Robert Halfon: Now is the time for Common Market 2.0, and an EFTA-type plan for Brexit

Plus: We must be the Party for social housing as well as home ownership. And: why don’t we trumpet our history of social reform?

Common Market 2.0 deliver can Brexit before 29 March

Whilst I can understand that there are different views about the future of Europe, and that some prefer No Deal, I am mystified why some regard Common Market 2.0 as a retreat from Brexit. This is far from the case.

 For years, many Eurosceptics would have been very happy to see Britain in an EFTA-style relationship with Europe rather than be a member of the EU. Such an arrangement, advocated by Brexiteers in the past, would gets Britain out of the CAP and CFP.

Common Market 2.0 also means an end to Britain being subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court, and brings us out of political union. All these things were what many Leavers felt was most objectionable about membership of the EU.

The plan also safeguards jobs and ensures stability for business and our economy through membership of the Single Market. But members have far more powers to derogate from it (Norway obtained derogations from 55 proposed Single Market laws and Iceland from 349 legal acts).

It would also mean that we continue to be a part of an alliance of democracies – it would strengthen EFTA – which is important for geo-politics and would help to build up a useful counterweight to the EU.

On freedom of movement, under Common Market 2.0, there are significant safeguarding measures that place us in a far stronger position of power to stop freedom of movement in the event of “serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties of a sectoral or regional nature liable to persist”.

Financial contributions to Common Market 2.0 would also be significantly lower than under our payments to EU budgets – well south of £5 billion per annum. We would simply pay for what we participate in – membership, joint programmes, schemes and agencies and, on a “goodwill” basis, the EEA Voluntary Grants scheme.

All this means that we could take back control of our finances and can afford to invest in what matters most domestically – the NHS, policing, schools and community. 

Significantly, unlike the other proposals, Common Market 2.0 would enable us to deliver on Brexit by the end of March. We would scrap the Political Declaration, instead outlining Common Market 2.0 as the basis for the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

The transition period would give us the time we need to finalise and implement the agreement with the EU and EFTA states. This would means that the UK would leave the EU on the 29th March – with no extension of Article 50 necessary.

Common Market 2.0 is an agreement that delivers on the vote of the people, takes back control of our key institutions, ensures a good, free trading agreement with the rest of Europe. All this can be achieved without the need for the Northern Ireland backstop to be activated or weakening the Union.

Bleak House

We have a housing crisis in this country. Whilst I am passionately in favour of the Right to Buy and Help to Buy schemes, there is so much more we must do to help families on low incomes.

It’s worth remembering that one in four families have less than £95 in savings, and that the idea of affording a deposit is just for the birds. 682,000 households live in overcrowded accommodation and 1.2 million households are currently on the waiting list for social housing.

Millions more are struggling with extortionately priced private-rented accommodation, with one in five private renters cutting back on food to pay the rent. Many of these families simply cannot afford rent on their wages, costing the taxpayer £23 billion to cover the 27 per cent of private renters receiving housing benefits.

If we want to both ensure a good quality of life for millions of our fellow countrymen and women ,and save the taxpayer billions on the housing benefit bill, we need as much radical action on social and affordable housing as we do for those who want to buy their first home.

This is why the reforms set out by Jim O’Neill in Shelter’s new social housing commission is something that Secretaries of State, such as James Brokenshire, should be listening to. They propose 3.1 million more social homes, costing £10.7 billion a year, but which in reality, would be reduced to £3.8 billion with savings in benefits, and returns to the Government arising from the knock-on economic benefits across the economy.

The housing situation in our country is bleak. We must be the Party of home ownership but we must also be the Party for affordable and social housing. Whether these proposals are adopted or not, the Government has got to come up with a solution that solves our social housing crisis in our country.

The Party of social good

There is an umbilical cord between the British people and the NHS. It was extraordinary and wonderful to see two days of wall-to-wall coverage showing Government financial support for our NHS and its Long-Term Plan. It is an important tribute to Matt Hancock and Jeremy Hunt.

Even better, Hancock reminded the House in his statement that it was a Conservative, the Sir Henry Willink, who first put forward proposals for a NHS and, whilst built by a Labour Government, it is clearly the Conservatives who pioneered the idea of health care free at the point of access.

Matt’s mention of a Conservative creating major social justice reform is something that all Conservatives should be doing all the time. Why on earth do Conservatives not do more in Parliament, speeches, articles and conversations, to remind the public that, so often, in the history of our country, it has been  Conservatives at the forefront of groundbreaking social reform in our country? Whether that was  Wilberforce and slavery, Disraeli and the condition of working people, Macmillan and affordable housing, Thatcher and the Right to Buy, Osborne and the National Living Wage.

Labour mention their historic record on social justice time and time again. It’s time we did so.

Peter Bone: I helped move Cameron’s Government to deliver the referendum. And this deal doesn’t deliver on the result.

It is certainly not the Brexit that people voted for. As Bill Clinton might have said about the main issue: It’s the Sovereignty, Stupid!

Peter Bone is a member of the Select Committee on Exiting the European Union, and is MP for Wellingborough.

All my political life, I have been campaigning to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union superstate. Quite simply, I believe that the United Kingdom should be a sovereign nation making its own decisions.

