Charlie Elphicke: The Cabinet must decide today to trigger no deal preparations in full

This is what we have been doing at the Dover front line – working hard on preparations for disruption. We are making sure that we stand ready.

Charlie Elphicke is MP for Dover and Deal.

What are the chances the UK will leave the EU without agreeing a deal? After the turmoil of the last few days, there has to be a much greater prospect. We now have less than four months to go – we know what needs to be done, and today’s Cabinet meeting should now get on and do it. It’s time to plan, not panic.

Indeed, the full mobilisation of action plans should have been ordered weeks ago. If it had been, Government departments would by now actively be taking all necessary measures. Businesses would be engaged in making full scale preparations for every eventuality. Yet even now as the clock counts down to Brexit Day, it is not too late to act and ensure that Britain stands ready.

17.4 million people – including two thirds of my constituents in Dover and Deal – knew it would not be easy and that there would be challenges and risks of disruption. They knew that because, during the 2016 EU Referendum, it was pretty much all the Remain campaign talked about. We were warned of gridlock on the roads to the Channel Ports. We were told the Calais Jungle would be moved to Dover. We were even warned of a terrible economic calamity in which millions would lose their jobs and house prices would collapse. Despite all these dire warnings, the people voted to Leave.

Now, as we are about to depart the EU, we are once again warned that unless we make a deal – any deal – there will be gridlock at the Dover frontline with months of disruption threatened. Indeed, day by day the warnings have become ever more fearsome: we will run out of medicines, aeroplanes will not take off, our pets will be stuck forever in quarantine, our food will run out. We are even told even our water will be poisonous and undrinkable. With warnings like this, one is left wondering, how on earth did we ever manage these past thousand years?

Of course, everyone knows that leaving Europe will not be easy. It’s no secret – indeed we are told the Cabinet is now aware — that the Channel Ports account for around a third of the UK’s entire trade in goods. There are around 60 sailings to the port of Dover from Dunkirk and Calais every day. The cross-Channel trading route is a huge success story: more than £120 billion of trade moves through Dover’s docks every year and, when you add Eurotunnel into the mix, it’s even more.

Yet it is in everyone’s interests – France’s as well as ours – that traffic continues to flow. Particularly since they sell us £95 billion more goods than we sell to them, and the queues at Calais would be rather longer than those in Kent. Small wonder that Xavier Bertrand, the boss of the Calais region, says they have no intention of holding things up there. And what are the chances that Emmanuel Macron will play politics with jobs and livelihoods on both sides of the English Channel? Especially after he has just done that in France and emerged with riots and a political bloody nose. He is now more likely now to focus on French jobs and free-flowing trade than the plaudits of Brussels.

Nevertheless, imagine that as much effort had been put into taking action as has been put into warning about the possible consequences of inaction. Without doubt, we would be in a much stronger position. Now, with the now very real risk that no agreement is concluded, it is in the national interest that we should spend the near four months from now until Brexit Day making sure we are fully ready for any challenge that may be thrown at us.

This is what we have been doing at the Dover front line – working hard on preparations for disruption. We are making sure that we stand ready. A plan has been put to the Department for Transport to ensure that the town of Dover is free of gridlock and that both of Kent’s motorways can be kept open and free-flowing. Strategies for lorry parking on and off road have been developed. We have also worked hard to secure extra funds for the police to be able to devote what resources may be required to ensure everything works as smoothly as possible in the event of difficulties.

It’s also important to remember that if we leave without agreement, we should have £39 Billion to assist us. For it appears that there is no legal duty to pay this money to the EU in the absence of an agreement. £39 Billion will go a long way to smooth the path of any challenges we may meet. The work at Dover points the way for action that is necessary across the whole waterfront of government to ensure our nation is fully prepared. That is why we must ensure policy responses and urgent preparations are made up and down the land.

The country stood ready in 2016 to make the call for our nation’s independent future. It is now time for our Government to match the political courage of the British people. We must concentrate all our energies to deliver for the people – to plan, not to panic. That way we can ensure that in just over 90 days we will be Ready on Day One, whatever the future may bring.

Kent County Council’s proposals to keep the traffic flowing after Brexit are most welcome

The Government should back these sensible plans. We must avoid a repeat of the disruption on the roads that took place in 2015.

When Jo Johnson resigned from the Government to oppose Theresa May’s Brexit deal, he made clear that he was also opposed to a “no deal”. He said:

“The prospect of Kent becoming the Lorry Park of England is very real in a no deal scenario. Orpington residents bordering Kent face disruption from plans to use the nearby M26, connecting the M25 to the M20, as an additional queuing area for heavy goods vehicles backed up all the way from the channel ports.”

