Campaign response: Right to Stay - June 2021
Constituents have emailed me regarding my support for the EU Settlement Scheme.
The UK Government have always been clear: The contributions EU, EEA and Swiss citizens make to the social, economic and cultural fabric of the UK are highly valued and we want them to stay. As you will be aware, it has always been a priority for the UK Government to protect the rights of EU, EEA and Swiss citizens living in the UK, which is now more pertinent than ever as the deadline of 30 June approaches.
If you are aware of any EU national in our constituency who has yet to sign up for the Settlement Scheme please by all means encouraging them to do so online as soon as possible.
The good news is that thus far 5.4 million EU nationals have applied successfully for the EU settlement scheme, which is about 2 million more than campaign groups and the Home Office first anticipated.
To secure Settled or Pre-Settled Status, applicants only need to complete 3 steps – prove their identity (via passport and other ID documents), show that they live in the UK (which can also be done via HMRC, DWP and other government records), and declare any criminal convictions they may have.
A range of support continues to be available online by email and telephone for those who have questions or need help applying: https://www.gov.uk/help-eu-settlement-scheme
Having engaged with the policy idea on a number of occasions, I have come to the conclusion that I cannot support the idea of declaratory system where EU citizens won’t have to register and could potentially bypass all of the checks that will be in place under our immigration system.
I understand the declaratory system is now being branded as the "Right to Stay". To be clear, this is precisely what is being offered by the EU Settlement Scheme, which will enshrine and protect EU Citizens' right to stay in the UK going forward, with latest statistics showing that the vast majority of applicants have secured status without any trouble.
Since Windrush, the Home Office have been extra cautious in preventing a repeat of the scandal.
Giving people a digitalised status, and ensuring that they have a trackable record of their application and status by asking them to apply, is the way forward to prevent a future Windrush scandal.
The Government also needs to be able to distinguish between those who have come here before/after Brexit, and this system allows for that distinction to be easily made.
By all accounts the Government is achieving great success with the Settlement Scheme and EU citizens and community groups have welcomed the scheme as well as the great level of community engagement from the Home Office.
All EU citizens living in Cornwall and the UK are valued members of our community and I I want them to stay in the UK and continue to live, work and contribute to our society. If any EU citizens are experiencing particular difficulty with securing their status via the Settlement Scheme, please do ask them to get in touch on email@example.com. My team and I would be only too happy to assist them.
Campaign reply: Visas; Visa-free work permits for touring artists - February 2021
In recent weeks a number of constituents have written to me about post-Brexit visa arrangements for touring artists and musicians.
I fully recognise how valuable our creative industries are to both our local economy in Cornwall and the UK’s as a whole.
Government ministers are only too aware of the importance of ensuring that UK artists get a fair deal with Brexit and like other industries, are able to seize the opportunities offered by our departure from the European Union. On Tuesday the 19th of January the Minister for Digital and Culture and DCMS provided an update to MPs in the Commons on the latest in relation to EU-UK visa arrangements for artists and musicians:
“This Government recognise the importance of the UK’s world-leading cultural and creative industries. We recently demonstrated that commitment by providing an unprecedented £1.57 billion package of support to help them through the covid-19 pandemic. It is therefore entirely consistent that, during the negotiations with the EU, we pushed for ambitious arrangements allowing performers and artists to work across Europe.
Our proposals, which were informed by our extensive consultation and engagement with the UK’s cultural and creative industries, would have allowed UK musicians and other cultural touring professionals to travel and perform in the UK and the EU more easily, without the need for work permits.
Regrettably, those mutually beneficial proposals were rejected by the EU. As a result, UK cultural professionals seeking to tour in the EU will be required to check domestic immigration and visitor rules for each member state in which they intend to tour. Although some member states allow touring without a permit, others will require a pre-approved visa and/or a work permit.
It is absolutely vital that we now support our touring sectors to understand the new rules associated with working and travelling in the EU. We are delivering an extensive programme of engagement with the sector to help them understand any new requirements. That includes working with Arts Council England and various other sector bodies, to help distil and clarify the new rules.
As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has already made very clear, we will also look at whether we can work with our partners in EU member states to find ways to make life easier for those working in the creative industries in our respective countries. In the meantime, we will continue close dialogue with the creative and cultural sectors, to understand the ongoing impacts and ensure that that they have the right support at the right time to continue to thrive.”
I note from the above statement that it was the EU, and not the UK, that rejected proposals during the trade negotiations which would have allowed visa-free travel for UK and EU performers and artists.
I also note the government’s intentions to look at what more can be done with the EU to facilitate better visa arrangements. However, if the EU is again unwilling to agree on a proposal that benefits both sides, then I am afraid there is nothing more the UK can do to force the EU’s hands – For just as the EU can no longer influence the UK’s visa and immigration policy after Brexit, the EU’s visa and immigration policy is ultimately a matter for EU countries to decide on.
