One of our
popular features on The Political Medway is inFrequently Answered Questions, where we’d send off questions to relevant political figures and hope that we might occasionally get a reply. This week, we kept things nice and simple by sending the following two questions to every Medway councillor:
We told every councillor that they had a week to respond, and that we would publish their responses entirely unedited. All responses are published below, in the order that they were received by us.
Once again, I have no issues in replying to you as my personal views are well known.
In relation to the proposed documented deal going before Parliament, my personal view is that it is unacceptable. I fully appreciate the hard work that all those involved have put into attempting to meet the will of the electorate, but in my view, this deal does not meet the intended expectations. On that basis, a No Deal, is preferable.
In relation to the cabinet’s decision, a clear declaration has been made.
The leader has made the position perfectly clear, how can you prepare for a situation that potentially has so many variables, especially when Parliament it’s self cannot make a unified decision as to the final outcome.
This position is recognised in your own query, by providing three options.
Cllr Gary Etheridge, Conservative, Strood Rural
Q1. A Parliamentary vote on the May deal. If it’s rejected an immediate General Election. If that is a rejected a People’s Vote – a three-way vote – on No Deal; May’s Deal and Status quo using STV method.
Q2. This is an overtly political decision taken by the cabinet and against their own Tory-led Overview Scrutiny process and Labour requests for publication.
This is a case of putting Party interest before the public and it’s clear is becoming unsustainable given work of neighbouring authorities and government. Given the reliance on the agricultural and building sectors in parts of Medway the potential impacts are highly damaging. The Tories are therefore thinking that burying bad news will make it disappear; this is not sensible policy making.
Cllr Tristan Osborne, Labour, Luton and Wayfield
Q1. During the Brexit referendum the prospect of The UK being poorer if it left the EU was described as ‘Project Fear’ by the Brexiteers. Now we are told that it is a certainty, with May’s deal better than a No Deal but still worse than staying in. That’s a material difference with the public in danger of having been sold a pup. With the prospect of no majority for any of the options before Parliament it seems to me the only way to resolve this impasse is to go back to the Public and say ‘a majority voted in principle to leave, now you know the options available and their implications how do you wish to proceed?’
Q2. It appears that the Council Leader, a vocal Brexiteer, does not want to generate any evidence that the Council, and Medway more widely, will be worse off under Brexit. In other words to hide the facts from the public.
Cllr Glyn Griffiths, Labour, Twydall
I campaigned to remain in the EU, and believe Brexit presents huge challenges for our country.
I do, however, respect the democratic result of the referendum and believe we should now be preparing to managing the impacts on our communities and planning for the future.
That’s why I am so disappointed that the Council Cabinet is acting recklessly and naively by not considering the economic and social impacts of Brexit on Medway.
Cllr Naushabah Khan, Labour, Gillingham South
Q1. My position on Brexit has always been extremely clear. Whilst I fully acknowledge that the European Union is in no way perfect, I firmly believe that the United Kingdom will be better off as a part of it than outside. The current deal on offer is the worst of both world and I am a fervent supporter of a People’s Vote.
Q2. Given the projected impact of Brexit (especially in the event of a no-deal) on the country and on Kent (especially when it comes to transport or food security), I think it is irresponsible not to prepare. We may not know what will happen but not preparing for the possible outcomes is simply ludicrous. Other councils have chosen to prepare and the fact that the Medway Cabinet seems to think this unnecessary is a dereliction of duty.
Cllr Anne-Claire Howard, Independent, Twydall
Q1. I voted to remain but fully accept the outcome of the referendum. I am really saddened by the division it has caused our country and respect all views. So, what follows is just a personal view, and I am rather glad it is not a local government responsibility!
