The House of Commons will vote on the Withdrawal Agreement on Tuesday 11th December and I will be voting against it. Thank you to every constituent who has contacted me during the last three years about Brexit. I appreciate the strength of feeling on both sides of the debate but the UK and the constituency voted to leave and I believe it is right to deliver on that decision. I had the opportunity to speak during the debate last Tuesday when I set out why I will be voting against the Agreement.
It is important to note that the Withdrawal Agreement is not a trade deal with the EU. It is an agreement on our transition out of the EU accompanied by a supplementary Political Declaration on the future trade relationship which has no specific or legally binding commitments. The Withdrawal Agreement therefore requires us to pay the EU £39 billion for no trade deal in return. It would see us under the jurisdiction of the ECJ and voiceless within EU institutions while still having to abide by their rules. We would not be able to strike trade deals with other countries and Northern Ireland would be in a separate regulatory area to the rest of the UK.
A managed no deal under WTO rules is better than a bad deal, and this is a very bad deal. Leaving outright next March under WTO is a cleaner break and more democratic than continuing to draw out this process and remaining within the Single Market and Customs Union without any say over the rules. This would then provide us a stable position from which future trade negotiations can be conducted.
At its latest session this week, the Public Accounts Committee held an evidence session looking at the Ministry of Defence (MoD)’s Equipment Plan for 2018-2028. A recent report by the National Audit Office found that the Department’s Equipment Plan remains unaffordable, with forecast costs exceeding budgets by £7 billion over the next 10 years. The session was an opportunity to challenge the MoD on how it plans to address its affordability gap across the 10-year equipment and support plan. Furthermore, it enabled us to understand the MoD’s plans to further improve the accuracy and transparency of its forecast costs and assessment of affordability.
Over my time in Parliament, I have met with a number of constituents suffering from different rare diseases who have suffered unnecessarily because of incorrect diagnoses and treatments for them not being reimbursed by NICE. This has led to me getting involved with some of the access to treatment issues facing patients as well as the access to market issues facing the life sciences sector.
Last Tuesday I secured an Adjournment Debate in the Commons chamber to discuss the issue of Healthcare Technology Charges in England. These charges send the wrong message, and will be both damaging and costly to UK plc and to patients. They are promoting a message that says that this is not something that we, UK plc, should be incentivising. That is wrong: it goes against the life sciences industrial strategy and against any recognition of the competition out there.
Interest in these issues naturally led to wanting to learn more about the life sciences sector and the opportunities and challenges that it faces. Earlier this year, I set up the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Access to Medicines and Medical Devices. The APPG will be holding its first event this week, hosting a panel discussion on life sciences and access to medical innovation.
I also had the opportunity, on Thursday, to meet with Lord O’Shaughnessy, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health to discuss the systems currently in place to get medicines to market for patients, especially with rare and ultra-rare diseases.
My next surgery is on Friday 4th January at 2pm in Newton Abbot. Please call my office on 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.