Furthermore, I am reassured to hear from the Minister that DCMS have developed extensive guidance and are engaging closely with the sector to help artists understand and get clarification on the new visa requirements.
I would ask constituents to encourage any UK artists experiencing difficulty in obtaining a visa to visit and work in Europe to refer to the latest DCMS guidance: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/guidance-for-dcms-sectors-to-prepare-for-the-end-of-the-brexit-transition
If after reviewing the guidance they are still in need of help (and they reside in our constituency) then they are more than welcome to get in touch with my office, where my team and I will do our very best to provide further advice and assistance: firstname.lastname@example.org
Campaign response – Internal Market Bill - update
Thank you to constituents for emailing me regarding the Internal Market Bill as it clears the House of Lords and returns to the House of Commons.
In September I received a large number of emails from constituents who expressed both support and opposition to the bill, and I have provided a substantive response to their concerns on my website below:
I am pleased to hear from the Prime Minister and the Government in recent days that despite the differences between us and the EU, it remains possible for both sides to strike a deal. We have made a sensible and credible offer of a prosperous UK-EU future trade relationship and it is now up to the EU to respond to this – I very much hope that they will respond positively and remove the current uncertainty.
However as long as that uncertainty remains, it is crucial that we are able to prioritise protecting the crucial elements of our union and issues of primary importance to the UK, among these: the unity of the UK’s internal market; our ability to prevent any future trade borders between the UK and Northern Ireland; as well as our ability to provide much needed support to businesses on the brink of collapse in the midst of unprecedented economic challenges.
The Internal Market Bill is the legislation that will introduce the necessary safeguards to ensure that we can achieve the above and help us attain the goal of being an independent and sovereign country outside of the EU, irrespective of the outcome of the current negotiations.
I had hoped that the House of Lords would recognise our obligations to the union and pass the bill unamended. To my disappointment, peers voted to remove a number of clauses that together represent a legal safety net to protect the integrity of the UK’s internal market and the huge gains of the peace process.
I fully agree with constituents on the importance of putting the interest of our country first and as such I am pleased to inform them that I will be voting in support of the Internal Market Bill as it cleared the House of Commons on the 29th of September.
Campaign reply: Internal Markets Bill - 21 September 2020
Internal Market Bill
In recent weeks I have received a considerable number of emails from both supporters and sceptics of the Bill, reflecting the strength of feeling expressed by both sides. I thought it would be helpful to set out my position as clearly as possible here. I also hope that it will help answer some of the questions and concerns constituents may have.
We must first and foremost remind ourselves that we have left the European Union formally on the 31st January 2020, as I know that even now there are some who are unable or unwilling to accept that we voted to leave the EU.
Our constituency voted by almost 2 to 1 in favour of leaving the EU in the 2016 referendum, the biggest margin in Cornwall, and the vast majority of constituents I have been speaking to and corresponding with are adamant that the Conservative Government press on with the task at hand - the Brexit that the British public voted for them to deliver in December 2019.
An important part of Brexit is our future trading relationship with the EU - I want to see us strike a comprehensive free trade deal with our continent partners to minimise friction and maximise opportunities for British businesses. However, should that not be the case, I have always been clear with constituents that deal or no deal, I am certain Brexit can only bring prosperity and security to the UK in the long run - a view that has only been reinforced in my recent discussions with business leaders, farmers and fishermen in Cornwall, many of whom are looking forward to the many opportunities Brexit presents.
The latest round of negotiations with the EU has begun in earnest and the Prime Minister has committed to not compromise on the independence or the sovereignty of the UK in securing a trade deal.
Throughout the negotiations in the past few months, the UK have listened carefully to EU counterparts, signalled flexibility where possible to move the talks forward, and tabled new proposals to make progress. But we have repeatedly made clear that key elements of our position derive from the fundamentals of being a sovereign state, and it is now time for the EU to fully recognise this reality.
Over the course of the past few weeks our negotiations have resulted in two points of serious contention with the EU, which have necessitated the introduction of the Internal Market Bill:
- Article 10 of the revised Northern Ireland Protocol - accepted by the UK last year in good faith that the EU would interpret and apply it sensibly - which essentially says that EU law on state aid will apply to the UK in relation to the goods trade in Northern Ireland. This is now being interpreted by the EU in such a way that obliges the British government to notify Brussels of any state aid decision, including those that relate to businesses in Great Britain. This effectively undermines our sovereignty and ability to support key businesses and sectors, the latter of which is especially important as we support our economic recover from the pandemic.
- A stipulation that Northern Irish businesses must complete export declarations when they send goods over to mainland Great Britain. The UK’s internal market has functioned effectively for centuries. Unfettered access of goods and people has been a cornerstone of our union for centuries and this is something we will never compromise on in any negotiation. This requirement effectively undermines the government in delivering unfettered access between NI and GB and further erodes our sovereign union.
