My latest Farmers Guardian Article - Dangers of a No Deal Brexit
Well finally the Agriculture Bill has begun its journey through Parliament. This is a Bill which we have been promised will radically change the way in which farmers work the land in a post Brexit Britain.
It is unfortunate, therefore, that no one, including the Prime Minister herself, seems to have any idea what post Brexit Britain will look like. European treaties are, of course, notoriously difficult to negotiate, but even so we are well beyond the eleventh hour and we are running out of time to get a deal in place. As many people predicted, it is the seemingly intractable problem thrown up by the need to avoid a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic that is preventing progress. Avoiding the establishment of such a border requires the UK to stay in the customs union and the single market, an outcome loathed by hard line Brexiteers.
Worryingly, the Government appears to be preparing seriously now for a no deal scenario and a disorderly fallout from the EU by the UK. Already work has started on turning the M26 into a lorry park; even with a deal, the predicted extra time required to process a lorry is a concern. But without a deal the queues could be catastrophic, so much so that we hear of plans for the culling of livestock caught up in such a situation.
In the latest set of notices published by Government we are starting to see just how catastrophic a no deal might be for the farming sector. For example, bureaucracy and costs will increase in relation to exporting animal feed and breeding animals for export, key activities for the sector.
In the case of animal feed exporters will be required to have a representative within the EU state they wish to export to. While some larger exporters may have branches already established abroad, for smaller companies this will mean extra costs.
For the equine sector; a no deal could be a disaster, with the UK being treated as a third party country. This would necessitate Export Health Certificates to move equines, even on a temporary basis, to a EU country. EU certification would also require additional action from vets to confirm absence of disease, not only requiring more planning from the owner but additional cost in the region of £200 to £500 per animal.
The sad reality is that we are now approaching the sharp end of the Brexit process, with no sign of significant progress towards a deal. The likelihood of a no deal is increasing by the day and the uncertainty is affecting many farmers on a daily basis.
I don’t believe anyone voted for this mess and what is becoming very clear is that there is democratic legitimacy in placing the final decision on Brexit in the hands of the British people. Whether we have a deal or no deal at all, the outcome of two years of negotiation falls far short of what people believed they were voting for in July 2016. On that basis, let’s support the People’s Vote.
Penistone MP offers support to the ‘Love Our Colleges’ campaign
Angela Smith MP has lent her support to a national campaign which celebrates the positive impact of colleges and calls for fairer funding.
‘Love Our Colleges’ highlights the vital role that colleges play in local communities and the economy and the need for proper investment in the further education sector and fairer pay for FE staff.
The national campaign, backed by The Sheffield and Barnsley Colleges, launched this week during Colleges Week - which takes place from October 15th to 19th.
Angela Foulkes, Chief Executive and Principal of The Sheffield College, members of the governing body, trade union representatives and staff met MPs in Parliament today, October 17th, as part of a national day of lobbying.
Angela said: “Every year further education colleges transform the lives of over 2.2 million students. At The Sheffield College we are proud to be an integral part of our community; we teach, train and develop the skills of over 13,000 students every year and prepare them for their future careers and to be the workforce that our region needs.”
She added: “FE changed my life and over the past 25 years I have been proud to work in a sector that has changed countless other lives and launched many, many amazing careers. We are a vital part of the education sector. The ‘Love Our Colleges’ campaign highlights that we need fairer funding for our sector, so that we can continue to transform lives, and fair pay for our amazing staff so that they can continue with our great work.”
Angela , said:
“As a former further education teacher I can vouch for what a great job our further education colleges do. They prepare youngsters for the world of work or higher education, they give people a second chance, helping them either into work or move on to next step. All of which can have positive effects on the communities they are based in and serve.”
She added: “It takes investment though if we want these people to succeed and for too long further education has been treated as the Cinderella of the sector by government. If we want a thriving further education sector this has to change and that’s why I am happy to lend my support to the ‘Love Our Colleges’ campaign.”
The Association of Colleges is spearheading the campaign in partnership with the National Union of Students, Association of College and School Leaders, University and Colleges Union, Unison, GMB, TUC and National Education Union.
According to research by the Association of Colleges, college funding nationally has dropped by around 30% from 2009 to 2019. A national petition started by FE students is gathering pace. Visit https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/229744 .
The campaign, which is attracting support from colleges across the country, is calling on the government to increase funding for 16-19-year-olds by 5% a year for the next five years and to provide exceptional funding, ring-fenced for teacher pay. It is also calling for greater investment in adult education.
Why the UK needs fresh ideas to keep the taps on-printed in the New Statesman October 2018
After the hottest and driest summer for over 40 years questions are rightly being asked about the resilience of our water infrastructure. For too long we have taken access to clean, safe water for granted, assuming as we do that the UK endures too much wet weather to ever be seriously at risk of water shortage. But the statistics say otherwise. The National Infrastructure Commission has established that by 2050 England alone will require an additional capacity of 2,700 to 3,000 litres a day, just to maintain resilience at today’s levels.
Forecast population growth and climate change are the forces driving this challenge. A 25% increase in the population of the south-east of England is predicted, for example, by 2050, and at the same time we expect changing weather patterns to create a greater risk of flood and drought.
It is in this context that we need to place the current debate about the future of the water industry. Quite understandably, there has been a focus on the corporate behaviour of the nine regional water companies, and in particular on the financial engineering by some which has in recent years done so much to damage their reputation. But in an era of populist politics this has led to siren calls for renationalization, which in themselves risk taking us back to the stale old arguments of the 1970s.
The old, tribal lines of left and right do nothing to contribute to the serious thinking needed if we are to meet the challenges facing the country as far as water is concerned. If it is accurate to say that the water companies haven’t always covered themselves in glory then it is also true to say that under the old nationalized model the water industry suffered a chronic lack of investment, in a period when public borrowing limits were growing ever stricter and strengthened environmental and water quality regulation was forcing up standards.
A progressive way forward recognizes the potential for using the regulatory mechanism to ensure that the industry is focused firmly on delivering the investment needed if we are to secure water resilience; the National Infrastructure Commission has developed clear recommendations based on a mix of new supply infrastructure, transfer capacity and measures to reduce demand, including increased metering and reductions in leakage.
Reviewing OFWAT, as recommended by the Chartered Institution for Environmental and Water Management, would identify whether or not it has the powers and resources necessary to do this. One good example of where change is needed is the current rule under which OFWAT is barred from varying the licensing conditions for water companies unless it has agreement from all of them to do so; giving it more control over this key regulatory mechanism would be an important step in the process of rebuilding trust and confidence in the industry.
There is, though, another forceful argument for looking in more detail at how OFWAT works. A key role of the regulator is to protect consumers from the absence of competition which quite obviously characterizes the water industry. But the need for new infrastructure, both in terms of supply and transfer capacity, creates opportunities for bringing new operators into play. New transfer capacity in particular offers the prospect of innovation in both ownership and delivery of services; it also highlights the need for robust regulation and transparency in procurement. If OFWAT gets this right, we can look forward to a more challenging and potentially more competitive environment for water services.
In the end, what matters is the consumer and the public interest. I wonder, though, whether progressive politics has the courage to think beyond its usual horizons by recognizing that this imperative is not always best met by a dogmatic belief in an outdated ideology?
Printed in the New Statesman October 2018