While Kent County Council publishes alarming report on Brexit threat, the complacent Tory majority on Devon County Council blocks discussion of my urgent motion on the crisis
Kent County Council, which has a huge Tory majority, yesterday published an alarming report on the consequences of a no-deal Brexit for its county. At Devon County Council however, the Conservatives ganged up to prevent my urgent motion (below) being discussed. Despite impassioned and reasoned speeches from Devon for Europe supporters in the public session, Tory councillors voted to block a debate, meaning that the motion will not come back to the Council until February – by which time it will be too late. They also voted not to record votes on the procedural motion, so that no one would know for certain that they had voted to prevent debate. I had support from Labour, Lib Dem, Independent and Green councillors. Devon, of course, has no serious plans for no-deal, and at the last Council, showed that it didn’t even understand how it might arise.
At yesterday’s County Council, Cllr Rufus Gilbert, Cabinet member for Economy and Skills, reported on the Council’s efforts to support Flybe’s operations at Exeter Airport after the company was forced to put itself up for sale (Virgin has shown interest but nothing has yet been agreed). I think that DCC and other local councils have done what they should in the crisis, including an offer to explore additional projects for the company’s Training Academy.
However the fact remains that the last two-and-a-half years of Brexit uncertainty and the plummeting pound it has caused have helped undermine the airline. As Sky’s City editor reported, ‘Sources said a combination of Brexit-related uncertainty, the weaker pound and soaring fuel costs had led Flybe’s directors to conclude that a takeover was likely to be required to preserve its future.’
I asked Cllr Gilbert if he agreed that it was shocking that the Government’s policies had led to this threat to Devon’s air services and our regional airport. But he was having none of it. “Brexit had nothing to do with it’, was all he could say.
@HugoSwire lends himself to a meaningless and doomed manoeuvre to try to save the day for Theresa May
From Politico this morning: ‘Last night three Tory MPs (Hugo Swire, Richard Graham and Bob Neill) laid down an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Act giving parliament a greater role in decision-making around the Northern Irish backstop. The amendment looks suspiciously like it could have had a government hand in it. Nikki da Costa, a former director of legislative affairs at No. 10, agrees.‘
However this is not a real choice. Parliament can only choose whether to extend the transition period after 2020 (in which case the backstop will not be needed, as UK will still be in the EU to all intents and purposes) or to move on to a new agreement including the backstop (as the withdrawal agreement suggests). Swire is lending himself to a thin manoeuvre to try to sway a few more Tories to May’s side, and the signs are it won’t take many people in.
Parliament is taking back control, but without Neil Parish and Hugo Swire (they backed Theresa May’s crumbling administration as it went down to defeat)
Our MP Neil Parish, together with Hugo Swire, supported Theresa May’s crumbling administration in trying to defeat the crucial amendment which will allow Parliament control of the Brexit situation after May’s deal is (as seems almost certain) voted down. This amendment makes a ‘No Deal’ disaster less likely, but both MPs opposed it all the same. They also opposed the motion to indict the Government for its contempt of Parliament over its failure to disclose its legal advice. Parliament is ‘taking back control’, but without Parish and Swire.
Flybe crisis and Plymouth factory closure show the harm that Brexit is causing to Devon’s economy – I will be asking the County Council to support a People’s Vote to choose between Theresa May’s miserable deal and remaining in the EU
Just in the last week, Brexit has brought two big threats to Devon’s economy and jobs: Flybe faces insolvency and has had to put itself up for sale, and the German company Schaeffler, which makes parts for the car industry, has announced the closure of its Plymouth factory which employs 350 people.
It’s time to call a halt to this accelerating self-harm, which also threatens our farming, health, university and small business sectors – and has already seen living standards decline. I shall be asking the County Council on 6th December to support a new referendum in which voters can choose between accepting the miserable deal the Government has negotiated or remaining in the European Union.
@neil_parish completes his transformation from Remainer to Brexiteer, attacking the Northern Ireland backstop and calling for UK to default on its legal obligations
Yesterday in Parliament, Neil Parish MP said: There is much in the withdrawal agreement that I agree with, especially on food and farming, but it is not good enough as it stands. The Northern Ireland backstop threatens the integrity of the United Kingdom and weakens our negotiating position, and my farming instincts tell me that we should not hand over £39 billion before we get the deal. Please will the Prime Minister listen to these concerns and renegotiate the deal before we put it before the House?
On 23 June 2016 Neil voted Remain. Two days later he backed Boris Johnson for PM, then Andrea Leadsom. Yesterday’s comments complete his transformation to a Gove-style Brexiteer, demanding a renegotiation which will make things even worse than May’s extremely poor deal.
His statement that the ‘Northern Ireland backstop threatens the integrity of the UK’ is totally misleading. The ‘hard border’, which would come into existence without the backstop, would risk the return of violence to Ireland, and the threat of a hard border has increased support in Northern Ireland for unity with the Irish republic – this is what threatens the unity of the United Kingdom. But who in the so-called Conservative and Unionist Party really cares about Ireland, North or South?
His remarks on the £39 billion payment are just plain stupid – as Theresa May replied, ‘this is about the United Kingdom’s legal obligations. I hope that every Member of this House will recognise that the United Kingdom is a country that meets its legal obligations.’
These elements of the Withdrawal Agreement are necessary if Brexit is to happen, unless Neil wants a car-crash, chaotic Brexit. But they remind us of the huge problems which even an agreed Brexit will bring. Neil was right first time – the UK should stop the gigantic self-harm of Brexit, and give the voters a chance to decide to stay in the EU.
The biggest poll ever undertaken of attitudes to Brexit estimates that, whereas the majority of voters in 6 out of 8 Devon districts backed Leave in 2016, now the situation is reversed – only 2 out of 8 still have majorities for Brexit.
East Devon still shows a narrow Leave majority, but 4 districts have seen Leave majorities overturned.
|LEAVE % 2016||LEAVE % 2018||CHANGE|
|Mid Devon||Switched to REMAIN||53.34%||47.44%||-5.90%|
|North Devon||Switched to REMAIN||57.04%||49.04%||-8.00%|
|Teignbridge||Switched to REMAIN||53.90%||48.61%||-5.29%|
|West Devon||Switched to REMAIN||53.20%||48.52%||-4.68%|