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  Disability News Service
Posted by: Richard - 1 hour ago - Forum: Fleet Street - No Replies

The tragedy of Errol Graham: Man starved to death after DWP wrongly stopped his benefits, coroner rules
By John Pring

A disabled man starved to death after the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) wrongly stopped his out-of-work benefits, leaving him without any income.

Errol Graham weighed just four-and-a-half stone when his body was found by bailiffs who had knocked down his front door to evict him. He had just a couple of out-of-date tins of fish left in his flat.

DWP civil servants had failed to seek further medical evidence from his GP, just as in many other tragic cases that have sparked repeated calls for an independent inquiry into links between the deaths of claimants and the actions and failings of DWP.

Assistant coroner Dr Elizabeth Didcock, who heard the inquest, was told that DWP stopped Graham’s employment and support allowance (ESA) entitlement – and backdated that decision to the previous month – after making two unsuccessful visits to his home to ask why he had not attended a face-to-face work capability assessment (WCA) on 31 August 2017.

The inquest heard that it was standard DWP procedure to go ahead with stopping the benefits of a claimant marked on the system as vulnerable after two failed safeguarding visits.

DWP somehow managed to stop an ESA payment that had been due to be credited to his bank account on 17 October, the same day it made the second unsuccessful safeguarding visit.

Its own rules state that it should make both safeguarding visits before stopping the benefits of a vulnerable claimant.

Because Graham lost his ESA entitlement, his housing benefit was also stopped.

His family say he had also been found ineligible for personal independence payment (PIP).

Deprived of all financial support, experiencing significant mental distress and unable or unwilling to seek help, he slowly starved to death. He was 57.

His body was discovered on 20 June 2018 when bailiffs arrived at his Nottingham council flat to evict him for non-payment of rent.

His benefits had been stopped even though he had been receiving incapacity benefit, and then ESA, for many years as a result of enduring mental distress that had led to him being sectioned.

He had also told DWP on an ESA form three years earlier that he could not cope with “unexpected changes”, adding: “Upsets my life completely. Feel under threat and upset…”

He added: “Cannot deal with social situations. Keep myself to myself. Do not engage with strangers. Have no social life. Feel anxiety and panic in new situations.”

DWP told the inquest that because Graham had not seen his GP since 2013, and there was no recent ESA questionnaire explaining his level of impairment, he had been asked to attend a WCA on 31 August 2017, but that he had failed to attend.

But the inquest also heard that he not been asked to complete an ESA questionnaire, even though he had previously completed and returned them – with assistance – for previous claims.

Letters were sent in September and October 2017, asking why he had failed to attend the WCA appointment, followed by a telephone call, a text message, and the two visits, but he failed to respond to any of them.

The assistant coroner said: “There simply is not sufficient evidence as to how he was functioning, however, it is likely that his mental health was poor at this time – he does not appear to be having contact with other people, and he did not seek help from his GP or support agencies as he had done previously.”

She concluded in the narrative verdict, delivered today, that the “safety net that should surround vulnerable people like Errol in our society had holes within it”.

She said: “He needed the DWP to obtain more evidence [from his GP] at the time his ESA was stopped, to make a more informed decision about him, particularly following the failed safeguarding visits.”

She said that a consultant psychiatrist had told the inquest “that Errol was vulnerable to life stressors” and that it was “likely that this loss of income, and housing, were the final and devastating stressors, that had a significant effect on his mental health”.

But she decided not to write a regulation 28 report demanding changes to DWP’s safeguarding procedures to “prevent future deaths” because the department insisted that it was already completing a review of its safeguarding, which was supposed to finish last autumn.

DWP had promised her it would “listen to clients and to those representing them, and… ensure that the DWP were focused on support and safety for vulnerable people”, she wrote.

Dr Didcock insisted that this commitment “must be converted into robust policy and guidance for DWP staff” and DWP must ensure that “all evidence that can reasonably be gathered is put together about a client, before a benefit is ceased”.

