York Press column – Amidst all the uncertainty there are signs of brighter times ahead
October 29, 2019
It has been four weeks since my last column for the Press in which I expressed my frustration at the delays to key infrastructure projects in York. Well four weeks is certainly a long time in politics. Since then we have received confirmation from the Department for Transport that they have granted programme entry to the scheme to dual part of the A1237 northern ring road between Rawcliffe and Hopgrove. This is something that I have campaigned for throughout my political career and is a major win for the city. I have lost count of the number of times constituents have come up to me and said that the congestion on the ring-road is holding back their business or prolonging their daily commute. This frustration has now finally been turned into positive action and I look forward to holding the council to account as they make good on the £25.1 million Government investment.
Whilst welcoming the A1237 dualling, some constituents have said to me that they are worried about the extra traffic that will be going onto the A64 at the Hopgrove roundabout. I agree – and securing the dualling of the A64 between Hopgrove and Barton Hill must now be the priority. Last week, I was happy to meet with Peter Mumford, director for major projects at Highways England who said that the news on the A1237 would add weight to the case to dual the A64 when it comes up against other schemes in the highly competitive national bidding process. My fellow North Yorkshire MPs, Kevin Hollinrake and Robert Goodwill have already met with the Secretary of State and the Roads Minister who have agreed to consider the two projects as being linked.
It has also been eight weeks since my last column on Brexit. Back then I said that I was encouraged by the Prime Minister’s plans to bring a renegotiated withdrawal agreement before the Commons on the 21st or 22nd of October. I think it is fair to say that I made that comment more out of hope than expectation. However, against all the odds and after months of disagreement and delay, this Tuesday the House of Commons finally voted by a clear majority to support the new Brexit withdrawal agreement negotiated by the Prime Minister, agreeing that the draft bill putting the deal into British law could pass its first stage. Frustratingly, the Commons also rejected the Government’s proposed timetable to pass this law by the end of this week, which would have ensured Brexit could be delivered in good time according to the 31st October deadline, providing certainty and allowing the country to move on.
Although readers will undoubtedly be fatigued with this drawn out process, we must not underrate the significance of this moment. Our divided House of Commons has for the first time signalled broad agreement with the terms of a deal to leave the EU, and deliver on the promises all politicians made to the people that they would enact the result of the 2016 referendum.
The failure to agree on the Government’s timetable to promptly put the exit deal into law means the UK faces being pushed into another long and uncertain extension of EU membership. During this, those who wish to block Brexit will have time to attempt to insert numerous wrecking amendments into the draft law, such as a second referendum, or the UK staying in the EU customs union, which would mean in many respects we had not left the EU at all.
As we now face months of further grinding political struggle, the Government are again considering moving for a general election to break the deadlock, which again many in Parliament may try and block. Given most MPs have now moved from saying they reject no deal, but refuse to agree a deal, to saying they like the deal, but don’t want to enact it yet, I see little alternative to an election to resolve things.
I remain of the view that it is best to deliver Brexit through this new agreement, which will allow us to escape from the endless unproductive arguments and get on and deliver local priorities such as road improvements and increased funding for health and education.