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Sevenoaks Heritage Exhibition

On 21st June I was very pleased to visit the Sevenoaks Heritage Exhibition. This exhibition, hosted by the Sevenoaks Society, is a visual display of the 900 year history of Sevenoaks with photographs, paintings and original artwork which includes the town’s iconic landmarks. It is part of Sevenoaks’ 50th Summer Festival.

Sevenoaks Society: Richard Baxter, Treasurer; Sir Michael Harrison, President; Sir Michael Fallon MP; David Green, Chairman; and Geraldine Tucker

Fallon demands motorway clear-up and better signage

Sevenoaks MP Michael Fallon met Highways Agency managers last week to press for cleaner motorway verges and more action to stop HGVs passing through the town centre.

He has demanded new signs and cameras to curb roadside litter, especially at the slip roads at M25 junctions 3 and 4.  “Let’s see more prosecutions and warnings.  Money spent clearing up litter means less spent on road maintenance and potholes.”

Sir Michael also wants more done to divert lorries away from Sevenoaks town centre. “Better signage on the A21 would help direct more northbound traffic heading east up to junction 3”.

Thatcher didn’t cling on like this. We need a Brexiteer to lead us out of this paralysis

  It’s nearly thirty years ago now but none of us who were there will ever forget the quiet dignity of Margaret Thatcher’s final days in office. From the moment she won – won! – the first leadership ballot, through that dreadful Wednesday, and on to her triumphant final speech as Prime Minister in the confidence debate the following day, it was impossible not to be moved by her grace and poise. She had to go, not because she fell a few votes short of the ballot threshold, but because in the end she had lost the confidence of her colleagues. When your own Cabinet tells you that your time is up, it is.

Theresa May’s time is up, and the sooner she goes the better. Of course she should have gone earlier, after losing the first or second Withdrawal Agreement votes, or perhaps even earlier when only the payroll saved her in the December leadership challenge. That would have given a new leader time to rework the Agreement and might have spared us the terrible local election losses this month and the European election results to come. Clinging to office has diminished her and destroyed any remaining value in her legacy.

That is why Denis Thatcher and other senior advisers turned down our pleas for Margaret to stand and fight. We wanted her to open up the second ballot to all-comers and tough her way through to the third, transferable round. There was every chance she could have done enough to win and stayed on as prime minister. But they knew that being honest about her political position was the only way to ensure that she wouldn’t be humiliated. Who on earth has been advising Mrs May these past weeks and months?

The rest of us now need to get on and choose a new leader as promptly and efficiently as we can. After the hustings, the parliamentary rounds should be telescoped into a single day, allowing the wider membership a few weeks to hear and test the final two candidates. The new leader must be in place soon in order to make the most of the remaining weeks before the latest Brexit deadline at the end of October. They must also be somebody who can give fresh impetus to the work we need to do with Brussels, Dublin, Paris and Berlin.

That will require courage and drive, but above all honesty. Leaving the European Union cannot be either simple or quick: it has to involve transition, compromise and some difficult truths. I will vote for a Leader who can articulate the trade-offs involved on issues such as trade and migration and then build a consensus behind them in Parliament.

The most important task, though, is to rethink the arrangements for the island of Ireland. Mrs May ignored the one parliamentary majority that was achieved, back in January, for the “Brady amendment”. Work is already in hand with experts advising our parliamentary commission (I am a commissioner), looking again at how different customs checks might work for small traders and farm produce.

Brexit in the end, though, cannot be half-hearted. If we are to take Parliament and the country on this course, it has to be delivered with clarity and honesty but con brio, too. That points to our choosing a Brexiteer, and one with the drive and experience to lead a fresh Cabinet team.

We are not short of candidates, and I can see leaders of the future in ministers such as Matt Hancock and Penny Mordaunt. But my vote will go to the candidate ready now to take us through Brexit and beyond.

Brexit should be the gateway to a bigger future. It’s a chance to rethink our capitalism and make it more inclusive. Home ownership and proper pensions are becoming the preserve of the rich. Our economy has become too metropolitan, with London sucking the lifeblood and talent out of our northern towns. Challenger businesses aren’t helped by timid regulators. A new chancellor should slash and burn our creaking tax system. Outside the EU, we will need stronger partnerships with our other allies and better ways of selling British brainpower around the world.

As it happens, I don’t regret voting Remain: but I certainly will regret us not now maximising every opportunity that Brexit can open to us.

You can read the article on the Telegraph website here:
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/05/23/brexiteer-leader-can-end-painful-paralysis/

Specsavers

Michael had the pleasure of visiting Specsavers in Swanley where he had the chance to meet the staff and see their new Ocular Coherence Tomography (OCT) machine, a hospital-grade screening tester which takes pictures of the retina. OCT machines help detect eye conditions much earlier than traditional eye tests – and Michael got the opportunity to get his eyes tested!

