Julian’s York Press Column: Britain’s Place in the World
February 2, 2017
In my last York Press column I briefly touched on President-elect Trump and the policy direction he may take in office. Well, no one can accuse him of a dithering start.
Should I have found myself in the unenviable position of being eligible to vote in the US election, I would have found it difficult to vote for Mr Trump as I regularly found his rhetoric unpalatable. But the American people have chosen their President in an entirely democratic exercise, and Mr Trump now has a mandate to make good on his campaign promises.
This week there has been great controversy over the President’s changes to US immigration policy, whereby the citizens of seven countries have been blocked from entering the United States for 90 days until additional security measures are put in place. But whilst we might disagree with Mr Trump’s position, we cannot say he has misled anyone in his intentions.
Perhaps unsurprisingly there is now a petition to block Trump’s state visit to the UK. I would urge people to try to remove themselves from the emotions of this situation, and remember that some of the great political progress in our time has been made through engagement with those whom we disagree. Mr Obama once remarked that condemnation without discussion will only carry forward the status quo.
It is firmly in our national interest to engage with the new President through diplomacy and frank discussion, and to suggest isolating our most important ally is incredibly short-sighted. We have already seen Mr Trump’s affirmation of his commitment to NATO during the Prime Minister’s visit to the White House which is crucial to Europe’s security.
It will be far more effective for the Prime Minister to be strong in her private engagements the President than to lambast him publicly, and we must trust her to do this. Indeed, the friendship between the United States and Great Britain has been fostered through support in times of national struggle, and will be even more important in economic and security terms as we map our future away from the EU.
I sit writing this column just before entering the Chamber where a Bill will be considered allowing the Government to trigger the process of withdrawal from the European Union. The decision to leave the EU was taken by the British people on 23rd June, and I am pleased that the majority of my parliamentary colleagues accept the result of this democratic vote. The choice was made and must now be respected as promised. Once the Bill is passed it will be up to Ministers to negotiate a better relationship with the European Union.
After the Article 50 process is concluded and we leave the EU there will be many different sectors undergoing significant change, and we must get this right. The University of York, for instance, is a world-leading centre of excellence and it is vital that its positon is maintained and enhanced in the years ahead. I will be vocal in lobbying the Government to keep its commitments to significantly replace EU funding to institutions like the University of York, and to continue collaboration with our EU neighbours on major science, research, and technology initiatives wherever possible.
Likewise it is essential that the farms on the outskirts of York and across the country are not disadvantaged in relation to their European competitors as we disentangle ourselves from the Common Agricultural Policy. There should be no cliff-edge shift, but a careful transition that allows the sector to emerge stronger than before.
Finally, I want to be clear that our country benefits greatly from the movement of skills across Europe. Having a tailored British immigration policy that works for our economy, rather than an inflexible right to free movement across Europe, is very important. However, British businesses must be able to fill skills and labour gaps by bringing in European workers where this is necessary, and our universities should be able to welcome large numbers of foreign students.
Ultimately, the vote to leave the EU was an expression of national self-confidence in our values and institutions, and I believe this represents a strong basis for solidifying Britain’s place in the world.