In 2011, I was behind the motion that we should have a referendum on whether Britain should remain in the European Union. This was opposed by David Cameron’s government and, winding up that debate, I suggested that MPs should put the country first and their Party second. The vote resulted in 81 Conservative MPs defying a strict three-line whip to support a referendum.

In 2015, with my colleagues and Parliamentary neighbours Philip Hollobone and Tom Pursglove, I held a ballot in North Northamptonshire to find out whether local people wanted to leave the EU. This was the biggest vote on the European issue since 1975, with 100,000 ballot papers distributed across Wellingborough, Kettering, Corby and East Northamptonshire. The result was that 81.1 per cent voted to leave.

In December of that year, along with Tom, I co-founded a non-party political Leave campaign – Grassroots Out. I travelled to every corner of the United Kingdom, speaking to people from all areas, ages and backgrounds. I held grassroots events in village halls and at street stalls. I addressed major rallies of thousands of people at venues in every part of our United Kingdom. I knocked on thousands of doors talking to people who were energised by this great democratic event.

On the 23rd of June 2016, the people of the United Kingdom voted by a substantial majority to leave the European Union.

Unfortunately, more than two years on from that great debate, the Prime Minister’s proposal does not deliver the Brexit that 17.4 million people voted for. Let us look at what people told me mattered to them.

First, they wanted an end to the free movement of people from the European Union. They thought it unfair that people from the EU could come to this country and enjoy the benefits of our public services when they had no connection with the United Kingdom, yet at the same time skilled workers, such as doctors, from outside the EU, couldn’t get in. They wanted to see a fair immigration policy based on merit not where you come from.

Theresa May claims that her deal ends free movement, but this is palpable nonsense. The Commons was promised an Immigration Bill more than a year ago. However, it was only last month that we got a White Paper on what might be in the Bill. If the government was planning to end free movement when we left the EU, we would have had such a Bill by now.

The non-binding political declaration, which is just a wish-list, talks about ending free movement, but of course we have no detail of our future trading relationship, and it is highly likely that the Government will trade off ending free movement for a trade deal. The one thing that is certain is the Prime Minister’s plan does not guarantee the ending of free movement.

Second, they wanted an end to billions and billions of pounds paid each and every year to the European Union by UK taxpayers. Last year, we gave the European Union a net £9 billion contribution.

Since we have been a part of the European project we have given a net subscription fee of over £210 billion. If that money had stayed in this country, we could have improved our public services, cut taxes and lowered national debt. This cost might not have been so bad if we had had a trading surplus with the European Union, but of course this is not the case: they sell £100 billion of goods more to us then we do them each year.

Under May’s plan we would pay a minimum amount of £39 billion to the EU for the transition. That equates to £60 million for each constituency in the country, just think what a difference that could make! However, the £39 billion is only the start. Her plans allow for a further extension of two years for the transition period which would cost a further £20 billion.

In addition, we don’t know how much we have to contribute each year in any future trading relationship. So, it is reasonable to expect that the Prime Minister’s plan will cost in excess of £60 billion. That is hardly stopping paying billions and billions of pounds each and every year to the European Union.

Third, they wanted us to make our own laws in our own country. Clearly, our citizens want to return control to Parliament. They want to elect their politicians to make laws which are in the interest of the people of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. They also want the power to be able to throw out those politicians through the ballot box. Simply, they want sovereignty returned to our country. They are fed up with laws and regulations made by European bureaucrats who are not subject to scrutiny or to election by the people.

May’s plan would sign up to accepting laws made by the EU, with no say in making them. The worst part of this being that we have no unilateral right to end this arrangement, and we could become a permanent rule-taker, not rule-maker.

Fourth, they wanted us to be judged by our own judges, not by a foreign court, as our judicial system is the envy of the world. Our judges are of the highest integrity and calibre, and they make their decisions based on the law of the land and never for political reasons. Yet at the moment our Supreme Court is subservient to the European Court of Justice whose judges are appointed for political reasons. They have a long record of producing dubious decisions which seem to be based more on politics than the law. What the British people want is a set of properly qualified judges, solely interpreting the law of our land and making their decisions purely based on the evidence they have put before them. That is what we have with our judicial system and that is not what we have with the ECJ.

Unfortunately, the Prime Minister’s plans would have us in a transition period for up to four years, during that period we will be subject to the rulings of the European Court of Justice. What is worse, is that we will not have any say in how the laws are drawn up, and we will have no presence in the ECJ. Even after the implementation period, if the Northern Ireland backstop kicks in, we will still be subject to European rulings on vast swathes of the law and regulation that affect us. So clearly the May’s proposals do not allow for our own judges to judge our own laws.

The Prime Minister’s proposal might be the worst deal ever for this country. It is certainly not the Brexit that people voted for. As Bill Clinton might have said about Brexit: It’s the Sovereignty, Stupid!

“No-one voted for Brexit to become poorer.” Really? We vote to deny ourselves money all the time.

Security, cohesion, integration, solidarity: all are intangible. But we pay – literally – to gain them. Why single out self-government?

Philip Hammond may have coined the phrase – an appropriate use of the term, in this case.  “No-one voted to become poorer or less secure,” he told the Conservative Party Conference in 2016, less than six months after the Brexit referendum vote.  As others have taken those words up, the last three have tended to drop off it.  But was he right?

