by Bev Haigh-Jones


Current UK view on Brexit

A myriad of woes, misdemeanours and party dissent continue to plague the Sunak government.To begin with, a little reminder of the speech by Rishi Sunak when he first took office last year. Sadly, however, he has so far failed to live up to his promises. As the Guardian reports, six months after he announced his five pledges we are no further forward. An article by Sir Chris Bryant MP in the Mirror goes so far as to state that Sunak is the worst person possible to be leading the country at the moment, and the opinion of the comedian Ben Elton was no better, when he appeared recently on the Laura Kuenssberg Show. Criticism of the Prime Minister continued in the Mirror, where they reported on his donation of a £10 bottle of wine to a local school raffle, whilst providing several million dollars to an American college. Perhaps one of the most damning incidents, though, was the grilling he was given by Chris Bryant during an appearance before the Liaison Committee.

Moving on to other members of the Cabinet, Health Secretary Steve Barclay has devised an ingenious plan. In the absence of any actual new hospitals materialising as a result of the pledge to build 40 new ones, he is planning a series of roadshows across the UK to offer people the chance to see them in virtual reality! Unfortunately, the treatment that they should be providing cannot be accessed in the same way. Meanwhile, a number of MPs, including Tory Deputy Chairman, Lee Anderson, Nadine Dorries and Jacob Rees Mogg, have taken to the world of media with a variety of talk shows. This has come to the attention of Ofcom, who are now investigating after a number of complaints were received relating to shows hosted by JRM and also Alex Salmond. Lee Anderson appears to be going in a rather odd direction by feeding one guest baked beans, and attempting to get another to eat cat food, while Nadine Dorries got something of a roasting from one of her own guests over her comments regarding the Partygate Select Committee.

And so, on to Partygate – again! The report was made public and the result duly debated in the Commons prior to a vote on acceptance, or otherwise. Sadly, the vast majority of those present were from the opposition parties – it really was an extremely poor show for democracy and a demonstration of either apathy or cowardice on the part of the Tories. When it came to the vote itself, absences were even more evident as can be seen in the official figures. Only 125 Tories voted on the report, and those included the only seven MPs who voted against. Rishi Sunak was, of course, one of those not present, but to be fair to Tobias Ellwood, although he had intended to be elsewhere, when he heard the strength of feeling from his constituents on a radio programme, he changed his plans, attended the House, spoke in the debate and voted in favour.

The problems don’t end there for Sunak, however. Of the sixty-eight MPs who have announced that they are standing down at the next election, forty-six are Tories. In addition, the Covid enquiry is now underway, and despite what seems to have been desperate attempts to prevent the WhatsApp messages of Boris Johnson becoming public knowledge, it appears it was to no avail, but as it is anticipated that the enquiry could last for up to three years, we won’t be getting answers any time soon. To round off this section, I offer a report by Jon Danzig on a speech by Lord Eatwell which could not be more damning of our Conservative government.

The UK economy is in a mess and there doesn’t seem to be much light at the end of the tunnel. I apologise for beginning this section with a somewhat gloomy report, but this article from John Harris in the Guardian seems to sum up the mood in the country rather well. The news channel also provides a sobering report on their view of the UK economy and a Tweet from Tobi Frenzen details that the pound has lost 28% of its value since 2016, whilst prices have increased by 39.42%. These details are borne out by this article from, using figures from the ONS.

These financial issues – austerity measures brought in by the government, historic underfunding of our public services and now the dramatic cost-of-living crisis – also have knock-on effects that we might not expect. Firstly, the Guardian reports that UK children are getting smaller. They are now shorter on average than those in sixty-eight other countries and that is believed to be down to poor nutrition. Then there is the article in euronews that suggests that UK life expectancy is falling compared with other EU countries, possibly because of failures in the NHS.

One might think that these issues would raise alarm bells within the government and that they would be taking steps to address the situation, but despite everything, we hear that Bank of England bosses had generous pay rises, even though public sector workers are being refused, and the Times reported on a rumour that the Chancellor is planning to scrap inheritance tax, thereby helping the wealthy yet again, rather than those in need. This, of course, would also reduce revenues going into the government finances, but it might keep some Tory voters happy in the run-up to the next election. If you think that these policies appear to be crazy, you wouldn’t be on your own. Lord Vaizey, a Tory peer and former minister has said that “a significant and sizeable wing” of the Tory party are “completely and utterly insane” because of their obsession with tax cuts. Businessman Dale Vince also has an opinion on the matter and on a recent episode of Question Time he made a suggestion as to a better way forward.

Migration, legal or otherwise, is still very much in the news. The Stockholm Bibby barge for housing immigrants arrived in Portland this week and was met with protests from a number of different organisations, some in support and some not. Also this week, two cruise ships ordered by the government to house asylum seekers, one headed for Edinburgh and the other for Liverpool, were turned around and not allowed to dock. It does seem incredible that the government could have spent this amount of taxpayers’ money without ensuring that the necessary plans were in place with the relevant port authorities! Fortunately, the cost of painting out the Disney murals at a detention centre so as to make it less welcoming for children, would not have been so expensive.

