My regular update - 13 May 2019

A fairly bland couple of weeks in Parliament since my last article. We have had no votes on anything, and just the usual Ministerial questions and time-filling debates on little that is going to make much difference to us in East Kent. A frustrating time.

In the background, talks are apparently ongoing with Labour to try to achieve some type of agreement on a Brexit deal that may command a majority in the House of Commons. I’d hugely recommend the fly on the wall documentary ‘Brexit: Behind closed doors’ available on BBC channel 4 on catch-up TV. Fascinating, and shockingly revealing confirming what I’ve been saying for years – the EU has no desire for a good deal, merely a punishment for daring to implement a democratic decision. Time to walk away with a managed no-deal. It is now the only logical solution.

Given that Labour’s demands are likely to entail a Customs Union with the EU or something similar under a different name, and a second referendum, it seems to me, if agreement is reached, which seems unlikely, to be a sure fire way of encouraging even more Conservative MPs to stand firm against anything that offers Brexit in name only, referred to as BRINO. We await developments, and you can be sure I’ll be reporting back to you with my analysis and comments.

Whichever way I might try to spin it, the national local election results were poor for the Conservatives and similarly uninspiring for Labour as well. In Thanet, which had its own oddities of the UKIP effect in 2015, leading to their short-term control of the Council, the Blue vote held up with some resilience, with 3 additional Councillors elected for the South Thanet wards. We missed out on a couple more by single figure votes. I always enjoy electoral analysis, and I calculated that 43 votes differently cast (or encouraged out) across just three wards would have given Councillor Bob Bayford overall control of the Council. Turnout was appreciably lower than usual, and there was an obvious ‘none of the above’ vote, meaning Green Councillors elected for the first time locally and also a substantial vote for Independent candidates, including the ‘Thanet Independents’. This effect was seen nationally with the election of non-aligned candidates in many places. There is no easy interpretation, but the trust in the main parties has been diminished over Brexit shenanigans and promises not delivered. I hope the new Council will work constructively for the good of our area, and put ‘yah-boo’ politics aside to deliver good outcomes.

I am hugely encouraged by the state of the economy: growth continues, unemployment reduces and optimism is there. I had an interesting meeting with a new local business group that would like to facilitate micro-investment in new local start-ups, perhaps following a business angel formula. Start-up investment is always difficult to move a business idea into action due to inherent risks. I’m here to help.

My Regular Update - 29 April 2019

Have you caught election fever yet? By the end of the week we’ll know the make-up of our local councils, but, wait for it, the prospect of a further election on 23rd May – for new MEPs for the European Parliament is gaining a sense of inevitability. Truly mad given that we voted to Leave the EU nearly three years ago, but then little is normal about politics at the moment. I’ll have no difficulty in supporting our Conservative candidates, with the South East regional list headed up by the outstanding and sensible Eurosceptic Dan Hannan. MEPs rarely achieve name recognition, but Dan does and he deserves support. European Parliamentary elections have always been used as a ‘free hit’ by the electorate and I doubt this one (if it happens) will be any different; just be careful what you wish for.

Parliament returned last week after the shortened Easter recess. It all feels fairly bland on the corridors of Westminster with the usual game-playing by the usual actors. The opposition parties have a regular opportunity, via opposition day debates, typically each Wednesday, to debate a motion of their choice. It seems likely they will be airing support for the country to declare a ‘climate change emergency’ on the back of a few thousand activists who brought parts of London to a halt. But let’s not let the facts stand in the way of gesture politics. The UK has done more than any other G7 nation in reducing CO2 and changing our energy mix towards renewables while many developing nations plan exponential rises in cheap energy production, with King coal at the heart of that strategy. Activists would be given short shrift by campaigning in Beijing but hey-ho, facts and politics rarely meet in any sensible way.

