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?

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

What was the point of Brexit?

News is filtering out that a post Brexit trade deal is close to being agreed. On the level playing field it appears the UK will continue to follow EU rules on social policy, environment etc and any further changes in these areas will in effect have to be agreed by the UK or else face some kind of penalty. Any possibility of the UK exercising sovereignty in these areas looks like a nuclear weapon - having the bomb makes you look big and tough but it can never be used as to do so would invite massive retaliation. So, if the rumours of a trade deal are correct, what was the point of Brexit in the first place? Do the 52% feel let down?

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

eFocus on NE16 and NE11

Our latest edition of our email newsletter, eFocus, for the Whickham and Dunston/Lobley Hill area was published tonight. Issues covered include:

1)Bridge the gap - help us get a new bridge in Watergate Park;
2)Helping children smile;
3)Swimming pool plan at Axwell Hall;
4)Angels and Santa visit Sunniside;
5)Whickham Library Garden needs your help;
6)Gateshead flyover lane closure;
7)Bin collection dates;
8)Blaydon Urgent Treatment Centre open.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Recent efocuses

I've not been up to speed on posting about our recent eFocuses in Gateshead so below are the links to our two most recent editions.

Low Fell edition 78 key issues covered include:

  • Merry Christmas from the Focus Team
  • Thank you to the sponsors who made the Christmas tree and lights possible
  • Rats in Saltwell Park
  • Calls for leisure centres and swimming pools to re-open - sign the petition
  • Gateshead Council condemned for charging homeless and vulnerable to phone Council
  • Consultation on transport plan
  • Gas works planned for parts of Low Fell

You can read Low Fell eFocus on this link.

Whickham area edition 148 key issues covered include:

  • South Byermoor motorbike and 4X4 proposal rejected;
  • Whickham Voluntary Library opens again;
  • Call to reopen pools and gyms - sign the petition!
  • Sunniside Christmas tree switched on;
  • Help a child smile;
  • Work to remove diseased trees;
  • Singing on your doorsteps:
  • Poultry lockdown;
  • Transport survey.

You can read Whickham area eFocus on this link.

Angels in Sunniside

Residents attending Sunniside Chapel have been knitting angels recently. The angels have quietly been placed in various locations throughout the village. One appeared in my hedge! I have 5 sheep on my smallholding so next year, once they are shorn, I think I have found some people who could make use of some of the wool!