Over the last decade, the deaths of disabled people have been linked repeatedly to the failure by DWP to secure further medical evidence, and to check on the welfare of claimants seen as vulnerable before removing their benefits, with at least one other claimant starving to death after being found “fit for work”.

These include the deaths of Stephen Carré, Jodey Whiting, Mark Wood, Paul Donnachie, Michael O’Sullivan, David Barr and a woman known only as Ms DE.

The latest case has only emerged now because DNS was contacted by Alison Turner, the partner of Errol Graham’s son, who put questions to DWP at the inquest and has fought for justice for him over the last two years.

Although the family could not afford a lawyer to represent them at the inquest, DWP paid for one of the country’s leading barristers to defend its failures.

Turner, who is disabled herself, told DNS: “It’s truly shocking what the system does to people.

“I have lived in fear ever since wondering what the future holds for me as a disabled person, and my child who will also rely on the system for support, as her autism amongst other conditions means she is unlikely to be able to live independently.

“I truly fear that the failures that let my father-in-law down will one day fail me and my child.”

She added: “I don’t know how these people sleep at night. God forbid any of them should need the system one day.

“I can only say I hope it serves them the same way it’s failed to serve the vulnerable.”

Diana Burton, Errol Graham’s ex-partner, who stayed on good terms with him after they split up more than 10 years ago, said she believed DWP and other agencies should be held accountable for what happened to him.

She said: “In this day and age, this shouldn’t happen. It’s like we have gone back to Victorian times.

“Someone should be held accountable for it. If DWP hadn’t stopped his money, he would still be here today. Definitely.”

She said DWP had tried to “push it under the carpet” with the evidence it gave at the inquest.

And she backed growing calls for an independent inquiry into deaths linked to DWP, which now date back more than a decade, and said: “It should not be happening.”

She said that similar health and safety failings by other organisations would have led to manslaughter charges.

She added: “It is like they are above the law.”

The family has yet to receive an apology from DWP, and one senior civil servant who gave evidence to the inquest even insisted that “based on the evidence available, all actions have been taken appropriately and the law and guidelines have been followed correctly”.

The coroner was also critical of Graham’s GP practice, which had not seen him since 2013, or recalled him for vital blood tests or issued prescriptions since 2015, despite his serious medical conditions, including significant, long-term mental distress and hypothyroidism.

She concluded: “Errol needed the GP to try harder to see him, certainly from 2015 onwards.”

A DWP spokesperson refused to confirm that Errol Graham also had a PIP claim refused; refused to provide an update on the safeguarding review; refused to offer a justification for the department’s safeguarding failures; refused to comment on the similarities between his death and that of other disabled benefit claimants; refused to say which senior civil servants and ministers would take responsibility for his death; refused to say if DWP agreed with the senior civil servant who told the inquest the department had acted “appropriately”; refused to justify sending a highly-paid barrister to the inquest; and refused to explain how DWP was able to stop the ESA payment so quickly after the final safeguarding visit.

Additionally, he said in a statement that: “This is a tragic, complex case and our sympathies are with Mr Graham’s family.

“We take this very seriously and have referred this to our serious case panel, which includes independent members to help scrutinise and establish any lessons.”

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  MS5: Government Brexit Preparations
Posted by: Steven Andrews - 1 hour ago - Forum: Debating Chamber - No Replies

Mr. Speaker,
My statement today will be somewhat brief, as circumstances have been changing amid ongoing negotiations.  I will leave addressing the overall content to the Prime Minister, but I am confident that we have a solid deal in place for leaving the European Union.

What I wish to assure bot the House and the Country of is that the government has been planning for both a "deal" scenario within a given range of possible outcomes as well as a "no deal" scenario, also within a range of outcomes.  To this end, we intend to have the following measures in place:

-We will provide a credit facility for businesses affected by short-term "hiccups" from any transition, to cover the costs of dealing with supply disruptions with limited or no origination costs or interest.  The main concern here is just-in-time operations with relatively thin margins and tight supply chains.  The objective here is to ensure that said companies can continue regular operations and will not suffer payroll disruptions.  The government has, to start with, set £4bn aside to help back up such a loan facility.

