Thursday, 14 July 2016

Brexit: and the South West

The Western Morning News has posted an analysis of how the new 'Brexit government' will impact the South West:

What will a Theresa May Government mean for Plymouth and the South West

By WMNKLangston | Posted: July 14, 2016

Theresa May (centre) and cabinet members (clockwise from top left) Greg Clark, Andrea Leadsom, Jeremy Hunt and Liam Fox

South West MPs welcomed the influx of Brexiteers and female ministers in Government yesterday, as Theresa May unveiled her new-look Cabinet. The former Home Secretary made a determined break from her predecessor's administration, executing a drastic reshuffle and introducing several fresh faces. New appointments included Brexit figureheads Liam Fox and Andrea Leadsom – decisions which proved popular with the region's many Eurosceptic MPs.

But Mrs May's critics have already begun to raise questions about her plans for housing, policing and health.


Among those who survived Thursday's reshuffle was former communities and local government head, Greg Clark. The MP for Tunbridge Wells been now been named Secretary of State for the newly formed Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Tim Jones, chairman of the Devon and Cornwall Business Council, described the appointment as "huge news". He said Mr Clark's strong understanding of the local growth agenda and knowledge of LEPs will be a source of comfort for many business leaders.

"The importance of small business growth in the South West is fundamental to our position," he said. "The continuity that will come as a result of retaining Greg Clark in a very senior position... will give a lot of confidence to business leaders."

North Cornwall MP Scott Mann also welcomed the appointment of Dr Liam Fox as Secretary of State for International Trade. He said Dr Fox "will ensure the best deal for the United Kingdom" which will "open up doors" for places like Cornwall on the international stage.


One of the biggest challenges facing the new Government is negotiating the UK's exit from the European Union. This will be a cross-departmental process, with the potential to affect everything from employment and the economy to farming and the environment.

In addition to the appointment of Dr Fox to International Trade, Mrs May has created a new department focussed solely on Brexit. This will be led by Yorkshire MP David Davis – a firm favourite among the party's Eurosceptics.

Newton Abbot MP and Brexit supporter Anne Marie Morris suggested this would come as welcome news to voters in Devon and Cornwall. "I'm pleased that she has very visibly accepted Brexit, which I think will really benefit us here in the South West," she said. "[David Davis] specifically said what he would like to see is more help given to the very small businesses who cant export because they're simply too small. It seems to me if we can find a way of enabling smaller businesses to get on that bandwagon, that would be good."


In her previous role as Home Secretary, Mrs May oversaw the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners and the expansion of the role to include fire services. She also oversaw significant cuts to the policing budget and a failed attempt to reform the funding formula. 

She has now appointed former energy secretary Amber Rudd to replace her as the head of the Home Office.

But Nigel Rabbitts, chairman of the Devon and Cornwall Police Federation, said he believes forces can expect "more of the same".

"[Mrs May] is definitely a supporter of measuring performance against crime, and it has always been our concern that this is not the majority of the activity of the police in Devon and Cornwall," he said. "To set the number of police officers against [crime] is really poor judgement... because that is not how we keep communities in Devon and Cornwall safe.

He added: "I think the funding formula has gone on the back burner, but I hope our local PCC will be pushing the new Home Secretary to revisit that... And we've got the factor of Brexit, which is bound to affect the economy."

Fisheries and Farming

The appointment of Andrea Leadsom as the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will be of particular interest for many in the South West. The former energy minister enjoyed a high profile position in the Vote Leave campaign, and pledged to maintain funding for farmers outside the EU.

Efra select committee chairman and Tiverton and Honiton MP Neil Parish was optimistic about the move. He suggested Mrs Leadsom's interest in "farming and countryside sports" will make her "an excellent secretary of state".

"We've got to make sure that we keep that trade while we're extricating ourselves [from the EU] – but we've also got to make sure we keep some rural payments in place as we withdraw," he said. "I know her and get on with her quite well [and] I think she'll be a strong candidate to sort it out."


Former Leader of the House Chris Grayling has replaced Patrick Mcloughlin as the head of the Department for Transport.

Plymouth Moor View MP Johnny Mercer has already written to the new secretary of state, stressing the "pivotal" role he will play in developing the region's future. He has also urged Mr Grayling to accelerate the release of a feasibility report on Plymouth airport, arguing that the city has been waiting for a result "for some time".

Meanwhile North Devon MP Peter Heaton-Jones has also written to the DfT, asking for confirmation of funding for the North Devon Link Road.


Mrs May included women's equality in her first speech as Prime Minister on Wednesday, and has so far appointed seven women to her cabinet.

Ms Morris said this was an effort to move away from the "chumocracy" of traditional male-dominated politics to a meritocracy. "I am pleased she is a woman, but I think she has got their through her own merit," she said. "What she is doing is making sure the able woman that are there… are properly recognised."

Housing and Health

Jeremy Hunt has survived the reshuffle to remain in place as Secretary of State for Health. This will provide some stability for the NHS which is facing unprecedented demand, and continuity for the Devon Success Regime.

However, former Plymouth Labour candidate Luke Pollard questioned what this will mean for the controversial junior doctors contract. He has also raised concerns about the new administration's housing policy, and in particular whether Mrs May will persist with the so-called bedroom tax.

The View from Plymouth:

Johnny Mercer:

"I think we had a good set of Ministers before who were willing to listen to the South West and respond to the things we were asking for and I expect to find a very similar situation when we have the final list of new government ministers.

"We have made really great strides in Plymouth over the Cameron premiership with the Plymouth Director of Public Health appointed to the national planning board for planning future public health funding, established the Peninsula Rail Task Force to look at real improvements to our transport infrastructure, focused on improving county-wide broadband coverage and recognition of our importance in the Mayflower 2020 celebrations.

"I think we should take confidence with what we have achieved so far and look forward with ambition at what we can achieve over this next premiership."

Luke Pollard:

"The things we need to know the answers to [are]: will continue with the bedroom tax, will they continue with the junior doctors contract that puts patients at risk and will they keep ignoring us on the trainline. These are questions which really matter to Plymouth, but we're not going to get an answer for the next couple of weeks or so.

"The decision to leave the EU and the uncertainty of what that means, makes it a difficult environment for businesses to invest and take people on. What Theresa May needs to do now is steady the country. She needs to set out a clear economic visions… and she needs to chart a course so people can understand what exactly Brexit means."

What will a Theresa May Government mean for Plymouth and the South West | Plymouth Herald

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