Statement regarding the draft Agreement on Brexit

Independent North East MEP Jonathan Arnott has issued the following statement with regard to the draft Agreement on Brexit, which will go before Cabinet shortly.

“The People of the United Kingdom participated in a Vote in June 2016. That vote of the people mandated withdrawal from the European Union. More people supported Brexit than have ever voted for anything else in British history. Previous elections confirmed the desire for such a vote; subsequent Acts of Parliament and a General Election underlined the decision already taken. To fail to respect such a mandate would strike at the core of our constitutional democratic process. It would irrevocably damage the relationship between the electorate and the government, to an extent I shudder to imagine.

Brexit must happen; that much is clear. Even a competent Prime Minister might well have struggled in negotiations; I have watched opposition politicians sniping from the sidelines for over two years, demeaning and belittling our great nation, and taking the side of the European Union unquestioningly on every issue in negotiations. Those politicians have made the task of negotiating Brexit immeasurably harder. They have done a disservice to our nation so great that it would be easy to resort to hyperbole. Each politician who has so undermined should examine their consciences and ask whether they owe the British people an apology: have they acted out of mere naïveté, blanket loyalty to the European Union, or from a genuine desire to sabotage the vote of the people?

As I have said, even a competent Prime Minister would have struggled. Instead, we have Theresa May. Her Mansion House speech exuded confidence, but I fear her subsequent actions have spectacularly failed to live up to her words. A weak Prome Minister may deliver powerful words, but not results.

The concessions we already know about are vast: compromises on legislation, on borders, on finances and on regulatory alignment.

In the coming days, we will no doubt learn of further concessions.

The Cabinet, and Parliament, must now scrutinise what Theresa May has returned to them with. The basis for such scrutiny should be whether or not the Agreement delivers upon the primary reasons people voted for Brexit.

It should, as Theresa May herself implied at the start of this whole process, be dependent upon whether we have as a nation genuinely taken back control. By the end of the process, will we have:

  1. Stopped EU courts overruling our own?
  2. Repatriated legislative power from Brussels to Westminster?
  3. Stopped sending vast sums of money to the EU each year?
  4. Gained the ability to sign our own free trade deals, without EU rules interfering with our trading arrangements with other nations?
  5. Regained full control over our policy on immigration, ending the discrimination between EU and non-EU immigration? 6. Regained full control over our sovereign waters and fisheries?

These questions broadly reflect May’s negotiation priorities. They also will generally shed light on whether or not the deal respects the people’s vote.

It seems unlikely, bordering on impossible, that the Agreement will even come close to respecting the Vote of the People in 2016. Nevertheless, it is all too frequent in politics – and it is the nature of the 24-hour news cycle in the media which pushes this – for detailed comment to be expected on documents not yet published, let alone read. Digesting 500 pages of technical agreement will not be straightforward, but all sides should take the trouble to do so. Informed debate matters.

Another question will be critical. We need to ask to what extent this Agreement will bind us in perpetuity. If it genuinely offers transition to a more acceptable relationship with the European Union, that is one thing. But if we remain trapped, locked into such an unacceptable fudge, with no means of altering the arrangement without EU approval, we risk being forever trapped. I am wary of this point, and await full publication of the Agreement.

If Theresa May has indeed failed in negotiations, then Cabinet and Parliament have a responsibility to prevent a poor deal going through.

Theresa May herself told us that no deal would be preferable to a poor deal: if she has indeed returned with a poor deal, Parliament would be right to reject it; in Theresa May’s own words, a no-deal scenario would be better.

Time is running short. It is unfashionable amongst those who support a true, proper, clean Brexit to say so, but time is now of the essence.

There is another approach, but that requires a change of Prime Minister. The window of opportunity will be short, but must be taken.

A simple but wide-ranging tariff-free trading agreement with appropriate mutual recognition of standards can, I believe, be negotiated in time – but it now requires courage and leadership. Those qualities have sadly been lacking in our government.

If this draft Agreement proves to be as bad as is being floated, there will only be a brief opportunity to replace incompetence with competence at Number 10 – to snatch victory from the jaws of the defeat which I fear is in turn being snatched from the people’s victory of 2016. Such competence will not, sadly, be found on the Opposition front bench.”

