NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Friday 8th December 2017
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Theresa May’s late-night Brussels deal may at first glance appear to give her some temporary relief ahead of next week’s European Summit. The European Commission were insisting that the main ‘separation’ issues should be settled before moving on to discuss the future relationship. So the British Government have agreed to pay something around £40billion, plus have said that citizens’ rights will be respected, and have found a form of words on the Irish border to avoid upsetting too many people.
But if ever there was a case of ‘the devil is in the detail’ then this is it. It is obvious now to almost everyone, including the Prime Minister, that continuing with the Single Market & Customs Union is the only viable option – although Theresa May has to pretend that isn’t really the case. By promising EU ‘alignment’ with the proviso ‘should this not be possible the UK will propose
specific solutions’, the PM is merely postponing the moment when she breaks this news to the hard Brexiteers. The trouble is, drafting an obscurely worded communique like this, denying a Cabinet discussion, avoiding Impact Assessments and side-stepping a figure for the divorce bill – these are all characteristics of a Prime Minister desperately trying to avoid upsetting the ideologues on her backbenches.
Unfortunately she won’t be able to hide the dangerous cliff edge that still looms ahead for much longer. If no trade deal is compiled before exit day, massive problems remain. We still risk leaping out of the EU into the unknown, because Phase 2 isn’t trade talks – it is talks about talks. Merely gaining the EU’s permission to work towards a ‘framework’ for a future relationship is not the same thing as a detailed trade deal. In my view, Parliament must therefore be very wary of exiting before seeing a detailed draft trade agreement.
You wouldn’t agree to move house without knowing where you’re moving to, or how much it would cost, or exchanging a detailed legal contract. So too we shouldn’t ditch our existing trading deal until we know we’ve got something sensible to replacing it with.
- Parents of stillborn babies and those experiencing neonatal baby loss should have the right to expect somewhere private and appropriate to come to terms with the loss and prepare for life once they leave hospital. So I am delighted to support the hard work of local charity ‘Forever Stars’ who have raised significant amounts of money to provide a bereavement suite at Queen’s Medical Centre – and today also open a second Serenity Suite at the City Hospital Maternity Unit. Today’s official opening by Anne Davies, presenter of BBC East Midlands Today, was also attended by the Sheriff of Nottingham and many other friends and associates of Michelle and Richard Daniels (pictured below with their new baby Monty) who established ‘Forever Stars’ in 2014 following the stillbirth of their daughter Emily. These facilities are a real achievement and will benefit other parents going through incredibly difficult and traumatic times.
- Nottingham Trent University has been awarded ‘University of the Year’ in the Times Higher Education Awards. The Judges highlighted the University’s record on outreach work as well as pointing to their leading analytics improving retention. It comes just two months after Nottingham Trent celebrated being named the Times and Sunday Times Modern University of the Year, acknowledging success in both the National Students’ Survey and recent league tables. I believe it is important, especially in what has been a difficult year for Universities, to celebrate such local excellence.
- There has been a halt to the rollout of Universal Credit across Nottingham until October 2018. This means that from New Year’s Day, there will be no new Nottingham claimants placed on Universal Credit for another 10 months, with people directed to continue to claim the relevant existing benefit such as Jobseekers Allowance.
- The pressures on HM Prison Nottingham from drugs and smuggling need real action and reform, which is why I spoke in yesterday’s Commons debate on the Prison Service. The availability of the drug ‘mamba’ inside the prison and the reoffending of prisoners released on licence returning with smuggled contraband should be solvable – and I urged the Minister to address this (see my remarks at the link here) .
NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS
- Social care didn’t even merit a mention in the Chancellor’s Budget – a dreadful illustration of how this massively important issue has been neglected for so long. So I pressed the Minister this week in the Commons to address this issue more seriously (at the link here), responding to the damning CQC Report that said the number of beds in nursing homes is decreasing with contracts being handed back to local authorities because the finances are no longer stacking up. Without decent social care provision, hospitals waiting times get longer as elderly people have fewer options but to remain as in-patients. I believe a long term solution requires all parties to work together in a Social Care Convention and agree to take difficult decisions.
- We still aren’t being told the precise amount of the ‘divorce bill’ settlement that the Prime Minister has agreed to pay the European Union – which is why I tabled an amendment on Wednesday calling for a specific and free-standing vote on this multiple £billions to be approved by the House of Commons. Nobody was told about these sums before the Brexit referendum, which could amount up towards £1000 for every man woman and child in the country. For all this money, we are only moving to ‘phase 2’ talks about the possible ‘framework’ of a future relationship, rather than an actual trade deal, which is bound to be inferior to the tariff-free frictionless trade arrangements we currently have. Unfortunately my amendment didn’t win a majority of support from MPs but I still believe that if ‘taking back control’ was the aim of the referendum then bypassing Parliamentary accountability in this way is the total opposite of this. You can watch the full debate at the link here.
- Donald Trump has decided to move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, uniting almost everyone against him for being the only country to think that this will in some way benefit the peace process. It has unsurprisingly caused outrage from even allies in the region because although Israel has always asserted the city as its capital, until now no other country has agreed with this. Palestinian anger at this is now palpable and there is a real risk that endorsing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in this way will play into the hands of what King Abdullah of Jordan calls extremists looking for a reason to respond with violence. The real damage is to any remaining claim that somehow the Trump administration is a fair ‘broker’ of a peace deal between the two sides. This biased approach will harm progress towards a two-state solution where the rights of Israelis and Palestinians can be respected equally.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
A consultation has started over the possible redevelopment of Sherwood Library on the corner of Spondon Street and Mansfield Road. While there are no specific plans currently on the table a newly redeveloped library complex could involve shops, homes and offices, as well as a new library with a police contact point and public toilets.
I’d be interested to know your views on this so that I can make views known to the City Council. Do you use the existing library building? What sort of services should a modern library offer? Depending on the outcome of the consultation, tenders from developers are apparently to be sought in January. If bidders come forward, the plans would have to get planning permission before going ahead. I’m told that local residents can send their thoughts to the City Council to email@example.com
But do let me know if you have any views on how this redevelopment should proceed.
Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East