Obviously, even as senior a Minister as the Chancellor cannot have read the minds of all 17 million plus of those who backed Leave – the largest number of people who have ever voted for anything in a British poll.  But let us leave the point there, and turn to his own department’s forecasts.  The Treasury’s median long-term estimate is that a WTO-based outcome would reduce cumulative growth over 15 years from about 25 per cent to about 17 per cent.  In other words, GDP would, under this scenario, be eight per cent lower than it would otherwise be.  It would rise more slowly, not fall.

So even the Treasury, the high temple of Remain, doesn’t expect us to become poorer – but rather, less rich than we would otherwise be.  You may counter that this lost growth would mean lost wages and tax receipts, lower spending and higher tax.  Or that some short-term forecasts do suggest that we will become poorer this year in the event of No Deal.  (The CBI is pushing a very-worst-case scenario today.)

We could come back by pouring cold water on all such forecasts, starting with George Osborne’s referendum campaign projections of an “immediate” recession, half a million more people unemployed, and house prices 18 per cent lower than they would otherwise have been.  Instead, the economy grew, unemployment fell and house prices rose.  But rather than vanish into a statistical snowstorm, we ask our readers to view Hammond’s statement from a different angle – two angles, to be precise.

The first is from the Left.  Trident costs the taxpayer roughly £2 billion a year.  That money could instead be spent on tax cuts or public services.  Very many on the Left (and some on the Right) argue that it should be.  They say that we don’t use Trident, wouldn’t ever use it, shouldn’t ever use it.  The cash should go instead on schools or hospitals or benefits or childcare.

Next, mull an argument from the Right.  Overseas aid comes at a price of about £14 billion annually.  Again, that money could be spent on public services or tax cuts – or, the Right being the Right, on debt repayment.  A lot of people on it – and a sprinkling on the Left – hold that development aid is wasted or stolen and perverts incentives and is subject to the law of unintended consequences.

Now stand back from the fray, and ponder a stubborn fact.  Voters consistently back Trident and aid.  No, that’s not quite right.  Rather, put it this way: voters consistently return governments committed to both.  Then turn to another subject to illustrate the same point.

Pro-migration campaigners argue that it makes us richer – both overall and per head.  Others dispute that claim.  Let’s assume for the sake of the argument that those campaigners are right.  Even if every single voter could be persuaded of this, there is reason to doubt that all of them would come round to wanting higher rather than lower migration.  Very many would believe that there would still be costs in some places to higher immigration – in terms, for example, of pressure on housing.  And then there is the i-word: integration.

At which point, it is worth standing back from Hammond’s statement, and asking not whether he was right or wrong, but what he actually meant – or implied.  Who is the “no-one” in question?  Who are those to whom he glancingly refers?  Obviously, the British people.  But that’s a term which invites further thought.

In one sense, the British people is a single entity; in another, it is lots of groups of people, breaking down in turn into families and individuals.  Many of them help to pay for others.  Older people tend not to use schools, but they help to fund them.  Younger people use the NHS less than older ones, but they help to pay for it.  Londoners, some say, subsidise the rest of the UK.  And so on and so forth.

Readers will see where all this is going.  At each election, we vote to “make ourselves poorer”, in the sense of becoming less rich than we otherwise would be.  We plump for Trident because we worry about our security (to reprise the Chancellor’s word); or for lower migration because we think it will mean more cohesion, or for overseas aid because of solidarity with those who suffer. We vote to fund public services we don’t use and parts of the country we don’t live in.  Security, cohesion, solidarity: these are intangibles.  They can’t be touched or smelled or tasted – seen or heard.  They may lead to material gains, but they are not material themselves.  None comes with a price tag, but all have value.

Let’s end by illustrating the point.  John Hume was fond of quoting his anti-sectarian father, who used to say: “you can’t eat a flag”.  True – and anyone who has tried to do so has presumably been disappointed.  But the reverse also applies.  No-one, we suspect, has ever sung: “I vow to thee, my breakfast.”  Those intangibles – such as self-government, to cite another – matter.  From one point of view, the desire for the last is a form of solidarity or even for, to use a more EU-ish word, subsidiarity.

You can properly reply that self-government and patriotism aren’t the same thing, or even that they don’t overlap at all.  So be it.  What you can’t do, this site believes, is claim that Brexit alone, uniquely, exceptionally, will make us less rich than we otherwise would be (if it does so at all).  By commission, by omission, in the ballot booth and out of it, we opt to do this all the time – almost without noticing.

Lee Rowley: Brexit is big. But our politics is bigger – and I say that as a committed Leaver. Here are some ideas to boost it.

Remainers and Brexiteers alike must recognise the politicians are stuck in an ever-decreasing circle of fervour, hyperbole and hysteria.

Lee Rowley is MP for North East Derbyshire, and Co-Chair of FREER.

Brexit, Brexit, Brexit.  Has there ever been a time when one subject so overwhelmed the political debate in our country?  Where one political Death Star loomed over every facet of public policy to the point where, at least for the political class, nothing else appears to matter?

