I realise why Devon’s Tory leaders are resigned to a train-crash Brexit – after 8 years of austerity, they just want to ‘make whatever comes down work’, however bad it is for everyone
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.
Our NHS is at risk from Theresa May’s chaotic, economically damaging, intolerant Brexit – why I’m marching with Devon for Europe in Exeter on 24th March
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.
I make the case for the County Council to lobby government for the least damaging Brexit trade and migration deal – the Conservatives vote it down
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.
At the 2015 election hustings in Seaton, MP Neil Parish enthusiastically supported holding the Brexit referendum.
When Cameron announced the vote, however, he was for Remain, although neither he nor the local Conservatives did much obvious campaigning.
After the vote, Parish backed Boris Johnson, the chief Leaver, for the Tory leadership.
When Michael Gove forced Johnson out, Parish plumped for another Leaver, Andrea Leadsom (the one who robotically repeated ‘We need to take control’ in the TV debates).
Does it even matter to Parish whether we’re in or out of the EU?
As Seaton Jurassic opens this weekend – it’s a great visit – the organisation that runs it, Devon Wildlife Trust, has warned that wildlife protection would be threatened by Britain leaving the EU.
In a letter to DWT members, chief executive Harry Barton – who I had the pleasure of meeting at Thursday’s opening ceremony – notes that ‘many of the improvements of the last three decades have much to do with the environmental and wildlife legislation that has come out of Europe. The Habitats, Birds and Bathing Waters Directives, to name just three, have required Britain and other countries to increase standards dramatically.’
‘European nature laws have provided a common platform’, Barton points out, ‘and they are long term and binding, making it much more difficult for individual governments to weaken or circumvent them at their own convenience. … Our relationship with Europe has many imperfections, but in my view there is no doubt that, where the environment and wildlife is concerned, it has been a real success.’
Next time you hear someone moan about EU bureaucracy, remember these (and other) sensible common standards which EU laws uphold. How are we going to maintain these standards if Britain leaves? And will Continental visitors be so keen to come to the Jurassic Coast if Britain has turned its back on Europe?