It is vitally important that my constituents should be kept fully up to date on my views at this great moment in our history. I have received many hundreds of letters in the aftermath of last week's momentous events. The interesting thing is that with the exception of a few arch loyalists, who are (quite rightly) impressed by Theresa May's stoicism and determination in the face of deadly enemy fire; with the exception of them, every single letter - from Brexiteer, Remainers and a broad spread of opinions in between has called on me to oppose the appalling proposals put before us last week.
I have for many months joined with others in trying to persuade the PM to see reason, and face up to the political reality that her ' Chequers proposals' simply do not achieve what the 52% were demanding- namely a clean break from the EU. The EU were ready to accept a free trade area, akin to that successfully negotiated with Canada. And the Irish Border question can easily be solved using electronic methods, in precisely the same way as we do with 90% of our imports from outside the EU.
Yet the proposals she has now negotiated are a great deal worse than Chequers. They tie us in, perhaps for ever, to a Customs Union; they give the European Court of Justice superior powers to our own courts; and they risk splitting the union asunder. I will not repeat the 40 fatal flaws which are so neatly spelled out in the attached Spectator article.
Not only all of that, but we are proposing to give them £29 billion for the privilege of becoming an EU vassal state. That is enough to pay the salaries of 26,000 nurses for 40 years.
So, I will without question be joining a great many of my colleagues in voting against these proposals when the Prime Minister brings them before Parliament in early December. If we can collectively defeat them, then I will be seeking a fundamental renegotiation with the EU. They must be made to understand that we will only agree to a Free Trade Area arrangement akin to Canada, and that if they do not agree to it, we are ready simply to walk away.
Most of the world’s trade is done under World Trade Organisation terms. So, I am increasingly coming to the view that while I would much prefer a 'deal' with the EU, it is by no means a requisite for a prosperous and healthy economy in the years to come. The EU need us at least as much as we need them, but only some tough taking will finally make them realise it. We must be ready for a free trade area after 29 March, whether they like it or not.
To those who have written to me to call for a new leader for the Conservative Party in the hope that that would lead to delivering an outcome along these lines, I would simply say that I have consistently argued that it should be about policy rather than personalities. The PM must be made to understand the strength of our feeling against the deal she is proposing. If she does not do, and insists on ploughing ahead with it, then it starts to become about personalities. After all, her two Brexit Secretaries have resigned in disgust at the direction of travel, making it clear that it must be coming from the very top.
I firmly believe that we can retrieve the situation and move towards a free trade agreement. If we do not at least try to do so, then Mrs May must bear personal responsibility for having let down the 17.5 million people who voted to leave.
An Act of Remembrance was held on Monday in Westminster Hall to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War and remember the Parliamentarians and House staff who sadly lost their lives. It was well attended by Members of both Houses as well as by staff and passers-by. Three wreaths were laid by the Speaker, Lord Speaker, and James Gray in his capacity of Chair of the APPG for Armed Forces. Following an injury sustained last week, Mr Gray arrived on crutches and stated:
“It is extremely important that, as a country, we take time each November to remember those who fought during the World Wars. We must not forget the sacrifice that these soldiers made, and I am extremely proud to have taken part in the Act of Remembrance in Westminster Hall today.”
“As Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Armed Forces, I was delighted to welcome 120 soldiers representing both Regular and Reserve contributions to operations across the world to Parliament last Wednesday. Every single serviceman and woman demonstrated the work done by the British Army to protect our nation,” said North Wiltshire MP James Gray.
“The soldiers marched in to Parliament from Wellington Barracks through Carriage Gates, accompanied by the Band of the Grenadier Guards, halting at the North Door of Westminster Hall, where I, the Prime Minister, members of the All-Party Group, MPs and Peers of all Parties, the Sergeant at Arms, the Black Rod and staff of both Houses welcomed them and applauded their efforts on our behalf. I was pleased to say a few words of welcome along with the Prime Minister and to thank them for their service.”
Major General Rupert Jones, Director Engagement and Communication, who is shortly to take up the appointment of Standing Joint Force Commander said: “I am grateful to James Gray MP and the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Armed Forces for inviting the soldiers to march into Parliament and for hosting a special reception for us on the Terrace of the Palace of Westminster.“
“The British Army is deployed across the globe every day to protect the nation. Last Wednesday was a great opportunity to thank our highly skilled and professional soldiers for their selfless commitment.”
“After a group photo on the steps of Westminster Hall, we then proceeded to the Terrace of the House of Commons for a reception, where the soldiers were able to meet members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Armed Forces and other Parliamentarians. They were then given guided tours of both Houses of Parliament,” added Mr Gray.
James Gray MP has today pledged support for the Long Live The Local Campaign to help pubs in North Wiltshire keep their doors open. James Gray joins the more than 100,000 people who have signed the petition so far, including 194 in North Wiltshire.
James Gray MP is calling on the Government to cut beer tax at the Budget. With £1 in every £3 spent in UK pubs going to the taxman, British drinkers now pay 40% of all beer tax across the EU, but drink only 12% of the beer. Brewing and pubs in North Wiltshire supports 1284 jobs and contributes £29.6m to the local economy.
Commenting on the campaign, James Gray MP said:
“Pubs are at the heart of communities across North Wiltshire, but with three British pubs closing their doors for good every day the Government should consider a cut to beer tax. I’m supporting the Long Live The Local campaign and calling on the Chancellor to cut beer tax at this year’s Budget to support pubs in our local communities.”
Brigid Simmonds, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said:
“Beer duty has increased by 60% over the last 17 years and now the UK has one of the highest rates of tax in Europe. When over two thirds of all alcoholic drinks purchased in the pub are beers, a cut in beer tax would go a long way to protecting pubs across North Wiltshire. We are very grateful to James Gray for supporting the Long Live The Local campaign, and hope that the Government listens to MPs across Parliament and the tens of thousands of people across the country who are calling for a cut in beer tax to protect our pubs.”
North Wiltshire MP, James Gray, accepted an invitation from his constituent, who is the Chairman of the S & B Automotive Academy in Bristol, to visit their excellent apprenticeship training headquarters on Friday.
Mr Gray said:
“I very much admired and appreciated the exceptionally good facilities which S & B Automotive Academy provide for a very large number of automotive apprenticeships every year. I enjoyed trying out the virtual reality auto-paint spraying machine, although suspect that I probably landed up paint-spraying the ceiling as well as the vehicle door, which I was supposed to be painting green.
“Apprenticeships are an incredibly important part of training our young people, especially in an area like this, and the S & B Automotive Academy make an outstanding contribution in the automotive apprenticeship world.”
© 2018 James Gray MP, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA