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.
“Very disappointed that last night 328 MPs decided to vote against the Prime Minister and destroy our country’s negotiating position with the EU. There is nothing at all that will be achieved by further dithering and delay.
“It’s vital we leave the EU on 31st October come what may and I believe that taking no deal of the table is complete folly. The Labour Party have abandoned the 5 million Labour voters who voted leave in 2016 and the Labour MP for Ipswich has abandoned the 38,000 people who voted leave in the Borough of Ipswich by repeatably voting against Brexit and not honoring the referendum result.
“Collectively I believe that this Parliament has failed the people of this country particularly the 17.4 million people who voted to leave the EU over three years ago. In the circumstances, reluctantly, I now believe that a General Election is needed. I fully support Boris and stand ready to throw everything I can into the campaign to ensure better representation for our Town in Parliament.”
Clearly the situation in Parliament at the moment is incredibly frustrating. There was a clear vote to leave the EU in the referendum and a clear deadline to leave the EU by the end of this month. The prospect of the Brexit deadline being extended fills me with dread.
Like 58% of people in Ipswich who voted in the referendum I voted to leave the EU. However, for me this is about our democracy. It concerns me greatly that so many MPs seem prepared to turn their backs on the referendum result. It also concerns me that there are so many examples of MPs who are meant to be in Parliament to represent the views of their constituents not representing their views when it comes to Brexit.
I absolutely would have voted to keep no deal on the table. Both because I think its important to have it on the table from a negotiating point of view but also because I think that despite some disruption in the short term, our country would make a success of no deal Brexit. We’re a great country and I believe that we’d rise to the challenge.
Yesterday the Labour MP for Ipswich made clear his view on the issue. He said that there should be a second referendum where there should be two options: 1. Remain 2. Brexit which includes full membership of the Single Market and Customs Union. So the choice would be between Remain and a form of Brexit that is so soft its effectively Remain. Being a full member of both the Single Market and Customs Union would mean that we would be unable to control immigration from EU countries and that we would be unable to have our own trade policy and strike free trade agreements with some of the fastest growing countries in the world.
Essentially the Labour MP for Ipswich doesn’t even think the people of Ipswich should get the opportunity to vote for Brexit again in a meaningful sense.
My strong view is that Ipswich needs an MP who will respect the democratic vote that took place to leave the EU both in Ipswich and nationally. This is not currently the case.