 

 

 

Unemployment figures welcomed by local MEP

Independent North East MEP Jonathan Arnott has welcomed today’s news that unemployment in the region has fallen:

“Figures show that unemployment in the North East fell by a further 3,000 to 56,000 between May and July. This is fantastic news for the North East economy, showing that we are finally beginning to catch up with the rest of the country.

“Whilst the rate of 4.4% remains above the UK average, it has fallen dramatically over the last two years and is now below other areas including the North West.

“Until fairly recently, the North East had by far the highest unemployment figures in the UK and it is positive news that the trend of improvement in the North East is continuing.”, said Mr Arnott, Independent Euro-MP.

“These figures prove that claims by Remainers that mass unemployment would immediately follow the referendum result were false. It is turning out to be the opposite; as we correctly predicted a couple of years ago, the lower pound has provided a boost to manufacturing in our region.

“Further good news is that wages are now rising faster than inflation. Of course, there is no room for complacency as there are still concerns about too many people having little choice but to accept casual and zero-hours contracts; job security matters too and that must not be overlooked,” said Mr Arnott.

Local MEP supports calls for child chess prodigy to stay

A chess playing MEP has lent his support to calls for a child chess prodigy to be allowed to remain in this country.

Nine-year-old Shreyas Royal has been dubbed Britain’s “greatest chess prospect in a generation” and is ranked number four in the world in his age group.

But his father’s visa will expire next month and the family, who came to the UK six years ago, must return to India.

Shreyas was born in India but has lived in south London since the age of three when his father, Jitendra Singh, was offered a job as an IT project manager – and his employers want him to continue working for them.

His son learnt to play the game in this country and has since represented England internationally.

Mr Singh, whose five-year work visa is due to expire next month, has called on Home Secretary Sajid Javid to let the family stay and two MPs are backing that request.

Jonathan Arnott, a North East Independent MEP, himself a chess Candidate Master, who has played in international competitions, has also voiced his support for the family.

“This should not happen under a supposedly merit-based system; it strikes at the heart of fairness. We need a true equivalent of the American ‘Extraordinary Ability’ visa to ensure that we don’t waste the talents of those who have something exceptional to offer our nation.

“In the meantime, common sense would dictate that Shreyas Royal should be allowed to stay in the UK.

“There is good reason why the public is concerned about ensuring that immigration is brought under control, but once again the Home Office appears to be going about it in the wrong way,” said Mr Arnott.

The Home Office has commented: “Every visa case is assessed on its own merits in line with immigration rules.”

Euro-MP blasts telephone ‘scam’ hitting pensioners the hardest

With consumers in the North East being ripped-off to the tune of over £11 for a 90-second call to Directory Enquiries services, local Independent Euro-MP Jonathan Arnott has called it a ‘scam’ and demanded immediate action – together with some contrition from those who caused this situation in the first place.
Twice as many over-65s (4%) use 118 services as all adults (2%), leading to suggestions that some of our poorest pensioners are being victimised most by the current situation.
Jonathan Arnott said: “It is utterly morally despicable for companies to be allowed to hike their prices so much without it being made clear to consumers that they’ve done so. They seem to think that fleecing local pensioners is a licence to print money, but it isn’t. This is an appalling situation for those who get a massive shock when their phone bill arrives. Ofcom have been monitoring this situation for over a year now; it’s time for less monitoring and more action.
“I’m sure many of us remember that before the switch over to the 118 services, a phone call to Directory Enquiries used to cost a flat-rate 40p. They may have forgotten, but I have not, that the European Union forced this situation upon us through Directive 2002/77/EC. The European Commission arrogantly seek to pull the wool over our eyes by denying on their website that they ‘demand the use of 118’, in the full knowledge that they actually demanded the change – they just would have allowed us to use a different number if we’d wanted to.
“This is yet another example of just how far the European Union reaches into our daily lives: forget rip-off Britain, this is rip-off Brussels. The European Union created this mess; it’s high time that Ofcom got on with fixing it.”
Notes to Editors:
2 – See, for example, footnote 15 on p19 of this document from the National Audit Office
3 – Directive 2002/77/EC required (article 8) the removal of this public service from BT and placing in the hands of various companies, causing confusion and huge price hikes: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:32002L0077&from=EN
4 – The Commission, however, state misleadingly that “the UK was not forced to adopt the 118 directory enquiries prefix as a result of EU law”. Indeed  it was not; the UK could have chosen 117, 119 or any other three digits – but the Commission mandated the change. See: https://blogs.ec.europa.eu/ECintheUK/commission-to-blame-for-new-118-enquiry-number/

Jonathan Arnott MEP has slammed a suggestion by five North-East Labour MPs that the Brexit referendum should be re-fought

An independent North East Euro-MP has slammed a suggestion by five North-East Labour MPs that the Brexit referendum should be re-fought, saying the conversation should have moved on by now.

