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.
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.
This afternoon I made clear my view that it’s critical that despite the challenges presented by COVID-19 there is no extension of the EU transition period. I was reassured by the response I received from Michael Gove. “Thank you, Mr Speaker, Over the recent weeks we have seen how the European Union’s response to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has been fraught with internal divisions, as the German Federal Court ruled the European Central Bank overstepped their legitimate competence with its £2 trillion rescue policy. Does my Rt Hon Friend agree with me that it is now even more essential that we press ahead with negotiations and end the transition period by the end of the year, so we can regain complete control of our money, borders and laws, and therefore have the flexibility and nimbleness in this country to chart our own path to recovery from COVID-19?”
It’s been a very long journey but in 4 hours we will leave the EU, finally, after 3 and a half years. Look how I’ve aged, picture of me as a fresh faced 27 year old, and now as a result of the crazy series of events that unfolded afterwards I won the immense honour of becoming the Member of Parliament for Ipswich. I will never ever forget that my first vote in Parliament was to vote to deliver Brexit and ensure that we can move on as a country.
On Thursday I made my third speech in Parliament in the “Global Britain debate”. I stressed the importance of increased trading potential for Ipswich bearing in mind it’s close proximity to the Port of Felixstowe and the Port of Ipswich. Overall around 6,000 of my constituents are employed at one of the two Ports.
Last night I wrote to my Labour opponent outlining a number of questions regarding his Brexit stance. There is no doubt that the need to get Brexit done is one of the biggest challenges facing the country and I think its only right and proper that each candidate standing for Parliament outlines clearly their own position.
Since the start of the General Election campaign, I and the Ipswich Conservatives have knocked on over 10,000 doors and we’ve been able to talk to over 3,000 people from across the town. We have a huge amount of door knocking still to do, but I’d like to think we have a fairly good idea of what people are thinking on some of the key issues.
Earlier this month I attended the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester. Despite all the difficulties in Parliament there was a lot of positivity at the Conference and hope for the future. The overriding theme of the Conference was “Get Brexit Done”. The vast majority of people I’ve spoken to on the doorstep over the past month or so, whether they voted Leave or Remain in the referendum simply want us to get on with leaving the EU so that we can move forward as a country and start fully focusing on over important domestic issues.
However, the Conference was about far more than just sorting out Brexit. One area where I have been quite active over the past few months has been crime. At the Party Conference I met with the new Crime Minister Kit Malthouse MP to discuss the Government’s approach to tackling knife crime and County lines.
Since Boris became Prime Minister I’ve been very pleased with the Government’s announcements on crime and anti-social behaviour. The commitment to 20,000 extra police officers and tougher sentencing is to be welcomed. At Conference both the Prime Minister and Home Secretary Priti Patel made clear how much of a priority tackling County lines is for the Government. In fact County lines was mentioned specifically in the Prime Minister’s main speech. I’m very encouraged that this is such a priority for the Government.
Since my selection as the Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Ipswich I’ve visited most of the schools across the Town to meet with the respective leadership teams and its been made clear to me how much of an issue County lines is. I know this is an issue keeping many parents awake at night and its one we should be robust in stamping out this evil as a matter of the upmost priority. It’s sickening to think that many of our young people are being exploited and abused by an appalling set of criminals who deserve to be behind bars. It’s clear to me that both the police and the National Crime Agency need all the funding they need in order to ruthlessly track down these individuals and gang members and prevent them from spreading their evil across the country and poisoning the lives of many of our young people.
At Conference the Home Secretary committed a new £20 million fund aimed specifically at tackling County lines. This money will be used to fund a dedicated police unit that will operate at train stations to disrupt the movement of drugs and people involved in County lines. It will also fund the expansion of the National County Lines Coordination Centre to increase intelligence sharing and targeting.
In addition to the clear focus on County lines I was also pleased to see the new Justice Secretary providing some more detail regarding the move towards tougher sentencing for those who are found guilty of serious wrong doing. In particularly I was pleased to see the Government making clear that the practice whereby prisoners are let out automatically half way through serving a sentence will end. This is something I’ve been campaigning for since the start of the year and this change is very welcome.
All the time though, however good the national announcement is, my clear focus is on ensuring that Ipswich stands to benefit as much as possible from any new spending announcement or initiative. Before Boris formally became Prime Minister, he visited Claydon and I made crystal clear to him at the time that Suffolk needs a fair share of the 20,000 extra Police officers that he’s committed to delivering. When I spoke to the Policing Minister at Party Conference I explained to him the problems Ipswich has had with County lines and of the meetings I’ve had with parents and teachers across the Town.
My belief is that the current Government’s position on crime is close to where the majority of the public are. The vast majority of voters I talk to on the door step support tougher sentencing, more investment into our police and a robust approach to tackling County lines. This is a complex area and there is much to do but I’m very encouraged by the start the current Government have made.