It was a measure of just what a low regard he had for the Withdrawal Agreement that he added that if forced to choose between it and “No Deal” he would plump for “No Deal” – though Johnson would much prefer a second referendum resulting in us staying in the EU.

Anyway, Kent County Council have produced some proposals to avoid any such disruption. Cllr Paul Carter, the Council’s Leader, stresses that they are for any contingency involving disruption from the ports – adjusting to Brexit being just one such scenario. Let us remember that we have had these problems before – in 2015 and 2016. Strikes at Calais, then a lack of French Border Police at Dover, caused thousands of lorries queuing for miles. What if there was a fire in the Channel Tunnel? What if the French went on strike again?

Cllr Carter says:

“We must never forget the chaos that we had across half of this county in 2015.

The M20 was closed in both directions – doctors couldn’t get to hospitals, domiciliary care workers struggled to reach their clients, weddings were cancelled.

The implementation of Operation Stack and the closure of the M20 cost the Kent economy around £1.45 million a day and the UK economy
an estimated £250 million per day – and that went on for three weeks.

Kent County Council has been working very closely with the Kent Resilience Forum and all partners to try to make sure that we have robust plans in place should there be disruption at the ports for any reason that keeps traffic from flowing across the county of Kent.”

The Council has “robust plans in place” should there be “disruption at the ports for any reason” to ensure “traffic keeps flowing across the county of Kent”.

But Cllr Carter would like some help from central Government:

“We now need far more input and information from national government in how they are going to work with us.

There must be a national freight transport plan which, when necessary, can hold lorries back from coming into Kent in the first place should the need arise. We now have holding areas to take more than 10-thousand lorries before it becomes necessary to use the M26 to hold freight, which is a situation that I want to avoid as far as we possibly can.

We need the right investment from the Department for Transport in the technology, number plate recognition and enforcement powers to stop lorries cutting and running down inappropriate highways and by-ways in Kent and directed to go where they’re told.

With national government’s cooperation, we can avoid the chaos that we saw in 2015.”

He wants £20 million from the Department for Transport to pay for the “necessary technology, barriers signage and vital preparation that we will need in Kent.”

Cllr Carter says that “£20 million is not a massive amount to the government in the scale of things”.  I am not usually sympathetic to council leaders pleading poverty. But in this case, Cllr Carter, has a point, hasn’t he? If we proceed with a “no deal” (more properly a World Trade Organisation deal) then we will not be handing over £39 billion to the EU. Legal advice differs over whether we would owe anything at all under a “no deal”. Perhaps there will be a new Prime Minister who will suggest they “go whistle” for the dosh. Perhaps a more conciliatory approach will be taken. But any payment that was made would be much lower and spread over a much longer period.

The OBR estimates that if a deal was implemented we would be paying £7 billion a year for the next four years. For Cllr Carter to be asking for 0.05 per cent, that’s one twentieth of one per cent, of the £39 billion is pretty modest to “avoid the chaos of the past.”

The Institute of Economic Affairs in its assessment concludes that “substantial disruption” is “unlikely.”  Firstly, it could be argued that non-tariff barriers “would be unnecessary, and even illegal under WTO rules, given that exports from both sides will still be made to the same standards immediately after the UK’s departure from the EU.” There are already some checks but draconian increases would not be required. Secondly “even French officials have stressed that it would be in their country’s own economic interests to minimise any additional delays. In particular, they have dismissed fears of a Calais ‘go-slow’ and suggested that as few as one per cent of UK lorries would be subject to a physical check.” Thirdly “put simply, neither the UK nor the EU has the physical infrastructure, or enough officials, to check every vehicle anyway, or even a significant proportion. In this respect at least, the lack of preparedness could actually be a blessing in disguise.”

Let’s hope the IEA is right. It still seems prudent to give Cllr Carter the £20 million.

Apart from the money, the Council also seeks clarification around Government decisions – for instance, regarding greater flexibility over driver hours (EU rules limit them to nine hours a day). It also wants more enforcement powers – in terms of directing traffic on or off particular roads in the event of gridlock being threatened. In practice, this might mean sending lorries to be parked at Manston Airport for a certain period of time to keep the M26 flowing. At present, the police can only redirect the traffic if there is an emergency – such as an accident. The request would be to be able to use this power for traffic management under extreme circumstances.

Other improvements, proposed by others, would take longer. Over two years ago on this site there was a plea from Charlie Elphicke, the MP for Dover and Deal, to improve customs technology and ports infrastructure. He also called for road improvements:

“The M20 needs to be upgraded, the A2 dualled and the Lower Thames Crossing taken forward with a sense of urgency.”

