Negotiating our future relationship with the EU
The fourth round of negotiation with the EU over our future relationship have begun. Since we left the EU on 31 January, we have been seeking a new relationship with a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement at its core–just like the EU has agreed with many countries before. But at this stage it is clear that the EU needs to evolve its position if we are to reach an agreement, as we cannot agree to any EU demands that would diminish our rights as an independent state. The Government will continue to approach these negotiations constructively and hope to reach an agreement, but success depends on the EU recognising that the UK is a sovereign equal. The transition period is set in law and will end at the end of 2020.
Test and Trace System
The new NHS Test and Trace system is now up and running, and I urge everyone with symptoms to now get tested to help us control the virus and save lives. The Government hit its daily 200,000 testing capacity target last week, giving us the biggest network of diagnostic testing facilities in British history and providing support to the new NHS Test and Trace service that will help us control the spread of the virus.
As we get the coronavirus under control in the UK, we must manage the risk of cases being imported from abroad which could undo the hard work and sacrifice of the British people over recent months. From 8 June, everyone arriving in the UK, bar a short list of exemptions, will be required to self-isolate for 14 days and provide details of where they will do so. While we fully expect the majority of people will abide by the measures, Public Health England will contact people to check they are complying. Those who are not can be fined up to £1,000.
To ensure the measures are in line with the latest scientific evidence and remain effective and necessary, they will be reviewed every three weeks. The Government will also explore ways to safely increase travel, including travel corridors, to and from countries with low transmission rates, but only when it’s safe to do so. The worst outcome for public health and our economy would be a second peak of the virus, which is why the Government is introducing these temporary, necessary measures to keep people safe.
From Monday last week, the 2.2 million people who were clinically extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 and have been ‘shielding’ are now able to go outside. The 10 weeks shielding has been particularly challenging for the clinically vulnerable but those advised to shield can now go outside with members of their household or meet one member of another household if they live alone, providing a much-needed boost to people most at risk who have made huge sacrifices. Social distancing must be followed strictly at all times. The Government is striking the right balance between continuing to protect those at the greatest clinical risk, whilst easing restrictions on their daily lives to make the difficult situation more bearable – particularly enabling the contact with loved ones they and we all seek.
As we take these small steps forward however, I must stress that progress is conditional and it remains key that those from different households stay two metres apart. The Government will see how these changes are working, and look at the R value and the number of new infections before taking any further steps, so we can ensure anything we do does not risk a second peak that could overwhelm the NHS. There is no doubt that we are making progress and I am hopeful that in the coming weeks we may be able to do more.
My next phone-in surgery will be Friday 19th June at 2-3pm. Please call my office on 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.