Whilst we escaped the very worst of the weather in Thanet, the ‘beast from the east’ gave us an unexpected sting to the tail end of winter. The unusual pressure system from eastern Russia stopped the usual west to east jet stream from flowing. It is this jet stream that keeps the UK temperate beyond that which our northerly latitude would dictate, so was a truly rare event. As ever, we’re rarely prepared with train services often the first casualty. Our third rail power pick-up system across the network is inherently flawed, and is all too easily fallible, and I doubt, if rail infrastructure were to be constructed afresh, that this would be the preferred system. We are where we are; we would similarly grumble if national and local authorities invested billions in infrastructure and equipment only to see it unused for years. The bad weather makes the world slow down a little, which can be welcome, and brings out the best in community spirit and neighbourly camaraderie.
I promised to report on my recent trip to Brussels as part of regular Brexit Select Committee meetings with Michel Barnier and Guy Verhofstadt. Both charming characters, but a fairly fruitless exercise, with the same mantras of ‘no divergence allowed’, ‘adherence to the Customs Union and Single Market’, and ‘Brexit in Name Only’ the offer. I don’t think the EU is serious about a deal, bizarre given the huge trade surplus the EU27 enjoy with us as one of their best export markets; we should similarly be honest with ourselves and plan to walk away. I was encouraged by the Prime Minister’s speech of last week, with the UK’s red lines of taking back control of our borders, laws and money firmly in place. It was a disappointment that Labour are prepared to stay in the Customs Union, effectively taking the prospect of the biggest Brexit dividend – that of negotiating new international trade deals with old and new friends permanently off of the table. I can only imagine how that is sitting with Labour voters who supported Brexit.
In Parliament I gave robust contributions in debates about live animal exports and post-Brexit fishing policy. There are few constituencies in the UK so affected as South Thanet by these issues. Links to my speeches easily available online.
The looming problem of the closure of Ramsgate’s Church Hill Dental Practice at the end of March is, rightly, of concern to thousands of patients with many sending me copies of their blunt letters of advice received from the service provider. I have a meeting with NHS England this week. In my early analysis, this has been handled appallingly. It is late in the day, with closure just weeks away and I but wish I had been informed months ago. I will be doing all I can to salvage something positive from this fiasco.
It is National Apprenticeship Week, and figures show significant uptake of apprenticeship opportunities across Thanet. East Kent College plays an important part in this success, so congratulations to them. Interestingly, new figures show that those taking up apprenticeships in construction and engineering are likely to earn more than many who decide to go to University. Certainly food for thought for those thinking about options for the future.