Brexit is totally dominating everything in Parliament and the national news – not surprisingly given the big implications for jobs, businesses and public services. Yesterday the High Court decided that withdrawing from the European Union (and triggering the so-called ‘Article 50’ provision in the Treaty) had to be formally agreed by Parliament, even though the referendum in June resulted in a ‘leave’ vote.
There are some big constitutional questions in play here. The court felt that leaving the EU would affect individual rights, and as such our constitution means that the Prime Minister cannot do this alone without the consent of MPs and the House of Lords.
I welcome the view that Parliament is sovereign over Ministers of the Crown. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that ‘Brexit’ will not take place. Most Members of Parliament are likely to believe that the referendum was clear about the need for Article 50 to be triggered. However, the referendum was not clear about when Article 50 should be triggered. Nor was it clear about safeguards surrounding this, such as the level of access to the single market. On these issues, I think it is reasonable for MPs to have input. For example, I think it would have been wrong to march out of the EU the day after the referendum in June which could have crippled businesses and our economy. We need to make this transition with great care, or the consequences could be severe. So my view is that we have to respect the British people’s judgement, but make sure that this process is undertaken in the right time and in the right way. The German and French elections next year make for bad timing if we’re to get the best negotiated outcome with the EU, so I think this should be considered far more carefully.
There will be a Government statement on Monday setting out their views on all this, and if they’re appealing to the Supreme Court. The detail of what Brexit looks like and what the Government are planning is not known, so it is in all our interests that we get proper clarity about the strategy being pursued.
- In significant local NHS news, the planned formal merger between Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust has been called off. The main reason cited for this change of decision was the need for each organisation to work on its own operational challenges, which for NUH includes improving the 4-hour performance for emergency patients and addressing its financial challenges. The Trusts say they will continue to work in partnership where it adds value to patient care. I will remain in close contact with NUH to ensure that the needs of patients are kept at the forefront of any decisions relating to the partnership in the future – and I am glad that some caution is being taken here, because Nottingham’s NHS has enough on its plate deserve the full attention of our local manag
- There is a free Bonfire Night Fireworks Display event taking place at the Forest Recreation Ground on Saturday night. The festivities begin with the opening of the fairground at 5.30pm, followed by a children’s firework display at 7.15pm and the main firework display at 9.00pm. The event is likely to be busy and parking on site is limited to Blue Badge holders, so organisers are recommending that people take the tram or bus to the event. More generally, I hope that we will have a responsible fireworks season this year – I do have local residents contacting me with real concerns about the noise and upset for local pets, and I hope that everyone can be considerate of their neighbours while enjoying themselves.
- One of Nottingham’s lesser known famous former residents, Herbert Kilpin, has had a bus named in his honour by Nottingham City Transport. Herbert was born in Nottingham East on Mansfield Road in 1870, but later emigrated to Italy where he founded Milan Football Club, today known as the world-famous AC Milan. The Yellow line number 68/69 bus named in Herbert’s honour was unveiled on the centenary of his death on 22nd October outside his childhood home by the Sheriff of Nottingham. A novel based on Herbert Kilpin’s life has also been published to coincide with the centenary. The book is called ‘The Lord of Milan’ and has been written by local author Robert Nieri.
- An art installation has been placed on a wall in Station Street to celebrate Nottingham’s status as a UNESCO City of Literature. The installation is situated on the underside of the Karlsruhe Friendship Bridge which is part of the tram route, and features a line of poetry projected onto the wall with lines of light overhead that will pulse when a tram passes over. The poetry will change every day for a year, and will include poetry from Lord Byron, D H Lawrence and current Nottinghamshire residents. You can find out more about the project on the Nottingham City of Literature website here.
PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS
- Last week I mentioned that I was pleased that Nissan had decided to produce its new Qashqai and X-Trail models at its Sunderland plant, but that the Government had to be more transparent about their intentions for future trading relationships. On Monday the Secretary of State for the new Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) department, Greg Clark, made a statement confirming that the Government had offered Nissan reassurances in order to secure its investment in Britain.
- On Monday, the Home Secretary announced in writing that the Government would not be instigating an inquiry into police actions at Orgreave in 1984. The Government was rightly pressed on this decision in an Urgent Question on Tuesday. It was disappointing that the Home Secretary did not appear in the House of Commons to respond to it herself. Five years before the deaths of 96 football fans at Hillsborough, the same police force, with many of the same police commanders, oversaw the events at Orgreave during the miner’s dispute. Those at Orgreave deserve justice and an inquiry into these events would have been entirely reasonable.
- On Thursday I held a Commons debate on Brexit and financial services, and you can see my speech here. I’m glad that there was emerging cross party consensus about the need to protect the two million jobs in this sector, two-thirds of which are outside London. For example, there are 500 firms in Nottingham, and 80,000 financial services employees in the East Midlands. In addition, 11% of tax receipts come from this industry. In my speech I made the point that unless we get a transitional agreement with the EU in this area British firms will not be able to legally export a great swathe of services beyond April 2019. This would have major consequences for our economy – risking jobs and tax receipts that pay for vital public services – but also for the EU, who would lose access to our specialisation in this area. We must secure talks on transitional arrangements before the end of January, so we don’t get beyond the triggering of Article 50 without some prospect of a seamless transfer to a new permanent settlement. We need the British Government to propose the continuity of all existing practices while we reach a longer term agreement. We cannot allow this notion to continue that the two years until April 2019 are only focusing on our divorce proceedings with the EU, with no discussions on new arrangements starting until that time. Such a ‘cliff edge’ approach could terminate whole areas of financial services trade with the EU – perhaps more to their detriment than to our own. So a transitional arrangement has to be buttoned down, and ‘in principle’ agreement on this secured before we get beyond March next year.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
I’m getting increasingly concerned at rumours that the Midland Mainline electrification plans are going to be shelved yet again by Ministers – something that would be a major blow to residents and business on the East Midlands Train line from London through to Leicester, Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield.
We need more reliable, more frequent and better journey times to improve opportunities for jobs & growth, and having shelved the £1billion upgrade several years ago, we all thought it was back ‘on’ again last year following the Budget. The news now that the Great Western line is way over budget suggests Ministers are scrabbling around to pull the plug on other projects to make up for that shortfall.
I’d be interested to know if you or those you know are affected by this train service quality. Would it make a difference to your family, to your business or to the city if we end up with the last mainline still using the old diesel trains for a generation? I think it is hard to have a ‘Midlands Engine’ without an electrified mainline, and that’s why I’m working with other local MPs across the parties to press for a positive result here.