In my letter to Medway Messenger in June 2016, signed by many colleagues, I explained my main reasons to stay were the imbalance of power compared to the EU and obvious huge complexity of setting up a better deal from the outside with reduced influence. In fact, if anything, it has been even harder than I thought (eg NI), with utterly unrealistic expectations from many along the road. So, here we are, pretty much in the position I anticipated and I do not believe anyone could have got a substantially better plan than Mrs May; least of all Jeremy Corbyn who still does not have any plan other than creating chaos and calling for another election. In fact, I don’t even know what he wants, never mind how he will arrive. I reached this conclusion not because I think Mrs May and her team are brilliant negotiators, but because the EU are strategically in a stronger negotiating position. And always will be. This is more about relative power than negotiating skills.
But this current debate is not even about ‘the final deal’ anyway; the December vote is only about the process of setting up the trade deal and other complex relationship matters. That process is by far the best option we have if we want to leave, and anyone who thinks the EU is now going to make any substantial improvement on that process is wrong, in my view. They have no need to. Therefore, voting in favour of this is the least worst option for those who want to leave, and longer term could result in the independent UK many voted for. I do not believe a no deal exit is viable or in the national interest and we now know will result in significant economic issues for a generation, at least.
But it seems the PM may lose the vote, and so I believe a 2nd referendum with three options is now very likely, and that will very likely result in ‘remain’. But we will have to wait and see. I will continue respecting all views, and look forward to it all being over!
Q2. Senior officers are on a watching brief; in other words, they have been/are considering possibilities but they will wait for more certainty on the outcome of deliberations before spending huge amounts of time attempting to pre-empt every possible scenario and writing it down. Indeed, such a document would probably have stirred up even more comment and debate, which in turn would take up even more time with little benefit.
I would have been happy for a brief document explaining this position, as discussed at Overview and Scrutiny committee, but otherwise happy to wait until we know more.
Cllr Stuart Tranter, Conservative, Rochester West
I think Hilary Benn’s amendment offers the most pragmatic way forward to avoid no deal which I believe would endanger our economy and standing in the world.
Medway council should be preparing for Brexit ,it’s irresponsible not to do so and the Leader’s determination to do nothing has led to a situation where senior officers are virtually forced to go underground ,using their own networks to find out what other more sensible Councils are doing while not being allowed to share what they have found out in any formal way in their own.
Fortune favours the prepared mind so we are open to misfortune because of the Leader’s blinkered attitude.
Cllr Teresa Murray, Labour, Rochester East
The proposed deal will be assessed against Labour’s six tests. If it fails those tests, the party’s MPs will vote against it. If it is voted down in parliament, Labour will table a vote of no confidence and call for a general election. If there is no general election, all options remain on the table, including a people’s vote.
The failure of Medway’s Conservative cabinet to prepare for Brexit and for its potential impact on Medway is shockingly complacent.
Cllr Clive Johnson, Gillingham South
Q1. A better deal than the negotiated one
Q2. Absolutely the correct decision, as there is too much uncertainty to absorb council officer time on second-guessing the outcome!
Cllr Alan Jarrett, Leader of Medway Council, Conservative, Lordswood and Capstone
Q1. No deal, definitely NO DEAL – we voted to get back control of our borders, our money and our laws – May’s deal means we pay £39 billion for absolutely nothing with all our lives still controlled by ‘nose in the trough’ EU forever!!!
Q2. How could Medway Council or any other Council prepare for the worst deal that the world has ever known – the worst deal in the world, utterly ridiculous. It’s worst than being in the European Union, it has none of the advantages which are few and all the dictatorship downside. No one in their right mind would sign up to this deal. May has betrayed the country, she has betrayed democracy, she has betrayed the British people !!!!
Cllr Roy Freshwater, UKIP, Peninsula
Let me start by saying that I hold David Cameron personally responsible for the situation we are now in. His weak leadership, in thrall to the posturing of charlatans like Nigel Farage, resulted in a referendum that the government and the people were ill-prepared for.
And the worst of it is that he had every reason to know better. His hubris in agreeing to a referendum on Scottish independence had almost backfired just two years earlier, but instead of understanding the 55-45 vote to remain part of the United Kingdom meant that he had got away with it, he arrogantly interpreted it as an endorsement.
