On Tuesday, I voted against the Withdrawal Agreement. Having failed to secure substantial changes to the Withdrawal Agreement, the Prime Minister was unable to allay my fears over the UK possibly remaining trapped in the deal permanently. My full criticism of the Agreement can be found on my website.
The motion voted on in the Commons on Wednesday evening to reject a no deal exit does not actually change the situation. The legal default remains that we leave on the 29th March without a deal unless the Withdrawal Agreement is approved by Parliament or an extension to Article 50 is approved by the EU.
Parliament accepted the need for a short extension to Article 50 on Thursday afternoon. I voted against it as it isn’t time we need, but decisions. All this extension will do is kick the can down the road. Extending Article 50 could lead to corrosive uncertainty as businesses won’t know where they stand. We should leave on 29th March in accordance with the law, with or without an agreement. I remain committed to delivering on the Conservative manifesto commitment to leave the European Union.
It is likely we will vote on the Prime Minister’s deal for a third time this week which I do not think will pass but there will be a reduced margin. In this case the Prime Minister then has to either legislate to revoke Article 50 or to hold a second referendum. This would be undemocratic and divisive and would not respect the outcome of the first referendum. She would also have to get this legislation through both houses by the 29th March. Leaving with no deal on March 29th is the position from which we can then begin negotiations on a new trading relationship with the EU, without the threat of the EU keeping us permanently trapped under the backstop in the Withdrawal Agreement.
Wednesday also saw the Chancellor’s Spring Statement, in which he reported on a resilient economy which is creating jobs and delivering the fastest rate of wage growth in over a decade. Among a number of welcome announcements, this Government will provide free sanitary products for girls in secondary school, so no girl is ever forced to miss out on her education. This is a great step in the right direction.
A number of parents in the constituency have been in contact with me over the last couple of days following the circulation of the letter on school funding, organised by the WorthLess? Campaign. On Monday I sent a letter to headteachers in the constituency regarding the current education funding situation.
Since being elected in 2010, I have voiced concerns about the inherent unfairness of education funding across England and the impact that this has had on areas such as ours in Devon. Schools are expected to do increasingly more with less money. Devon remains in the bottom 40 local authorities when it comes to education funding with pupils receiving £290 less per pupil against the national average. This is not good for the future of our children and I am fighting hard for change.
In order to make clear to the Department for Education quite how serious the concerns of headteachers are about funding then I need your help. If you are able and willing to share examples of how the current funding pressures are affecting your schools, then I would be interested to hear them.
Nothing can replace a good education. It drives aspiration and develops skills which will determine how well each of us is equipped to take advantage of the opportunities we have in life. I will continue to fight to ensure we have an education system that is fairly funded, and where a good education is accessible for all.
My next surgery is on Friday 29th March in Newton Abbot. Please call my office on 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.