Thursday, 17 September 2020

Protecting the Integrity of the United Kingdom

Seven months ago, on 31st January the UK left the European Union. In the time since, the Government have been working hard to get a future free trade agreement that builds on what has already been agreed and delivers a future trading relationship that is in the interest of both the UK and the European Union.
The Withdrawal Agreement itself recognised that there were a few loose ends and points of detail relating to how the agreed arrangements in Northern Ireland would work in practice. To work through these a Joint Committee was established so that UK and EU officials could work through these points of detail and that work is ongoing. It looks at minor technical details such as how the agreed approach to tariff procedures would work and what sorts of checks would be required for different goods. However, in the event that there remain some unresolved issues at the end of that process, it may well be necessary for Parliament to legislative to provide the necessary legal certainty and clarity that business needs and that is one of the issues debated this week through a new Internal Market Bill. I think it is essential that Parliament has the necessary powers to act where necessary to give legal effect to the spirit of the Withdrawal Agreement and therefore fully back the measures brought forward.
Discussions on a future trade agreement are continuing but there are several important sticking points which require the EU to become more realistic if a trade agreement is to be concluded. Firstly, the EU have been making unrealistic asks regarding the future of fishing access which is of great importance to the west country. We are not requesting anything extraordinary. The UK simply wants to be like Norway and to control access to its own waters as provided for in international law and as every other independent country does. Secondly, the EU are requesting that we continue to follow their laws in some areas like the approach to subsidies and state aid. Obviously neither of the positions currently held by the EU are acceptable given that we are leaving the EU and re-establishing our independence.
The reason we need the Bill is that the EU have begun to say that unless we agree to their terms, they may attempt to use an extreme interpretation of the Northern Ireland protocol to impose a full-scale trade border down the Irish sea. Moreover, EU negotiators have said that they might not only impose tariffs on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, but that they might actually stop the transport of food products from GB to NI essentially blockading one part of the UK to cut it off and destroy the economic and territorial integrity of the UK. It is possible that if and when the moment comes, the EU would think better of such a course but a responsible government must ensure it has the necessary powers to protect the integrity of the UK and to stand behind the Belfast agreement that we are a party to. Only the UK has the ability to legislate to protect peace and stability in Northern Ireland and that is why this Bill is important.
We have left the EU, and although the EU may not have reconciled itself with that, they should be aware that the UK is serious about its new found sovereignty. As the world’s fifth largest economy with world leading expertise in science, finance and industry, we have an incredibly strong hand of cards to play as we go out into the world as a sovereign, independent nation.

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Helping others during difficult times

Throughout the last few months, on every front, we have all had to try to work out how to return to something closer to normal life while recognising that we have to live alongside the virus for some time to come. Measures we have put in place have evolved from a full lockdown to steps that reduce the transmission of the disease through observing social distancing, wearing face masks and having localised restrictions where there are flare ups.
In the search for normality, many of us have taken up the opportunity to support local businesses which are so vital to our local economy here in Cornwall. Part of this has seen people partake in the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out Scheme which throughout August, saw more than 100 million meals eaten, helping to protect the livelihoods of 1.8million people in the hospitality industry. On a local level we saw more than 128,000 meals claimed with 119 restaurants and hospitality businesses signed up to the scheme across the constituency.
The scheme has been a fantastic success and nationally has been credited with protecting 1.8million jobs across the country with restaurant bookings significantly up on the previous year. The Government recognises that the hospitality industry may continue to experience further difficulties in the months ahead and will continue to provide support with a temporary discount to VAT, from 20 per cent to 5 per cent, until 12 January 2021.
Across the South West, this message of the Government working to support businesses and the self-employed, has been clear for many to see with over £2billion in government grants being provided. The data confirms that Cornwall has received £246million in grants for businesses and highlights the unprecedented package of support to protect lives and livelihoods as we continue to work hard to protect, support and create jobs to ensure we come back stronger.
I know that in the weeks and months ahead, many will be apprehensive as schools return and many return to offices. It is also the case that the infection rate is starting to rise again and this is causing concern and means we now need to strengthen some of the rules around meetings in groups. A particular concern is younger people aged 18-24 who have been gathering in larger groups again and this is where the infection rate is starting to increase.
The new measures introduced this week are a reminder that we are far from being out of the woods. There is lots that we can do as individuals to protect ourselves, from regularly washing our hands, to wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces and businesses are doing all that they can to help mitigate the spread of the virus.
My office remains open if you have a problem that you need help solving. I can be contacted at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk, by telephone on 0207 219 7032.

Thursday, 3 September 2020

Parliament returns

Earlier this week, Parliament returned from the summer recess, with a number of important issues and debates to be had. For many, Monday also marked the point in which schools and offices began to return in a safe way. Understandably people will continue to have concerns about COVID-19, but I know that the government is working with businesses, schools and local communities to help further reduce the spread of the virus and keep people safe.
One of the questions that is often asked to MPs when they return from the summer recess, is what their priorities are for the term ahead. Locally there are a number of important projects that I have been working on for some time and which are moving forward. In Hayle some years after the first phase of the harbour regeneration, and the marine business park, we are now seeing the new housing development that was always planned along North Quay. In Camborne and Redruth, we have also seen discussions continue about how best to utilise the funds that have been provided to them to aid in their economic regeneration. There is an opportunity to do something different with the bus station area in Camborne which could change the town centre and a number of candidate projects to help restore historic buildings in Redruth.
In parliament and in my role as Environment Secretary, there are also a number of priorities that we are working on. On Tuesday, the Fisheries Bill returned to the House of Commons for its Second Reading. As we leave the EU we have a great opportunity to chart a new course for our fishing industry. The current quota sharing arrangement within the EU is profoundly unfair to the UK fleet. Here in Cornwall French Fishermen receive about five times as much haddock quota as local Cornish Fishermen’s which can’t be right. The Common Fisheries Policy also guaranteed access to EU vessels in UK waters. The Bill gives us the powers to control access to our waters in future with all foreign vessels requiring a licence stating where they can fish and what they can catch and it gives new powers to improve the marine environment and a requirement for objectives and plans to deliver sustainable fishing in line with the science.
In the months ahead, I know that families and people across the constituency will have concerns about what may happen with their jobs, or whether there will be a second COVID spike in cases. My office remains open if you have a problem that you need help solving or advice on difficult matters. I and my team can be contacted at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or by telephone on 0207 219 7032.