In My View - 14th March 2019

At the time of writing we are coming up to another vote on the Withdrawal Agreement on the EU on Tuesday evening. It is not a week in which we can predict with complete confidence what will happen by Thursday when the Gazette is published but it seems remiss of me not to touch on events of the first half of the week.

Since the Prime Minister returned from Strasbourg there has been overwhelming legal opinion that the Withdrawal Agreement still does not offer certainty over our sovereign ability to leave Backstop and Customs Union arrangements. This is the view of the Government’s own Attorney General, senior qualified MPs and QCs and Parliamentary Committee legal experts whom I have consulted. We would have to demonstrate ‘bad faith’ on the part of the EU in order to suspend operation of backstop elements after an arbitration in which the ECJ would have a key role and this is very difficult indeed. Even amongst people who voted to remain I am sure that no one wanted such a Hotel California arrangement, where we can check out but never leave.

We cannot put the country in a position in which it can leave only by letting Northern Ireland go. It goes against the 2016 Referendum result and the 2017 Election Manifesto on which I stood. I will continue to work with the so-called Malthouse Group to negotiate a positive future relationship with the EU whether a deal is agreed or not.

There remain other problems with the Agreement such as our loss of control over state aid for our manufacturers. The EU have shown themselves to be difficult to negotiate with which is no doubt in part to the size and complexity of its structures. My sense is that the senior bureaucrats are also very defensive of their project which has not helped discussions.

I am looking forward to some key meetings here in Somerset over the next week including a visit to Buckler’s Mead Academy, local Police and also a catch up with South Somerset District Council. Amidst all the Brexit debate in Westminster there is also a Spring Financial Statement this week and it’s a good time to see what more I can be doing to support our services.

On Saturday morning I am excited about seeing the Chard Regeneration Scheme exhibition. It’s running at the Guildhall from 10-1pm and open to the public so do get along if you are interested in seeing the plans. The swimming pool will obviously be very popular but I am keen on the idea of a library too. I’ll be seeing what I can do to help; it may be that there is scope to apply for a Central Government grant to support the scheme.

As always, if you would like to get in touch about any of these issues; if I can help with a problem you may be having or if you would like to book an appointment at one of my regular advice surgeries across the constituency please do call 01935314321 or email