‘I am doing my bit by campaigning with Devon For Europe, which is getting support all over the county for a People’s Vote on a final deal (or not as the case may be). Either way, we must have another vote, especially now it has emerged that the Leave campaigns broke electoral law, plus their links with American Trump associate fascist, Steve Bannon and Arron Banks, who bankrolled the campaigns with money obtained from highly dubious sources, mean that the whole shady business needs a laser light sweeping the entire operation. If it brings Gove and Johnson down, I will be delighted. Their naked ambition, selfishness and ruthlessness has plunged this country into chaos, from which it will take many many years to recover. Sign up to a People’s Vote and Devon for Europe here – https://www.devonforeurope.org/‘
Following the chaos in Westminster over the UK’s customs relationship with the EU, and the Government’s cave-in to extreme Brexiteers who want the country to crash out – even if that means turning Kent into a giant lorry park, risking our food and medicine supplies and renewed violence in Northern Ireland – Devon County Council discussed the customs union last Thursday.
To a man and woman, the Tories opposed the Council expressing a view. While the Leader, John Hart, recognised the mess in London, he said it was not our job to try to influence Government. ‘We know we’ve got to make whatever comes down work. That’s the important bit for us’, he said. At that moment I realised that the local Tories’ complacency towards Brexit is exactly the same as their attitude to the austerity of the last 8 years. However bad it is for the Council’s services and the people of Devon, for our Conservative councillors, Brexit is another just another stage in our inexorable decline which they have to manage.
Cllr Hart reminded the Council that 6 Devon districts voted for Brexit, and only 2 against. True – but no one voted to leave the Customs Union, since it wasn’t on the ballot paper, wasn’t part of the Leave campaign, and no one knew what it was when they voted!
Photo: me at the anti-Trump demonstration in Exeter ten days ago. Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg want a Trump trade deal, but that it is likely to involve US healthcare and pharmaceutical firms taking getting their hands on our NHS.
Most Seaton & Colyton voters supported Brexit in 2016. Across East Devon, 56 per cent backed Leave, 44 per cent Remain. But people didn’t vote to make the country poorer, or to damage the NHS.
Yet that’s where we’re heading, and as County Councillor I have to speak out, even if many voters and some of my own supporters may disagree. I am not going to follow the example of Neil Parish MP, who knows that Brexit is bad for Devon and Britain but refuses to come out publicly.
There is now no doubt that – especially since Theresa May has chosen to the Single Market and Customs Union as well as the EU itself – Brexit will seriously damage the UK’s economy. Devon, with its reliance on sectors like farming, tourism and universities, and with more of its cities’ exports going to Europe than anywhere else in the UK, will be badly hit.
I was elected because people were concerned about our local NHS – I can tell you that, far from there being more money for the NHS when we leave, there will be much less, as the slowing of the economy is already cutting tax receipts which means less money all round. The NHS locally and nationally is suffering from chronic staff shortages – yet the intolerant image presented by Brexit to the outside world has already cut off the flow of European nurses which helps keep it going. The fall in the value of the pound is even seeing care workers from non-EU countries heading home. Withdrawing from the European Medicines Agency threatens our access to the newest medicines.
Therefore I will be proud to march with the thousands of people from all over the South West, young and old, in Exeter on 24th March, to give a wake-up call to people before this looming disaster for our country becomes irreversible. Set off at noon, Belmont Park, Exeter, EX1 2HG and march to Bedford Street, Princesshay, Exeter, EX1 1LR for the rally. Event finishes at approximately 3pm.
The majority of people in the Seaton and Colyton area, and Devon as a whole, voted for Brexit. But they did not vote to make themselves or the country poorer. At Devon County Council yesterday, the Cabinet gave their response to a motion I submitted supporting staying in the Single Market and Customs Union, which would be the best deal for Devon’s exporting companies, farmers, universities, tourism industry and especially our NHS.
However the Cabinet took out all references to post-Brexit options and just said they would assess the ‘opportunities and impacts’ of Brexit. I then proposed an amendment that the County Council should lobby government for the least damaging Brexit trade and migration deal. In the end, every single Conservative councillor voted against this – some, I’m pretty sure, against their beliefs – although Lib Dem, Labour and other Independents supported it. You can WATCH THE DEBATE HERE – FORWARD TO 3:38 FOR THIS RESOLUTION.
Neil Parish seems to have gone AWOL on this issue, along with all Devon’s MPs except Conservative Sarah Wollaston and Labour’s Ben Bradshaw. So all the more important that the County Council should speak up loud and clear for the post-Brexit deal which will best safeguard Devon’s economy. Unfortunately DCC’s Conservatives put party unity and loyalty to the Government before the interests of Devon.
I’m pictured here with other councillors and DEVON FOR EUROPE supporters attending the meeting. Anthea Simmons (second from the right) gave an excellent speech in the public speaking session.
Locally, the RD&E is struggling to recruit care workers for the ‘new model of care’ to replace community beds. Council officers freely admit that Brexit is making Devon’s social care recruitment crisis worse, and at the County Council meeting on 5th October I asked for figures on the number of people from other EU countries in health, social care and education in the county. The answer was that the Council can’t produce them – in a follow-up question I asked the Cabinet to remedy that, and also to reassure EU citizens that they are valued here.
Many people voted for Brexit partly to help the NHS – but are now realising that it is doing the opposite. Of course the Leave campaign said that it wanted to allow professionals like nurses and doctors still to come to Britain – it was more the unskilled workers it wanted to stop (although where that would leave our farming and tourism industries is another problem). What this argument overlooked is that doctors and nurses who move here are not just making a decision about a job – they are looking at whether the country is open and welcoming. The message that Britain didn’t want foreigners went out loud and clear to the people we need to keep our NHS going, as well as everyone else.
Leave voters rightly hoped to see more money go to our underfunded NHS. However it is now universally recognised that the Leave campaign’s idea of saving ‘£350 million a week’ was utterly misleading. Much of the money never goes to the EU (because of the rebate negotiated by Margaret Thatcher) and most of the rest comes back to support things like agriculture, scientific research and regional development in places like the South West – expenditure that the British government will need to replace. Recently it has become clear that the economy has fallen back since the referendum to the extent that the Government is already losing much more in tax revenues than it will eventually save by leaving the EU. So the NHS has no hope of gaining money from Brexit, and is hit on the staffing side too.