-We are going to reach out to major companies to see what needs to be done, in the context of our deal, to ensure that they do not see a need to divest from the UK.  Let me be clear, this is also a shorter-term item...again within the context of the deal, once that is done we will be looking to attract jobs both with a favorable tax and regulatory environment and with seeking out new arrangements with other trading partners.

-Finally, we will work to address any short-term customs complications on an as-needed basis.  The Government is prepared to invoke existing emergency legislation on a narrow, limited basis to allow vital supplies of medication and medical supplies from trusted vendors and countries to pass through to the UK with either minimal checks or with the waiving of checks.  Put plainly, as an example we're not going to let supplies of insulin from the EU get held up by border formalities...we'll waive the formalities instead.  Likewise, we will be putting funds forward to rearrange staffing at major ports of entry to ensure as smooth a transition in terms of handling the lines there as possible.  Our objective is 'business as usual' while we get such transitions taken care of.

More will be made available by the relevant Secretaries as the ink dries on the negotiations, but I hope that this gives the House and the Country some idea on what to expect.

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  Lauren French
Posted by: KDD - 1 hour ago - Forum: New Players - Replies (1)

Name: Lauren French
Age: 53
Gender: Female
Ethnicity: White
Sexuality : White
Avatar : Laura Linney
Discord Username : TDB

Education College, Royal College of Art
Career: Designer, Inn and Restaurant Owner

Party: Labour
Constituency : Exeter
Faction Progress
Parliamentary Career: Recently elected

Traits (Select two positive and one negative):
Media Darling
Constituency Pariah
Campaigning Uninspiring 
Fundraising Extraordinaire

Lauren French, nee Stanwix, was born to an upper middle class family in Essex, her father owning a Volvo dealership.  After attending the Royal College of Art in 1988, she joined Rover Group as a designer. As Rover struggled, she eventually lost her job in 1998 though she would join British Airway, designing lounges. She stayed only a few years before moving with her husband to Devon where they purchased a seaside Inn. Over the next 15 years they purchased several more Inns and restaurants. Lauren though would step away to stand for election for Exeter.

Lauren grew up in a staunchly Tory household. In her youth, she was a Conservative voter too but that changed in 1997, tired of the constant Tory scandals and inspired by Tony Blair's New Labour, she has been a Labour supporter ever since.

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  TIG: Statement on defections by Edith Granger MP
Posted by: Edith Granger - 2 hours ago - Forum: Press Office - No Replies

Edith Granger, MP for South Cambridgeshire and Leader of The Independent Group spoke to the press outside the Palace of Westminster.

“Following the decision by the Prime Minister to expel members of the Conservative Party for standing up for the constituents and the country’s best interests I am pleased to announce that the following Members of Parliament have joined the recent defections of Sam Gyimah and Dominic Grieve to the Independent Group.

“The MPs that have joined us are:
Robert Lascelles
David Gauke
Oliver Letwin
Antoinette Sandbach
Anne Milton
Ed Vaizey
Philip Hammond

“They join our movement at a point of great change and upheaval in our country. We have a Prime Minister that is dead set on crashing the United Kingdom out of the European Union, no matter the cost. His purported new deal will do nothing to solve the issues we face as a nation and will lead to the splitting up of our great union leaving Northern Ireland in the EU while Scotland, Wales and England will be dragged out.

“William Croft has made it clear to the British people that his only concern is the Conservative party rather than the future prosperity and stability of our country. While he continues his damaging rampage The Independent Group will put forward a bold vision for the future of this country which begins with preventing a damaging No Deal Brexit and maintaining the closest ties possible to the European Union, and submitting any deal to a People’s Vote for the approval of the British people.