Say what you like about the SNP government in Edinburgh, but when putting the question to the people of Scotland at least on the face of it they had a plan – a thick white paper called Scotland’s Future detailing (largely silly) answers to sensible questions like “what happens to my passport after independence?” or even “will we still be able to watch the BBC?”. For Brexit, we were given an empty promise on a liveried bus.
I would guess I’m one of the few Medway councillors to have actually passed an exam in European Law, but even I wouldn’t suggest I am an expert (and the Tories have had enough of those anyway).
But in the two decades that have passed since then, the ties which bind us, for better and worse, are more complicated not less. It’s clear to me that we lose far more than we gain from Brexit. The Tory house of cards is falling apart at Westminster right now, and I’m afraid in times like these, three neat options just don’t cut the mustard.
No deal would be a disaster, and only cult-like zealots believe otherwise in the face of overwhelming independent evidence.
May’s deal fails Labour’s six tests so must be opposed too. But it’s important to point out that those tests are not a random wish list – they are actually things the PM herself promised to deliver at the start of this process. Her failure to do so has more to do with trying to appease extremists in her own party than it has with her now claiming they are impossible dreams.
And while no Brexit could save us a fortune and a whole lot of effort I don’t think it is a realistic option. Anyway, can you imagine how furious those angry old men in Question Time audiences would be at that? The strain on the NHS from aggravating their vascular problems alone probably makes it a non-starter.
I’m content with the position agreed at Labour Conference. Our MPs will vote down the PM’s deal and push for a general election. But if the Tories are, as I suspect many will be, too afraid to vote themselves out of a job then we need to keep all options on the table including extending Article 50 and a public vote.
In the meantime, it is simply reckless but characteristically arrogant for Alan Jarrett to refuse to plan for Brexit. Geographically and economically Medway is on the front line of any post-Brexit difficulties. Any sensible business owner in Medway will already be gaming likely scenarios.
Yet Medway Council, an organisation with a £500,000,000 annual budget is just going to wing it; mainly because it is run by the same sort of angry Question Time audience men who refuse to contemplate that their Brexit utopia bubble has well and truly burst.
Cllr Alex Paterson, Labour, Rochester West
Q1. I support the policy agreed by Labour Party Conference earlier this year. The deal which Theresa May has put to Parliament fails to meet Labour’s six tests which means Labour MPs will vote against the deal. If I had been elected by the people of Chatham & Aylesford last year I would be voting against this deal in Parliament. The Labour Party will then seek a general election. If that is not bought forward then the Labour policy is all options should remain available.
Q2. The Tory Leader of Council campaigned for Brexit as did several cabinet members (although others including the Deputy Leader campaigned for remain).
It is quite clear from their complete disregard of the cross-party Overview & Scrutiny recommendation to produce a brief overview of potential impact to Medway that they are collectively burying their heads in the sand and not taking their role of community leaders seriously.
At a time when other Kent councils are doing this sort of preparatory work it shows the Tory Cabinet in Medway have no vision and are happy to put the 7,000 jobs linked to our membership of the European Union at greater risk by not carrying out any preparatory work of this nature.
Cllr Vince Maple, Leader of the Opposition, Labour, Chatham Central
my preferred option is No Brexit. I am disappointed in Medway Cabinet’s decision not to publish the Council’s contingency plans.
Cllr Adam Price, Labour, Gillingham North
Q1. None of the above. I favour leaving the EU but do not believe the current deal adequately achieves this. As a result, I favour further negotiations to achieve a better result.
Q2. A very misleading question. As you probably know, Council Officers were asked to compile a brief, public document which assesses the potential impacts of Brexit on those sectors relevant to Medway’s economic, social and educational priorities, recognising that much of this information will already exist in current Council policies and strategies, and also to seek the views of the Council’s suppliers on what they consider to be the potential impacts of Brexit on them.
