Earlier this week, all non-essential retail shops were allowed to re-open and once more commence trading. For many businesses, this was the first time in months that they could open to the public. Businesses up and down the country have been preparing for this moment and precautions have been put in place with extensive guidance from the Government and Public Health England.
Many of these non-essential retail shops are integral to the fabric of our local communities, especially across Cornwall where there is a strong local community. As we emerge from the shadow of COVID-19, I and my Conservative colleagues across Cornwall launched the Think Local, Shop Local campaign to encourage people to shop locally and help local shops get back on their feet. From our local pasty shops, to fashion and hardware, our highstreets are full of opportunities and bargains.
An update on the Brexit negotiations
Whilst COVID-19 has dominated much of the political and media discourse in recent months, the Government has been actively going about its negotiations with the EU on a future free trade agreement. After years of wrangling we finally left the EU at the end of January and the Transition Period will expire at the end of December. Last week, Michael Gove led a meeting between UK and EU officials where he formally confirmed that there would be no extension to the transition period and that on January 1, 2021, the UK will take back control and regain our political & economic independence.
There have been a couple of sticking points in the discussion about a future trade agreement. Firstly, the EU are making unrealistic asks regarding the future of fishing access which is of great importance to the west country. The second sticking point is that the EU are requesting that we continue to follow their laws in some areas. Obviously neither of these requests are reasonable nor acceptable. We have left the EU so that we can control our own laws again and it is what every other independent country does. Likewise, on fisheries, we are just asking for what every other country has which is to be an independent coastal state like Norway and to control access to our waters and reach sensible annual agreements with our neighbours on the management of shared stocks.
There is now going to be an intensive approach to try to secure a breakthrough in the discussions over the next few weeks but if that does not occur then we will still have the agreement that was signed late last year and which provides a basis on which to proceed after the end of the transition period.