I am hugely encouraged that, 9 months and 6 days after the British people spoke loud and clear in the EU referendum, Theresa May has today finally triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and we now begin the formal process of withdrawal from the European Union. This move has the overwhelming support of the British people: in a recent YouGov poll, just 21% said that the referendum result should be ignored or overturned.
The latest unemployment figures for the North East demonstrate that all the government talk about the Northern Powerhouse is just hype, says regional MEP Jonathan Arnott.
“While the figures of the ONS show that nationally unemployment is down, in this region the figures are actually up on the last quarter.
“The previous quarter had shown a decrease in those out of work but the rate was still the highest in the UK.
“I have no doubt that leaving the EU will provide the manufacturing boost that the area needs and since the Brexit vote I have been aware of a real sense of hope among our working class communities. And as we get nearer to leaving the EU the more I believe that will increase.
“I sincerely hope that the next ONS figures for the North East show a noticeable decrease and that the current ones are a blip. I am fortified in that belief as the figures are down year-on-year from 102,000,” said Mr Arnott.
“What does worry me is that the North East has now been described by the TUC as the UK capital of insecure work, with the equivalent of two-thirds of jobs created in the region in the last five years being without guaranteed pay or normal employment rights.
“People not only need jobs but they need proper job security and legal safeguards,” he added.
A £230 million bill for UK taxpayers including helping fund a ‘private army’ to protect EU MPs has been slammed by MEP Jonathan Arnott.
Estimates have shown the European Parliament’s budget is rising to £1.7 billion – an above inflation increase of 3.3 per cent.
This includes funding of a private army, known as “Unit Protection” to protect MEPs and despite voting to leave the EU British taxpayers will have to contribute £230 million towards the Parliament’s costs.
Mr Arnott, a member of the parliament’s budget committee, said: “The European parliament’s costs continue to spiral out of control, now including a private army.”
“Easy ways to cut costs have been ignored year in, year out, and here we go again with a rise in the budget.
“It also means that the UK will have to pay more than £3.8 million towards a £28.5 million pro-EU publicity campaign for the 2019 European elections. That is particularly galling as Britain will not even be taking part.
“The parliament’s Secretary-General Klaus Welle has even admitted that they want this spending spree before Brexit happens and puts a strain on their finances.
“They love playing fast and loose with other people’s money and should reassure any doubters that our decision to leave was 100% the right one,” said Mr Arnott.
“This is yet another reminder that there is no situation to which ‘more money’ or ‘more Europe’ is not the European Union’s default position. “
The House of Lords has passed an amendment to the Brexit Bill, Amendment 9B, which states that the government must bring forward proposals to ensure that citizens of other EU and EEA countries and their family members who are legally resident in the UK must be allowed to remain in the UK and continue to be treated in the same way in respect of their EU-derived rights post-Brexit. The amendment was passed by 358 votes to 256, a majority of 102.
The idea that we shouldn’t kick out EU nationals currently in the UK is a good enough one, but for three reasons I have a huge problem with this amendment:
1. It is remarkably short-sighted. We need a reciprocal agreement between the EU and the UK: “We will allow EU nationals to remain in the UK post-Brexit, and in return UK nationals will be allowed to remain in the EU nations post-Brexit.” It’s much harder to gain such a reciprocal agreement on behalf of British ex-pats currently living in other EU nations if we’ve conceded their half of the negotiation position first. Yes, we do care about EU citizens living in the UK – but we also care about British citizens living abroad, and this Amendment damages our ability to help them.
2. There is one point where we would not wish to continue offering identical rights to EU citizens post-Brexit. The vast majority of those who come here are law-abiding citizens, but a small minority are not. Those who abuse our hospitality by committing serious criminal offences should not continue to have immunity from deportation. The current standard, which effectively requires us to show that an EU national poses a specific tangible threat to the United Kingdom, has been proven to be insufficient.
3. I do not believe that the House of Lords should be amending this Bill in particular. I recognise the Lords amend many Bills placed before Parliament in their role as a revising and scrutinising chamber. There is a question as to whether the unelected Lords have become an anachronism in the 21st century, neither one thing nor the other, since it was stuffed with political appointees. I would prefer a democratically-elected second chamber, but that is a discussion for another time. This time, though, the Bill is a response to an Act of Parliament which provided for a referendum on the European Union, and to implement the decision of the British people in that referendum. It is not for the Lords to add pre-conditions to those negotiations or to tie the hands of the British government to make their job harder.