The last few months have felt as though we’ve entered some shadow realm where our relationship with Europe has obliterated UK politics.  Brexit gnaws away at the most reasonable people, engulfs even the most tangential subjects and saps the life out of even the most joyful of conversations – and I say this as a committed Brexiteer.  Even Christmas was not immune.  MPs were told to use the festive period to reconsider the Prime Minister’s deal as if an over-indulgence of mince pies and sherry would result in a sudden epiphany that it was, somehow, acceptable after all.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I have as strong a view on Brexit as the next person (perhaps even more so than many!).  Yet Remainers and Brexiteers alike must recognise the politicians are stuck in an ever-decreasing circle of fervour, hyperbole and hysteria.  And all the while, those outside the bubble tire of the indulgence of the political class.  The people made a decision two and a half years ago.  And they are bored of politicians trying to frustrate it.

The people are completely right – and for two reasons.  First, because we’ve got to honour the referendum result.  Second, and just as importantly, they are right because we’ve got to move on.  As a Party, there is so much that we have to do and, relatively, so little time to do it.  Not just the day-to-day responsibility of government, which needs continuous attention, but also because we’ve also got properly to wrestle with the underlying bigger issues which are going to determine whether we continue in government, whether we have the right answers to future challenges and whether, crucially, we can defeat the resurrected zombie of 1980s socialism.

So as the meaningful vote debate gets underway again, here is an article that doesn’t primarily focus on the EU for a change.  And here are six big issues that need our urgent attention when we, finally, move on from Brexit.

First, we’ve got to accept that there is a massive change coming in the way we live, work and play through technology – and that needs better thought and consideration than we’ve managed to date.  Mark Wallace was absolutely right a few days ago when he talked about the need to embrace technology and the good that it can bring for society.  Yet, more importantly, that change is coming anyway – and it is an abdication of responsibility if we don’t engage properly.  A recent report suggested that in the next 20 years, seven million jobs will be lost – one in every five in the country.  If the UK gets its act together, a similar number (or even more) could be created.  But we need to think it through.  And most people in Westminster still don’t even know what machine learning is.

Second, we’ve got to stop banning things.  As Conservatives, we have a guilty pleasure for paternalism; our inner restraints occasionally loosen as we believe people need to be saved from themselves.  We know we shouldn’t, but we do.  Yet, that isn’t what our mission is about.  Freedom is what sets us apart from the socialism – and that includes the freedom to make mistakes as well as take opportunities.  If, as a party, we really believe in this principle then we have to have the hard conversations with the country about why government can’t do everything, not just bask in a warm glow of where it can.  If we don’t make a clearer case about our belief in people, then we become a pale pastiche of Labour.  And, for those who believe that people over-indulge too much on sugary treats already, why would people choose the Diet Coke version of nannying government when they can have the full fat one from Jeremy Corbyn?

Third, we’ve got to stop the money arms race with Labour on public services.  As a Conservative, I believe in strong public services which help people up, support them when they need and make our country safer and secure.  You need money to do that.  But it isn’t an end in itself.  Spending an arbitrary number on education or increasing the health budget by a similarly arbitrary figure focusing on the wrong thing.  Corbyn is the one fixated on inputs and processes.  We should care only about the transformation money can bring and the outcomes it delivers.  Stop talking in billions.  Start talking about what we want to do and what we want to achieve by when.  How to raise the number of children getting world class education.  How to improve cancer outcomes.  How to connect people in the north by rail.  Focus the debate on outcomes or we will lose.

Fourth, we are going to have to have a proper discussion about what we want government to do in the future.  Demographic change, increasing demand and increasing complexity in health and social care are all going to strain public budgets in the coming decades.  Some assessments suggest the NHS is going to need another £50 billion.  The ONS thinks that there will be another eight million people over 65 in the UK in 50 years’ time.  It’s fantastic news that we are living longer but it also requires us to seriously reform our public services to avoid us becoming a national care home with a country attached to it.  People have a right to expect their government to come up with solutions and to be able to pay for it.  We need a clearer conversation with the public and a strong reforming mission as we renew in Government in the run-up to 2022.

Fifth, we are going to have to work out how we restore democracy.  Quite simply, the way in which we approach decision-making is stuck in the 1990s.  Political manifestoes declare lofty ambitions once every five years and then politicians disappear off to squabble about them.  We are awash in national and local consultations perpetuating a thin veneer of public involvement, followed usually by politicians doing whatever they want anyway.  A hundred years ago, politics was the practice of educated people taking decisions for the uneducated.  Absolutely rightly, no longer.  Today, politics should be a continuous process of discussion, debate and interaction with everyone – where that interaction matters.  And it will need to be a more local conversation than before which, by default, means accepting that services will be delivered differently in different places.  Democracy is fragile.  And we need to renew it.

Finally, we are going to have to learn how to “deliver” in government.  Another little commented national scandal is the continuing inability, across all parties, of government to function.  Carillion showed the limits of poorly structured services – not because private enterprise doesn’t work (far from it) but because it wasn’t set up properly.  Sitting on the Public Accounts Committee every week, I hear horror stories of billions lost through poor Government administration and projects, both public and private.  And the Civil Service leadership glides effortlessly through whatever screw-ups occur, no matter what.  Real reform of government requires proper leadership, a proper understanding of change management and deliverers who are actually held to account.  We aren’t even trying at the moment.

