An Oxford doctor urges his MP to extend transition. If we cannot agree a “Good” Deal then we must request an extension to the Transition Period.
To Dr John Howell, MP for Henley
It will not surprise you that I’m writing to you about the second lockdown, which is now imminent. … I am not an ‘instant expert on epidemiology’, I am a doctor and have always taken an interest, but, like all of us, I am learning something every day.
As you will be aware, the lockdown has been called as a last resort at a time when we are looking at the likelihood of many thousands of deaths per day unless drastic action is taken. It is in effect extremely belated and without a doubt many lives could have been saved, and it could have been shorter, had it happened earlier. Despite this obvious fact, which is entirely obvious to anybody with any understanding of current events, astonishingly several of your colleagues are threatening to vote against this necessary measure. This despite the fact that, in common with the rest of the Parliamentary Party, they have blindly followed the PM on the many recent occasions when he was manifestly in error.
The situation now is that … [the end of the] … Transition Period is less than two months away, business has been told repeatedly that it should get ready for a no-deal Brexit, despite a total lack of clarity about what preparations are required because even now the nature of any agreement with the EU remains uncertain. At the best of times this would have been a hopelessly short time scale, but in excess of 50% of the available time will be spent with many businesses completely unable to function due to lockdown. This, please remember, is a situation which did not need to arise and which the government has chosen to bring about.
As I’ve said before, a no-deal outcome, with WTO style tariffs on top of the already overwhelming non-tariff barriers to trade, would be catastrophic for British business. It will also be severely harmful for the NHS and for UK patients, including those in your constituency, because of the complex supply chains relating to pharmaceuticals and other medical products. Add to that the devastating effect of a no deal Brexit on international collaboration against crime, just at a time when the terrorist threat level in the UK has been raised to severe. We are gratuitously rendering ourselves extremely vulnerable.
It is way past time for rational centre-ground conservative MPs to speak up and make it clear that the government absolutely must sign a deal which gives British business, the NHS and the security forces at least a fighting chance. If this cannot be done, then there is an overwhelming ethical imperative on the government to request a delay, which given the extraordinary circumstances the EU 27 might well be minded to grant. Bear in mind that our former partners in Europe are suffering a crisis as well, and this is headache which they do not need any more than we do. It most certainly is not a time for grandstanding.
I would emphasise that this is not any attempt to “refight the referendum”. The UK has now left the European Union, and any presumed obligation which the government may have felt towards the 17.4 million leave voters has been discharged in full. Having done this, the government is under no obligation to go any further, but rather it must make rational decisions which are in the best interests of the 65 million.
Surely this Tory MP will support the “centre ground” which he and many of his colleagues say they stand for?
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