A North East political heavyweight is set to step into the boxing ring at London’s famous boxing venue, the York Hall, to become a heavyweight of another kind next month.
Chess playing MEP Jonathan Arnott will be punching above his weight – literally – when he swaps the chequered board for boxing gloves in a charity double whammy seeking to raise money for the Ally Cadence Trust for Spinal Muscular Atrophy (ACT for SMA).
Jonathan is raising money for the charity after a friend and colleague sadly lost their baby daughter to the condition in October.
In what promoters describe as ‘a headline bout with political clout’, it will be UKIP versus Lib Dem as Jonathan Arnott faces Toby ‘Slowby’ White of the Liberal Democrats, a veteran of two previous contests.
The event is organised by the London Chessboxing Association. It involves three minute rounds of chess followed by two minutes of boxing. Chess and boxing rounds alternate until there is a winner Competitors can either knock their opponents out by checkmate on the board, or more fittingly by a knockout in the boxing ring. If neither checkmate nor knockout occurs, then the end result of the bout is determined by the judges’ scorecards.
The UKIP hard-hitter is determined not to be out for the count in either of the skills – which will challenge his abilities against the clock both in and out of the ring. In a blow-by-blow account he makes it clear that in both capacities as a talented chess player and a novice boxer he is aiming for a knock-out.
“Nobody would ever have expected someone like me to take part in a boxing match, so I’m hoping that will encourage plenty of people to donate to raise money for this worthy charity. According to my sparring partners, I’m hard to hit in the ring – just like in politics where my opponents struggle to lay a glove on me. I pack a powerful punch, which will eventually break my opponent’s resolve.
“But I think I’ll beat him at chess before I manage to knock him out in the boxing ring, so I’m predicting that my knockout blow will come by checkmate in the fifth round.” said Jonathan.
36-year-old Jonathan has previously competed in international chess tournaments but has only relatively recently turned to sparring in the gym to get fit. “It certainly makes a change from my regular travels to Brussels and Strasbourg representing my North East constituents – which is a challenge of a different sort.
“These chessboxing events usually attract about 750 people but fortunately I am used to appearing in front of large audiences, and if it raises money for charity then it will definitely be worth it. With just a few weeks to go until the event, I’ll definitely be stepping up my training regime to make sure I’m in great shape.” said Jonathan, who is also UKIP’s General Secretary and Constitutional Affairs spokesman.
As well as chess he is a talented player of the board game Stratego and has represented Great Britain at the game’s World Championships.
The bout will headline the “Pity the Fool” bill on April 1st at London’s York Hall, but Jonathan is adamant that this is no joke. “I want to make a difference for a fantastic charity, and what better way than this?
“Playing chess is a great way to train your mind, and boxing is not only fantastic for fitness but so many young people’s lives are changed for the better by the disciplined training that it offers.”
Brexit has now been approved by both the EU referendum and the House of Commons – it will happen. It is time for our national conversation to move away from discussing whether Brexit will happen to a debate on how to make Brexit work for everyone in the UK. Even now, almost eight months after the referendum, any good news about the post-referendum UK economy can provoke anger and hostility from certain groups who used to campaign against Brexit.
The conversation must now turn to the future of our country; which EU laws should be abolished altogether, and which should be incorporated into UK law in some way? How can we improve on one-size-fits-all laws by having bespoke laws that work for us? How should we co-operate with the European Union and countries across the world on research and innovation, education, intelligence and security? How should we play to our national strengths? Which trade links should we try to establish first? What should our immigration policy be post-Brexit? When EU immigration falls should we take in more refugees – obviously not from Calais but those living in terrible conditions in countries like Jordan and Lebanon?
Brexit won’t be easy, but it can be made to work for everyone. The first step in making Brexit a success is accepting it, and discussing the topic in a grown up and constructive manner. I’m sick of the constant nastiness and negativity; is there any wonder that people have such little trust in politicians when time is wasted on vicious personal attacks instead of trying to work together to get the best deal for everyone.
Jonathan Arnott MEP
UKIP, North East
Following the announcement of the Brexit White Paper, North East MEP Jonathan Arnott said ”As a region with plenty of coastline and a huge fishing tradition, many people in the North East will have considerable unease about the White Paper on Brexit published today.