So, yes, Brexit is big.  But other things are bigger.  Taken together, these are the issues which will transcend individual portfolios and departments; the quiet problems which will monster us if we start thinking about them too late.  So, this week, as Brexit again sucks all the oxygen out of the room, remember this: we are essentially fighting over a foreign policy pivot and a future trading relationship.  Vast and existential they certainly are.  Yet at some point the Brexit fog will lift.  And, if we haven’t started to consider the underlying bigger challenges we face, then our party will be caught wanting.  More importantly, our country will be poorer.  And that’s a much bigger problem than whether flights will take off on 30th March (spoiler alert: they will).  Time to broaden our conversation.

May must ensure that increases in NHS spending are tied to outcomes

It’s a politically sensitive subject and the Government has a lot on its plate, but the Treasury is right to be concerned with ensuring value for money.

Today’s Financial Times reports that a new row is brewing between numbers Ten and Eleven Downing Street over Theresa May’s plans for extra NHS spending.

According to the paper, the Treasury is worried that the Prime Minister is pushing ahead with a £20 billion ‘reform’ plan which doesn’t actually secure adequate commitments to deliver savings and value for money.

Others have accused May of ‘displacement activity’, or needlessly dividing the Government’s focus in the crucial weeks before Britain’s departure from the European Union. But the Treasury complaint deserves scrutiny, because it illustrates the unhappy state of the will to healthcare reform in today’s Conservative Party.

Thanks in no small part to Dominic Cummings, who made NHS spending a central focus of the Leave campaign, there is now a consensus in favour of more of it which spans the Tories from the traditionally pro-NHS left to the usually reform-minded, but currently Brexit-focused, right.

By contrast, there is nobody talking seriously about major reforms to how the Health Service operates. Even Liz Truss, busily staking her claim to the mantle of the Cabinet’s most enthusiastic free-market reformer, hasn’t unveiled a plan for the NHS.

Perhaps this ought not to surprise us. Enthusiasm for healthcare reform historically comes in cycles, with the likes of Ken Clarke, Alan Milburn, and Andrew Lansley interspersed amongst Secretaries of State who take a more managerial approach. Jeremy Hunt, despite is high-profile clash with the doctors’ union, was one of the latter.

There are several reasons good reasons why Conservatives might be cautious of any ambitious programme for the NHS. Taking a bold stance on social care, which is subject to very similar pressures, arguably cost the Party its first comfortable majority in thirty years. Likewise the ill-fated Lansley reforms are still fresh in the memory and scarcely likely to motivate people to dip their toe in that particular pool.

Another factor, in light of a looming leadership election and the prospect of an election before 2022, is that Conservative members and voters alike are older than the average citizen, and likely to be unenthusiastic about disruption to health or social care.

Despite this, however, the Treasury’s concerns still need answering. ‘Spending more money’ is not an adequate substitute for an actual policy agenda, at least on the right, and passing the buck for serious reform to the next political generation will only make that reform much more difficult – and possibly painful – when its time comes.

13 December 2018 – (not just) today’s press releases

You’d think that putting the day’s piece to bed after 11.30 p.m. should cover everything. But no, the Press Teams both in London and Cardiff had one last shot in the dying moments of yesterday, so I’m including them with today’s batch. Enjoy… Theresa May Must Give the People the Final Say – Welsh Lib […]

You’d think that putting the day’s piece to bed after 11.30 p.m. should cover everything. But no, the Press Teams both in London and Cardiff had one last shot in the dying moments of yesterday, so I’m including them with today’s batch. Enjoy…

  • Theresa May Must Give the People the Final Say – Welsh Lib Dems
  • PM must now change course and offer people the final say
  • Soaring numbers of children trapped in temporary accommodation is shameful
  • Welsh Lib Dems Welcome Prostate Cancer MRI Scans
  • Govt must set out plans to avoid NHS winter crisis
  • Lib Dems demand MPs holidays are cancelled to vote on Brexit
  • Cable: May running scared of meaningful vote
  • Local government finance hits poorer communities the hardest

Theresa May Must Give the People the Final Say – Welsh Lib Dems

Following Theresa May’s victory in the confidence vote in her leadership, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have called on the Prime Minister to give the people the final say and the opportunity to choose an Exit from Brexit.

Conservative Party rules mean that once a leader has survived a no confidence vote, they cannot face another vote for at least another 12 months.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds said:

Theresa May has survived the no confidence vote, but this is hardly a glorious moment for her and her Premiership. The fact Theresa May even had to face this vote speaks volumes about how even her own MPs feel she has mismanaged Brexit.

However, this victory also presents an opportunity for Theresa May. Now she cannot face another confidence vote for at least 12 months, Theresa May should use this opportunity to do what is in the national interest and call a People’s Vote. In doing so, she would have the support of MPs from across the House.

The Prime Minister may have survived this confidence vote, but this doesn’t change the fact there is no majority for her deal in Parliament and the EU is unwilling to renegotiate. The only solution to this Brexit crisis is to give the people the final say and the opportunity to choose an Exit from Brexit.

PM must now change course and offer people the final say

Responding to the 1922 confidence vote on Theresa May, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

Having seen the Conservative backbenches will not support her deal the Prime Minister must change course.

Her deal is doomed to defeat in the Commons, so she should show real leadership by putting this question back to the public in a People’s Vote.

The EU is clear that there is no more negotiating to do, so it’s this deal or No Brexit. That is the choice on which every voter should now have a final say – and Liberal Democrats will campaign vigorously for the UK to remain a full member of the EU.

