European Union (Future Relationship) Bill
I want to set out my thoughts about the Deal and explain my reasons for reluctantly voting in favour of it.
It is clear for all to see that the deal has serious flaws:
- UK firms will lose automatic access to EU financial services markets, which form a significant and vitally important component of the UK economy. We have already seen jobs moving out of the City and into Europe – the deal as it stands will do nothing to protect those jobs and may even turn a trickle of job losses into a flood.
- This deal adds new burdens and red tape onto British business, with some businesses facing new customs checks on their products in order to prove their point of origin. In practice, UK firms will now need to get two sets of approval certification if they want to sell their products in both the UK and Europe. This is especially galling, given that during the referendum campaign businesses were sold the lie that Brexit would mean freedom from EU regulation.
- The Government seem to have completely forgotten about the Arts and Creative Sectors when negotiating this deal. In practice, this will mean that actors and musicians will now face country-to-country restrictions, meaning multiple Visa applications and logistical red tape. This is both needless and unacceptable – this issue was specifically raised by Sir Keir Starmer in his formal response to Boris Johnson at the start of the Parliamentary debate today. Labour also proposed an amendment that would require urgent action from the Secretary of State to negotiate a specific agreement to rectify these problems.
- Boris Johnson has negotiated for a divergence of employment and environmental rights legislation. Clearly, he has not done so because he wants to strengthen your rights at work or to improve environmental protection standards. I have deep concerns that the government has a desire for a race to the bottom that may impact both your rights at work – such as health and sickness protections, maternity and paternity rights – but also vitally important standards, such as the use of pesticides, the need for clean air and of course practices such as fracking.
These are by no means all of the problems with the Government’s Deal, but they do give a flavour of the mess that Boris Johnson has made of his negotiation.
The idea that this deal settles the issue of our relationship with the EU is deeply flawed. As laws change within the EU, we will have to either align our standards to match these changes, or risk a financial penalty, most likely in the form of new tariffs on trade. Rather than free our businesses of what some saw as the burden of EU rules and regulations, we have simply given up our influence over the making of those rules. Something that in the long run I believe we will come to regret.
Despite the deep flaws with this deal, it is my view that I have no choice but to vote in favour of it. At this stage of the process, this is not about whether or not Brexit can be stopped, or whether or not we can add more time for a new negotiation – the chance for either of those outcomes ended with the result of the last General Election. The only choice at this stage is between this bad deal, or a no deal exit.
Exiting on January 1st without a deal would mean chaos, with the potential of food and medicine shortages as well as substantial regulatory barriers and tariffs placed on trade. I do not believe it is morally right for me to vote against a deal – which at this very late stage would be to effectively vote for a no deal exit – unless I am prepared for that eventually to occur. Therefore, I feel that I had no choice but to support this Bill.
This is by no means the end of the Brexit process. The deal that the Government has negotiated must be the minimum agreement that we reach, not the final agreement. As we move into the New Year, the Government must urgently look to plug the gaping holes in the agreement it has negotiated before too much economic damage is done. Needless to say, I will be pushing the government hard on our future relationship and holding them to account to do all that can to ensure this deal is significantly improved.
I campaigned hard for Remain during the referendum and I stood on a manifesto that would have given the British people a confirmatory referendum. I spoke to many people during the General Election who were furious at what they saw as their vote during the Referendum being ignored. Whether we agree with their view of Brexit or not, I believe that we must acknowledge the deeply felt anger that people feel over the way that Parliament has handled the issue of Brexit since the referendum.
This is not the outcome that I pounded the streets and spoke at meetings for, nor is it one that I know many of you will have hoped for. I know that some constituents will not agree with my decision to vote for this deal, but I have done so in good faith and for the reasons set out above.
I hope that you have a healthy and happy New Year.
Pre-budget statement offers little hope for people in Erith and Thamesmead
Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, detailed his plans to protect jobs and boost the economy today but despite big spending pledges the announcement offers little support for people in Erith and Thamesmead.
