By Bev Haigh-Jones

Prepared by Omnisis Ltd and reproduced from Yorkshire Bylines.

Rejoin – As well as being the focus of our recent campaigning, this is the first topic for our News roundup this month. So much has been happening recently to reignite the passion behind the rejoin movement, and more and more people are now prepared to speak out about Brexit and its consequences. For example, Andrew Adonis, writing in Prospect Magazine, ponders whether the Windsor agreement could eventually be extended to include the whole of the UK, which would be a first step on the road to the Single Market. The Guardian states that Brexitism is dying, Yorkshire Bylines published the results of a poll which showed that a majority of people are in favour of free movement, both for UK citizens and those of the EU, and Wales has announced new funding to strengthen ties with the EU.

Meanwhile, in the Mirror, Fleet Street Fox cited some of the things that have been lost as a result of Brexit and the lies that were told that have now been exposed, but she goes on to detail some interesting poll results, one of which shows that, while only 22% of those who voted Tory in 2019 want to rejoin, that figure is 82% for those who voted Labour. Another poll by The Constitution Society seems to back this result and suggests that Labour could achieve an increased majority by turning against Brexit.

Finally on this topic, I can’t fail to highlight two recent announcements by politicians on the subject. The first was from Ed Davey at the recent Liberal Democrat Conference, where he stated that “If you want to boost our economy, you have to repair our broken relationship with the EU”, and received a standing ovation as a result. At last – a party that is prepared to admit that Brexit is a disaster and needs to be reversed. This statement was followed even more recently by a speech from the new Leader of the SNP, Humza Yousaf. Shortly before his election he stated quite clearly that “Scotland is a European nation. We want to return to the EU”.

Divergence – Although all the talk of rejoin is a very positive move forward, there has also been evidence recently of the UK’s further divergence from EU standards. Despite the fact that the new Windsor deal would potentially allow the UK to rejoin the EU’s Horizon science programme, it appears that Rishi Sunak is not keen to take up this opportunity. And then there is the UN-backed Freshwater Challenge, a pledge for countries across the world to restore rivers and wetlands by 2030 – which the UK has not joined! Lastly, something that could affect any of us – the standard of honey sold in the UK. Jon Danzig reports on a recent investigation by the EU into the quality of UK honey that found up to 46% of that sampled to be fraudulent, in that it had been adulterated with sugar syrup. In 2022, the UK imported 38,000 tons of honey from China, where there is known to be a risk of adulteration.

Brexit self-harm – We are all aware of its existence and there has been more confirmation of late, if any were needed. Even the Express is now carrying stories about the lies told by Johnson and others to achieve Brexit, such as this one heralding the collapse of the fishing industry. The Guardian, a publication that is far more likely to provide the whole picture when reporting on Brexit issues, tells of yet another car manufacturer which is ignoring the UK in favour of the EU for its new plant. BYD, China’s top-selling electric car company, wants to be manufacturing 80,000 cars per annum in Europe by 2030. When considering locations, the UK didn’t even make it to the long list, never mind the short one, and the reason given was Brexit.

Lies, lies, suppression and threats. I had a lot to choose from for this section, but I will begin with one of the lies. Early in the pandemic, Matt Hancock, the then Health Secretary, claimed that they were putting a protective ring around care home residents, or words to that effect. According to leaked messages, however, it would seem that advice on testing those going into care homes was ignored as it could “muddy the waters”. Between 17 April and 13 August, 2020, 17,678 people died in care homes and the High Court have since ruled that sending people into care homes untested was unlawful.

Now onto a threat. The Telegraph have been printing yet more leaked WhatsApp messages involving Matt Hancock and one relates to a threat to a Tory MP. James Daley, MP for Bury in Lancashire, was against the government policy on lockdown, but in order to force him to vote in favour he was sent a message threatening to withdraw support for a disabled centre in his constituency unless he complied.