Soaring numbers of children trapped in temporary accommodation is shameful

Liberal Democrat Housing Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse has accused the Conservative Government of a “shameful dereliction of duty” as office figures show the number of children in temporary accommodation reaches an 11-year high.

Wera Hobhouse said:

It is an absolute disgrace that hundreds of thousands of children are trapped in temporary accommodation. The Conservative Government’s failure to look after these vulnerable families is a shameful dereliction of duty.

It doesn’t need to be this way. Every child deserves the best possible start in life. Conservative Ministers cannot stand by and ignore this tragedy.

Liberal Democrats would build 100,000 new social homes every year, ensure that housing benefits are sufficient for covering rent and bring the thousands of vacant properties across the country into use.

Welsh Lib Dems Welcome Prostate Cancer MRI Scans

The Welsh Lib Dems have welcomed the decision of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to approve the use of non-invasive MRI scans to detect prostate cancer.

The scans have been piloted in three areas of Wales, but their approval paves the way for their use by health boards across Wales.

The decision follows a policy motion on Improving the Detection Rate of Prostate Cancer in Wales, passed by Welsh Lib Dem Autumn Conference this year.

Chair of Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire Liberal Democrats and prostate cancer survivor Andrew Lye said:

I have spent most of 2018 dealing with my own diagnosis of prostate cancer and got the all clear in October, but I am still on treatment. We must remember 1 in 8 men will catch prostate cancer and every year 550 men will die of it in Wales. We now see more men dying of prostate cancer than women dying of breast cancer.

It is a sad indictment that Wales currently has fewer multi-parametric (mpMRI) facilities than available to men in England. This has to be rectified urgently. We have to improve the diagnosis of prostate cancer and reduce the large numbers that die from it.

It was a pleasure for me to bring this matter to the Welsh Liberal Democrats Autumn Conference in October, at Aberystwyth. We supported this petition to the Welsh Assembly. I am proud the Welsh Liberal Democrats gave their full backing at Conference to the motion I proposed from the Carmarthenshire & Pembrokeshire Local Party. We need better facilities in West Wales as well as in North Wales.

Govt must set out plans to avoid NHS winter crisis

Responding to NHS England’s first weekly report of the winter which shows hospitals are so overcrowded care is being put at risk, former Liberal Democrat Health Minister Norman Lamb said:

It is intolerable to think that patients are being turned away at their hour of need. These reports bear all the hallmarks of yet another Conservative NHS winter crisis. People deserve better.

It’s essential that Ministers urgently set out plans for tackling the challenges facing our NHS and social care. That starts with ensuring hardworking NHS staff have sufficient resources to provide the care people need.

The Liberal Democrats would deliver a dedicated NHS and Care Tax to guarantee that the system has sustainable funding for the future.

Lib Dems demand MPs holidays are cancelled to vote on Brexit

Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake has written to the Leader of the House demanding Parliament doesn’t rise for Christmas unless MPs get a vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

The call follows the publication today of the business in the House of Commons for next week. The business confirms the Conservative Government has no intention of moving a vote on the Brexit deal before Christmas.

Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake said:

At a time of so much uncertainty caused by this Brexit mess, it is an insult to the British people that Theresa May is happy for MPs to go on holiday without voting on the biggest issue in generations. People deserve better, and the Liberal Democrats demand better.

Liberal Democrats do not believe Parliament should rise for the Christmas recess until Theresa May does what the people expect and give MPs a vote on her deal. Now more than ever MPs should be working to help their constituents, not least by giving them a final say on Brexit with the option to remain in the EU.

Cable: May running scared of meaningful vote

In Brussels today, Vince Cable met with leaders from other liberal parties across Europe, including prime ministers, where he led a briefing on Brexit.

Updating them on the changing political mood in the UK, the growing support for a people’s vote, and the Government’s failure to bring forward a meaningful vote in parliament on her deal.

Commenting on the meeting in Brussels, leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

From meeting with liberal leaders and prime ministers today it is clear Theresa May needs to change course.

Substantial changes are not going to be on the table and she is running scared of giving parliament a meaningful vote.

The only way forward is to offer the public a people’s vote with the option to remain.

Local government finance hits poorer communities the hardest

Responding to the Local Government Finance Settlement, Liberal Democrat Local Government Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:

This settlement does nothing to address the growing inequalities across our country. The highly regressive council tax system means that, as the Conservative Government continue to underfund local government, subsequent council tax rises hit poorer communities the hardest.

There must be a reform of council tax to prevent the places with the highest demand for services for vulnerable people, struggling the most to fund it.

Liberal Democrats demand better than the sticking plaster that has been presented today. The Tories are once again kicking the can down the road, instead of setting out a long term financial package that provides security for our local services.

Liberal Democrat Local Government Spokesperson for the House of Lords, Baroness Pinnock added:

The local government funding settlement that was released today is a drop in the ocean. The offer of £650 million for social care in 2019-20 falls drastically short when the funding gap is expected to reach £3.5 billion by 2025.

Social care should not be a post code lottery.

Johnny Mercer: Ministers are asking for my vote next week. But I’m asking them for a vision – now.

I, like many colleagues, react badly to the Party’s decision to try and strong-arm me into voting for this deal.