Cynical types might suspect an element of self-fulfilling prophecy about the lack of any such “sense of urgency” to make suitable preparations. The “Project Fear” proponents in The Treasury and Downing Street have blocked such measures and hope to then have the satisfaction of saying: “We told you so” – should difficulties materialise.

The good news about the proposals from Kent County Council is that there is still time to implement them. They seem to be modest, practical and soundly based on past experience. The Government should get on with providing the necessary backing.

Chris Grayling: Here at Transport, we’re getting ready for Brexit – whatever happens. But here’s why I’m backing May’s deal.

If I had been offered this before the referendum in 2016, I would have seen it as a much better alternative to the status quo inside the EU,

Chris Grayling is Secretary of State for Transport, and MP for Epsom and Ewell.

Last week, the UK and the US signed a new aviation agreement which will cement the air links between us once the UK leaves the EU. The agreement secures the existing air links, and sets out the ways in which new operators can enter the market in future. We have worked closely with airlines on both sides of the Atlantic to make sure we get this deal right.

Then at the weekend, we also concluded our agreement with Canada, sorting out the last significant one of our non-EU aviation links after Brexit. Within Europe, both the European Commission and other member states have been clear that there will be an aviation agreement regardless of the broader agreement – so people can feel free to book their holidays next year without any concern to countries both inside and outside the European Union.

We’re also carrying on with detailed preparation for all eventualities after Brexit. We are making provision to ease the pressure on Dover and Calais if there are customs hold ups after we leave. We are making sure British motorists have easy access to international driving licences if they are needed.

But none of us want that to happen – and certainly not the thousands of small businesses who operate in the transport field. They want a deal, and a smooth transition to the world outside the EU.

So now the focus is on delivering that broader EU exit agreement. I campaigned for Brexit in 2016, and I have not changed my view that Britain is better outside the EU, but remaining good friends and neighbours with our current EU partners. My reason for campaigning to leave was that I believe further EU integration to be necessary and inevitable if the Eurozone is to survive in the long term, and I do not believe that it is right for the UK to give up more and more of our national sovereignty.

But I am absolutely clear that the country did not vote to sever ties with our neighbours or to leave on bad terms. I believe that virtually everyone would wish to continue good relations with those countries.

For centuries, Britain has been an outward-facing, global, trading nation. In the post-Brexit world that is particularly important for all of us. Our goal is to remain good friends and neighbours with our EU partners, but also to ensure that we build and deepen ties around the world.

Good aviation links are vital if we are to achieve that. It’s why we are moving ahead with the expansion of Heathrow. It’s why we have given regional airports greater freedom to develop expanded links. And it’s why we have made sorting out updated aviation agreements to cover life outside the EU a priority.

A lot of the focus right now is on the Prime Minister, and her work to secure backing for the deal. But the British public, and Conservative MPs, should not forget the disgraceful behaviour of the Labour Party over all of this.

When I campaigned round the country for Leave, I was as warmly welcomed in Labour heartlands as in traditional Conservative areas.

Jeremy Corbyn is letting those people down, trapped as he is in a bubble of fellow travellers within the champagne socialism of a certain clique in Islington. They will not forgive him if he votes to keep free movement of people and unlimited immigration. They will not forgive him if he leaves the UK obliged to sign up to new EU laws in future. They will not forgive him if he leaves our fisheries open to all comers.

The Labour leader was always a Leaver. He claims to be a man of principle. But he’s abandoning Brexit for Party political reasons. And it will also be the final sign for millions of traditional Labour voters that their party has once and for all abandoned them.

I believe that we now need to get on with leaving the EU in March, but also to make sure we do so on good terms.

The main challenge from opponents of the current deal is focused on the backstop in it. This is a temporary arrangement that could be used if there was a delay to the final trade deal after 2020. But it is not intended to be a permanent arrangement, and both we and the EU have been clear about that. It would also be unworkable for the EU for any length of time – it would mean every time they wanted to change their laws, they would do so in the knowledge that we had no obligation to do the same, and that our business might be more competitive as a result. That is not a position that they could accept for any length of time.

The agreement which we are being asked to consider as MPs ends the free movement of people, ends the role of the European Court in the UK, leaves the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy, and means that we are no longer required to adopt EU laws. We have agreed to maintain, for example, high environmental and social standards – but that’s something we would want to do anyway. If I had been offered this before the referendum in 2016, I would have seen it as a much better alternative to the status quo inside the EU, where we have little control over many of these things and where more and more integration is inevitable. So we need to get behind the Prime Minister.

Health secretary: UK to deploy planes to cope with Brexit medicines disruption

Government also considering fast-tracking trucks carrying medicines through Dover.

