It is hard to look back over 2018 without the sense that it has been dominated by Brexit. This is not surprising given how many areas it affects and what a significant moment it is in our country’s history. Across the country is continues to divide opinion and in Westminster it has changed the way party politics works in addition to causing some headaches for clerks trying to keep on top of some archaic procedures. For those heartily sick of hearing about it, we will get past this stage.
Here is the good news; as the publicity continues to focus on the Prime Minister and her beleaguered deal, really constructive steps have been made to ensure that whatever stage of discussions we are at with the EU when we leave in March we will avoid the sort of doomsday scenario that some of the scaremongering suggests. We have confirmation that we will be registered with the EU as a 3rd country importer dispelling the concern that we will simply not be ‘on the system’ to trade. Capacity at Calais is being increased to prevent backlogs in processing. Vehicle certifications will continue to apply and the agreement on aviation is nearing completion. Matt Hancock is making good strides with NHS preparedness. Agreement has been reached on agricultural produce regulations and whilst we need to work on getting to a tariff-free position the other technical barriers have been removed. We still want a comprehensive deal with the EU but to get that right we need to show we can get on without it.
The last few weeks have seen some positive funding news for Somerset which is great news. In addition to new funding for adult social care and Special Educational Needs, and being announced as being part of the business rates retention pilot, the County Council is receiving an above inflation increase of 3.7% and I will continue to work with our other MPs to help put the finances on an even keel. Avon & Somerset Police are to get around £6million more in central and pension grants as well as the ability to raise much more through the local precept. Also payrises have been scheduled for many of our public services including NHS staff and teachers. As the Government works through the process of Brexit it is really important that the cost of living is high up the agenda, and it is encouraging that wages are now rising a little faster than inflation.
One of my last meetings of the season in Westminster was with Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson. As part of the current defence review his Department has announced up to £530million more funding and focus on innovation and next generation capabilities. Mr Williamson never tires of me talking to him about our helicopters (making more of Army Wildcat was today’s ask!) and I’ll be doing plenty more of that in 2019.
Finally my thanks go to everyone who has supported me in my work in 2018 whether it’s welcoming me to their school, hospital, business or place of work to getting in touch to discuss local issues it is all hugely appreciated. My office is open between Christmas and New Year so you can get in touch by emailing email@example.com or calling 01935314321 in the usual way.