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  PM Speech at Ferguson Transport
Posted by: William Croft - 3 hours ago - Forum: Press Office - No Replies

The Prime Minister arrives in Cramlington, in the North East of England, where he meets with workers and local supporters at the Ferguson Transport manufacturing plant. After making the rounds of the factory, touring the plant and talking with employees, he gets up on a makeshift stage. Introduced by William Anderson, the chief whip and a Northeast England MP, Croft begins his speech.

Good afternoon, everyone! What a phenomenal day it has been here at Fergusons, a stellar example of British ingenuity and entrepreneurism! 

Being here today, meeting with all of you, makes me all the more optimistic about the success that awaits us once the UK leaves the European Union. And when is that going to happen!? I think at this point you know the answers... (William pauses, grinning, as he and the crowd say "March 29th" in unison.) 

There we have it! Yes, despite the best efforts of the Labour Party and their Surrender Bill, the physical embodiment of the defeatist outlook they hold for Britain, we are going to leave the European Union on March 29, deal or no deal. Fortunately, however, it looks like we are going to leave with a deal, and that is why I am here to talk with all of you today. Because we're on the verge of reaching a deal, a deal that does right by the British people, honors your vote in the 2016 referendum, and allows our country to get on with it and focus on the issues that matter to you. 

As I told Parliament earlier this week, from the moment I became Prime Minister, the Government hit the ground running on renegotiating the Withdrawal Agreement. We were told by the Westminster elite that the Europeans would never renegotiate the agreement. Well, they have. We were laughed at when we said we would find an alternative to the backstop. Well, we did. And we were told that, even if all this could happen, it would get gone by March 29. Well, my friends, it has.  

The new deal we have reached with the EU will ensure that the whole of the United Kingdom leaves the European Union and the customs union on March 29, it eliminates the undemocratic backstop and puts the people of Northern Ireland in control of their own destiny, and it ensures we are free to begin making trade deals with our allies around the globe from day one. It is a deal that delivers a true and proper Brexit, the Brexit the British people voted for. It's a deal that ensures Government is keeping its promise to the people, something we've seen less and less of in recent years. It's a deal that will allow us to take back control of our borders, to take full advantage of trading opportunities around the world, and to unleash the full potential of Great Britain and its great people. 

And most importantly, it is a deal that allows our country to move forward and start focusing on the issues that matter to working people here in Britain. For three years, and after one failed deal, we as a nation have been in a state of paralysis. We've been stuck, mired in debate and division, unable to see the light at the tunnel. Now, that is finally set to change. With this deal, Britain will depart from the European Union on March 29, and we as a country will move forward. Together, we will be able to tackle the priorities that matter to you. Protecting the NHS, hiring more police officers to keep our communities safe, and cutting taxes and investing in the British people so that every person enjoys an equal share in the success of our country. The Government I lead is committed to delivering on the people's priorities, your priorities. With Brexit done, we will do just that. 

Now the naysayers, Labour and their friends on the Opposition benches, have launched head first into attacking this deal. It's interesting, suddenly the same people who never wanted Brexit to happen, seemingly care so much about getting what they believe is a good deal for Britain. They claim this isn't a good deal, but let's remember who exactly these critics are. Caroline Blakesley, the new Labour Leader, who if she had her way would have forced through a second referendum, cancelling the will of the people and stopping Brexit altogether. The leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party, who in one breath claims this deal will be the end of the Union, and in another actively calls for the dissolution of our Union by dragging Scotland unwillingly out of our United Kingdom. So of course they don't want to see this deal passed, not because they truly believe it to be a bad deal, but because they don't want to see Brexit get done. The British people won't be fooled. 