Concerned business owners and employees in the creative and beauty industries were expecting to hear details about when they can expect to see business get back to normal today, but the Chancellor’s package managed to completely ignore these important issues. Instead of offering flexible support packages to businesses still closed or operating a reduced service, the Chancellor has offered bonus’ to those that manage to survive the crisis.
Rishi Sunak MP clearly hasn’t had to read the hundreds of emails a day that myself and many other MPs are receiving from business owners on the brink of collapse and constituents struggling to feed their families.
One constituent has been in contact with me with concerns about their beauty business, they said:
“My profession, my reputation and my business is at stake. The action of reopening my beauty business is not from a profit perspective, it’s survival.”
Knowing that if they survive and manage to retain staff for a further 6 months they can claim £1000 from the Government, will offer little solace to many small business owners across Erith and Thamesmead at this point.
Plans announced for the hospitality and tourism sector today, one of the few industries that were acknowledged, reveal a Government that does not understand the extent of the health and economic crisis we are in. The Chancellor’s 50% off meal deal does little to support a hospitality industry that were looking forward to a robust new deal.
The Government’s failed contact tracing app and confusing messaging throughout the crisis has done little to calm public fear regarding the spread of the virus, with a second wave still a looming possibility. The hospitality and tourism industry is unable to re-open at the capacity levels needed to sustain struggling businesses without a thorough test and trace system – none of the Chancellor’s measures address this.
Millions of job losses are predicted for the coming months and whilst plans to create new jobs are welcomed, many will still find themselves on Universal Credit for the first time. Over 12,000 jobs have been furloughed in Erith and Thamesmead and unemployment rose by an unprecedented 2% between March and April.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been promised a £1 billion investment to support schemes and services which help people back into work. Again, this will offer little comfort to the thousands of people applying for Universal Credit for the first time who will be expected to survive on a reduced household income. The return of benefit sanctions, whilst vulnerable people remain exposed to the virus and businesses remain closed, demonstrates the lack of understanding and compassion offered by the Government to those struggling financially from the crisis.
If people in Erith and Thamesmead are to feel the benefits of government investment and feel supported through the upcoming period of economic instability, support needs to be targeted locally, with a net-zero target in mind and with long lasting benefits. The Labour Party are calling for four tests to be met in regards to economic support:
- Projects must involve local firms, upskill the local workforce and lead to material improvement in the quality and availability of local employment
- The Chancellor must rebuild economic resilience right across the entire country and protect those institutions, like local authorities, that can help deliver that resilience
- Every single project must be consistent with the drive to net-zero so we can build the green jobs of the future
- Any benefits of investment now must be cancelled out by poor decisions later. The Conservatives promised at the last election there would be no rises in income tax, national insurance or VAT. We need the economy to bounce back from the crisis, so there’s money in the coffers to protect public finances.
The people of Erith and Thamesmead deserve a better economic deal for jobs from the Government, to survive the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Events industry needs Government support to survive
Last week I requested to speak in the House of Commons chamber about the urgent need for Government support for the events industry. Unfortunately, I was not called to speak directly about the pressing concerns many constituents have contacted me to raise over the past two months. However, I am aware of your concerns and difficulties and I will be raising these with the Government at every possible occasion.
A huge amount of people in Erith and Thamesmead have been impacted by the Government’s failure to offer economic assistance to the events industry during COVID-19.
From the very beginning of lockdown I have received daily emails about the events industry, theatres, the hospitality sector and the creative sector. People who have worked in these industries, contributing to the UK’s economy for years, have been completely abandoned by this Government.
Despite efforts made by myself and colleagues to raise these issues with the Government ask that more support be given, I have unfortunately had to respond to constituents informing them that there is no support package available and the Government doesn’t seem to want to support them.
The Government needs to provide a sector specific support package for the cultural sector; theatres, music, festivals, other live performance venues, but also tourism and hospitality sectors which are inextricably linked.
