HELLO and welcome to my weekly View from the House for Tamworth Informed.
Unless you’ve served in our Armed Forces or had the misfortune of being in a war-torn region at some point, it can sometimes be hard for us to truly imagine the daily fear of a bullet or a bomb. Perhaps your grandparents or great-grandparents told you what it was like to sit in the trenches during the Great War or get ready for battle in World War 2. Perhaps you have friends that served in the Falklands, Iraq or Afghanistan? Those Members of Parliament that come to the House from Northern Ireland know all too well what it is like. They have seen relatives, friends, neighbours killed, injured or traumatised during the Troubles. What I’m trying to get across to you is why the border in Northern Ireland has become such a big deal for the Brexit process and why there is so much focus on trying to avoid a hard border with checkpoints and guards which might rouse dormant tensions once again. The House voted this week to tell the EU that we will not accept the so-called backstop which could keep us for a while in their Customs Union, but nor will we accept the risk of a hard border on the island of Ireland. We will not submit to having Northern Ireland treated as separate from the rest of our country so they will have to agree different arrangements with us to protect the peace of the island of Ireland. Theresa May now has the mandate go back to Brussels and ensure the backstop is legally changed to guarantee neither of those two situations occurs. The Brady Amendment, as it’s become known, has been the big talking point of this week. But we have been doing other things too!
On Monday, there was an urgent question on the situation in Venezuela and the House took time to discuss it. It is terribly sad that the leadership of the Labour Party still cling on to the belief that Nicolas Maduro has in any way improved his country. The fact that many leading members including John McDonnell, Diane Abbott, and Richard Burgon, signed a letter saying as much shows just how misguided (some might say deluded) they are. The leaders of the party that once boasted Attlee and Bevin, Bevan and Crosland support a regime that has caused inflation of 1.7 million per cent and suppressed its people in violent crackdowns. If you think some of the protest marches in London are big, imagine over 2.5 million people taking to the streets of Caracas in what has been described as the ‘mother of all protests’ in 2017, and then realise that their complaints are a matter of life and death. I had friends who lived in Venezuela. It was a prosperous and pretty peaceful country. Now it is broken and bleeding. Mr Corbyn needs to wake up and see what is really going on.
In addition, we also spent some of the Monday scrutinising the Immigration and Social Security Bill which is naturally quite important in the context of Brexit. The Bill repeals EU law relating to free movement and would place EEA nationals and their families under UK immigration control after Brexit – delivering on the promise of the referendum to take back control of our borders and immigration. For some reason, Labour decided it was going to oppose the Bill. Then it decided to support it and sent all its MPs home. Then Mr Corbyn changed his mind again and decided to oppose it so recalled all his MPs whom he’d sent home. As a result, a good many just threw up their hands and said “no thanks”. A few more decided to vote against him. We live in fluid times, but it is certainly clear that the Labour Party is beginning to split.
Tuesday consisted of a series of important votes on the Withdrawal Agreement, all bar one of which the Government won. As I mentioned, the Prime Minister now has until 14th February before she must either submit the revised EU Withdrawal Agreement to another vote or a vote on the progress of those negotiations. The ball is now back in the EU’s court to be reasonable. And there are some early signs from European leaders that they are sensitive to that need.
On Wednesday, the Government took a step towards ensuring criminals get served swift justice when they’ve committed wrongdoing by passing the Crime Overseas Production Order Bill. In essence, the bill proposes a legal mechanism in which authorities can secretly approach companies based in the USA to obtain data on British citizens in criminal proceedings.
Finally, on Thursday we decided that February Recess will not be taking place this year, so we can find more time to debate Brexit with only 60 days to go until we leave. I agree with this and think it’s incredibly important we’re at Westminster to ensure Britain is prepared and ready to do whatever must be done to get Brexit right. Sadly, it has meant that I’ve had to cancel some of my plans for events in Tamworth – I’ll try to rearrange them as best I can.
So yet again it’s been a turbulent week in Westminster, but when I think about the whole reason we’re doing this, and why I voted to Leave in the first place, it gives me heart. Despite all the noise and bluster at Westminster, I’m sure the people of Tamworth voted to do the right thing back in the summer of 2016. It’s the job of Parliament to give effect to the will of the people. And despite all the noise and bluster, that is what I expect Parliament to do.
As always, have a wonderful weekend and let’s hope February brings slightly warmer weather – though from my window this morning in Westminster it looks pretty grey, and snow is on the way!’