In just a few days, if Parliament is willing to get on board and do its job, the endless uncertainty will come to an end. And it's in place, will be the certainty that Britain's best days are ahead of us. The Government will present it's deal to Parliament, and to the British people, and with its passage we will enter the next chapter of our country's great history. Free to chart our own destiny, to embrace our own future, and to fully unleash the true potential of the British people. From day one of my time as your Prime Minister, my promise to you has been simple: to ensure the UK leaves the European Union on March 20, with a deal, and in a manner that respects the 2016 referendum. I am proud to say we have done just that, delivered upon that promise, and done the people's work. Tonight I leave to Brussels to cement that deal, and I will carry the expectations, hopes and dreams of all of you with me. Because it is for you, the British people, that I work. And that, my duty to you, is what carries me forward. 

Thank you all, it is has been a pleasure to speak to you. God bless you, and God Save the Queen. 

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  MS3 - Statement on the EU WA negotiations - Role of the ECJ Post Brexit
Posted by: Harold Saxon - 6 hours ago - Forum: Debating Chamber - No Replies

Mr speaker

It gives me great pleasure to rise today to inform the house of a major development in the UK Government’s talks with the European Union on a withdrawal agreement.

Today I spoke to Mr Barnier the head of the EUs negotiating team around the role of the European Court of Justice within the Withdrawal Agreement and its role within the United Kingdom after the transition period. 

During the discussions with Mr Barnier I expressed my concern that the United Kingdom would still fall under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) after the transition period, meaning our courts would face years and years of having to comply with ECJ rulings.

I can confirm, Mr Speaker, that the Government has successfully negotiated a new agreement with our European friends, whereby the European Court of Justice will no longer play a role after the transition period for the United Kingdom. To be clear the ECJ’s role within the transition period will remain unchanged . The ECJ will continue to hold jurisdiction in relation to disputes during the transition period in relation to facilitating the free trade agreement. I can now confirm, however, that the United Kingdom will be free of ECJ rulings after the transition period. They will no longer be binding. In the event that over the course of the transition period there is a dispute between the UK and the EU, the ECJ will not be the final authority, but a newly agreed upon bi-national arbitration panel. This signifies yet another significant and important revision of the Withdrawal Agreement, previously thought unattainable, by ensuring the UK does not remain beholden to the ECJ in the post transition period. This is a marked improvement on the previous deal, and ensures true sovereignty for our nation.

I have also, Mr. Speaker, successfully negotiated a new dispute resolution mechanism agreement on a new arbitration process to what was originally in the withdrawal agreement. Previously, under Article 168 of the Withdrawal Agreement, it stated that neither the UK or the EU can defer to any international institution if there is a dispute over the Withdrawal Agreement, which could occur for example during the transition period. This is not a standard in any particular international treaty and is totally unprecedented. It leaves a grey area of untold proportions when it comes to disputes with no clear avenue for dispute resolution. This article is not practical, the proposed withdrawal agreement provides for an independent dispute arbitration panel to resolve any possible disagreement. UnderArticle 174, this independent panel would have also been required to defer to the European Court of Justice on all matters of Union law.  It is clear that Article 174 does not currently provide a neutral arbitration panel and again opens legal grey areas moving forward.

Under the new arbitration agreement which I have successfully negotiated with Mr Barnier, an independent bi-lateral dispute resolution tribunal with representatives from the EU and the United Kingdom will be appointed. Article 168 will be abolished and any disputes will be deferred to this tribunal. Let me be clear, the ECJ will no longer have the ability to block UK rulings, and if there is an irreconcilable dispute it will be resolved via this tribunal which will be jointly compromised of European and British officials. 

Mr Speaker, this is a major achievement both for the Government, and for the whole of the United Kingdom. By winning these concessions, we have further secured a deal that represents a true and proper Brexit. We have cemented an agreement that will allow the UK to move on from the EU, free and sovereign, able to embrace the world of opportunities that await us. We will be free of the European Court of Justice, and will ensure that the laws and regulations affecting British citizens are made here in Britain.

I commend this statement to the house.

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  BXP Speech in Londonderry
Posted by: Ege - 6 hours ago - Forum: Press Office - No Replies

Brigitte Allard is in Londonderry with TUV leader Jim Allister.