Johnny Mercer is a member of the Defence Select Committee and MP for Plymouth Moor View.

I’ve no idea what to do. I’m looking for hope – for inspiration from the generation of Cabinet ministers and seniors members of our Party who led us to this point.

I came into politics for fairly niche reasons. I fought for years in an unpopular war and, fed up of the politicians feigning interest, I decided to run for office. My city of Plymouth – I’m passionate about it. Whilst my wafer-thin experience in politics helps me to retain a degree of perspective in these tumultuous times, it has also caught me out. I regret not being clear enough in some areas: for example, I never said that I wouldn’t vote Conservative in that notorious interview in October; I simply stated that a young, busy family attempting to assert itself in a competitive and chaotic world would probably take one look at the current political offerings and simply not take the time out to go and vote, because those offerings are so poor. But of course that view can be twisted. And I should have known that.

None the less, this perspective has also led me to some pretty dark conclusions of late. I have been firm in my criticism of this administration – one of which almost everyone knows my description, and one by which I resolutely stand by (though will not repeat). There are many people in this country who want – indeed need – a competent compassionate modern Conservative Government: I must speak out for them. The fear that they may turn to a Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn – particularly in Plymouth – is the single motivation for all of my interventions. Nothing more and nothing less.

But amidst all this, I have been looking for a vision – at no moment more so than now. There are plenty of colleagues who have come into Parliament to extract Britain from the European Union. They respect my endless diatribes about how this country treats its military, and in return I entirely respect them and their views on Europe. I remain ambivalent: the EU is an issue of course, but it is not the issue of our modern times. Many more people join the Conservative Party, as I did, for reasons other than Europe. I want to leave the EU – we must leave. But for what?

And I ask that not mockingly, but with a genuine desire to hear the answer. I, like many colleagues, react badly to the Party’s decision to try and strong-arm me into voting for this deal. The idea that a group of senior people in our Party who lost a 21 point lead in a self-indulgent general election – to Jeremy Corbyn – are advising me to now listen to my constituents, having singularly failed to do that themselves ever since David Cameron left office, is genuinely amusing. The arrogance of failing to answer the question – what is “Plan B”? – as part of a suite of unthinkable threats including a general election, no Brexit, or a no deal catastrophe, actually push me away from supporting this particular deal. The clear deception of red lines crossed without acknowledgement, and the idea of the UK being a junior partner in a relationship that we cannot unilaterally leave, leaves agnostics like me are looking for an alternative.

But I can’t hear it. How are my constituents – who voted almost 70 perc ent to leave the EU – how are their lives going to be better off in April compared to March, immediately after this momentous decision? How will being outside of the European Union help our core mission as modern Conservatives – to meet the challenges of a modern Britain that is changing so fast. Why or how is food going to be cheaper for some of my poorest families? How will being outside the ECJ help my small entrepreneurial businesses in Plymouth? How will our economy thrive to provide the jobs – the single biggest accelerant of life chances in our most deprived communities like mine. How will Brexit provide the engine that drives a health service so desperately in need of reform in places like Plymouth?

I could go on, but I won’t. At some point, someone, somewhere in a position of influence in this Party will wake up and realise that the politics of fear will only take us so far. It is easy to scare people into voting for you. It is harder to sell a vision, to advocate, to persuade – to lead people to a brighter future. But that is the key question this week. Can a case be made for a bright alternative, or are we going to accept this deal as ‘the best we can do’, ‘could always be worse’, answer that won’t encourage a single swing voter to vote for us at the next election? I wait with interest. More importantly, the country does.

David Davis: There has long been an alternative to this discredited draft deal. It’s the Canada-style plan that Tusk and Barnier offered us.

If we need to leave with no deal and negotiate a free trade agreement during the transition period, so be it.

David Davis is MP for Haltemprice and Howden, and is a former Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.

The Spice Girls had it right when they said: ‘stop right now thank you very much’.

Yes, last week was another frenzied one in British politics. The Prime Minister’s proposed agreement with the EU has gone down like a lead balloon. I’m afraid it is a failure of nerve by the establishment. Their antics have led to the resignation of two Brexit Secretaries – myself and now Dominic Raab.

MPs, Party members and the British public are rightly dismayed. The consequence is that now there is speculation about the leadership of the Conservative Party.

This is not the Brexit they voted for. This proposal would keep the UK permanently trapped in EU institutions and under EU domination. This is not taking back control of borders, laws and money, which 17.4 million people voted for. It breaks our commitment to leave the Customs Union in the 2017 Conservative Manifesto. This proposed deal will never get through the Commons.

It really is time to stop right now, and say thank you very much.

So that’s where we are. But this is a time for calm heads. The crucial point is there is still time to save Brexit, still time to take control and still time to offer the British people a brighter future. This is the moment of truth. We can reject the proposed agreement and move on. We still have time because the key date in the calendar is 21st January, 2019. Only then does the Government need to make a statement within five days on what the United Kingdom plans to do, according to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act of 2018.

So, we can use the time until then productively. We know from past experience that the EU always leaves agreement to the final moment possible at the eleventh hour. Everybody in the UK wants the hope of a better deal – and trust me, we can do this. I spent countless hours negotiating with EU counterparts, and I know the great prize of a Canada-style free trade agreement is still possible. Indeed, it is very much still on. Both Michel Barnier and Donald Tusk have confirmed this.