“When we leave the European Union, we should insist that we regain full control of our fishing stocks as the UK has a huge proportion of the EU’s fish. We can rebuild our once-great fishing fleet, but the 77-page White Paper only provides one paragraph of weasel words on fishing.
“Brexit is a tremendous opportunity to create jobs in the fishing industry; we need assurances from our government that it will not once again let our fishermen down in the way that they’ve been let down every year since 1972.,” said Mr Arnott, UKIP Euro-MP.
A study showing that 90% of secondary schools in Redcar and Cleveland have worse than expected progress scores demonstrates the need for greater emphasis on academic standards, said local MEP Jonathan Arnott today.
The findings have emerged through new ‘Progress 8’ statistics following the 2016 GCSE results. Progress 8 is a measure of average pupil progress in attainment in eight subjects.
“It is, of course, disappointing to see that Redcar and Cleveland have scored so badly but teachers across Teesside tell me that they have to focus too much on paperwork,” said Mr Arnott, a former teacher.
“Many are working as much as 60 hours a week to make sure they get their paperwork right, but they feel the additional time spent on paperwork isn’t actually benefiting the education of the pupils they teach. Every parent wants their child to do well and so do the teachers, otherwise they would not have entered the profession, but they are under tremendous pressure in completely wrong directions.
“Government reforms keep moving the goalposts and making it harder for teachers to give their pupils the best possible education they can. The reality is that schools are terrified of what Ofsted is going to do. They concentrate on getting the paperwork immaculate to prepare for inspections, but those inspections should actually be concentrating primarily on how well pupils are progressing.”
Mr. Arnott’s comments on teacher workload echo those of the National Union of Teachers, whose ‘eight steps’ programme provides suggestions for reducing unnecessary paperwork.
“This data in the annual school performance league tables for secondary schools will serve as a wake-up call for schools deemed to have made insufficient progress. But it should also be a wake-up call for the government to make sure that they get the emphasis right in teaching standards and ensure sufficient funds are put in, particularly in working class areas.
“Teachers across Redcar and Cleveland work incredibly hard to do the best they possibly can for pupils. We should praise the work that they do, but also trust them as the professionals they are and provide them with the tools they need to get on and do the job”, said Mr Arnott.
Local MEP Jonathan Arnott is urging the government to divert the £89.4 million fines levied for drug overcharging from the Treasury to the health service.
“Considering the financial constraints facing the NHS in in the North East, as well as the rest of the country, I think it would be an appropriate use of the fines to provide more doctors and nurses, extra training places or keep under-threat units open,” he said.
His comments come in the wake of the Competition and Markets Authority fining drug giant Pfizer £84.2 million for over-charging the NHS for an epilepsy drug and fining drug distributor Flyn Pharma £5.2 million for the 2,600% overnight price increase for the drug in 2012.
“I appreciate that the companies intend to appeal the CMA’s decision but if it is upheld or even if smaller fines imposed I think the money should go to the NHS,” said Mr Arnott, UKIP Euro-MP.
“If this money goes, as planned to the Treasury, I fear it will just disappear and the public will not feel any tangible benefit from what it is really an unexpected windfall.
“Every day we read more horror stories about patients, including particularly vulnerable pensioners, lying on trollies in hospital corridors or ambulances lining up outside with no available beds for those they have brought for urgent treatment so also wasting paramedic resources.
“Given the overall picture of lack of funds in the NHS these fines are really a drop in the ocean but they would help and I have no doubt at all that my North East constituents would far rather it went there than anywhere else,” he added.
Latest figures showing that net migration has remained near record levels shows the government has failed miserably in its promises to cut immigration, said local UKIP MEP Jonathan Arnott today.
“These figures reveal that net migration at 335,000 was the second highest number on record and the number of EU citizens coming to live in the country at 284,000 is a record,” he said.
“The EU accounts for only 6% of the world’s population, yet almost half of all immigration to the UK. Everything UKIP has said on immigration is coming true, yet still some people try to maintain the fiction that we can control immigration without leaving the EU,” said Mr Arnott.
“The overall figures mean a city the size of Newcastle-on-Tyne being added to our population from net immigration alone each year – which puts increasing pressure of our already struggling NHS, education system, housing and infrastructure.
“We have voted to leave the EU and the fact that so many of those moving here are from that bloc shows that Brexit should be fast-tracked not delayed at every twist and turn,” said Mr Arnott.