U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Friday the government is drawing up plans to use airplanes and fast-track trucks at the border to ensure the supply of medicines is not interrupted in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

“We are working on ensuring that we have aviation capacity,” Hancock told the BBC on Friday. “If there is a serious disruption at the border we will have prioritization and prioritization will include medicines and medical devices.”

As part of its preparations for a no-deal Brexit, the government is also looking into fast-tracking trucks carrying medicines through Dover if “there’s a serious disruption at the border” and increasing refrigeration units for medicines that can be stockpiled, the health minister said.

Hancock also said pharmacies in the U.K. may be allowed to issue small quantities of medicines without the approval of general practitioners if there are “serious shortages” as a result of a no-deal Brexit.

The Times reported Friday that ministers would be able to tell pharmacists to alter medications and dispense a “reduced quantity” of medicines without contacting GPs first.

National Health Service providers, pharmaceutical companies and patient groups warned last month that the government’s plans for maintaining drug supplies in the event of no deal were so lacking that the warning level should be raised to “red.”

“If there’s a shortage of an individual drug and pharmacists can make clinical and professional judgments, then that will be a step forward,” Hancock said.

The U.K. government is currently consulting on the idea and will ensure that it has contingency plans in place before the country leaves the European Union in March 2019, Hancock said.

“In the health department, we deal with contingencies all the time and this is an extension of that,” Hancock said.


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Tom Tugendhat: Brexit can only work if we invest in it – streamlining ports, upgrading customs, readying systems, working with neighbours

We decided to leave the EU but have continued to behave as if we were still in. But preparing for the future means knowing where we are.

Tom Tugendhat is Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, and is MP for Tonbridge and Malling.

None of us chose to be here.  The Prime Minister’s deal isn’t great – it’s a compromise that leaves no one happy and disappoints many.  It buys time but does little more. But this shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s where you end up when you start from the wrong point.

In June 2016, the world changed. We’d chosen to change the way we traded together with our closest partners but behaved as though we were still members.

When we decided to leave the EU, we moved away from a single structure, to a more open relationship.  It’s like switching from Apple to Android. Apple is expensive but it all works together, but it’s not great with other brands.  With Android you have greater choice, but none of it gels quite as well. And switching from between them is tricky.

We decided to switch but continued to behave as if we were still in.  It didn’t work. Instead of thinking of ourselves as still in the bloc but negotiating out, we should have recognised that we were, in truth, already out and were now a third-party negotiating in.  That would have avoided some of the confusion we have seen throughout these talks.

The truth is that the arrangement we enjoyed for 45 years – around the same length of time as when Elizabeth I was on the throne – is over.

Now the decision is made and, in the two years since we voted out, the EU has evolved. The latest budget wrangles, nationalist throes and regional instabilities have happened and the truth is simple: no second, third or fourth referendum could turn back the clock.  Our voice in Europe was quietened on that day in June when we voted out..

We should have expected the EU to back Ireland – they are going to stay a member state after March, we won’t. And on issues such as the Galileo satellite programme and fishing, we would have had to work together to strike a deal, not waited to see what we got.  It would also have changed the way we behaved.

Knowing that we had already left in spirit would have focused our mind on the reality that we need to invest now in the necessary technology to streamline our ports, upgrade our customs infrastructure, and get our systems ready so that companies can navigate the world of checks that will now be required.

Of course, this won’t come cheap.  We chose to leave and this is what we must now do – as many people recognise. With interest rates at historic lows, we should be issuing a Brexit bond to ensure we can make these improvements to our national infrastructure and deliver what we need.  Many in Kent, for example, are worried about the M20 and M26 becoming a lorry park if we don’t have a deal.

That’s why we must also be generous and use the money the Treasury has set aside.

We need to recognise that the changes we’re making will impose extra costs on many of our neighbours, we should share some of the costs to upgrade their facilities. New joint working groups with the Irish Sea, Baltic, North Sea and Channel ports, would show us for what we really are – neighbours, not strangers, in a new relationship.

Such and investment in partnership would result in physical and technical improvements, avoiding the need to ever use the backstop. Investing in our people to ensure we can be ready for whatever the future brings

Most importantly, we must remember that we are still friends with our European neighbours.  That means using the two years before us – if the Prime Minister’s deal passes – to stop arguing about the past and do what we should have done from the beginning and work on our new partnership with the EU, and others around the world.

Britain’s place is at the heart of international networks, and few partners are more important to us than our European friends.  That’s why we need to get on with the change and build our new relationship. That’s why we must use the time the Prime Minister has negotiated to smooth the transition, and prepare for the future that started two years ago.