Withdrawal Agreement

I am grateful to all those constituents who have shared their views with me over the past few weeks.  I have now had several hundred emails and letters, so many that I am regretfully unable to reply individually to each point, but I have read each one in coming to my own voting decisions.

There are different views across Sevenoaks and Swanley, just as there are across the country.  And they divide at least four ways: there are Remainers who oppose the Withdrawal Agreement because it leads to an unknown Brexit and there are Remainers who support it, as keeping the UK fairly close to the current customs union; there are Leavers who want a purer Brexit and so oppose the Agreement for exactly the same reason, and there are Leavers who now support the Agreement fearing that unless we accept it we may never leave the EU at all.   It is impossible to reconcile these differences in a single vote.

My conclusion is that we must implement the Referendum result as we promised, and we must avoid the potential damage to our economy and disruption here in Kent of leaving without any deal: the Leave campaign itself argued for “a careful change, not a sudden stop”.  The government is committed to an orderly withdrawal, and my view is that there is now a greater risk of a disorderly exit if we do not support the Withdrawal Agreement today. Though the Agreement is flawed, and weakens the United Kingdom by disadvantaging Northern Ireland, these are issues to which we can return when the subsequent Withdrawal legislation comes before Parliament.  That is why I supported the Government today. 

With all best wishes

Michael Fallon MP

Brexit Update – 20 March

Britain voted to the leave the EU; so did Sevenoaks.  That’s why in Parliament I’ve spoken and voted against simply re-running the referendum.  The government is committed to respecting the result and securing an orderly withdrawal: the Leave campaign itself argued that leaving must be “a careful change, not a sudden stop”.   We need to avoid risking damage to our economy and potential disruption here in Kent.

All sides have recognised the flaws in the original Withdrawal Agreement.  It treats Northern Ireland differently; it doesn’t allow us to exit the trade negotiations if talks fail next year; and it doesn’t spell out clearly how we can still trade smoothly in goods and services once we have left.   I therefore want to see a better, fairer Agreement, and if it is improved I will support it.

I appreciate that the Parliamentary processes have been frustratingly slow.  But we have been in the EU for forty-six years: undoing existing co-operation in trade, security, technology and research was always going to be complicated.    For the sake of our futures we must get it right. 

Weald Community Shop

I was delighted to visit, along with Councillors from Sevenoaks District and Parish Councils, the fantastic, ‘Best Business in the Community’ award-winning Weald Community Shop on Friday 15th March.

The 50 volunteers who run the shop have created so much more than a shop.  It is a community hub and exemplifies the community spirit.  I congratulate all involved.

Brexit Update

Last week I attended the regular meeting of our Association Executive Council and I updated members on progress of the Brexit negotiations.  This is a summary of what I told them.

Since the previous meeting I have received well over 1,000 emails and letters, from both Leavers and Remainers, urging me to vote for various outcomes.  The constituency, like the rest of the country, is divided about the way forward.

I have also been lobbied by local businesses who are increasingly concerned about the continuing uncertainty, two and half years after the referendum.  They want to know what new tariffs may apply in the event of “no deal”, and what certification is likely to be required at ports of entry.

Preparations to cope with disruption in the event of “no deal” are now intensifying.  I attend regular meetings on “Operation Brock” with the Police, the Roads Minister and officials from the Highways Agency, KCC and the ports.  Work is nearly complete on the M20 contraflow, and the M26 will be closed and used as a lorry park as the third option once the M20 contraflow and Manston Airport parking are full.  I have asked for further work to be done to minimise the effect on the A25 through the constituency.  There are also plans in place to prioritise imports of food, medicines and other essential goods.

I have been fully involved in the ongoing debate.  I spoke in the debate on the Withdrawal Agreement and I’ve written two articles in the Daily Telegraph setting out my concerns with the original text of the Agreement.  I continue to discuss my concerns in meetings with those involved, including Ministers, officials and last week the Irish Ambassador.

Everybody is finding these negotiations frustratingly slow (and they are not helped by EU intransigence).  They were, however, always going to be difficult:  no country has ever left the EU before and no two bordering countries anywhere in the world operate different customs and tax regimes without some border checks.

In Parliament and in both the main parties there are hard-line views on both sides.  Some Remainers want a second referendum but this would be equally divisive and I do not support a “re-run”.  Others want the UK to leave without a deal: that is not our policy, and indeed is not what the Leave campaign itself favoured: they wanted “a careful change, not a sudden stop”.  My own view lies in the middle: we must absolutely respect the referendum result but agree an orderly exit that minimises the cost to business and any disruption here in Kent.

In my view the original Withdrawal Agreement was not compatible with our obligations to the Union and did not give us sufficient clarity about the terms of our future trading arrangements with the EU: I therefore voted against it.  The Prime Minister is now committed to achieving a better deal: if she can achieve that, even if it involves a short delay, I will support it.