Thursday, January 21, 2021

Covid vaccination working too well

I caught a news story on Tyne Tees TV lunchtime news today (Thursday) which reported on rumours that the government was to cut the number of vaccinations in the North East so that other areas could "catch up" with the region. The roll out of the vaccine here has been successful but never in a million years did I expect the government to take such a decision.

The issue was raised by Gateshead Leader Martin Gannon at the start of the council meeting this afternoon. While I don't buy his conspiracy theory that the region is being punished for not privatising health services, I did, as leader of the opposition, say that the move was unacceptable, as was letting the political leadership of the region learn about it from TV news broadcasts rather than from ministers.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Well worth the wait

I hope Mr Trump remembers retirement is for life, not just until the next presidential nomination contest. 

Low Fell eFocus no. 81

 Another week and another eFocus from Gateshead Lib Dems, this time from the Low Fell Team. Issues covered in edition 81 include:

  • Proposal to build 18 apartments in Low Fell amended and resubmitted
  • Council budget - have your say
  • Resurfacing work
  • Fixing potholes

You can read eFocus on this link.

Friday, January 15, 2021

A victory for the small player

Some good news to do with the pandemic, at last! Insurance companies will now have to do what businesses pay them to do - pay up on insurance claims. Battered by lockdown and their businesses forceably closed, it was so obviously clear that this was an interruption of trade against which many businesses insured themselves. Frankly the behaviour of the big insurers in having to be dragged to the Supreme Court was a disgrace. Let's hope they now pay up as quickly as they take insurance premiums from businesses. We live in hope. 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Happy fish

Jacob Rees-Mogg announced in the House of Commons that fish in our territorial waters are "better and happier" because they are "British". Presumably now that Britain controls her own borders, the fish will turn back towards the British coast if they foolishly swim towards the UK's maritime borders in the Channel and North Sea. Are the fish happier? Well, not being fished by the UK fishing fleet because of the massive mountain of paperwork Brexit Britain needs to export fish to the EU will bring pleasure to all those lobsters, mackerel and other sea foods. Another Brexit good news story.

Saturday, January 02, 2021

Low Fell eFocus no.79

 The Low Fell Focus Team published their latest edition of eFocus (no. 79) yesterday. Issues covered include:

  • Happy New Year from the Focus Team
  • Changes planned to social distancing measures on Durham Road
  • All Gateshead Council gyms now closed
  • Calls for better signage as 11,365 penalty charge notices handed out in just over six weeks
  • New 20mph speed limit zone planned
  • Future lane closures on Gateshead Flyover in January 2021
  • Reports of cars being damaged

Friday, January 01, 2021

Happy New Year

So, it's New Year Day. Happy 2021, which everyone believes will be much better than 2020. That's not a big ask! As it's a bank holiday, I will avoid political comments, though I can't resist saying that while most of you were happily warm at home, I was trudging around my smallholding checking on pregnant sheep and goats and feeding poultry that continues to live under a DEFRA lockdown. Fortunately I'm back home now, sitting at my dinning room table which passes as my office but which is a serious contender for Most Untidy Desk 2021 competition. So, everyone, stay safe, do your bit to help others and live sustainably.  Meanwhile, watch this space. No doubt I will have much to say in 2021.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Sleeping satellite

Just how have we, as a nation, managed to do this? The UK has turned itself into a satellite state of the EU. We were promised the country would "take back control" but the reality is somewhat different. Indeed, far from taking back control, we've handed over control. Previously, when we were in the EU, we had a say on the issues over which the member states shared their sovereignty. Now we are in a position where we will have to live under the rules set by the EU (without the UK being a member and therefore having no say). Britain has agreed to maintain standards set by the EU on social and employment issues and on environmental measures. Don't get me wrong - I don't want to see a lessening of these measures but agreeing to set them in stone does not strike me as "taking back control" or the UK exercising sovereignty. 

And what happens if the EU decides to ratchet up social and environmental policies? The supporters of Johnson's Brexit trade deal tell us that the UK is not tied to doing the same. That's true, but it comes at a price - access to the single market could be threatened. The price of exercising sovereignty could simply be too high. But, the trade deal supporters tell us, there will be arbitration to settle differences. But the arbitrators will not be from the UK. How long will it be before the Brexiteers start shouting about foreign interference in our affairs? After all, that's why the European Court of Justice was hated by those leading the battle to leave the EU. It seems we have simply replaced the ECJ with another body that will exercise powers to direct what happens in the UK.

But, say the Leavers, we've taken back control of our borders. It's a rather interesting claim given Dover was out of control for some time when France exercised their sovereign right to close their borders. Yet we have an EU border across our own country - between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain. I am trying to find another example of a sovereign body controlling internal borders within another sovereign country, but have so far drawn a blank.

But, say the Leavers, we've taken back control of our waters and our fish. True, but only if you are prepared to wait until 2026. And closing maritime borders in 5 years, as we will be entitled to do, could come with a huge price tag attached to it. Stop foreign fishing in our territorial waters and you risk tariffs being imposed on fish exports to the EU, therefore reducing demand. And don't forget such actions could end UK access to EU waters.

Interestingly, the trade deal allows for a review of the electricity market at exactly the same time in 2026 as the negotiations on fishing will take place. 8% of UK electricity is imported from the EU. The British will be reminded of this dependency when parallel talks on fishing are underway.

There are lots of other issues I could raise where Leavers have made claims on sovereignty which do not stand up to investigation. This trade deal however does not deliver the demands of the Leavers. Indeed, if I were a Leaver - and I am not - I would feel cheated. While the deal gives the appearance of UK sovereignty being reclaimed, the reality is our country has sleepwalked into a satellite status. What went so wrong for this to happen?