Plan for UK nationals in French civil service to be protected from no-deal Brexit

With political instability in London, MP Alexandre Holroyd said no-deal measures were ‘more justified than ever.’

More than 1,700 U.K. nationals working in France’s civil service will maintain their work “status” in the case of a no-deal Brexit under a draft legislative proposal adopted by the French parliament’s special Brexit committee.

Alexandre Holroyd, a member of the committee and rapporteur for the government’s no-deal measures, said he believed the “approximately 1,715” British civil servants working mostly in the education and health departments, “must be maintained in the same status and work conditions,” after the U.K. leaves the EU in March 29 next year.

The proposal, supported by a large majority of political parties, is “the most human solution and the most compatible with the services that these civil servants have given to the French state,” Holroyd said. He added that similar solutions had been proposed by the European Commission and Germany.

French MPs on the committee on Wednesday approved fast-track legislation that will allow the French government to mitigate the worst consequences of a no-deal Brexit. The measures, which have already been reviewed by the senate, will introduce a so-called law by ordinance legislative procedure that enables them to move to an accelerated parliamentary vote without debate.

France has recently stepped up its work on no-deal measures. With more than 100 of Theresa May’s own MPs saying they will vote against the government, it appears increasingly likely that the withdrawal deal agreed between the U.K. government and the EU will be rejected in the House of Commons vote on December 11.

On Wednesday, Holroyd insisted he would not comment on the ongoing political situation in the U.K., but he did not hide his concern at the fast-moving political situation in London which he said “seems to change by the hour.”

“Without anticipating what might happen after the rejection of a potential deal,” he said, “the measures dedicated to overcoming the harmful effects of an abrupt exit seem to me more justified than ever.”

“One would be very clever to know what will happen,” said MP Charles de Courson during the committee hearing. “If British MPs reject the deal, we don’t really know what will happen. It could end up in a so-called hard Brexit or with a new referendum. With the Brits, anything is possible, they are always very pragmatic.”

Besides British civil servants working in France, Holroyd said another important issue included in the no-deal package is the situation of French citizens living in the U.K. who could return to France.

Holroyd said France will need to arrange a “special period” after the U.K.’s exit from the EU to allow French families to come back to France if they want, “while taking into account the subsequent constraints linked to family life.”

Finally, he said the French government will need to make sure that the transport flow between France and the U.K. will not be disrupted after the exit date, adding that 2.7 million individual cars and more than 1.7 million trucks crossed the Channel in 2017.


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Charlie Edwards: Don’t let the unions lead us off the rails, this Christmas

Strikes are causing misery for train passengers. But don’t expect condemnation from Corbynista MPs – they are funded by the RMT.

Cllr Charlie Edwards is the Lead Member for Health and Adult Services for Lancashire County Council, and a Lancaster City Councillor.

Northern Rail are on strike tomorrow. The first Saturday in December, one of the busiest Christmas shopping days for our town centres, will be the RMT’s 38th day of strike action. And counting. It directly follows strike action the past four Saturdays and we will have another strike every Saturday for the rest of the year. It barely even registers as news any more.

Christmas Markets are popping up around the country. On my doorstep, we have Lancaster on Ice – an ice village in our city centre – put together by the sheer brilliance of local business people. As car parking charges are so high, a train is a cheaper and quicker option for most to enjoy our town centres. Alas for Lancaster this Saturday, travelling by Northern Rail is not an option.

The supposed focus of the strike is the opposition to driver-only trains, a common feature of most of the 21st century rail network, not just in the UK but across Europe as well.

As a football fan, I believe the choice to strike on a Saturday is a deliberate and personal attack on the one million people every weekend who follow their teams across the country. Huge numbers of football fans I know are now opting to drive, despite having used the trains since the National Rail days. An era my generation will never appreciate; where air conditioning was the welcome relief when the doors opened at stops and the idea of a padded seat was rolling your coat up and sitting on it.

It seems like these strikes are never ending. Rail travel has become a source of anxiety and dread for people living in the North. It will lead to a generational exodus away from train travel if we do not stop the Unions in their tracks.

The narrative these strikes are trying to portray is in direct contrast to what is happening in reality. Despite the strikes, rail passenger numbers have increased year on year.

The opportunities of HS2 to cities like Preston, Lancaster, and Carlisle are enormous too. Transport for the North are working on Northern Powerhouse Rail, which will boost East-West Connectivity. Last year at Lancashire County Council we invested to support the reopening of the Skipton-Colne link. Local projects such as the line to Morecambe to support the exciting plans for an Eden Project North, or the potential to re-open the Fleetwood to Poulton Line, will transform the fortunes of the North.