The events sector is worth £42.3 billion to the UK economy, there are over 25,000 businesses and it sustains 570,000 full time jobs.
There is a reason 35% of the UK visitor economy is accounted for by events. That is because the events industry pulls together the best talent in a whole range of areas. Behind every festival is a team of marketers, performers, hospitality staff, transport operators, event organisers and UK music venues.
Almost every UK music festival has been cancelled this summer, music venues across the country have been unable to open for three months and are unsure of when they can begin to open again, hundreds of thousands of hospitality jobs have already been lost and the industry has warned of thousands more.
What steps is the government taking to support venues which will be unable to open for the foreseeable future, such as music venues and theatres, and therefore unable to subsidise the furlough scheme from August?
If the Government doesn’t act to save businesses and jobs before they are lost we are going to see a huge hole in the economy where our world renowned events industry used to thrive. The Government must act urgently to support people in these industries to avoid a loss of jobs, talent and culture across the UK.
Parliamentary business continues despite crisis
I hope you are staying home and keeping safe at this very challenging time. I’m working from home where my job as your MP continues. My team and I continue to support local people with a range of casework, from helping people to access financial support as a result of Covid-19 to assisting those stranded overseas. I’m also still holding the Government to account and demanding answers where their strategy is failing.
Parliament will be meeting virtually for the duration of the lockdown and business will continue as much as it possibly can. I’m taking the concerns you’ve raised with me directly to Ministers.
This week and next at Parliamentary question time I’ll be asking the Culture Secretary about the support available for self-employed people working in the digital, culture, media and sport industries affected by Covid-19. I’ll also be asking the Justice Secretary about the very serious challenges facing our prisons at this time and what action is being taken.
Next week, my Housing, Communities and Local Government select committee will be questioning Secretary of State Robert Jenrick. I’ll be asking him how he is ensuring local authorities like Greenwich and Bexley get the financial support they need at this time of crisis. Councils have faced massive cuts and the Government must step up to ensure they meet all of the costs associated with delivering social care and other vital local services.
My committee, with my support, will also be launching an inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on homelessness and the private rented sector. I and many of my colleagues have serious concerns about the short and long-term impact on homelessness and those in insecure housing and we want to hear from those affected and organisations supporting them in order to make recommendations to Government. You can submit your views to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have an issue you need my help with or if you have any questions or concerns to put to me, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and my team and I will get back to you as soon as we can.
MP for Erith & Thamesmead
Covid policy response for self-employed in creative industries
The measures required to contain the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) are unprecedented and demand a national effort. But more support needs to be offered for those who are in the creative industries and therefore self-employed.
The Government announced a set of emergency measures outlining financial support during the coronavirus outbreak. Since I wrote to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak MP, calling on the government to introduce further emergency financial measures the Government has announced the self-employment support scheme.
However, this does not go far enough to guarantee the income of workers who are self-employed in the creative industries and do not qualify for this scheme.
Our creative industries are worth a total of £117bn to the economy, much of this is due to the talent in its workforce. The creative industries have vanished overnight due to the coronavirus pandemic and so this workforce should be treated with the same support as those in secure jobs.
The latest Government response to those who do not qualify for the self-employed support scheme due to working within creative industries is: “We recognise that there are challenges for the creative industries in accessing government support. The Fed team is in ongoing conversation with the government to ensure that this support better fits the needs of the creative industries.”
In the meantime, I am doing all I can to make sure those in the creative industries get the support they need from the Government. This issue has been highlighted to the Government and is one myself and my colleagues are working on ways to pressure the Government into acting on urgently.
My colleague has contacted the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak MP, to raise these concerns which you can read here: https://bit.ly/3azWSnK.
Things are changing fast and so I would ask that you keep an eye on the Governments official website for updates on any changes to the financial offer for those in the creative industries. You can find that here: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
Here for Erith and Thamesmead
Through my work I am determined to work with local residents, community groups, businesses and public services to ensure that Erith and Thamesmead is put on the map and we get a fair deal for our community.
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