Jonathan Arnott said “Let’s just try to keep things in context, shall we? Yes, we had a referendum at which more people voted Leave than have voted for anything else in British history – including 58% here in the North East. But that one referendum didn’t come in isolation. The 2014 European elections, the 2015 General Election and the 2017 General Election were all won by parties pledging to leave the EU, or to hold and implement the referendum result.

“David Cameron, a Remainer, described the referendum as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’. Are we now to reinvent this, and say it should be two, three or four times just because he didn’t get his way?

“The conversation should have moved on by now. Leave or Remain should be ancient history; we should be debating what kind of independent nation we want to be, how to exercise our newly-regained power, imaginative policies on global trade or local tax that would have been illegal whilst in the EU.”

The five Labour MPs, who made the call writing in the Independent, are Phil Wilson (Sedgefield), Paul Williams (Stockton South), Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South), Anna Turley (Redcar) and Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle North). Four of the five constituencies they represent voted for Leave at the referendum.

MEP slams peers amendment vote

Local MEP Jonathan Arnott has described the House of Lords vote on an amendment for the UK to continue in the EU’s Customs Union as “an utter betrayal.”

The amendment, tabled by cross-bencher Lord Kerr, passed with a majority of 123 votes and was backed not only by Labour and Lib Dems, but also by some senior Conservative peers.

Independent MEP Mr Arnott said, “It is both saddening and ironic at the same time that an unelected House of Lords sees fit to attempt to overturn the biggest democratic mandate in the history of our country.

“The one thing both Leave and Remain campaigns agreed on during the referendum campaign was that a vote for Brexit would mean leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union.

“Labour are trying to keep the UK in the Single Market; the House of Lords are trying to keep us in the Customs Union. If the UK were to remain in both, we wouldn’t regain control of our  Parliamentary sovereignty, our courts, our finances, our borders, or our fisheries.

“We wouldn’t be able to negotiate trade deals for ourselves. In fact, it would mean nothing had been regained on every single major reason that caused Brexit voters to choose Brexit. It would be Brexit in name only, an utter betrayal of 17.4 million people – including a huge 58% right here in the North East.

“Instead of trying to limit Brexit, we should be trying to seize the opportunities it provides. Wouldn’t it be nice if our government started showing some vision, courage and leadership, working out how we can make the most of this momentous decision rather than constantly downplaying it? A good start would be for the Commons to torpedo this awful amendment.”

The fundamental principle of the EU telling us what our policies must be post-Brexit is reprehensible

Local MEP Jonathan Arnott has reacted angrily to EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michael Barnier laying down the law over UK policies after Britain leaves the European Union.

Speaking at an environment conference, Mr Barnier declared that Britain must sign a ‘non-regression’ clause to prevent ‘key pre-Brexit standards’ being lowered in any further trade deals between the UK and EU.

“It is typical EU arrogance for them to imply they’re the only ones upholding ‘standards’, when in many areas we have higher standards than the European Union and legislated before them (they’ve finally caught up on the presumption of innocence this month, some 803 years behind us). But this isn’t really about standards, it’s about control. It’s about the European Union seeking to control our domestic policies, to prevent the UK becoming more competitive, to stop our economy booming – disappointingly, the Commission seems to consider a vibrant UK economy a threat to them, rather than an asset in a great trading partner right on their doorstep.

“Irrespective of the rights and wrongs of any of the issues raised by Barnier, the fundamental principle of the EU telling us what our policies must be post-Brexit is reprehensible,” said Mr Arnott, an Independent Euro-MP for the North East. “Their endless red tape and control is one of the reasons so many millions voted for Brexit in the first place. We voted for freedom and our government must stand firm and not be bullied,” he said.

“Even if the UK wanted to surrender on this point, I question whether a legally-binding guarantee about future domestic policies can even be legally achieved; a fundamental principle of the UK’s democracy is that no British Parliament may legally bind its successor.”

