Government leaves EU citizens in the lurch and worse

Earlier this week I met a young couple from Italy. They, along with nearly 600,000 others, have been given Pre-Settled Status, which only gives them Limited Leave to Remain in the UK for five years. Then, as they told me, they “will have to re-apply and we’ll see what happens”!

Less than 1 million people out of 3.6 million EU citizens had been given Settled Status by the end of September. This is despite Boris Johnson promising that their rights would be automatically guaranteed in law. Late last week Brandon Lewis confirmed what we’ve known all along: Boris Johnson has no intention of keeping this promise. EU citizens with some status could be deported.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary Christine Jardine said:

“If the Conservatives carry on with their Brexit plans, thousands of EU citizens will miss out on Settled Status and be left vulnerable to the Tories’ Hostile Environment. Brexit will create an even bigger Windrush-style scandal.

“Hundreds of thousands are being given second-class ‘Pre-Settled Status’, which means they will face a new cliff-edge in five years. That’s another disaster waiting to happen.

“The Liberal Democrats demand better for EU citizens in the UK and British citizens in the EU. We will stop this awful chaos and uncertainty by stopping Brexit, and guarantee your rights to live, work and study where you choose by saving free movement.”

Whenever I meet them I reassure EU citizens that they are welcome in the UK - they are our friends and neighbours, our carers and families. That’s why I continue to fight to #makeitstop.

What's happening with Brexit?

The Prime Minister is ‘negotiating’ a new Withdrawal Agreement. Note this is not a deal about anything which really impacts our future relationship with the EU. 5 to 10 years of further negotiations would be required to resolve other co-operation and trade arrangements. And Mr. Johnson appears to planning to either buy off the DUP or sell out over Northern Ireland’s place in the Union.

How do we move forward? Whatever is presented to Parliament on Saturday we can be sure of one thing - it will be a fudge. And the ERG and the DUP will have swallowed hard in order to avoid losing Brexit altogether.

Nothing has changed. We are still divided. Which is why the Liberal Democrats have tabled an amendment to the Queen's speech to put any deal that comes back from Brussels to a People's Vote.

If selected, this amendment would be voted on early next week.

After tabling the amendment, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson said:

“The Liberal Democrats are the strongest party of Remain and have been the leading voice in the People’s Vote campaign. 

“Boris Johnson is determined to have a general election, but the best way to resolve the Brexit chaos is to have a People’s Vote and give the British people the final say about their future.

The best deal we have is as members of the European Union and we want to give the people the chance to choose to stop Brexit.”

I agree - nothing is resolved by a General Election before a People’s Vote. We would be left campaigning over Brexit - which, with our clear Revoke Article 50 position, we are prepared to do - instead of the issues of the day which have been neglected by the Government for the last four years.

No-deal Brexit could cost lives in North East Somerset

As we approach 31 October we appear, once more, to be lurching towards ‘no deal’.  Does this still pose problems for medical supplies? The answer, worryingly, is ‘yes’.

The Government’s “Operation Yellowhammer” report highlighted 12 areas of risk, which includes the supply of medicines.

With 75% of medicines coming through the Dover–Eurotunnel route – where disruption is expected to last as long as six months after a no deal Brexit - the supply of medicines are particularly vulnerable if commercial trade routes are blocked or face major delays.   

The Government says that they are securing additional freight capacity to ensure medicines can come in to the UK. However remember when Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, faced huge criticism for the £13.8m deal with Seaborne Freight, which was found to have never run a ferry service. 

The National Audit Office (NAO) says that, while there has been a great deal of work done to prepare for a no deal Brexit, there remains a “significant amount to do” before 31 October. They also revealed only a quarter of medicines suppliers had found alternative routes to the Dover/Calais crossing. 

Stockpiling medicines has been mooted but many medicines won’t last the full six months of expected delays. Furthermore, 28% of medicine product lines do not have even a six-week stockpile of medicines in preparation for a no-deal Brexit, according to figures given to the NAO by the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC). 

Nick Coates, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate, said 

“Many residents of North East Somerset rely on life saving medicines and it is frankly unacceptable that the government would play political games with the European Union when there are lives at stake. While Jacob Rees-Mogg seemingly supports this gamble from his position in the cabinet, I am directly opposed to crashing out of the EU without a deal. 

