The past few weeks have seen atrocious crimes committed on British soil. Pedestrians and a police officer murdered by an Islamist terrorist in Westminster, and a young Kurdish Iranian asylum seeker almost beaten to death by a baying mob in Croydon.
In the case of the former, right-thinking people were quick to point out the vast majority of Muslims are opposed to terrorism. I agree and as someone who was metres away from what happened outside Parliament, I was delighted to join Muslims, Jews and Christians on Westminster Bridge a week later to commemorate the victims. Following the appalling attack on the teenage asylum seeker, several politicians immediately pointed the finger of blame at Brexit and, by inference, those who campaigned for Britain to leave the EU. This is disgraceful. I was one of the millions who voted Leave and for us all to be smeared because of the actions of a minority is utterly wrong and hypocritical. One Muslim terrorist does not make all Muslims terrorists. One group of racist thugs does not make all Brexit supporters racist thugs.
Article 50 has been triggered meaning Britain will leave the EU two years from now, come what may. As this is settled, let me once again put to rest the scaremongering. Neither I nor any other Conservative MP would ever support using Brexit to scrap workers’ rights, health and safety rules, or environmental protections. We are not going to privatise the NHS - a scare story which has been thrown at Conservative governments since 1987. Furthermore, the millions of EU citizens - like my wife - who are legally in the UK will be just as welcome post-Brexit as they always have been. I back the UK Government in seeking a trade deal with the EU. But we should be clear that if they don’t want one we will walk away without it and trade under the World Trade Organisation rules, which are what we already use for most of our export trade.
I have written before about the threat to our high streets caused by business rate rises. The UK Government has handed £200m to Welsh Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford to provide a transition scheme. Peter Fox, leader of Monmouthshire County Council, has been demanding the money be used to match the reliefs being offered to businesses in England. I very much hope the Welsh Government agrees to this.
*Published in the South Wales Argus on 10 April 2017*