The issue of tobacco taxation was highlighted by the recent conviction of some former local employees of a specialist waste burning facility at Discovery Park, Sandwich. I visited the place a couple of years ago. The facility had a contract with Border Force to dispose of illicit tobacco but the temptation for easy money proved too great for some who thought they’d found a way of getting tobacco destined for incineration out of the facility to sell on, to the tune of many hundreds of thousands of pounds. This goes to the heart of the debate about tobacco taxation, with the UK having some of the highest rates in the world. Obviously the tax pie has to be carved out of somewhere; the UK has decided that tobacco tax collects both high revenues and deters smoking as a health dividend. If only life and behaviour were that simple or one-dimensional. We have created a huge underground market for illicit cigarettes: ‘proper’ ones that are tax paid in the country of origin (often Eastern European countries with lower tax rates) or true counterfeits which have been made heaven knows where out of heaven knows what. Is our policy creating a huge dividend for foreign exchequers, and huge amounts of underground cash for the dealers which can finance even more subversive and dangerous activity? A huge subject, but I think we’ve squeezed the tax take too far, creating entirely foreseeable and adverse consequences.

This role offers creates some bizarre interactions. As a Chartered Accountant I maintain contact with my professional Institutes. The South East region’s dinner, held at the Turner Contemporary had Germaine Greer (amazingly now aged 80) as the guest speaker and I had quite a chat with her. She still manages to entertain, shock and offer thought-provoking perspectives. A Conservative Brexiteer agreeing with (some) of what Germaine Greer has to say – whatever next?

Craig opens the first monthly ‘Motivational Monday’ business networking event at Kafeine in Broadstairs

South Thanet MP, Craig Mackinlay, has attended and formally open the first monthly ‘Motivational Monday’ business networking event at Kafeine, 35 Albion Street in Broadstairs.

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These meetings - organised by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) - will be held once a month, giving local businesses the chance to hear from decision makers, build their local contacts and share information and advice.

Craig Mackinlay MP commented:

“From high-tech manufacturing firms to bakers, retailers, restaurants and social enterprises, Thanet is home to 3,110 small businesses - a record number - that are vital to our local economy, employing thousands of people.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, responsible for nearly half of economic output and 60 per cent of private sector employment, employing 16 million people in the UK. FSB figures suggest that 87% of local employment in Thanet comes from micro-businesses employing less than 10 people and deserve our support all year round.

“The FSB’s ‘Motivational Monday’ business networking events are a great opportunity for local businessmen and women to get together and discuss the opportunities and challenges facing them.

“I was very pleased to formally open this exciting, new event.”

The FSB has approximately 5,000 members in Kent who employ nearly 25,000 people. It exists to protect and promote the interests of the self-employed and all those who run their own business.

My regular update - 15th april 2019

As we start the Easter period, the Brexit saga continues. The second ‘due date’ of our departure from the EU, of 12th April, has come and gone and we now enter a further purgatory period, potentially lasting until Halloween. Alternatively, it could be before if Parliament agrees to this wretched Withdrawal Agreement, or worse prior to this date. I simply do not believe, with the opportunity of more time now available, that this draft Withdrawal Agreement cannot be re-opened by the EU 27, and the perpetual ‘Backstop’ removed. As a Brexiteer who is trying to deliver on the 2016 referendum result that the electorate of South Thanet voted for, I could swallow the downsides of the Implementation period and the money within the draft Withdrawal Agreement if it were stripped of the Backstop provisions. What I cannot vote for is any possibility of being perpetually within the control of the EU, with part of the UK treated differently under the Backstop and only allowed to leave with the future consent of the EU. Far better, and reflecting polling indications, is a managed WTO Brexit – with it would come certainty and finality for all.

The potential for the country taking part in European Parliamentary elections in May is a fairly poor and costly joke, and I share your frustration at the thought of this nonsense.

To happier local issues. I was pleased to play a small part in the Keep Britain Tidy’s Great British Spring Clean. This is being encouraged across the country and I’m pleased to say has been widely taken up across Thanet. After some trying weeks in Parliament, it was a true pleasure to don a yellow vest (which I must point out is for quite different reasons to the ones currently being worn on the streets of France), take brain out of gear, and clean up the dirt and litter, weeds and detritus on our public facing streets. Huge numbers of volunteers have been getting involved and the results are startling. I have subsequently written to all utility companies with street boxes to encourage them to clean up, de-graffiti and repair their street furniture.

The Ramsgate Regeneration Alliance has met once more to discuss key issues facing Ramsgate. As ever, debate centred upon the future of Ramsgate Commercial Port which remains an important strategic piece of the Thanet puzzle crying out for a solution.