“We must avoid a potentially hazardous lack of medicine for those who desperately need it. In the nursing care home where I am a trustee we are most worried about drugs for residents with alzheimers. We exist to provide the best care for elderly people not to worry them and their family about the lack of medicines.

“The wellbeing of everyone who lives in North East Somerset is my highest priority and will continue to be when I represent the constituency as the next Member of Parliament.”

Ultimately, nobody really knows what will happen next. While pharmacists scrabble to put in place procedures that will help in the event of shortages, such as speaking to local surgeries and pharmacies about sharing stock, it’s clear they have very little control over the situation.

Revoke Article 50 - not a surprise

At the Liberal Democrat conference we passed a motion which committed us to Revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU. Commentators expressed surprise. Why is it surprising when the political party which has been most consistently vocal about the benefits of the EU, which was central to the ‘Remain’ campaign, which promoted an ‘Exit from Brexit’ and to ‘Stop Brexit’ wants to revoke article 50?

Over more than three years the Conservatives have failed to reach agreement among themselves over any form of Brexit. Mr Rees-Mogg voted against his own Prime Minister’s negotiated deal twice. When I speak to people on the doorstep they say ‘make it stop’.

I understand this. The proper focus of government - education, health, policing, employment, transport and even climate related issues - has dropped out of sight. 

The Liberal Democrats will stop Brexit so we can get on with normal life and enjoy the benefits of the EU: peace, security, high food and product standards, good employment law, frictionless trade and, yes, freedom of movement which belatedly is being recognised as an indispensable benefit to all of us.

Survey finds majority of North East Somerset residents oppose Bristol Airport Expansion

Increased air pollution and effects on climate change cited as the main concerns from opponents.

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Airport - just a car parking business

Bristol airport makes most of its profit from car parking and its retail franchises. It's no wonder then that its planning application to expand the airport, scheduled to go before North Somerset Council's planning committee later this month, includes nearly 4,000 extra car parking spaces. It's more shocking that, in order to protect its car parking monopoly, it has submitted an objection to a planning application for a private operator to build a car park near the M5.

Nick Coates, parliamentary candidate for North East Somerset, said 'the airport has tried to dress up its application on the basis that it benefits economic growth in the region. That argument is shot to pieces by the recent New Economics Foundation report into the airport's business case challenging both assumptions and projections'. He goes on to say 'The airport is just a car parking business. At a time when we are facing a climate emergency and breathing increasing amounts of polluted air this is shameful and should be stopped.'

The airport often quotes a YouGov poll which cites 73% of 271 residents backing proposals to expand the airport. This igmores the more than 3,000 objections on the North Somerset Council planning portal.

Nick Coates has carried out his own survey of 281 residents from neighbouring North East Somerset, much of which is on the flight path. The key findings are:

  • There is a clear majority opposed to Airport Expansion. 39% strongly oppose and 16% oppose (total 55%) the expansion of the airport while 21% strongly support and 16% support (total 37%). The remainder neither oppose nor support.
  • Respondents from the Chew Valley are the most likely to oppose the expansion (80%).
  • The dominant reason for supporting was making it easier to fly overseas.
  • The dominant reasons for opposing were environmental – air pollution and climate related.
  • Very few (11%) people travel to Bristol Airport by public transport.
  • Nearly all the respondents (93%) fly to go on holiday. The business travellers were a higher (26%) percentage than expected given other independent measurements.

Given the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions (of which aviation’s contribution is projected to be the largest) and tackle air pollution, Nick Coates goes on to say:

'There should now be a moratorium on all airport expansion throughout the UK.

'I understand why people want to fly. My opposition is not to the airport or to flying. However, there is no substantive evidence that, if airport expansion does not proceedis, tourism will be negatively affected or this will inhibit economic growth – apart from anything else the effect of air pollution on our health and environmental pollution also has a significant cost.

'I will fight for air we can breathe in North East Somerset by continuing to oppose the expansion of the airport.'

