The EU Withdrawal Bill, Goodwin Sands and St Augustine’s Shrine

This week in Parliament will be one of the most important in recent history. With fifteen hours of debate and multiple votes as the House of Commons hopefully rejects the Lords wrecking amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill. My stance on our EU membership is clear: out, cleanly and quickly. Unfortunately neither of my desires is happening as I would like. There is much confusion as to what the EU Withdrawal Bill is all about, not least amongst many MPs. It is not the opportunity for running commentary or advance suggestions as to what our post-Brexit arrangements might look like – that is an ongoing negotiation; the Bill is simply to ensure that we have a functioning statute book that mirrors EU rules, regulations and laws on the day of departure and equips the government and Parliament to adapt, amend or improve the law of the land post Brexit day as the future path of British democracy dictates. I have no difficulty whatsoever in wanting to deliver what 17.4 million people, and a clear majority, want and expect. A huge 64% of voters across South Thanet want a clean Brexit so that we regain control of our laws, borders and money, and that means being outside of the Customs Union and the Single Market, which are at the root of what is wrong with the EU. I fully agree.

I have not hitherto got too involved with the debate, now two years old, on the proposal by Dover Harbour Board to dredge from the Goodwin Sands to provide the aggregate for the significant expansion and investment to Dover Port. I was pleased to attend a meeting in Parliament between interested parties against the proposal and the Marine Management Organisation, the government body that approves or refuses sea-bed activity around the UK on behalf of the Crown. It was a good opportunity to understand the legal framework and the concerns of the objectors.

I am pleased to see the debate about plastic waste escalating and have joined the All Party Parliamentary Group on Plastic Waste. I attended a presentation by ASDA on how they are making incremental changes to reduce plastics in their packaging and activities. With increasing numbers of reports of deaths of sea wildlife and birds and evidence of the build-up of microplastic particles in the food chain, extending even to mussels, we are reaching a tipping point where international action is urgently required. Our own Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs is leading the way globally. We can all do our bit by reducing plastic waste and can send our own clear message, through our purchases and spending habits, that enough is enough.

The consultation has opened on Operation Stack, despite it being 3 years since the last serious event following French industrial action. Thankfully we haven’t had a repeat of the perfect storm of problems that beset us in 2015. We have emergency solutions in place, including the use of Manston as an extreme temporary backstop, but with the Stanford lorry park option beset with legal problems, the drawing board is in operation once more to find an acceptable, permanent solution. Do have your say.

I had the great privilege of unveiling the official opening and plaque of thanks to all involved in the renovations to St Augustine’s Shrine and the National Pugin Centre in Ramsgate, now open for the world to see in the full glory as bequeathed by the designer of the Palace of Westminster and local resident, Augustus Pugin. There are many hidden gems in Thanet; this one is a true treasure and I would encourage all living locally to take time to see, whether for worship or simply to visit. This centre will attract many national and international visitors over years to come. I pay a tribute to Father Marcus Holden and his team for the tenacity in seeing the multi-million pound project to completion.