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  • ttw7 (Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash)
    Article: Jun 9, 2021

    The Guardian reports that the row between the UK and the EU over checks on sausages and other chilled foods sent from Britain to Northern Ireland has deepened, with the Brexit minister telling Brussels that trade war threats will not wash with voters.

    They say the UK government is reportedly considering unilaterally extending the grace periods under the protocol that give businesses in Northern Ireland time to adapt to new rules - including for the import of chilled meats such as sausages, chicken nuggets and mince from Great Britain.

    What is ironic of course is that this so-called crisis is of the government's own making. It has been sparked by a legal agreement that a year ago was being touted by the self-same Ministers, and the Prime Minister, as the best thing since sliced bread. No sausage sandwich for Boris Johnson this time.

    Fortunately, Gavin Barwell, who as Theresa May's chief of staff was fully involved in the Brexit talks until the summer of 2019, is on hand to put them straight. He said it was just not plausible for Boris Johnson to claim that he did not know what he was signing up to. Barwell told the Today programme:

    I don't think the EU is ever going to think that is credible. The EU negotiating team have obviously worked very closely with the British negotiating team under both governments. They know the quality of the civil servants involved in that work, and they know that British ministers would have been have been advised in detail on the implications of what they were signing up to.

    So I don't think anyone who's involved in the process is going to find it credible that the government signed up to something and didn't understand what the consequences of that were.

    Asked if he thought that the government was now only pretending that it did not realise how damaging the protocol would be when it signed it in 2019, Barwell said:

    It's difficult to conceive of any other explanation. When I was working with Theresa [May], Boris Johnson was foreign secretary for a period of that time. He perfectly well understood what the previous iteration of the protocol meant in terms of regulatory checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

    When the deal was published and the government brought its legislation forward, the explanatory memorandum for the bill, which explained what the bill meant, was very clear what the consequences would be.

    And I think he and David Frost are intelligent people. I find it inconceivable that they didn't understand what they were signing up to. They would have been advised very clearly by the civil service about that.

    And I think it's also important to consider the political context at the time. When Boris took over, he initially tried to prorogue parliament and leave without a deal. He wasn't able to do that. So he then decided that he wanted to call an election to strengthen his position and it was clearly easier to fight that an election within an "oven-ready" Brexit deal.

    So I think the calculation was sign up to whatever is on offer, and then see if we can deal with anything we don't like down the line. I think the EU have come to the same conclusion as me and that's why they're taking the approach that they are now.

    Isn't it time UK Government Ministers admitted they had got it wrong and that the whole basis of their 2019 General Election campaign was wrong?

  • 7b4k (Photo by Red Dot on Unsplash)
    Article: Jun 8, 2021
    Cabinet minister George Eustice has been busy in the media studios today

    Apart from railing at the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol which sees a border established down the Irish Sea, an agreement struck to great fanfare only 6 months ago by out Prime Minister even though he clearly didn't understand what he had signed up to, he was also pressed on the parliamentary report that suggested that burnout of people in the NHS was putting the service at risk of implosion

    The Health and Social Care Committee called for immediate action to support exhausted staff who have been pushed to breaking point during the pandemic.

    In response the environment secretary told Sky News: "Yes, of course they've had a difficult year - if you're dealing with a pandemic, as they've had to, it's been a very difficult time, they've done extraordinarily well." Mr Eustice said the government had already recruited more staff and introduced a pay rise. Pushed on the issue, he responded: "Well, I'm not sure what more we can do."

    Despite Mr Eustice's claims, the committee' pointed to long-standing, unresolved staffing issues in the NHS before the coronavirus pandemic began. There were 50,000 nursing vacancies in the UK. whilst , in adult social care, 7.3 per cent of roles in adult social care had been vacant during the financial year 2019-20, equivalent to around 112,000 vacancies at any one time.

    In the report published on Tuesday, the MPs said: "The emergency that workforce burnout has become will not be solved without a total overhaul of the way the NHS does workforce planning.