Next, we have suppression. I suspect that nobody can fail to be aware of the attempted gagging of Gary Lineker recently by the BBC, so I will not go there, especially as the conclusion was satisfactory, but another issue of concern revolves around the latest series starring David Attenborough. Wild Isles consists of six programmes related to nature in the British Isles, but the BBC will only be airing five of them on mainstream TV, with the sixth, which covers the loss of UK nature and the causes of the decline, available on iPlayer only. The reason, we are told, was that they bowed to pressure from lobbying groups and wanted to fend off potential critique from the political right.

And to finish this section, we have yet more lies. Some from the acknowledged expert, Jacob Rees Mogg, who insists on continuing with his fantasy version of Brexit. This little clip put together by Peter Stefanovic provides an enlightening and amusing few minutes.

Smoke and mirrors and underhand tactics? Hopefully, most people are aware that they will now need photo ID to vote in any election, but that only specific forms of ID are deemed acceptable. This requirement exists even if you have the polling card that has been sent to you and includes local elections. As we have reported previously, if you do not possess the required ID already, it is possible to apply for a Voter Authority Certificate, or alternatively, a postal vote. All very frustrating and irritating, especially as the “voter fraud” that the government claims it is guarding against, doesn’t really exist. What is more worrying though, is that an article in the “i” has disclosed that Conservative Campaign Headquarters in London has been sending unsolicited postal voter application forms to constituents and the enclosed return envelope is addressed not to their local council, but to the local Conservative Association offices. Why? Could it be a data harvesting exercise? Or, even more sinister, could they then fail to send these forms on to the council within the required timescale, thereby denying that applicant their right to vote?

Integrity – Is this something possessed by our MPs? I could have chosen many stories for this category, but have limited it to just four. Firstly, and perhaps only partially related to integrity, is the story that Rishi Sunak has paid to have his local electricity network upgraded to enable it to cope with the power requirement of his new swimming pool. Now, to be fair, he has footed the bill himself, but my concern relates to other aspects. Firstly, he claims to be in touch with ordinary people. Really? The cost to upgrade the power grid is estimated to be tens of thousands of pounds; this on top of the construction costs for a forty-foot pool, gym and tennis court and the ongoing running costs to heat a pool of that size, which, incidentally, has been built on what until recently had been grazing land. The UK is suffering significant hardship and many families are struggling to feed themselves, and up to 350 public swimming pools across the country have either closed, or reduced their opening hours because of rising energy costs, including one near Mr Sunak’s home. Yes, he may have covered the costs himself from his considerable fortune, but does this really show empathy with those in need, or even good judgement? It certainly doesn’t demonstrate a concern for the environment, and yet he is the person with responsibility for the UK’s carbon zero plans.

In recent weeks we have heard claims from various ministers that events are showing that the government plan is working. We have also heard Jeremy Hunt claiming that his budget is putting us on the right track. Now check out what CNN’s Fareed Zakaria makes of Brexit.

I imagine that many of you have seen the most recent video by Led by Donkeys, since it has also been shown on mainstream TV. Quite shocking to see prominent MPs blatantly negotiating payment for extra jobs over and above their constituency duties, despite believing that this could necessitate travel overseas. The furore around Matt Hancock’s stint in the jungle should have taught them something, but it seems that greed wins out every time.

Contrast the behaviour of the politicians in the previous paragraph, to that of this barrister, Paul Powlesland. He won’t prosecute climate protestors, nor will he act on behalf of fossil fuel companies. Now to me that’s integrity, though he had to endure insults from the panel as a result.

The final section this month relates to local issues. Firstly, the proposed plan by Cornwall Council to double the council tax on second homes went to the government for approval and was expected to become effective in 2024, but it now seems likely that legislation will not be passed until 2025. Secondly, water – and not sewage discharge this time. After a hosepipe ban in Cornwall which is still in force since late last summer, new reports suggest that we may be facing water rationing in the coming months. On a lighter note, (and now we are back to sewage!), George Eustice, MP for Camborne and Redruth and ex-Environment Secretary, has been awarded a number of blue plaques honouring his “s**t” performance in protecting our rivers and beaches whilst he was in post. And finally, there are many objections to the proposed “Truro Loop”, a planned combined cycle and pedestrian route along Newham Road in the city. Objectors say that the plans pose significant dangers to pedestrians and cyclists, as the road would become too narrow for safe transit by heavy goods.

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