Boris Johnson liked to boast that the Tories would ‘get Brexit done’. The problem is that they haven’t. This week in parliament saw a number of debates, statements and new legislation that demonstrate all too clearly that Brexit still has a long way to go, and it’s a complicated and risky process.
So the Environment Bill, which we debated on Wednesday, highlights that the government has absolutely no intention of putting protections for environmental standards into law when we no longer have to follow EU rules. Meanwhile, in a debate on the chemicals industry, of vital interest to chemical companies in my constituency, the minister made it absolutely plain that the government wouldn’t commit to aligning our regulatory standards with those of the EU in future. That will make it harder for UK chemical businesses to import and export, it will mean they’ll have to undergo not one but two costly registration processes, and duplicate expensive testing procedures – including, as I pointed out to the minister, duplicate tests on animals. I really don’t think my constituents want that.
Most shocking of all, the government published a document on Thursday that stated the UK will abandon negotiations with the EU as soon as this June if it doesn’t think it’s going to get what it wants. That leaves a frighteningly short time to negotiate our future relationship with the EU, and it forces me to ask whether ministers are really serious about a future deal at all. But it’s a devastatingly risky strategy for the UK. I asked the minister about the implications of walking away from vital security arrangements, like the European Arrest Warrant, and the important SIS II database which contains millions of pieces of data on wanted and missing persons, including vulnerable children, and is shared by law enforcement agencies right across the EU. The first duty of government is often said to be to keep its citizens safe; it seems like this government couldn’t care less about that. You can watch my question and the minister’s alarmingly complacent answer here.
I’ve also been busy with health matters this week. My amazing constituent Michele and I met the minister to discuss Michel’s campaign for access to dental treatment for cancer patients. Cancer treatment can damage your oral health, but too often patients aren’t warned to visit their dentist and some face hefty dental bills. You can read more about Michele’s campaign and sign her petition here.
And we had a helpful statement from the secretary of state about coronavirus. The NHS is making extensive preparations, but the advice to all of us is really just common sense: washing your hands regularly and thoroughly, covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing, don’t get too close to others, and if you feel ill and are worried it might be coronavirus, isolate yourself from others and dial NHS 111. Most people who contract the virus will recover without problems, but elderly, very young and vulnerable people are at much greater risk, so it’s really important that we take the advice seriously to protect ourselves as much as we can.
I also took part this week in a debate on post-16 education funding, of vital importance to Trafford College and our schools. You can read the debate here. And this week is the first week of Fairtrade Fortnight, and it was great to welcome the Fairtrade Foundation to parliament (and the fabulous chocolate and coffee they brought along!). I’m hosting my own Fairtrade coffee morning on Friday 6 March at 9.30 am in Christ Church Davyhulme, and everyone is welcome. This annual event is always well supported by my constituents, proceeds once again will go to charity Action Aid, and it would be great to have your support.