Jim Allister:

  • Thanks the Brexit Party for standing up for Brexit and opposing the deal. He says only real unionist party in the Rest of the United Kingdom. 
  • Rips DUP for appeasing the government and rips the government for appeasing the EU. Chamberlain’s appeasement did not work and neither will this. 
  • Calls this deal beginning of the end for the United Kingdom, a cynical and desperate attempt to get a deal so that the government can save their faces.
  • Calls the deal against the interest of Northern Ireland, Unionism and the United Kingdom.
  • Calls on to DUP to get on with the unionism agenda or step aside, says he is willing to claim the mantle of unionism in Northern Ireland. 

Brigitte Allard:

As I was on my way to Londonderry from Belfast, I heard the news of Ruth Davidson’s warning against the Prime Minister. Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tory leader, the shining light of the Tory Party *laughs* called out Mr.Croft on his deal. I am quoting her word “I am extremely concerned by the implications of this deal on the union & that this will fuel the fire of nationalism in Scotland and see a divided Kingdom.” I do not agree with Ruth Davidson on Brexit, she is a leading remainer but her concern here is correct, this deal is bad for our country and this deal is going to damage our union. Sinn Fein and SNP are already banging drums to divide this union and conduct their own individual agendas which is Irish unification and Scottish independence respectively. Conservative and Unionist Party Government seems to be fine with it. Let me make it clear, this deal is dividing our union, lumping Northern Ireland together with the Republic and placing a border between the rest of the United Kingdom. This deal is ending our union as we know it, flaming the flames of Irish and Scottish nationalism. The Unionists across this country are concerned, Ruth Davidson is, DUP is still voting against it but won’t be challenging the government to change the terms of deal, I am concerned, I know many Tory MPs are also concerned in private, even Labour is concerned about terms of this deal and implications on it on our union. When the Labour Party is more unionist than you are, Mr.Croft something is going wrong here. 

Our union is our first and most important priority, it always was and it always will be. While we support the Prime Minister’s endeavours to get us out on March 29th, this deal can not be it. This deal Prime Minister is proposing not only will fail, it will also ensure that remainers can pass a bill to block no deal and delay Brexit. Right now all the Prime Minister needs to do is either call and election or prorogue the Parliament to get Brexit done, no bills, no deals, nothing. Our party delivered the Prime Minister a chance to call an election, and our party has legal advice that a short term prorogation would be legal and acceptable. The choice to deliver the Brexit we were promised and protect our union is at the Prime Minister’s hands, he has the power to get it done, without the Parliament interfering. Now Mr. Croft what will it be, is it going to be dither, delay and divide or is it going to be deliver?

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  Constitutional Reform (Selection Criteria) Act 2019
Posted by: Axon - 8 hours ago - Forum: First Reading - No Replies

Mr Speaker, I beg leave to present the following legislation before the House: Constitutional Reform (Selection Criteria) Act 2019

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  MS3 - North Sea No Deal Preperations (The Tromsø Treaty)
Posted by: Kyle Black - 9 hours ago - Forum: Debating Chamber - No Replies

Mr Speaker,

In this House today, I am pleased to announce to you all, and to the public, the measurements that this government has taken to ensure that British Vessels still have access to international waters in the event of a No Deal Brexit. Yesterday I flew to Norway where I presented my Norwegian Counterpart with a Treaty that I had drawn up regarding the North Sea fishing rights.

I'm happy to announce here today that both parties have signed that Treaty, and it has gone into effect immediatly.

I am also pleased to inform you all that The Faroe Islands have agreed to make the Treaty trilateral and have agreed to take part.

The Treaty will continue all current treaties between the EU and Norway and the Faroes, but only where it pertains to the UK. It does not affect the EU's realtionship with Norway, nor does it affect the EU's relationship with the UK.
It will continue to meet all quotas agreed upon in the 2019 Edition of the Northern Agreement, as well as the CFP.
The three nations involved will endevour to set the wrold standard on sustainable fishing, including new measures to limit discards and unwanted catches.
The length of Treaty is to last until the end of 2019, unless the UK remains in the EU into the next Calendar year, in that case, the Treaty is to last until the day the UK leaves the EU and a further six months, with options for further extensions.