I have just returned from the local Federation of Small Business (FSB) first ‘Motivational Monday’ event, held at the independently owned Kafeine coffee shop in Albion Street, Broadstairs. I was pleased to be the speaker at this event, where I covered a multitude of local business issues –taxation, employment, infrastructure investment, the future of High Streets, and of course Brexit. I wish the new group well.

We are now well into the local election period, so expect door-knocking, leaflets and hustings with your local candidates. I will broadly respect the purdah period in this week’s article, but I’ll be proudly voting for my local Conservative candidates in Ramsgate where I live.

Craig welcomes boost to families’ finances in South Thanet

Working families across South Thanet can look forward to having more money in their pockets – thanks to a range of new Government measures that came into effect this week.

From the start of the new tax year on 6th April, the tax free tax allowance has increased. The personal tax allowance increases to £12,500, an increase of £650 – and close to double what it was under Labour. This means a basic rate taxpayer will pay over £1,200 less income tax than they did in 2010, giving people more money in their pockets.

Our income tax cuts have taken 1.74 million of the lowest paid workers out of paying income tax altogether.

As well as cutting taxes for millions of people a year earlier than planned, fuel duty has been frozen for a ninth year in a row, saving those who use a car to travel to work and visit family thousands of pounds.

On 1th April the National Living Wage increased by 4.9%, from £7.83 to £8.21 – handing a full-time worker a further £690 annual pay increase and taking his or her total pay-rise, since the introduction of the National Living Wage, to over £2,750 a year. This will benefit around 188,000 people in the South East.

Craig Mackinlay MP commented:

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“I have always supported keeping taxes down so people can keep more of their hard-earned money, and these measures are good news for 51,969 people in South Thanet who will see their taxes cut.

“We have once again cut income tax for workers and frozen fuel duty again, meaning a bit more money in people’s pockets at the end of the month.

“Our increase to the National Living Wage mean millions of the lowest paid will receive a pay rise and people can also look forward to greater security in their retirement through increases to the state pension and more private pension saving through auto-enrolment.

“We can only continue cutting taxes and increasing pay through a balanced approach to the economy.”

Do you have what it takes to join a new generation of world leaders? asks Craig

Craig Mackinlay MP is urging young people in South Thanet who are interested in policy-making and leadership opportunities, to join a programme and connect to emerging leaders from around the world.

Future Leaders Connect, run by the British Council, is open to all young people aged 18-35 and will see ten representatives from the UK join 40 emerging policy leaders from eleven other countries.

This year, all applicants, whether successful or not, will have the opportunity to take part in a free online version of the Future Leaders Connect course in a specially-designed British Council MOOC which will launch in June.

Future Leaders Connect was launched in 2017 by the British Council, the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. It has received support from figures such as the former UN Secretary Generals Ban-Ki Moon and the late Kofi Annan.

Craig Mackinlay MP said:

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“This is an invaluable opportunity for a motivated young person to meet similar high-achievers from around the world who are all united by their desire to make things better in their societies and beyond.

“It’s open to anybody who has an idea they think could make the world a better place – and it will give them the practical skills and networks to help pursue it.”

Applicants will be asked what their unique policy ideas are and why they have what it takes to be a global leader.

Applications must be submitted online before Monday 6 May 2019 23.59 via www.britishcouncil.org/future-leaders-connect.

Candidates will be shortlisted from across the UK and finalists will be chosen from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

They will join finalists from eleven other countries for a ten-day programme in November which will include training in public speaking, policy development expertise and leadership skills. This will culminate with several senior meetings in the Houses of Parliament, meeting MPs and law makers.

Candidates will also be chosen to represent Canada, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tunisia and the USA.

Sir Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive of the British Council, said:

“I’ve been amazed by the calibre, energy and attitudes of the Future Leaders that I’ve met from across the world.

“The participants learn so much from the programme itself, but in addition they learn from each other and about the lives of people in other countries. It’s a fantastic collective experience that encourages future leaders to have a global outlook to the challenges they face.”

Future Leaders Connect is the British Council’s long-term global network of emerging policy leaders. It identifies exceptional young leaders through a vigorous application process, where they demonstrate their potential to make substantial change in their countries and beyond.

British Council research (Trust Pays) has found that: “Those who have had involvement in cultural relations – arts, education and English language activities – with the UK have great trust in people from the UK.”

Further research by the British Council’s Higher Education Policy Unit found 55 current world leaders, covering one in four countries, were educated in the UK.