Yesterday, I visited No.10 Downing Street - invitation delivered by email from Brandon Lewis, the Chairman of the Conservative Party, sent to Association Chairmen to discuss Theresa May's *White Paper on Brexit.
Now, I know that I am an Association Chairman, but believe me I have not got a natural understanding of politics, my knowledge is and has been topped up constantly since I took this position. So, I wondered if I was going to gain anything from this meeting or whether the information would just go straight over my head. I was intrigued to know how the White Paper was going to be explained, to a political newby, such as myself.
Even though most of the information went swooshing over my head, Gavin Barwell, No.10's Chief of Staff, who took the meeting, set out where Theresa May wanted to go with the White Paper by the aid of a diagram. As I left the meeting, I was not convinced Mrs May could get any type of beneficial deal with the straight speaking, un relenting Member States of the EU - it seemed to me, even now they know that the Britain will be leaving the EU, they are still refusing to budge an inch, where negotiations are concerned.
That was until, I actually read **Article 50! Michel Barnier was simply sticking to the rules therein and it is for Theresa May and her office to come up with a completely new negotiation with the EU and the rest of the world that will save us from chaos!
Out with the Old and in with the New! - The old agreement has gone, it cannot be adapted or changed - it has ceased to be, it no longer exists! So, time should be spent in putting pen to paper, mouths to telephone mouthpieces negotiating our hearts out with not just the EU, but with the wider world (even though, no firm deals can be put in place until March 2019), but we can get a sense of where we are headed, how we are going to do, be prepared for March 29th!! I am sure our government MUST be doing this!
Talent - Have we got the skill in our ministerial set up to come up with good deals, could we go on trading favourably with the EU? One thing is for sure, we MUST negotiate as a leader and not a submissive! Can our ministers do that? I am sure they can or they would not have been selected for their jobs.
To Leave or not to Leave! - I have been asked many times, if I had the choice again, would I vote to leave? Well, I knew that voting to remain was not voting for the status quo, that's for sure. To vote remain, would be a vote to become part of an ever changing EU. For instance, there were plans being laid down to scrap our zero rated VAT structure, which would not have been conducive to our economy. Our construction industry rely on being able to reclaim Vat on materials when building new builds, abolishing the zero rate would mean building new houses would have been directly affected! The start of this was when the European Courts tried to abolish our zero rated tax on essential items - remember the tampon tax!
Even though we want to believe that we would have never been made to accept the Euro currency, my conspiracy theory is that our tender is already beginning to look like the Euro - it would have been done eventually and mentally, we would be in a better place to readily accept it.
After I decided to vote to leave the EU, I was scared that I had done so for the first 6 months - then, I thought, well the sky hasn't fallen in! The pound hasn't crashed! We haven't been thrown into recession! And more importantly, economically we are doing ok, we are still growing, albeit at a slower pace. However, the big thing for me is, now having more information to hand is, whether our government has the ability to develop the trade deals we need, not just with the EU, but with other countries, enabling us to become a force to be reckoned with in the global world!
Conclusion - I am glad that Association Chairs were invited to No.10, to me it showed that my Party wants to listen to what is going on at grassroots. Gavin took questions for about half an hour and distain for the White Paper was echoed around the room. Over 20% of my members in Sevenoaks and Swanley were not happy, most saying they just want Theresa May to leave the EU, as promised.
I do believe Theresa May is listening, and I choose to believe that we have the right people in power to be able to carry out the negotiation we need to develop our own trade deals, successfully with the EU and with the wider world, when we leave the constrictions of the EU.
I will continue to be an accurate voice for the majority of my members as this is the only way Theresa May will know what is going on. Then it would be up to her to listen or not to listen.
We are living in a constantly changing Country, and a changing world. Let's embrace the good in this change and reject the bad! Let's be kind to one another and learn from Larry the No.10 cat, who politely waited until people walked through the door of No.10 before attempting to enter himself!
Let's reject people who want to use this changing and more liberated country to wrongly air, bully and intimidate people - these people only thrive if we feed their actions, so let's not do that, let's starve them of attention, stamp on their hurtful words and teach them how to work and walk together in our wonderfully diverse country.