As a “Young Person” (who hates the phrase), I celebrated the announcement of the 26-30 Railcard in the Budget. It provides discounted fares at a crux moment in your life; when you are saving to get on the property ladder, but the cost of living is getting in the way. It’s a policy for young people who work hard and aspire for bigger and better things: natural Conservative voters.

With all this investment and innovation from the Government, it is clear we are in a renaissance age when it comes to our railways. Industrial action is a huge threat to this progress.

There is only one tiny group standing in the way of progress on our nation’s railways: Corbyn, his top team and their toxic links to the RMT. The biggest cause of cancellations and delays in 2017 was problems caused by Network Rail. As the only nationally owned part of the railways, it is difficult for Labour to attack. Hence why there is a hunger for strike action. Why is strike action good for the Labour Party? It plays into their narrative that the trains are better off out of the hands of private companies. Who needs private capital investment or innovation when you have the comfort blanket of your political ideology anyway?

In July 2017, the Transport Workers Union, the RMT, donated vast sums of money to help get Labour MPs elected. The usual suspects of Corbyn, John “Lynch the bitch” McDonnell, Clive “On your knees bitch” Lewis, Emily Thornberry, and current Lancaster MP, Cat Smith.

Yes, the MP whose city’s Christmas events are reliant this weekend on visitors using Northern Rail trains took a £5,000 donation from the RMT Union.

How is this not a huge conflict of interest? A union funds politicians who speak about nationalising Northern Rail, the same Union then organises strikes, attempting to increase public resentment for Northern Rail.

I feel like Diane Abbott; things just don’t add up.

What’s even more complicated is that these same people who are taking this cash and are campaigning for nationalised rail want to keep us in the European Union. My advice to Corbynista Remainers is to be careful what you wish for, as the EU’s Fourth Railway package restricts individual national governments from owning their own rail companies.

Since privatisation in 1992, passenger numbers have reached post-war highs, we have fewer fatalities and less subsidy per passenger relative to other EU countries. One of the largest private investors of rail companies are public sector pension funds, so any profits from the network benefit teachers, doctors and social workers, and who’s savings would be at risk by Labour’s nationalisation plans.

Lancashire’s own pensioners should be extremely proud of a little known venture with Greater Anglia Railways, private enterprise and GLIL Infrastructure, an investment fund part owned by the Lancashire Pension Fund. Next year, the entire Greater Anglia rolling stock is being replaced with state of the art energy efficient trains, financed by this partnership and built by Stadler and Bombardier, based in Derby. Any political idea that wants to stifle private investment into the railways is a complete retrograde step.

Let’s rekindle the public’s love affair with the trains. The unions are clearly trying to destroy rail travel to help the Labour Party win an election, we must call them out for what they are doing.

As Conservatives, we should be shouting louder about the frustration and the impact on our lives. When asked how the July 2017 Northern strike action made you feel, 39 per cent said they were “bored”. Apathy will let them get away with it time and time again. We talk about rail being an essential part of the North’s economic, industrial, and social resurgence, so let’s get angry. Let’s challenge the unions and the Labour politicians they are funding.

Strike action reduces performance and staff morale. Strike action to protect jobs that were replaced by modern processes over 40 years ago drive up costs, which is passed onto the passengers twice, through increased fares and increased taxes to cover Government subsidies. It hits many passengers a third time if they have a pension, as strike action reduces the profits enjoyed by the public sector pension funds that are some of the largest investors in the industry, and in the case of Lancashire, pioneering innovative investment in our railways.

So when you go out this weekend, to have a glass of Gluhwein at a Christmas market, put your skates on in Lancaster, watch a football match, or have a good old Christmas shop, I hope you do it by train. So long as it isn’t a service the RMT Ebeneezer Scrooges have got their grubby hands on.

Plane trouble blows Angela Merkel off G20 course

Also in the press: No more spankings for French children and UN migration pact causes ructions.

United Kingdom 

The Guardian reported that Prime Minister Theresa May ruled out compromising with Labour to get her Brexit deal through parliament.

The Times reported that European leaders are prepared to offer Britain a three-month extension to Article 50 to prevent parliamentary deadlock triggering a no-deal Brexit.

— It is not “a debate which is about recreating the referendum debate of Leavers versus Remainers,” PM Theresa May said, referring to her decision not to include Boris Johnson or Nicola Sturgeon in her TV debate with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Sky News wrote.

Germany

Die Welt reported that the Bundestag had voted, after a heated debate, to support the U.N. migration compact.

FAZ reported that Chancellor Angela Merkel will miss the kick-off of the G20 summit in Argentina early Friday morning, after technical defects forced her aircraft to turn back to Germany.

