Once again my inbox is filling up fast with calls for an extension to the EU transition period in order to get a deal. The background is this: Although we left the EU in January, we continue to pay our membership fees and have to adhere to EU rules without having any influence over them. We pay, we obey, and we have no say. It is great for the EU; they will happily offer further extensions and transitions while they dangle the prospect of a deal in front of us, then find excuses for delaying it so we continue indefinitely in this situation. If we stick to our guns and make it clear that we are going to fully leave at the end of the year, then the EU may well come forward at the last minute with a deal. However, there is no guarantee so we should continue to prepare for the possibility they will not. On the other hand, if we accept an extension it will be seen as a sign of weakness by Brussels. We will be telling them we are afraid to leave without a deal, thereby encouraging them to make certain a deal never happens. Whatever your view was on Brexit, if you believe (as I do) it would be better to leave with a deal, then the best way to make this happen is to send the message to Brussels that we all accept the result of the 2016 referendum. The UK will be leaving at the end of 2020 and we will do so with or without a deal.
The impact of Covid-19 will be devastating for many areas of the economy in Monmouthshire and one of the worst hit areas is tourism. Many pubs, restaurants, hotels, B&Bs and holiday lets in the area rely heavily on the summer tourism market. No visitors will mean no jobs in the industry and the closure of much-loved facilities. As soon as we can, let us roll out the red carpet for visitors and make clear that Monmouthshire welcomes everyone; whether it is shoppers from Bristol looking to sample the delights of a more traditional high street, food connoisseurs wanting to enjoy our Michelin-starred and award winning restaurants, fantastic tea rooms and cafes, or walkers and cyclists. There is a huge amount to do and see in this beautiful county and many people’s livelihoods depend on visitors being able to arrive in the near future.
*Published in the Monmouthshire Beacon on 3 June 2020 and the Abergavenny Chronicle on 4 June 2020*