A potentially turbulent week ahead...

My regular column generally attempts to cover two things: to reflect on events, usually political, with a report on local community activities that have caught my attention and to give my interpretation of what lies just around the corner. An attempt to give you, from the heart of Westminster, news before it happens. As I write this piece on Monday morning, that rule does not hold true for the potentially turbulent week ahead. And so it is probably best for you to write the news, to delete as appropriate once we reach the end of the week as you read this.

I am of course, trying to give some foresight into how the week will unfold on Brexit votes in Parliament. So, for you to amend: the Parliamentary vote on the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration was passed/went down by close to 200 votes/was amended and passed/amended and still fell by just under 100 votes/an opposition amendment was passed and the outcome was that the PM went to Brussels to try to amend the backstop/faced a vote of no confidence in the government proposed by the opposition which led to xxxxxxx. You write the rest as the variety of outcomes are as complex as a game of chess, or more labyrinthine than a storyline of the TV series “House of Cards”. At least I tried.

Small Business Saturday has become an important annual event in the national calendar. I’m not sure if it is an Americanism that has crept in, being held on the Saturday after the ‘Black Friday’ sales. It serves to support and celebrate the local businesses, usually owned by local people that form the backbone of our economy with turnover, employment and profits staying local. I was pleased to have the Rt. Hon Mel Stride MP, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury with us for a business forum at the Pavilion by the Sea, Broadstairs. As the Minister responsible for HM Revenue and Customs, and the Minister who presents the Finance Bill following the Budget, he was on hand to discuss all things tax and to hear many great ideas from the business audience, particularly on VAT registration thresholds.

This being my last column before Christmas, time to look forward to the festive season, which for many is in full swing. I have written some of my cards, am yet to buy any presents, and am yet to put up any decorations. Thankfully that is not true of many boat and business owners in and around Ramsgate Royal Harbour. We have once more a fantastic display which is pulling in the crowds from far and wide. Well done all; this annual effort is truly fantastic and improves every year. For me, I know that the festive season has truly begun following the annual Thanet Male Voice Choir Christmas concert at Holy Trinity Church, Broadstairs supported by the children from Upton Junior School. This year’s charity – SERV (also known as Kent Bloodrunners) provide essential volunteer high speed transport of blood supplies around the county. A great choice.

I wish you a very happy Christmas.

Craig welcomes Modern Industrial Strategy support for Discovery Park

Local MP, Craig Mackinlay, has welcomed a £6.5 million investment for the Kent and Medway EDGE Hub, a teaching and research centre with satellite facilities at the Discovery Park in Sandwich in his South Thanet constituency, as well as Canterbury Christ Church’s Medway Campus and other parts of Kent.

The Modern Industrial Strategy, through the biggest transformation to technical education in a generation, ensures that people can boost their skills to take on the challenges and jobs of the future. Last year, there were 31,080 apprenticeship starts in the South East of England, giving more young people to develop their skills while contributing to a business.  

In the year since the Modern Industrial Strategy was launched, £45 billion has been committed to support local infrastructure, research and development and businesses to back high-skilled jobs in communities across the country.  

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Commenting, Craig Mackinlay MP said: 

“I’m delighted that, as part of our Modern Industrial Strategy, my South Thanet constituency will benefit from a £6.5 million investment for the Kent and Medway EDGE Hub, which has a facility at the Discovery Park in Sandwich.

“This investment will have a very positive impact, and help to ensure that we continue to generate good jobs and higher wages in the future.” 

Why the Withdrawal Agreement agreed to by our EU partners simply won’t do

My apologies, but the ‘B’ word takes priority this week. Parliament seems unusually quiet at present; a lull before a powerful storm I think as the days approach for us to consider the EU Withdrawal agreement, due to be debated in the week commencing 10th December. Just settling for anything simply won’t do. The issue of EU membership and its one-way direction towards statehood at the expense of democracy has occupied British politics for a generation; now is the opportunity to settle the issue for good rather than allow it to divide another generation with a half-in/half-out fudge. There is nothing I’d like more than to get down to discussing the issues that affect us all on a daily basis – issues such as housing, health provision, defence and taxation.

The Withdrawal Agreement agreed to by our EU partners simply won’t do across 5 key areas.

Firstly, we agree to hand over at least £39 billion of your taxpayers’ money with nothing guaranteed in return with merely 23 pages of vague, unenforceable ambitions as to what a future trading arrangement may be like. We had been led to understand that ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’.

Secondly, the UK will remain a ‘rule taker’ over critical areas of EU law such as social policy and even tax policy to prevent any perceived advantage that global freedom could bring. We will have to continue to obey EU laws, but have no further influence over how they are drafted.

Thirdly, there will be no obvious exit from a ‘backstop’ Customs Union. We could only subsequently leave the backstop with the agreement of the EU. We were able unilaterally to notify our intention to leave the EU via the Article 50 procedure, but leaving the Customs Union backstop would require their assent. This is clearly unacceptable and unheard of in any international treaty. While we remain in the backstop, we would be unable to strike international trade deals without the EU’s permission. For me, the ability to negotiate new trade deals with the growth areas of the world, and with naturally friendly nations, offered the greatest Brexit dividend. We are in danger of throwing that away.

Fourthly, the Agreement creates differences within the UK. Northern Ireland would become an enhanced ‘rule taker’ in further areas such as goods, agricultural products and VAT, and would create new barriers to trade within our own union of nations forming the UK. The EU would have more control over Ulster than Westminster or the province’s own assembly. This threatens the internal integrity of the United Kingdom and can never be acceptable.

Fifthly, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) will remain in control of the agreement and large areas of EU law directly effective in the UK. The ECJ will remain as the final arbiter of the agreement and of the EU laws the UK will be subject to.

In summary, the current deal proposed is the worst of all worlds and is worse than EU membership. The UK will become a perpetual rule taker from the EU - a ‘vassal state’ which is completely against the instruction of the 2016 referendum in which 17.4 million UK citizens voted to leave the European Union. This is a punishment Brexit drafted by Eurocrats that are out of touch with the people, and is being used as a warning to other EU nations similarly sick of the project who might be considering their options. It does not pass any ‘sniff test’ of Brexit and I can see no way that Parliament will accept it.

Stamp Duty changes help 180,000 first-time buyers

Yesterday, new statistics showed that the changes to Stamp Duty introduced last year have benefited over 180,000 households, helping more people to achieve the dream of home ownership.

The Government are giving practical help to first-time buyers, reducing the burden that they face in purchasing their first home. Almost every first time buyer – around 95 per cent – will benefit from the changes, with around 4 in 5 paying no Stamp Duty at all.

These changes will save the average first-time buyer £2,300 and are just one of the steps the Government have taken to fix the housing market, helping people get on the housing ladder and have the security of their own home.

Craig Mackinlay MP commented:

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“It’s fantastic news that first-time buyers in Thanet are taking advantage of our cut to Stamp Duty to buy their first home.

“This comes on top of news last week that we have delivered 238 homes in Thanet and nationally, more homes than in all but one of the last 30 years - helping more people to get on the housing ladder and have a safe and secure home.

“But there is always more we can do, which is why I will continue to press for reforms to the Residential rate of Capital Gains Tax, which, if done correctly, has the potential to release hundreds of thousands of affordable homes and promote an inter-generational cascade of wealth.”