In the last 1000 years the history of our nations have been greatly intertwined, and with this Treaty, we can continue to work together. We share some of the richest waters in the world, and we also share rich sea faring history, from viking long boats to the Royal Navy, the North Sea has seen many Anglo-Norwegian ships, and I'm glad to announce that that will continue.

Our Prime Minister has always promised that he favours a deal, and as a government we are committed to delivering just that, however on March 29th we will be leaving the EU whether or not we have a deal. This Treaty is part of the governments plans to ensure that we can be as prepared as possible in the event a No Deal Brexit.

Mr Speaker, thank you, I commend this statement to the house.

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  Labour SP: The Strabane Setback
Posted by: Caroline Blakesley - 9 hours ago - Forum: Press Office - No Replies

Caroline Blakesley spoke to the press at a setpiece event on The Wirral, where her speech was given in a place with a nice backdrop of the Irish Sea, regarding the Strabane Setback negotiated by the Prime Minister.

Quote:Good afternoon.

I recently reviewed the Prime Minister’s proposed solution to the Northern Ireland backstop – his so-called “Strabane Solution”. Reading this document it is clear: this is not a solution, this is a setback. For three years, since the referendum, we made clear that the United Kingdom must remain whole and united. Our sacred union between England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland must absolutely be respected and upheld. The Strabane Setback throws our United Kingdom into question – it throws our union out the window.

The opposition to any agreement that divided our United Kingdom was not just Labour. Theresa May, as Prime Minister, declared that “No British Prime Minister could agree to a border down the Irish Sea”. Boris Johnson called a border down the Irish Sea a “monstrosity”. Steve Baker declared that a border in the Irish Sea “does not respect Northern Ireland’s status in the UK”. These are not people trying to frustrate Brexit that declared this was not a solution. These are not people trying to block Brexit that declared Will Croft’s Strabane Setback a “monstrosity”.

And they are right. Will Croft’s Strabane Setback represents the worst of all worlds. It represents the potential for a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic and a regulatory border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. At a time when our United Kingdom needs to be brought together, the Strabane Setback would leave Northern Ireland isolated, alone. That is not just abandoning our brothers and sisters, our fellow man and woman, in Northern Ireland. That is creating an existential risk for the future of our Union.

That is a monstrosity. That is not a risk that any Prime Minister can take. Yet, that is the path that this Prime Minister seeks to go down. To end the unfettered commerce that we shared between Great Britain and Northern Ireland for centuries. To leave one nation behind while the rest move in a new direction. To tear our country apart. That is a monstrosity. That is unacceptable.

There is another way. There is a solution that would keep the United Kingdom united – remaining in the Customs Union. This would allow our entire island to benefit from free movement of goods with the European Union. Whether you are a business in Belfast or a manufacturer in Manchester – a customs union between the United Kingdom and European Union would provide support to workers and businesses across our nation.

The customs union would keep Great Britain and Northern Ireland united. There would be no regulatory barrier in the Irish Sea; there would be no border checks. There would be no need for customs checks when a business sends goods from Cairnryan to Larne. There would be no customs checks as goods flow in and out of ports on The Wirral. We would not force our fellow countrymen crossing the Irish Sea to make customs declarations. We would keep our common purpose, our bonds of brotherhood that tie our nations together. We would preserve our United Kingdom.

The Strabane Setback is a step that Will Croft is taking to damage our union. Far from being the Minister for the Union, he is the Prime Minister that will break the Union. No leader that values our United Kingdom can endorse the Strabane Setback. No leader that believes in a whole and free United Kingdom can stand behind this proposal. Any leader that wants to lead our United Kingdom must find a better way. And there is a better way. It must be delivered.

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