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.”