Made it very clear again in the House of Commons today that tackling illegal Channel crossings has to be a top priority. I’ve been making the case repeatedly at the highest levels over recent months how we must do everything we can to stop these crossings immediately. But we also need to have a further plan of action ready to go for when we are out of the EU transition period and we’re able to break with things like the EU’s Dublin Regulations which have restricted our ability to deal with this issue robustly.
Steps like a blockade in the Channel and the plans for an offshore processing centre which the Home Secretary has been considering this week have my full support. And we now need to deliver them as soon as possible. Once we’re out the transition period there can’t be any more excuses and any further delay to getting a grip of this issue would be completely unacceptable. No more time can be lost and I’ll put this point to the Government at every opportunity.
Spoke again in the debate on Brexit to push back against those who have been cynically using it to disparage the union of the United Kingdom. I’m a staunch unionist and I love every part of this country. And while I respect those who hold a different view, there is a time and a place for this debate to be had properly. Denigrating remarks from one SNP MP in particular on Monday couldn’t be left unanswered when he deliberately tried to paint the history of this country in the worst possible light and suggest we’re a country that has always broken the rules.
I pointed out to the SNP benches that, in the week where we honour the English, Scottish, Welsh and Ulster airmen who fought in the Battle of Britain, they’d be much better off remembering the decisive intervention this country made to defend freedom and the rule of law from the most evil regime in modern history.
I also called out a Labour Shadow Cabinet Minister who used a radio interview on Sunday night to sneer at Conservative MPs for appearing in front of the Union Jack in public. Like many of my Conservative colleagues, I’m proud of our flag and what it represents. And just like when Emily Thornberry sent a tweet looking down her nose at someone for flying a St George’s Cross outside their home, too often this doesn’t appear to be the case with Labour.
This evening I will be voting for the Internal Market Bill on its second reading. This includes the safety net the Prime Minister has set out which would give us the option to depart from the Withdrawal Agreement if the EU tries to go ahead with the most draconian possible interpretation of the Northern Ireland protocol.
Our widely-respected Chief Negotiator, David Frost, has said this is what the EU has threatened to do. And this would effectively create a trade blockade in the Irish Sea and annex part of this country, undermining the integrity of our Union in a completely unacceptable way.
This is not the sort of behaviour the EU committed to in the Withdrawal Agreement where it pledged to recognise “Northern Ireland’s integral place in the UK’s internal market” and to use its “best endeavours to facilitate trade between Northern Ireland and all other parts of the UK”. Crucially, the EU also committed to negotiate in good faith.
But so far, the EU has not negotiated in good faith and held up its end of the deal. Seemingly at every turn the EU has tried to frustrate our desire to become an independent country again, and it has sought to use things like the Northern Ireland Protocol to further its own ideological objectives and curtail this country’s sovereignty and decision making.
Ultimately I hope EU will realise that this Government is a new one and we will not be kowtowed by the EU’s intransigence. Because I believe a simple, mutually beneficial trade deal remains the best possible outcome for both sides.
But we can only go on what we have seen from the EU so far and we must be prepared to respond from a position of strength if necessary. If this means having the option to depart from a deal that the EU continues to breach, then this is what we must do.
I also intervened in the debate on the Bill today to point out how the Labour Party’s leadership has again gone to ground on the big issues. Over the weekend, Keir Starmer accused the Government of reigniting old rows and turning the clock back on Brexit. But it’s inevitable that as these hard-fought negotiations reach their crucial point, there will be Parliamentary time used to discuss them.
It may be politically inconvenient for us to be talking about Brexit for the Labour Party, particularly when it’s led by someone who was a staunch supporter of a second referendum and someone who continues to back Freedom of Movement.
But this Government’s job and this Prime Minister’s job is not to do what’s in the interests of the Labour Party but to do what’s in the interests of this country. This is what this Bill does and it’s why it has my full support. Sticking our head in the sand at this crucial stage will not benefit this country.
Written a piece about the approach I believe we ought to take in tackling the illegal crossings we’ve seen over the past few months. In short, I think we need a more robust approach, one that is prepared to do whatever it takes to get a grip of the situation in the short term. It’s all well and good looking to come to an agreement with France but ultimately if this is not possible we need to be prepared to take the situation into our own hands regardless of international opinion or convention. Australia took a very robust approach and were successful in dealing with a similar challenge.
Our ability to tackle illegal immigration should not be dependent on our ability to strike an agreement with another country. Taking back control of our borders must mean that we are able to deal with this issue by ourselves if necessary. I know a number of you are very concerned about the illegal crossings we’ve seen and I’ve received hundreds of emails and letters on the matter. I share your concerns which is why I’ve published this opinion piece.
I intervened today during an Opposition Day debate called by the SNP calling for an extension of the EU transition period supposedly because of the disruption caused by Covid-19. I pointed out that it’s the same people calling for an extension of the transition period now who were previously fighting tooth and nail to block Brexit after the 2016 referendum. And the use of this Opposition Day to actually rehash the old arguments about Leave and Remain was clearly coming through in the SNP’s arguments.
Just as this might be expected from the SNP, we are also now used to the sound of silence from the Parliamentary Labour Party on whether they support an extension to the transition period. There wasn’t a single Labour MP on the call list to speak in today’s debate and I didn’t spot one backbench Labour MP present in the Chamber, even just to listen to what was said.
And Labour’s abstention on today’s motion leaves the public none the wiser as to where Her Majesty’s Opposition stand on this crucial issue for our country’s future.
We know that the Labour Party in London wants an extension as does the Labour Party in Wales. But the national Party led by Keir Starmer continues to flip flop. I’ve said before that the Leader of the Opposition has a tendency to go to ground on the big issues and sit on the fence, and today was another example of this consistent failure to provide leadership.
BREXIT: I was ticked off by Mr Deputy Speaker today as I used a statement on the UK-EU negotiations to ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office about Keir Starmer’s tendency to go to ground on the big issues, especially the big Brexit-related issues, and how it’s vital that by contrast the Government is resolute in ending the transition period on the 31st December and Freedom of Movement along with it.
My question was quite political and this is what the Deputy Speaker picked me up on. But while I appreciate that Keir Starmer wasn’t there to respond, frankly I felt I had to ask someone about his position given that the Leader of the Opposition doesn’t seem so sure himself.
On a serious note, I think many members of the public are understandably confused about whether Starmer’s Labour Party supports an extension to the transition period. We know that the SNP, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens support an extension and so does the Labour Party in London and Wales, but we are still no clearer to knowing what the position of the Labour front bench is.
This is a case and point of how Starmer consistently ducks big judgement calls on key issues, and when he finally can’t duck them any longer, his message is often muddled and indecisive. This is a world-away from the leadership needed on this issue and it’s vitally important that by contrast we work to retain the public’s confidence by ending the transition period on time, and by delivering on fundamental aspects of the Brexit vote like ending Freedom of Movement.
I am glad that Michael Gove reaffirmed the Government’s complete commitment not to extend the transition period, and I thought his comment that we don’t know if Keir Starmer is the Scarlet Pimpernel or the invisible man was particularly apt.