As the prime minister continues to resist calls to hold a special crisis summit to address the growing violence in Northern Ireland, this is your daily reminder that the longer you ignore something, the worse it gets. Actions, and inactions, have consequences. So does the doublespeak that Boris Johnson’s fond of. In 2018, Sky News […]
Author: Jane Thomas
Jane is an experienced campaigner and former university politics lecturer. She was head of the England team for Friends of the Earth and more recently coordinated the Brexit Civil Society Alliance. Jane is a committed devolutionist - she helped set up the campaign for the English regions and was director of Campaign for Yorkshire until 2004. Jane has three grown up children and lives in Sheffield with her husband, where she is involved with Sheffield’s Fairness Campaign.
The prime minister’s Easter coronavirus announcement will take place 5pm this evening. What’s in his basket of tricks?
Cole Brothers (John Lewis) in Sheffield is to close, causing local residents to ask what the future holds for the city.
Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis announces £860m South Yorkshire Renewal Fund. Demonstrating the difference between pork-barrel politics and levelling up through devolved powers.
It seems that Labour is finally getting its act together on holding the government’s feet to the fire over Brexit, after what has appeared like a few months of sidestepping the issue.
The chancellor’s ability to understand economics and read a simple spreadsheet has been brought into serious question. This follows his announcement on Wednesday that the rich and leafy Richmondshire in North Yorkshire is a more deserving case for levelling up money than Barnsley or Sheffield.
A failed track and trace programme. Locking down too late, lifting too early. The fact that the quarantine compliance is voluntary and not enforced (as in other countries). An incomprehensible border policy. It’s this that has cost the economy as much as anything. And that’s what the chancellor should have concentrated on today, and be fixing tomorrow.
Just as there’s no such thing as a free lunch, this is true of freeports too. There will be costs, and it’s likely to be cash-strapped local authorities picking up the tab, again. This is unlikely to be a root and branch attack on the inequalities in the UK, and it adds little to the levelling-up agenda. We should expect better from the chancellor.
As the pandemic continues to inflict untold misery on families and communities in this country, the true cost and scale of the economic impact is becoming more apparent. It comes on the back of years of austerity, and decades during which the welfare state has been gradually eroded. Perhaps it’s now time to revisit the aims and principles that led to its creation, and look again at the Beveridge Report.
At some stage, Starmer is going to have to acknowledge the damage that Brexit is inflicting to businesses, to a range of sectors such as the arts, and to different parts of the country. Some industries like fishing will never be the same. If, as he said today, this is a call to arms to diagnose the condition of Britain, then he has to recognise the symptoms and treat them – and that includes the negative impacts of Brexit.
The fact that the Northern Ireland protocol – designed to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland – is being put to the test so early, is no big surprise. It was always going to result in additional customs checks somewhere, and those checks landed firmly at the Northern Ireland ports, for goods crossing from Britain to Northern Ireland.
As an island we really have no excuse. But our border policy has been elusive, at best. The government’s responses are invariably too little, too late or subsequently get dumped or changed. The most recent response around border controls will take effect next Monday, 15 February, 382 days since the virus first appeared on our shores.
Jane Thomas reviews the evidence that was given to the Welsh Affairs Committee this week. The committee was taking oral evidence on the EK-EU deal and border arrangements one month on, and specifically at impacts on Wales and the Welsh ports.
Vaccine nationalism plays straight into the hands of this footloose-and-fancy-free virus. A virus that does not respect borders and will happily mutate to survive. A global pandemic is just that – global. And if you want to stop it, the only way is to make sure globally the vaccine is available to all.
‘Stay home, Save Lives’ just isn’t working for some people – including our prime minister. In a bid to make sure we all know which caped hero has come to the rescue with the vaccine, Boris Johnson today visited the Al-Hikmah Centre in Batley, one of the vaccine hubs recently opened in Yorkshire.
The pressures for greater local control are growing and cannot be ignored. Devolution may not be a destination, but for some it sure looks a better road to travel on than the current path offered by Westminster.
Without an effective test, trace isolate programme – and with the abject failure to deal with what happens at our borders to stop the international flow of the virus – vaccination is our only way out of this. And that is why any delay to roll out OR compromise of efficacy is concerning.
Jane Thomas looks at how scrapping the universal credit uplift of £20 a week would have the biggest impact in the poorest towns in England. “The promise of levelling up is receding not growing – and unless the chancellor changes tack, the opportunities for our poorest will be swept away.”
Sheffield campaigner Jane Thomas reacts to the news that Transport for the North’s budget has been cut by 40 percent, a harsh blow to dreams of levelling up the north. “If the government does not support this through proper funding of local authorities, and through deeper devolution, the levelling-up agenda will never happen.”
Jane Thomas analyses Keir Starmer’s latest speech and a change of tone from the leader of the opposition. “Starmer is right – in 2021 we need to write a new chapter, and we do need to build back better. But in the meantime we need to protect the most vulnerable and have a viable exit strategy for the awfulness that currently envelopes the country”.
For a country so hell bent on taking back control of its borders, it appears that there are absolutely no controls for Covid-19, allowing this deadly virus the freedom of movement denied to so many of us now we have left the EU.
The vaccine programme that was to form a central part of our route out of Covid-19 has been thrown into total disarray, following a series of chaotic government announcements. With its ‘mix ‘n match’ approach and delayed schedule, the government is no longer following the science.
Yesterday, Independent Sage called for a 5-point plan to tackle the immediate coronavirus crisis. This echoes what the all-party parliamentary group on coronavirus called for 2 months ago. Yet still the government fails to take effective action.
Jane Thomas reviews the impact of the French blockade on UK ports, following the UK’s warning of a more virulent strain of Covid-19 now out of control in London and the South East.
The Lords environment sub-committee yesterday heard concerns about the increased paperwork, the lack of vets to sign off health certificates, and the impact on foodstuff with likely delays at the ports. Jane Thomas summarises what was said.
Jane Thomas looks ahead to Operation Capstone, a dry run for a no deal Brexit, and the problems facing the government. Already companies are bracing for a potential no deal, and Operation Capstone may well reveal significant gaps in the current preparations.
With just about 14 working days to go to the end of the transition, a food trade organisation boss attacks the “chaos and confusion” surrounding the NI protocol and the lack of preparedness for new trading arrangements starting in January, saying “If you are still trying to negotiate a deal 14 working days before it actually is supposed to come into effect, even the most brilliant communication is not going to work … You would need a Vulcan mind-melt to make it work, if it’s going to work in time”.
Brexit, not coronavirus, may be about to dent many people’s holiday season. By choosing to leave the single market and the customs union, we are making huge structural changes to the transportation of our goods because of the new customs arrangements now necessary at the border. For just-in-time produce such as food that is perishable, or medicines, or manufacturing components (where timing is everything) the delays could be catastrophic.
Jane Thomas examines the impact of Brexit and the coronavirus to the economy of Sheffield, speaking to local business leaders in the city. The two crises are perfectly suited to each other, with Brexit impacting the few businesses who have escaped relatively unscathed from the pandemic.
Jane Thomas breaks down the announcement of Tier 3 for much of Yorkshire, and the impending chaos of the UK’s departure from the transition period. Will there be a national lockdown to help ease the congestion at ports on New Year’s Day? We’ll have to wait and see.