York Press Column: The Year Ahead
December 28, 2017
I hope that readers have enjoyed a peaceful Christmas and I trust all is going well in the preparation for New Years’ celebrations. As another year draws hastily to a close, I am taking stock of what has been another busy twelve months and looking ahead with a certain amount of optimism.
When writing for this column back in January, I anticipated that there would be plenty to fill the column inches and the rolling 24-hour news channels in the year ahead. This was certainly one of my more accurate predictions as, little did I know then, I would be fighting an election campaign in just under four months’ time. The Conservative party, although successful, clearly needed to articulate a much more positive vision for our country and inevitably paid the price on election day.
I was delighted to be re-elected as the Member of Parliament for York Outer and it was great to meet with so many people whilst out and about on the campaign trail. Everywhere, I met people who are passionate about our city and the surrounding areas. The positive vision was certainly not lacking on the doorsteps; those constituents I spoke with saw opportunities and a great future for York. I have been reflecting on this very much over the Christmas recess.
I have been very busy in Westminster this year. Brexit has loomed large in the work of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, to which I was honoured to be elected to in September. The environment and agriculture are some of the areas most affected by withdrawal from the EU, and I look forward to the coming work in the New Year. The Committee’s remit also includes significant issues for local residents, like flood defence, air quality, and animal welfare.
As expected, our departure from the EU has remained a major topic throughout 2017. Article 50 was triggered in March and more recently we have been given the green light to press ahead and begin discussions on our future relationship with Europe.
Next year, the parliamentary timetable will be dominated by legislation related to Brexit; no longer focused on our formal withdrawal we can now carve out a future relationship that will implement the decision of the British people at the same time as fostering a positive relationship with our European allies. The government intends to bring forward a Customs Bill, Trade Bill, Immigration Bill, Agriculture Bill and Fisheries Bill. So there will be plenty to keep us busy.
I remain hopeful that 2018 will be the year in which we finally know where York’s future lies in respect of devolution. Manchester, Liverpool and the Tees Valley now have mayors in place and are seeing new funding to reduce congestion and improve transport links in their respective areas. Furthermore, final submission for our Local Plan is scheduled to happen in the spring. I am aware that there remains a few points of contention, but we have undoubtedly moved forward towards a more reasonable overall settlement.
Next year we also have a royal wedding, the centenary of the Armistice, and the Commonwealth Games. Events of national celebration, reflection and hope. As the interest of people across the globe is stoked by the ‘wedding of the year’ and we remember the sacrifice made by our country in its deadliest war, it is certainly worth remembering the lasting and influential impact that our small island has had, and will continue to have, on the world.
Thankfully, Britain now predominantly projects itself through effective soft power; and I am more than certain that this will continue. Whether it’s our musicians topping the charts in 25 countries or the highest-grossing worldwide film starring two British actors, our country well and truly punches above its weight on the world stage. Opportunities are out there and we must make sure they are grasped, a bit like the England team heading off to win the World Cup in Russia this summer. Perhaps one of my predictions that could prove to be less accurate, but as a Leeds United supporter I remain forever the hopeless optimist.
Best wishes to you all, have a Happy New Year and all the best for 2018.