Justin Trudeau said of his country’s free trade deal that it has created “good, well-paying jobs”, putting “food on the table for families”, helping to “grow and strengthen our communities” and ensuring that each generation is “better off” and has a “higher standard of living, than the one that preceded it.”

The question is how do we get there? It does not have to be like this. What we need now is leadership and the courage and confidence to deliver for the UK. We can deliver an honest and clean Brexit, leaving all the possibilities such as global free trade deals open for bright future. If we need to leave with no deal and negotiate a free trade agreement during the transition period, so be it. Let’s be clear and honest and tell the EU that’s what we are prepared to do.

As we leave the EU, our geography remains fixed. We remain an island maritime nation, outward-facing and trading across the globe. British goods and services are recognised as the best in the world, and are sought after by global customers. This cannot and will not change.

We can go back to the EU and say, if necessary, we are prepared to leave on world trade terms without a deal, but we would rather agree a positive way forward for all sides. We only need to be ready to trade under World Trade Organisation rules: international laws that regulate the trading relationships of 164 member states and around 98 per cent of global trade.

It in all our interests – the UK’s, the EU member states’ and most importantly the British people’s – that we start again and sort this our properly. Let us become, once again, a self-governing, free-trading nation. This is the best approach to unite the Conservative Party and address the huge concerns of MPs, members and activists.

Then we can stop being ‘always on the run’, look beyond Brexit – and provide the ‘human touch’ by focussing on issues like housing, education, health and crime that matter so much in the lives of families up and down our country.

12 November 2018 – today’s press releases

This feature is now back on UK time, and so, here’s what we’ve got for you this evening… Welsh Lib Dems Investing in Teachers Brexit can be stopped but Corbyn must get out of the way Ed Davey: Hostile environment must be completely scrapped Brake: Corbyn must listen to Brown Welsh Lib Dems Investing in […]

This feature is now back on UK time, and so, here’s what we’ve got for you this evening…

  • Welsh Lib Dems Investing in Teachers
  • Brexit can be stopped but Corbyn must get out of the way
  • Ed Davey: Hostile environment must be completely scrapped
  • Brake: Corbyn must listen to Brown

Welsh Lib Dems Investing in Teachers

Welsh Liberal Democrat Education Secretary Kirsty Williams has announced the single biggest investment in support for Wales’ teachers since devolution through a groundbreaking £24m package to help teachers deliver Wales’ new curriculum.

The National Approach to Professional Learning (NAPL), announced today by the Education Secretary, will focus on professional learning and flexible ways of learning that don’t disrupt the school day.

One of the most striking features of the NAPL will be an entirely new approach to how teachers learn. A much more accessible blend of learning will be available through Wales’ regions and universities. This will encompass learning outside the classroom, online learning, classroom learning and coaching.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds commented:

This announcement is yet another example of the transformational reforms the Welsh Lib Dems are implementing in our national mission to raise standards, reduce the attainment gap and deliver an education system that is a source of national pride and public confidence.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats are committed to creating a Wales where every child has the opportunity to achieve their potential and determine their own destiny. This funding will help us realise this vision.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Education Secretary Kirsty Williams said:

This major investment shows how highly we value teachers’ professional learning. It is an investment in excellence and we are aiming for nothing less than a wholesale reform of how teachers learn; a process that starts from the moment they begin initial teacher education and goes right the way through their career.

Brexit can be stopped but Corbyn must get out of the way

Responding to comments made by Keir Starmer that Brexit could be stopped Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake said:

It is disappointing that the Labour leader simply cannot bring himself to join the majority of his party and voters in opposing the Conservative Government on Brexit.

Brexit can still be stopped. But at the moment, disagreement at the top of the Labour party could lead to the UK stumbling into a catastrophic Brexit.

Corbyn must listen to the growing majority that the Conservatives are making a terrible mess of Brexit and only a People’s Vote, with an option for remain, can get us out of this shambles.

Ed Davey: Hostile environment must be completely scrapped

Responding to the news that NHS Digital has withdrawn from its immigration data-sharing arrangement with the Home Office, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey said:

The Home Office should never have been forcing NHS staff to supply patients’ data in the first place. Doctors and nurses’ time should be spent providing healthcare to those who need it, not acting as border guards in Theresa May’s hostile environment.

The Liberal Democrats demand better. We will completely scrap the Tories’ hostile environment and instead invest in an accountable, intelligence-led Border Force to prevent people entering the country illegally and quickly identify those who overstay their visas.

That way we can secure our borders and rebuild trust in the immigration system, while leaving NHS workers to focus on their jobs.

Brake: Corbyn must listen to Brown

Responding to Gordon Brown’s comments that the people should have the final say on the Brexit deal, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake MP said:

Yet another key Labour figure has come out in favour of a People’s Vote. When will Corbyn wake up and smell the coffee? It’s time for Labour to provide an opposition, grow a backbone and support a People’s Vote.

Brown is right, the situation is vastly different than that of 2016. May’s deal will leave us in a weakened position. The UK is better off inside the EU.

It is now essential that people are given the final say on the deal with the option to remain. Liberal Democrats urge the Labour leadership to join us in fighting for a People’s Vote.