It is unbelievable that the government have left the people in my constituency – and those around the UK – trapped by this uncertainty about the future
It is unimaginable that we are a few weeks away from leaving the EU for good, and the government has taken the country out onto a tightrope wire.
The position the government has led us to on a cliff edge of “no deal” – is reckless and dangerous. “No deal” is not just a meaningless slogan for politicians to bandy around and try to look tough.
The reality is predicted to be disastrous for the lives and livelihoods of the people of the UK. It would mean huge and lasting damage to businesses and to the economy. It would mean higher food prices for families in my constituency, and across the country, when people are going hungry already.
This week I visited a local charity project that has set up a pantry for people, in a bid to tackle food poverty in our area; it had dozens of subscribers within the first week. The scandal of the Tories initially denying free school meals to children from struggling families, just a few weeks ago, shows how little this government seems to care about people going hungry. Im deeply worried about what food prices increasing could do to our communities.
“No deal” would mean eye-watering tariffs for British farmers and manufacturers. We are talking about the jobs of thousands of my constituents, of members of my own family, who work in the car industry and the supply chain of the car industry.
The Conservatives cannot credibly claim to have any interest in the UKs economy, its future and prosperity, if they fail to get a deal that protects these people and these families. It shouldnt need saying it should be at forefront of Boris Johnsons mind with every move he makes – but these are peoples lives he is playing with.
On the line is a familys ability to pay their mortgage, to give their kids presents at Christmas or to plan a holiday for when this awful pandemic is finally over. On the line is the security of knowing you can fix the car, or pay the monthly bills.
This week in the House of Commons, the shadow chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, Rachel Reeves, had the audacity (or so it was treated) to ask an urgent question about how they were planning for the end of the Brexit transition and the possibility of no deal’. It is absolutely right for Members of Parliament to want to ask questions about how our customs are going to work and be staffed, for example, or about what plans have been made for cross border security arrangements.
It is vital for MPs to ask if the cost of basic goods like cheese and oranges is going to rise for our constituents; or to seek assurances that life-saving medicines will be able to make it across our borders and into our bodies. In fact, this is the very job of MPs. However, the response from the paymaster general, Penny Mordaunt, was to dodge answering questions with any detail, murmur weak assurances that they have an unspecified “plan” for medicines and national security, and, in my view, kind of just shrug about new trade tariffs on our food.
Brexit briefing: How long until the end of the transition period?
Instead of details and clarity, we had a government minister who stood in front of the Commons and the public and said we should all be wishing Lord David Frost and the negotiators well – then somehow try to make out that if the UK government fails to get a trade deal that protects our jobs, our industry, the food in our fridges and the medicine in our veins, that wont be because of the abject failures of the Conservative government! No, no, no, it would seem to be because the British public and Members of Parliament, who just want to know what is going on, werent encouraging enough and didnt send enough uplifting “You Can Do Anything” memes to our negotiators.
It is unbelievable (although, frankly, I am no longer shocked at the level of incompetence of Johnson and his ministers) that the government have left the people in my constituency and the UK trapped by this uncertainty about the future. Remember them trumpeting around the country saying it would be the easiest deal in history? Remember that “oven ready” deal, guys? Well, it has been 12 months since Johnson said he had an oven ready deal. I guess he either doesnt understand how an oven works or he was lying, again. Perhaps it’s both.
Turns out that, once again, saying something and doing something are quite different. Detailed and competent leadership and governance cannot just be replaced with a slogan. The British people deserve much more that an easy slogan and patriotic bluster, they always have.
The government needs to get on and deliver on its promises. If they really loved our country – loved all of its corners, its nooks and crannies – we would not have reached this point. The government would not be leaving the car workers of Sunderland or Birmingham anxiously hanging, feeling like their livelihoods were in the balance. They would not be risking wreaking havoc with the farmers in our green and pleasant rural idylls. They would not have left businesses in Northern Ireland reportedly begging for help – expressing that they “simply will not be ready” for the mandatory border checks on the 1 January.
I love my country. How Brexit has been handled is anything but patriotic. We need a good deal that protects our workers, our rights, our livelihoods and our household budgets, and not one that feeds the ego of Tory MPs. Governing well, detailed preparation and competence – that is what patriotism looks like.That is what loving Great Britain looks like. Not, as I often think Johnson seems to believe, shouting a slogan near a Union Jack.
But hey, at least this very tense and logistically time-consuming race to the finish has come at a good time. Thank goodness there isnt a national crisis that needs focus and attention. Can you imagine a government taking our economy to the wire in the middle of a global crisis? Perish the thought.