has shown we can do this without wrecking our economy. In fact, if we carefully manage the transition there are opportunities to develop new technologies, products and services.  

Many of my constituents also want to know what they can do. 60 percent of the emissions reductions outlined by the CCC involve some societal or behavioural changes, so it’s vitally important to build on people’s interest in this challenge and involve and empower them to make a difference on an individual level too.   

In 2009, my constituent Luci Isaacson and her organisation, Climate Vision, set up the 10 Pledge Challenge working with ten local community leaders and people to reduce their emissions. Over four months, 3,000 tonnes of CO2 was saved. I learnt a lot about what changes we can all make to help. These choices don’t always need to be big and expensive like investing in an electric vehicle, although the total cost of ownership for an EV is now cost competitive, and they’re on their way to being cheaper up front too. I have recently retaken the pledges and they were relatively simple things that we can all do, like switching energy provider, walking more often and eating more local in-season produce.  

In fact research shows that more than half of us would be happy to reduce our energy use, avoid using cars or try to minimise food waste. It’s not just about helping tackle climate change – simple steps can also save us money, make us feel healthier and contribute to our local economy too. They don’t have to make life more difficult, as some sceptics would have us believe. I want to make sure that everyone has the right information at their fingertips to make informed choices.  

As the Government considers its response to the CCC and sets out policies to reach net zero, I want to ensure that we can make informed choices, by encouraging businesses to provide relevant information, transparently setting out where their products come from, how they got here, and their impact on the environment. For example, in addition to improvements to country of origin labelling, supermarkets could show how beef or lamb was reared, for example 100% grass fed. More than half of people say they would spend more on a sustainable product, but knowing what to choose isn’t always made easy. Information is power, and labelling has an important role to play.  

Leaving the EU gives us the opportunity to reassess what information we expect businesses to provide on labels, as it previously fell under their jurisdiction. One of the most debated examples of this is plastic packaging, and making sure it’s clear what is recyclable, biodegradable and compostable. At the moment there is no legal definition for these terms, and a recent study by the University of Plymouth found that so-called ‘biodegradable’ shopping bags could still hold a load of shopping after three years in the marine environment. This can’t be right. If consumers are making the switch to buy supposedly more sustainable products, even at an increased price, then they must have confidence in what they are purchasing. 

In Parliament I set the challenge for every MP to take on the 10 Pledges, as leaders of their communities to encourage everyone who wants to play their part to make a difference. However, I know that we can’t expect anyone to do this without knowing how, and our job as policymakers is to give them those informed choices. It’s time to step up to the greatest challenge that we will face in our lifetimes to tackle climate change – internationally we can lead the world forward, nationally we must set a net zero target to end our contribution to global emissions, and individually we should empower people to make more environmentally friendly choices. 

First published in the Falmouth Wave June edition

Working towards a consensus on Brexit

Much has happened over the last week but what have we learned? While a minority of people voted in the EU elections, those that did so indicated that the country is as divided now as it was at the time of EU Referendum. The Conservative and the Labour Party MPs who have been trying to deliver their manifesto commitments have failed to secure the support of people who want us to leave the EU without an orderly transition to a new and close relationship, preferring a “no deal” Brexit, as well as those who want to “stop Brexit” with a second referendum. 

I am disappointed that Jeremy Corbyn could not persuade enough of his team, most notably future Labour Party leadership contenders, Emily Thornberry and Kier Starmer, to support him and the way forward, that I am told by people close to the negotiations, he wanted to agree with the Prime Minister. I know Labour MPs that want to honour their manifesto commitments to deliver Brexit. If the agreement had been reached and subsequently supported by Parliament, we would be on track now to leave the EU with a good deal, ending the current paralysing uncertainty. I appreciate that not everyone agrees with me, however I continue to believe that getting Brexit right is of such national importance that it should be above party politics.  

With not enough Parliamentary support for her approach to Brexit the PM had no choice but to announce her impending resignation. She is a great public servant and could not have tried harder to deliver a good Brexit. That remains an extraordinary challenge for her successor. 

The PM will remain in place while the Conservative Party choose a new leader. The leadership contenders will need to demonstrate that they have a Brexit plan that will command enough support in Parliament. Unity of purpose is essential so that we can begin the process of healing the divisions that Brexit has illuminated.  

This selection process will take time and could be months. We should use this time well to consider some new approaches to finding a solution to Brexit, by more directly involving people in our usual political and Parliamentary processes. 

Next week, I am meeting Professor David Farrell, one of the “stars” of deliberative democracy and the Co-Leader of the Irish Citizens’ Assembly, in which citizens found a way forward on the “unsolvable” question of abortion and marriage equality. Professor David Farrell is described as “the man who transformed Irish politics”. 

I am keen to learn from the experience of Ireland and develop an approach for the U.K. There are a range of models of deliberative democracy, including citizens juries. They provide the opportunity for a truly representative group of citizens, enabled by experts, to consider complex issues, feeding back their findings to politicians and the public grappling with the same issues. They don’t replicate our democratic institutions and processes but add an extra dimension that Ireland and other countries have found useful in resolving complex issues. 

First published in the West Briton 30 05 19

Working to prevent a “no deal” Brexit

I understand the frustration people feel that Parliament has not yet delivered Brexit. I understand that people want to leave the EU for a range of reasons, not all to do with the economy. However, I am focussed on the economy and the wellbeing of my constituents. Without a strong economy local people won’t prosper and we won’t be able to increase funding for our vital local public services. 

The delays are having a corrosive effect on British industry as a whole. The longer the delay, the more likely that investments are routed out of Britain to countries with a more stable political and industrial climate. 

While Parliamentary squabbles continue, Nigel Farage is touring the country advocating a no-deal Brexit. Just when we thought no deal was out of the question, the collapse of the Brexit negotiations and the willful disregard by some in Parliament of the increasingly desperate warnings from industry and the world of work, has brought the spectre of no deal back. 

No deal would not be the “clean break” Mr Farage promises. 

Pascal Lamy, former Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), has said he thought after a period of negotiations that the UK could become an independent member of the WTO outside of the EU. But he described the WTO regime as league three in world trade. Why would we choose to relegate ourselves from league one to three? 

The blithe assurances of hard Brexiteers that the UK could fare perfectly well trading on WTO terms flies in the face of warnings from a huge range of businesses, small and large, that it would simply make their products uncompetitive and their business models unsustainable. 

The National Farmers Union says WTO terms would add 67 and 85 per cent extra tax to exports of lamb and beef respectively. 

The British ceramics industry, already struggling with the dumping of tableware from China, would face extra tax of 28 per cent on its products. 

The car industry, hit by the triple whammy of falling sales in China, the transition from diesel and Brexit, could not absorb the extra 10 per cent tax on its exports. 

Manufacturing employs millions of people and its renaissance has given thousands of young people a real start in life in well-paid, skilled jobs. 

For businesses this is even worse than the first time they prepared for the threat of a disorderly no-deal Brexit on March 29 because billions had to be spent making contingency plans, stockpiling supplies, shutting factories and laying off staff. They just cannot do this all over again. 

As you would expect, I listen to local employers and businesses and many tell me that they are worried by the collapse of the cross-party talks as it makes no deal more likely once again. As we edge closer to a damaging no-deal Brexit, I will once again work tirelessly cross-party in parliament to ensure Britain leaves the European Union in an orderly way with a deal. 

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

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.

First published in the Falmouth Packet 03/04/19

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