    "After the pandemic, which revealed so many critical staff shortages, the least we can do for staff is to show there is a long-term solution to those shortages, ultimately the biggest driver of burnout."

    The MPs said that, while issues such as excessive workloads may not be solved overnight, staff should be given the confidence that a long-term solution is in place.

    Now it may be argued that Mr Eustice as agriculture minister is no expert on the health service but to admit he has no idea about what to do about the issue speaks volumes for the governments competence

    Alienating staff with a derisory 1% pay rise which risks many leaving the profession adding yet more strain on those who are left is not a great start ( see

    http://southsuffolklibdems.org.uk/en/article/2021/1405786/low-respect-the-nhs-consequences) . Charging for visas for health workers coming from Europe doesn't help much either ( see .http://southsuffolklibdems.org.uk/en/article/2021/1406612/not-in-our-name) Nor did cutting bursaries for those studying to be nurses a few years ago

    Of course Covid has exacerbated a problem which existed long before the pandemic. At its heart is along term strategy of Conservative driven austerity which has starved the NHS of resources and the ability to plan long term. Being told the government dose not know what more it can do is incredible. Listening and responding to those who understand the issues would be a good start!

  • aaaa
    Article: Jun 6, 2021
    It is worth remembering on World environment Day that we are living in one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world.
    Out of 20 UN targets, we are meeting just 3.
    Despite this, the Conservatives have cut wildlife funding by 30%. Liberal Democrats will always protect Britain's wildlife and nature
    Liberal Democrats will always protect Britain's wildlife and nature.
  • cr55
    Article: Jun 5, 2021
    The years of coalition government may get mixed reviews now but one thing Liberal Democrats are proud of is the passing of a law to force Govts to spend 0.7% of national income on aid. We were one of the first countries to do so.

    Despite the fact it was a manifesto commitment for the Conservatives at the last election the Prime Minister decided to junk the promise on the grounds of affordability even though the actual amount spent was already due to drop significantly as the covid lock-downs reduced the size of the economy on which it was calculated. A further reduction to 0.5% is now being implemented although stories of last minute cuts and poor interactions with aid agencies suggest an unplanned shambolic approach, so typical of this government in many other spheres of activity.

  • m,4c (Photo by MChe Lee on Unsplash)
    Article: Jun 3, 2021

    "I do not believe it will be possible to deliver a successful recovery without significantly greater support than the government has, to date, indicated it intends to provide."

    With these words Sir Kevan Collins, the education recovery commissioner, who was appointed by the government and tasked four months ago to "ensure children and young people can recover lost learning" caused by the Covid crisis, announced he had left the role. The governments proposed spend of £1.4bn or £22 per child to help catch up their education after school closures and on-line working was the catalyst for the decision

    Sir Kevan was reported to have asked for ten times this sum to be allocated a figure per pupil according to BBC Newsnight, much closer to the plans announced in the US ( not normally renowned for its social spending) and the Netherlands.

    Since the impact of this spend would disproportionately help the poorer in our society it is not clear how this helps the so called "levelling up" agenda. More importantly it risks long term damage to our children's futures and as a consequence our countries economic wellbeing

    Liberal Democrat MP Daisy Cooper said I'm not surprised in the slightest. Sir Kevan was a good appointment and all of us were cheering him on. The Government's insulting offer of a £1bn to support a generation of young people facing lost learning was clearly too much to stomach

    All very predictable you may think. Opposition parties will always finds points to complain about. But here is what senior Conservative MP Robert Halfon Chairman of the Parliamentary Education select committee had to say on Radio 4

    "Of course there are funding constraints but the treasury announced over 16 billion extra for defence only last year, we've got 800 million being spent on a new research agency, 200 million being spent on a yacht. So where there is the political will, the treasury can find the money from the back of the sofa, and there has to be that political will because we need a long-term plan for education, a proper funding settlement."