In December 2019 I had the privilege of being re-elected as your MP for the third time in five years. But I did so on a manifesto which pledged that the Conservative Government will ensure that “Northern Ireland’s businesses and producers enjoy unfettered access to the rest of the UK and that in the implementation of our Brexit deal, we maintain and strengthen the integrity and smooth operation of our internal market.”
The Internal Market Bill, when passed, will rectify the issues we are facing and enable the UK to protect the Union of the United Kingdom and safeguard Northern Ireland by:
- Giving the government powers to scrap export declarations on goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain
- Allowing the UK to decide what particular goods were "at risk" of entering the EU when passing between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and therefore subject to EU tariffs
- Clarifying that EU State Aid rules would only apply to Northern Ireland and not Great Britain
A number of constituents have suggested that in introducing this Bill, the UK is not acting in good faith. Yet it is the EU that has been negotiating and behaving in bad faith all along during the negotiation process, and the UK is not calling the EU out for doing so. As far back as 2018, the European Union has said that they are offering “not just a Canada deal, but a Canada plus plus plus deal” to the UK, which they have since repeated on numerous occasions. Yet since we officially left the EU on 31 January of this year, the offer of a Canada deal has been withdrawn by the EU and the negotiations conducted without the best endeavours both sides signed up to.
It is surely not unreasonable for the UK to expect, having been a member of the EU and one the most significant financial contributors for four decades, to be treated fairly and at least equal to other countries like Canada. But this is precisely what the EU is doing, placing demands and restrictions on us that it does not place on other countries.
Article 184 of the Withdrawal Agreement calls for ‘best endeavours, in good faith’ in order to ‘negotiate expeditiously the agreements’. But take fisheries for example, the EU has failed to agree a deal on fishing by 1 July, as established by the Political Declaration, and has since refused to discuss it further.
The EU’s intransigence over the past few months to seriously negotiate a good deal with us and treat us as a sovereign nation outside of the EU means that we need to take steps to protect ourselves and ensure that as we come out of the implementation period we are as prepared for any eventuality as possible.
As part of these contingency preparations, the UK Government are right to act decisively and prioritise the preservation the integrity of our internal market which reaches the corners of all four nations in seeking to pass this piece of domestic legislation
It is also important for me to stress to any doubters that nothing in the Bill would undermine the UK’s respect for the rule of law.
We are a rule of law nation: we keep our promises, seeking to resolve any incompatibility between domestic and international law, just as we should.
Some in recent days have accused the Government of acting in a new and unconstitutional way. But it is not novel or unprecedented for Parliament, or indeed other like-minded governments, to consider legislation that has the potential to override treaty obligations. For example, the Communications Bill, which was put forward by the Labour Government in 2002, was acknowledged by Governments Ministers that it could violate Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Moreover, the EU itself has sometimes disregarded adverse rulings by the WTO, for example in relation to Airbus and in the EU/US steel and aluminium dispute, which arguably put them in breach of commitments in treaties they have signed and therefore breaking the rule of law.
Whether and how to implement our treaty obligations is for Parliament and Parliament alone. This is a conclusion backed up by the principle of parliamentary supremacy – the key principle of our constitution – and the UK’s ‘dualist’ legal system which separates domestic and international law. This principle was upheld unanimously by the Supreme Court in the Gina Miller case in 2017, and was expressly confirmed in Section 38 of the EU Withdrawal Agreement Act 2020.
For these reasons the Internal Market Bill is entirely legal and proper.
To reach an agreeable trade deal in time the UK, the UK’s negotiators have made clear to the EU that more progress must be made swiftly. We have now been in talks with them for the best part of the past six months and can no longer afford to go over well-trodden ground. We need to see more realism from the EU about our status as an independent country. If they cannot do that in the limited time we have left, then we will be trading on terms like those the EU has with Australia, and we are ramping up our preparations for the end of the year. There is still time to reach a good agreement and we all hope that progress can be made.
If not then the mantra of ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ remains very much the case and we will need to do all we can to ensure that the transition outside of the EU is as smooth as possible, and that is precisely what the Bill will do.
Campaign reply: “One crisis at a time”
A number of constituents have sent me a copy of a campaign email “One crisis at a time”, seeking an extension to the negotiations with the EU.
The government has made it clear since before the last election that they would not seek any extension to the transition period. A stance I entirely support. It was only when the then new prime minister, Mr Johnson, came to office and made it clear to the EU that the time for dither, delay and obfuscation were over that the EU begun to realise that the UK was not going to pushed around anymore. I fear the tactics of old, used by the EU to hold everything up in the hope of ensnaring and wearing down those in negotiation with them has been rumbled and they are beginning to grasp the position: we seek a trade deal with our friends and neighbours and will negotiate in good faith to that end in the time agreed.
The comment we should “ focus on one crisis at a time” is a mystery to me. Leaving the EU is a huge opportunity for the UK – not a crisis. There will be challenges as there is with any change, but the future is a brighter and better one than staying within the EU any longer than we have to.