Dangerous undermining of parliamentary sovereignty

When Rees-Mogg travelled to Balmoral as the leader of a small group of privy councillors on Wednesday to request the Queen prorogue Parliament he shows his total contempt for British democracy. This is no longer an issue of remain or leave, his actions have set a dangerous and alarming precedent, rightly receiving universal condemnation across all political parties. It is vital we allow Parliament a say in our country's future.
Rees-Mogg's contempt is underlined when he called the outrage, demonstrated right across the UK, 'confected'. Nick Coates, LibDem parliamentary candidate for North East Somerset said:
'I was out on the streets with others on Wednesday evening. There was no confected outrage. There was alarm, concern for our democracy. Wera Hobhouse spoke passionately about her experience in her early life the other side of the iron curtain.'
Mark Francois, another member of the ERG is right when says 'It is now the people versus the establishment and - for the sake of democracy - the people must win' although it is also obvious that he, Mogg and Johnson are the establishment and the people, who are already on the streets, will be fighting to protect democracy.

LibDems target developers who try to wriggle out of housing obligations

Developers who try to wriggle out of building social and affordable housing will have to come back to planning committee, thanks to new rules introduced by the Lib Dems running B&NES Council.

Larger housing projects usually come with a quota for the provision of social and/or affordable housing for rent or sale. Some developers try to avoid this by demonstrating that the development as a whole would not be ‘viable’ were they required to build some less expensive units.

Councillor Tim Ball (Twerton), Cabinet member for Housing, Planning and Economic Development, said:

“In recent years we have seen an increasing trend of developers trying to game the system, using so-called ‘viability assessments’ to avoid building the social and affordable housing required by their planning consent.

“We feel that, in these cases, it’s only right that the studies should be examined by the Planning Committee, in public, rather than behind closed doors.

“Likewise, if a developer has received permission for a major project, but then comes back wanting to make significant material changes, the Committee should be able to revisit the application. We intend to publish for public consumption all the details of viability assessments and other changes so that the public can question what is proposed.

“The Planning Committee is the right place for these issues to be decided. This isn’t just about openness and better decision making, this is about making sure we get the right sort of development for our area.

“The Lib Dems are committed to building and enabling more social housing and truly affordable housing for local people. These changes to planning procedures will help hold developers to their promises and  deliver the homes that are so desperately needed.”

Nick Coates, parliamentary candidate for North East Somerset, added:

"Residents raise this issue with me on a regular basis so I am delighted that the new LibDem administration has moved quickly to close the loopholes that allow developers to wriggle out of committments particularly using viability assessments". 

The Wrington protest against Airport expansion

Nick Coates, North East Somerset parliamentary candidate for the Liberal Democrats joined with more than four hundred others from across the region of all ages for a mass aerial photo shoot in a protest organised by Wrington residents against the expansion of Bristol Airport. (Photo: Neil Phillips)

Nick Coates said

We are all aware that there is a Climate Emergency. So why is any sensible government allowing extra runways or airport expansion?  All the councils in the West of England, and many further afield, have declared a Climate Emergency. The Committee on Climate Change highlights the fact that the aviation sector is on a path to generate more greenhouse gas emissions than any other sector. This is why I am working with others to stop Bristol Airport Expansion.

I was delighted to join with the families of Wrington and nearby villages to support them in this protest. This impacts residents along the Chew Valley, in Keynsham and surrounding villages like Compton Dando, who are all on the flight path. ”

Action is required now on buses

For more than 20 years governments have known that action needs to be taken to stop the decline in bus passenger numbers, that congestion was the main inhibitor of reliable bus services and that, to reduce air pollution, we needed to move people out of cars and into buses wherever possible.

Consultation documents were issued and legislation was passed but, in nearly every case, these were never fully implemented and never fully funded. The ideas were mostly sound. The words well intentioned. The actions half-hearted and hopeless.

The Traffic Management Act Part 6, which would give LAs powers to clear bus routes and penalised those who stop in box junctions, has never been fully implemented. Secondary legislation and guidance required for franchising by the Bus Services Act was supposed to be finished by the end of 2018 but we are still waiting for it. Funding for concessionary fares zis based on 2005/06 ticket prices and we are still waiting for a review of the funding for socially necessary services - No wonder LAs struggle to fund non-commercial routes.

For the people of North East Somerset bus services are vital as a means to travel to work, to health services, to school or college and for social purposes

Nick Coates, LibDem parliamentary candidate for North East Somerset, says:

"I will be pressing B&NES to maintain services, at least, at the current level. I will be lobbying for WECA to do more regionally including looking at franchising or enhanced partnerships. I will be pushing central government for a multi-year funding settlement which demonstrated our national commitment to reducing carbon emissions, decreasing congestion and improving health."

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