Mr Barnier has said that the UK would not be allowed to lower ‘standards’ on issues including taxation if a post-Brexit deal is to be achieved, insisting a so-called ‘level playing field’ must be achieved in not only environmental areas but also fiscal.

Project Fear 2

I was wondering…what if someone made a movie trailer from the scare stories politicians keep telling us about Brexit? So I did. Here’s Project Fear 2 – this time, it’s not at all personal.

 

 

 

Q: Is this true, or is it a spoof? 

 

A: It’s a film trailer-style video, designed to demonstrate a point – but shockingly, everything in the video is based on truth.

 

The Mirror did run a headline ‘Brexit could trigger World War 3‘ after David Cameron suggested that Brexit would risk peace and stability on our continent. The European Council President did indeed say that Brexit could ‘destroy Western political civilisation‘, and the Commission President agreed with him. The Treasury did claim that at least 500,000 jobs would be lost within 2 years if people voted for Brexit. This claim was made, in public and on television, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

 

There’s a little poetic licence in the storytelling (it’s a spoof movie trailer, after all), but it’s all based on fact.

 

Q: Isn’t the phrase ‘Project Fear 2’ a bit disparaging?

 

A:  The phrase ‘Project Fear’ was coined by Rob Shorthouse in the Scottish independence referendum campaign, and it quickly became used to describe the Remain campaign’s tactics in the Brexit referendum too. Use of a label like ‘Project Fear’ is actually tame as a description of the campaign tactics of threatening war, mass unemployment, cancer, etc.

 

Now establishment figures, including former Prime Ministers, are openly working to reverse Brexit. Project Fear 2 seems an apt title for that.

 

Q: Are you actually making a feature-length film?

 

A: No. It’s just the trailer, sorry.

 

Q: But don’t Project Fear have a point? If experts are saying that Brexit could cause cancer, shouldn’t we listen to them?

 

A: There are expert arguments on both sides as to how Brexit will impact on healthcare, but Project Fear portrayed it as though Brexit was going to kill people. Morris Brown, professor of clinical pharmacology at the University of Cambridge described the EU’s Clinical Trials Directive as “a disaster that threatens patients’ lives”. That’s pretty strong stuff, reflecting the verifiable data in the link, but I don’t recall leading Brexiteers using such scaremongering tactics and saying that ‘Remain will cause cancer’. And Sir Andre Geim said in his Nobel prize lecture that [EU rules] were “discrediting the whole idea of an effectively working Europe”.

 

Q: But surely the mass job losses have happened?

 

A: Quite the opposite. In fact, more people are in employment than ever before, with unemployment rates close to a record low. Project Fear couldn’t have been more wrong.

 

Q: Brexit hasn’t happened yet. The economic disaster is yet to come.

 

A: Here’s the problem with that argument. Project Fear campaigners claimed the disaster would start from June 24 2016, the day after the referendum. That just didn’t happen. If anything, the economy has improved. If they’d said it would happen from Brexit Day originally, they might have had a point. Now they’re moving the goalposts because they don’t like the economic data.

 

Here’s my report on why these projections are so wildly wrong.

 

Q: In the trailer, a sinister voice says ‘if you want to know the reason for the lies, follow the money’. What’s that all about?

 

A: This isn’t intended to be taken 100% literally, but there’s actually a strong argument that ‘big money’ is behind much of the Remain campaign, and the attempt to reverse the Brexit referendum vote.

 

Half a million pounds is being spent on a series of adverts designed to do just that. The Best for Britain group is funded by multi-billionaire George Soros, once dubbed ‘the man who broke the Bank of England’ over the UK’s withdrawal from the Exchange Rate Mechanism. During the referendum campaign Remain outspent Leave by roughly 3 to 2, and the UK government spent a further £9.2 million over and above that on leaflets and online advertising recommending a Remain vote. Many of the pro-Remain groups in the EU referendum campaign had received EU funding themselves, to the tune of €160 million. Some of the questionable campaign tactics of the Remain campaign seem to be receiving a ‘free pass’ in sections of the media. Then from the EU’s point of view, the UK flits between being the second and third-largest contributors to the EU budget. The UK pays the EU far more than it gets back in return – why wouldn’t the EU want that to continue?

