This week Parliament is back following summer recess and by the time you read this I will be in Westminster. During the six week recess no laws are passed and issues are not debated but business does not come to a standstill for Government or for MPs, because there is still a country to run and people to help. I’m glad to be back, to challenge ministers on a range of issues including the ongoing crises on our trains, in the NHS and in social care and of course the failed Brexit negotiations.
You may recall that in July I raised concerns about the lack of progress on Brexit, and now here we are in September and we are no nearer reaching agreement on many crucial issues. The date for our withdrawal from the EU is now set in law, and on March 29th, 2019 Britain will leave. Brexiteers and Remainers will both have to live with the Brexit aftermath and it is really important that we don’t have a messy divorce. I have to say that I am worried that we are heading that way. This is not ‘project fear ‘as some would say but ‘project reality’ and it this is not just my opinion: Government ministers, including the Foreign Secretary are publicly voicing their anxiety about the failure to reach an agreement. This whole issue goes way beyond Party politics, and as Dominic Raab, the Brexit Secretary said last week this is not some remote business that just concerns Brussels or the Westminster village, the lives of real people will be affected; our lives here in Burnley and Padiham will be affected. We are still no nearer reaching any agreement about how goods will come in and out of Britain. I’m not just speaking here of the effect on our businesses and British industry, although this will be crucial for future prosperity and jobs, I’m talking about our important basic needs such as food and medicines. Currently over forty percent of all our food is imported from the EU and without a deal there will be shortages and food prices will soar. Many of the medicines that British people rely on are manufactured in Europe and of course long term we may well source other supplies or manufacture more of our own but we won’t have time to sort this before next March so some deal is important if we are to avoid medicine rationing. Of course there are many more issues that need to be sorted including the Irish border and I’m sure that no one in the UK or the Republic of Ireland wants to see a return to the troubles that blighted the lives of many. So it is important that we reach agreement for the movement of goods across the Irish border. It’s also important that we determine the rules for movement of people across the EU and here I’m not referring to EU nationals who want to come into Britain I’m talking about British people who want to travel for business or for holiday purposes in Europe. We need to know that our passports will still enable us to entry into these countries. I know the Government intends to bring back the old style blue passports for British citizens but these won’t be ready by March so we do need a deal with the EU on this too. On this point I still can’t believe that the Government has awarded the contract for the manufacture of our new British passports to a French company! You really could not make this up.
On a brighter note I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all the young people in Burnley and Padiham who were successful in their GCSEs examinations this summer. We often hear that exams are easier these days and I have to say this is simply not true. Hard work, commitment and ability have always been key to academic success; nothing has changed here and we should give credit where it is due. We should also thank the dedicated teachers and parents who have supported the students throughout.
As a Parliamentary Champion for Age UK, I am pleased to announce the date for my Annual Older People’s Day Event in Burnley which will be on Saturday 22nd September from 11am until 2pm at Burnley United Reformed Church on Bethesda Street. Further details about this to follow in future columns.
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