— In Bülstedt, Lower Saxony, a man was apparently bitten by a wolf, reported Süddeutsche Zeitung. According to the newspaper, it is the first such attack in 150 years.

France

— Ahead of more Yellow Jacket protests on the Champs-Elysees, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said the famous avenue will be closed to traffic this Saturday, reported le Figaro, while pedestrians will be subject to “systematic identity checks.”

— France’s parliament on Friday adopted a law against corporal punishment of children. “The end of spanking or slapping of children?” Le Monde asked.

Belgium 

De Standaard reported that according to a leaked report, Deputy Prime Minister Jan Jambon agreed in October to the “active promotion” of the U.N migration pact. Now, Jambon and his party, the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), oppose it.

Le Soir wrote that Yellow Jacket protesters continue to block some roads in the province of Hainaut.

Andrew Boff: Khan is working to become the Nanny of London

Childhood obesity is a complex question, demanding multifaceted solutions. A simplistic ban on “unhealthy” food and drink advertising is the wrong answer.

Andrew Boff is a member of the London Assembly.

Last Friday, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, announced plans to ban “junk food” advertising across the entirety of the Transport for London estate. He told Assembly Members that his proposals amounted to a “small price to pay to help reduce childhood obesity”. There are only two things wrong with this statement. It won’t be a small price and it won’t help reduce childhood obesity.

Sadiq Khan is basing his policy on what the Dutch rolled out in Amsterdam. The Amsterdam Healthy Weight Programme was a comprehensive approach to tackling obesity in school-children which came to incorporate a ban on advertising unhealthy food on the City’s urban transport system. Studies showed that between 2012-15, there was indeed a significant loss of weight in a sample of 11-16 year olds in Amsterdam. But the ad ban did not come in until January of this year, well after the studies were complete. Therefore no inference about its impact can be drawn. Since then, there has been no further appreciable decline in childhood obesity rates.

As Conservatives, we need to learn the true lessons of this example, not the Mayor’s warped take. Voluntary, self-regulated, and localised initiatives are the right approach. The Dutch encourage physical activity in and out of schools, improved nutritional education for kids, and the promotion of healthy lifestyles. That is more likely to work than state-imposed diktats.

When you think about it, is it likely that the type of billboard ads you see on the tube are really likely to influence children’s behaviour? Especially when you bear in mind that less than three per cent of tube travellers are kids and they’re bombarded by ads on social media platforms all day long? Of course not.

But this does get to the nub of what his proposals are fundamentally about – he’s not really interested in controlling what kids get to see, he’s interested in controlling what fully functioning adults get to see on their daily commute.

His proposals are much more far-reaching than you might expect. For a start, it’s not just about “junk food”. The State Advertising Commissar he’ll need to appoint to implement these regulations could well end up banning, under the Mayor’s rules, the advertising of staples like butter, milk and cheese; there would be no more advertising Christmas Mince pie treats, or Dine In Meals for Two that feature a tasty chocolate pudding. He could even ban the advertising of summer barbies that show sausages sizzling on the grill.

In truth, Sadiq wants to be the Nanny of London every bit as much as the Mayor of London.

The other sinister element of this proposal is who will pick up the tab?

The simple answer is hard-pressed, ordinary Londoners. The Mayor has been doing his level best to pretend there will be little or no cost implications to his proposal. He believes that advertisers will continue to willingly fork out large sums to advertise quinoa salads, organic muesli bars, or kale and cucumber smoothies, in place of their usual fare. More likely, they will simply switch advertising platforms to ones which are not encumbered by the complexities introduced by this Mayor’s flights of fancy.

Less advertising revenues coming in means TfL is going to lose out. Big time. Even TfL, who have an interest in underplaying the cost of the Mayor’s recklessness,reckon they will lose £13 million. Once the full extent of the ban is known it may be much, much more. That’s no small beer, on top of the £1 billion TfL deficit which this incompetent Mayor has helped to create. At some point something is going to have to give, and that something is likely to be fares. Of course, slippery Sadiq wouldn’t dream of pumping them up before the next Mayoral Election, but God forbid if he was ever to be returned …

At the end of the day, the Mayor justifies this outrageous policy on the basis that it’s popular. But is it? He states that 82 per cent of those who responded to his consultation supported a ban. However, this is a self-selecting minority who can be bothered to reply to his question. Other statistically-valid, representative samples of Londoners tell a different story. They show that Londoners, quite sensibly, doubt the effectiveness of any ban, that they demand proof before one is introduced, and they are horrified at the prospect of their fares being increased to pay for it.