Cllr Phil Hall, Conservative, Strood North
Q1. None of the options you outline would be my preference. I voted remain but respect the referendum result. The worst possible outcome would be a “No Deal” Brexit as it is likely to be catastrophic for Britain’s economy. But unfortunately Teresa May’s proposed deal is also bad for Britain, in particular because it would put huge numbers of British jobs at risk. May’s deal doesn’t give any guarantees that we will stay in a Customs Union, which our businesses rely on to sell their products and services to the rest of the EU. May’s deal also doesn’t protect workers rights, and it is likely to deny students and young people opportunities to study and work abroad. The proposed deal is also driving Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales apart, and May’s deal doesn’t safeguard existing international security agreements either. Finally, the deal gives no certainty about the future of EU workers currently living here (whom our economy relies on), and British citizens currently living in other parts of the EU.
Theresa May and the Conservative Government are hopelessly divided over Europe and they are unfit to govern. They have totally let the British public down throughout these negotiations, having been more concerned about criticising each other rather than negotiating a good deal for Britain. I believe MPs should reject the May deal and there should be a General Election to give a new government the opportunity to renegotiate a better deal with the EU.
It is totally careless and short-sighted. I am not aware of any other Local Council or public sector organisation in Kent which has taken such a careless approach to Brexit, particularly given our unique geographical location so close to Europe and the Port of Dover. The Cabinet’s decision also goes against the wishes of the cross-party Business Support Overview and Scrutiny Committee, which I am a member of. When the committee debated the matter, it became clear that Council officers are undertaking some low-level work behind the scenes to make limited preparations for Brexit. However, Council staff are doing this work in spite of the ruling Conservative Councillors and the work being undertaken is therefore informal, fragmented, un-co-ordinated and undocumented – a totally farcical and unacceptable situation. This puts the Council at significant risk and provides no reassurance to local residents, businesses, partners and other local stakeholders that the Council is making sufficient preparations for all potential outcomes at the end of March 2019. These risks could be mitigated much more effectively with some practical, targeted preparation and planning, but sadly Medway’s Conservatives have chosen to bury their heads in the sand.
Cllr Andy Stamp, Labour, Gillingham North
Q2. It is very clear that Councils across the whole country are preparing for Brexit and so should Medway. I am concerned as to why the Cabinet are choosing to ignore Brexit along with all of the significant risks associated with it. They need to plan now as March 2019 is only around the corner!
Cllr Dan McDonald. Labour, Gillingham South
We received no response to these questions from Cllr Jan Aldous (Con), Cllr John Avey (Con), Cllr Tashi Bhutia (Con), Cllr Nick Bowler (Lab), Cllr David Brake (Con), Cllr David Carr (Con), Cllr Diane Chambers (Con), Cllr Rodney Chambers (Con), Cllr Rehman Chishti (Con), Cllr Jane Chitty (Con), Cllr Trevor Clarke (Con), Cllr Pat Cooper (Lab), Cllr Sam Craven (Ind), Cllr Howard Doe (Con), Cllr Matt Fearn (Con), Cllr Phil Filmer (Con), Cllr Michael Franklin (Con), Cllr Dorte Gilry (Lab), Cllr Paul Godwin (Lab), Cllr Sylvia Griffin (Con), Cllr Adrian Gulvin (Con), Cllr Peter Hicks (Con), Cllr Josie Iles (Con), Cllr Steve Iles (Con), Cllr Mark Joy (Con), Cllr Barry Kemp (Con), Cllr Andrew ‘I don’t respond to overtly political blogs’ Mackness (Con), Cllr Gloria Opara (Con), Cllr Mick Pendergast (Ind), Cllr Wendy Purdy (Con), Cllr David Royale (Con), Cllr Asha Saroy (Con), Cllr Julie Shaw (Lab), Cllr Habib Tejan (Con), Cllr Rupert Turpin (Con), Cllr Les Wicks (Con), Cllr David Wildey (Con), and Cllr John Williams (Con).