Meanwhile, in the EU, where other countries are also struggling with asylum seekers using dangerous routes to enter countries less hostile than their own, MEPs are calling for a new, EU-wide search and rescue mission in the Mediterranean, after the tragic sinking of a migrant vessel recently, whilst in the Netherlands, the government has collapsed because of a failure to agree on asylum measures. Finally, Jon Danzig has reminded us recently about his video from 2015, where he warned about the direction in which the attitude to immigrants was going in the UK, largely fuelled by the right-wing media.

Brexit is up next and there is always plenty to report on the disaster that has resulted. To begin on a positive note, however, the enthusiasm for rejoining the EU is growing ever stronger, with the latest polls showing that there is a significant majority now in favour. Add to that the drive behind the National Rejoin March II which will be taking place in London on 23 September, and things are going in the right direction. (See our separate announcement for details of coach tickets to join us at the event.) When added to this it seems, according to a report in the Mirror, that only one in five Brexit voters think that it is going well, and the Guardian tells us that the number of Brits who want to rejoin is at the highest level since 2016, the tide certainly seems to be turning.

Of course, we know that the Brexit leave vote was achieved largely on lies and this was not lost on our European colleagues. Terry Reintke said it well in the EU parliament some years ago, when she accused Boris Johnson of lying to the UK. Things began to go downhill immediately after the referendum, but the main impact came after we had formally left the Union. In financial terms, if Scotland is losing £3 billion per year, imagine the total for the whole of the UK. Within farming, one of the sectors where the leave vote was highest because they believed the lies, opinion is largely changing. Politicians such as Michael Heseltine, new Vice President of the European Movement, Dominic Grieve and Tory MP Tobias Ellwood have said it has failed and we should rejoin, and even fanatical Brexiter Nigel Farage has admitted that it isn’t working and asks, “what was it all for?”. Keir Starmer, on the other hand, is currently saying that it has to be made to work, but he is coming under increasing pressure from the unions and some within his own party, to rethink that policy.

Of course, there has been plenty of publicity around the various trade deals that have been struck post-Brexit, though none come anywhere near compensating for what was lost by leaving the EU. In addition, those with Australia and New Zealand appear to have been achieved to the detriment of our own farmers, whereas a recent deal between NZ and the EU appears to benefit both sides.

Things can only get worse for the UK when extra border controls are introduced in October, since additional red tape and delays can only serve to raise food prices further. We also have the continuing workforce shortages affecting numerous areas of our industry, but it is a problem that the government seem reluctant to resolve, even though people like George Eustice MP, say we need more EU workers. To lighten the mood, though, I will end this section with another offering from Jon Danzig, this time of pro-EU adverts which are both amusing and encouraging.

Climate! Surely everyone must now realise that it is changing? I will not spend too much time on this subject, since at long last it is receiving a great deal of coverage in the media. However, there may be a few things that you have missed. According to recent figures, Europe is warming faster than the global average, with annual temperatures increasing between 1.7 and 1.9 degrees Celsius in urban areas. That is already above the 1.5 target that we should be aiming at as a maximum. In Barcelona, they are considering painting all the rooftops white in an effort to reduce the impact. El niño is apparently responsible and the results are devastating!

Here in the UK, we are more fortunate in that we are not suffering to the same extent, though we are experiencing unusual weather patterns. When Zac Goldsmith resigned from government, he cited their inaction on climate change as the main reason, and the government’s own advisers say that the UK is missing climate targets on nearly every front. On a recent Question Time programme, Dale Vince, founder of Ecotricity also provided some home truths on the UK performance. Whilst the UK is dragging its feet others are making progress. The EU is continuing to take steps to move forward, like approving the Nature Restoration Law, despite opposition from right-wing elements, and in California they are hoping to introduce the world’s first solar-powered train.

Action has to be taken now – and there are some encouraging signs, but they are not coming from the UK government. A study by the academic journal One Earth, has suggested that a carbon tax on luxury goods could be more effective than the existing, blanket carbon tax, and many workers within polluting industries are attempting change from the inside.

And, finally, a few points of specific relevance to Cornwall. Beginning on a positive note, Prince William has embarked on a campaign to end homelessness in the UK and it will include affordable housing to be built on the Duchy Estate.

On a less positive subject, sewage spills continue at many Cornish beaches on a regular basis, and despite this, or more likely because we are expected to pay to improve the infrastructure, water rate rises are already being planned. The rises are expected to be up to 40%, which is especially worrying for Cornwall as we already have some of the highest water prices in the UK.

There has been a renewed call for a ban on Chinese lanterns after they were responsible recently for the destruction of twenty vehicles near Launceston. These lanterns have caused fires before, mainly to farm supplies, or buildings, but as they serve no useful purpose and their potential to cause damage is immense, surely a ban is sensible?

Our native bees are under serious pressure and one of the worrying threats to their survival is the Asian hornets that have found their way to the UK. If you spot something that doesn’t look like our normal hornet, or wasp, please report it to DEFRA. For a guide for what to look for, see a photo here.

Lastly, the row over the recently increased parking charges across Cornwall rumbles on. In Callington, traders say that the introduction of new charges could be the “nail in the coffin” for the town, and anger from locals that they are being penalised for going about their daily business has resulted in a petition to reverse the increases.

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