How to tackle childhood obesity is a complex question demanding multifaceted solutions. The Mayor of London simplistic ban on ‘unhealthy’ food and drink advertising is the wrong answer. We Conservatives need to find the right ones.

Joel Davidson and Amir Sadjady: Treat claims of treason with disdain. As Leavers, we wholeheartedly back this agreement. Here’s why.

By remaining in a customs arrangement which retains high standards and open access, it will be good for London – and the rest of the country too.

Joel Davidson is a former councillor in Brent and was a London Assembly candidate in 2016. Amir Sadjady is a Conservative activist in Hammersmith.

We both campaigned enthusiastically for Vote Leave in London, and were delighted to see the real people’s vote, back in 2016, deliver a clear result that the UK wished to leave the European Union.

Since then, our Prime Minister has been buffeted by an extraordinary array of forces determined to scupper her: the bad faith of the EU, the even worse faith of the Labour Party leadership, and shrill celebrities determined to disparage anyone who voted Leave as little Englanders or, even worse, as closet racists. Despite all these obstructions, we now have a deal with the EU which does indeed – perhaps miraculously – put the UK on the brink of leaving the European Union, and regaining sovereignty in a huge swathe of areas.

We are consequently alarmed at some of the tropes being banded about by some hard Brexiteers, who seem completely opposed to any deal at all  One phrase which really sticks in the throat is that the Government is “betraying the 17.4 million voters who wanted to leave”. This is disingenuous at best, and we feel the need to challenge it here.

As we say, were amongst those 17.4 million voters who delivered the victory for Leave, with every vote carrying equal weight, and without these voters, the UK would be firmly inside the European Union and en route to fully joining a federal Europe.

But as it is, we now stand on the brink of a far looser relationship with the EU, with close trading links but an ending of  political union. We are confident that even supposedly ‘Remainiac’ London (where more people voted Leave in 2016 than those who had the misfortune of voting for Sadiq Khan) will be comfortable with this settlement.

For London, in particular, this deal will undoubtedly be beneficial, since businesses can be guaranteed that their current trading arrangements in goods with Europe will remain unaffected. There is tacit acknowledgement in this arrangement that a customs deal with Europe that maintains the highest European standards and gives British business access to European markets on an equal footing will unambiguously be good for business across the country.

This is another good reason for London Conservatives to get behind the deal: our businesses in London are high quality, and so we can only benefit from selling to our largest trading partner and closest neighbour in a completely unhindered way. So instead of wasting time chasing such rainbow as a second referendum, we London Conservatives should show that ours is the pragmatic party of business, and back this deal for the benefit of London’s economy.

We should also be taking Sadiq Khan to task for his complete no-show on this issue. Ever the world statesman in his own head, he has spent much of the last few months swanning around Brussels, trying to push to overturn Brexit whilst his city is submerged in a complete breakdown of law and order and his mismanagement of Crossrail leaves London’s economy imperilled.

Against all odds, the Prime Minister has produced a Withdrawal Agreement that very much ensures that “London Is Open” (to the chagrin of many in the ERG), so any competent, reasonable, pro-business mayor should be very happy with it. Not so Mayor Khan: his cynical tactics throughout the last two and a half years merely expose him again for the deeply partisan Labour apparatchik who enthusiastically backed Jeremy Corbyn in his infamous original winning leadership campaign.

The truth of Khan’s record is that he has no interest in helping business. If he did, he would have done something about the misery and economic chaos of the 14 tube strikes so far under his mayoralty. If he cared about helping small businesses, he would be acting to curb the breakdown of law and order on London’s streets, and would be taking action to clean up and rejuvenate London’s high streets. But he always prefers self-serving and self-written press releases to real action for Londoners.

To back up our view, we attended the Business Show 2018 recently at London’s ExCel, and had the pleasure of speaking to a wide range of business owners, of all sizes and across a range of sectors.  You can see the video we made about our visit here. We were struck by the near -nanimous consensus that emerged: any ambitious business sees maintaining the closest possible trading links with Europe as an unmitigated positive. Even smaller businesses that do not trade directly with Europe may be keen to in the future, and in the B2B sector, suppliers to large multinationals are massively impacted by the success of their main customers. By remaining in a customs arrangement with Europe which retains high standards and open access, the Government is giving British businesses of all sizes the ability to have greater control over its expansion plans.

The Prime Minister’s deal undoubtedly delivers for business, as well as on the referendum result which soft Leavers were crucial in determining. We see amidst the overwhelming and unrelenting media interest in all things Brexit a real opportunity for pro-business London Conservatives to regain our reputation in London as the party of competence and commerce by enthusiastically backing this deal in London and the South East.