 

Q: And the phrase ‘standing up against a sinister government’…?

 

A: A more accurate phrase would be ‘against a bureaucratic and incompetent government’, but that wouldn’t really fit well with the genre. A little poetic licence, perhaps.

 

Q: What about the phrase ‘we’ll call them racists’? Surely nobody’s suggesting that all 17.4 million Brexit voters are racists?

 

A: Surprisingly, this slur comes up more than you might think. Even the leader of the Liberal Democrats was accused of doing precisely that after he claimed that older Brexit voters wanted ‘a world where passports were blue, faces were white and the map was coloured imperial pink’, though he later denied that he was accusing all 17.4 million of racism.

 

Q: Who are the ‘one small group of people’ who ‘stand up for freedom’ that are mentioned in the video?

 

A: Hopefully, you. I’m referring to the people who counter Project Fear’s misinformation. The people who keep up the pressure by writing to your MPs, by sending letters in to your local newspaper, getting on to radio phone-in shows, even just talking to your friends and family. The people who, if they tried to overturn Brexit, would take part in peaceful demonstrations to stand up for our national freedom. The people who would deliver leaflets and knock on doors if they forced a second referendum on us, to try to overturn the ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ decision that we made barely 18 months ago.

 

A ‘culture of inspiration’ needed for school children

A culture of inspiration for school children needs to be introduced, said local MEP Jonathan Arnott.

His call follows the publication of a report by the Children’s Commissioner for England warning of the ‘huge gaps’ between the poorest Northern children and those in the South.

“We’ve known for a long time that children in Northern working-class communities are being left behind in our education system. The government isn’t putting the resources in that we need, and the so-called ‘Northern Powerhouse’ has proven to be more rhetoric than real action,” said Mr Arnott, a former teacher.

“Yes, we do need a culture of hope. I’m fed up of seeing working-class people left behind by a system that’s more interested in political correctness than in helping real people deal with real problems.

“Until we, as a society, stop using university as the almost-exclusive metric by which young people are judged, we’ll continue to have young people feeling abandoned by the system. The Germans don’t take such a snobbish approach; they understand the value of both vocational and academic education.

Mr Arnott said, “As teaching has become more bureaucratic, more focused upon paperwork and evidence, teachers have had less time to provide the extra-curricular activities which enrich and develop all-round education. It’s children in poorer working-class communities who are being denied opportunities. Truly inspirational teachers can change lives, but they’re being hamstrung by red tape.

“It’s not just about money, it’s about creating a culture within our education system to inspire our young people. But the money counts too: I don’t want to hear about gimmicks, derisory amounts of money spent on more training to follow a broken system – I want to hear about smaller class sizes, more individual attention and a less mass-produced system,” said Mr Arnott, an independent Euro-MP.

Children ‘spectacularly failed’ in State experiment

 

Following reports that a thousand young girls have been sexually assaulted in Telford, an independent MEP has called for a change in the law to try to prevent more children becoming victims.

Jonathan Arnott, a former teacher who represents the North East of England in the European Parliament, has made the proposal after many people have questioned why these sexual assaults were not picked up by the authorities sooner.

“This scandal is, sadly, nothing new. Blind eyes have been turned to child sexual abuse for far too long, including some horrific cases in my own constituency. The fact is, though, that when parents are unaware of what is happening, they have no way of protecting their children.

“The law needs to be changed so that parents receive better information about their own children’s welfare.

“In 1985, a court ruled that children are entitled to access to contraception without their parents’ knowledge or consent. Later, this same logic was used for abortions to be provided and for parents to be kept in the dark by both social workers and medical professionals. This created a culture of silence around statutory rape and predatory criminal behaviour,” he said.

“That court decision was said to be in children’s best interests, but it is inconceivable that these organised cases of grooming could have continued for so long without it. We need a change in the law, to ensure that parents are once again provided with the information they need to be able to do their job as responsible parents.

“When the State started to take parenting away from parents, it undermined one of the key planks of child protection. The experiment has spectacularly failed. That 1985 court decision must be overturned, through legislation if necessary.

“Even where victims were, or are, in the care of local authorities, the authorities should fiercely protect the child’s interests every bit as much as a responsible parent – and information should still generally be shared with the biological parents.” said Mr Arnott.

Note to Editors – the relevant case law is Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech Area Health Authority, 1985