Brextension - an open letter to Keir Starmer

We are writing to you as representatives of a number of cross-party groups that are extremely concerned about the government’s refusal to seek an extension to the Brexit transition period.

At a time when we face unprecedented economic and social challenges as a result of the coronavirus, including the certainty of a deep economic recession and massive job losses, it is unconscionable that the government proposes to exacerbate this terrible situation by jeopardising our trading relationship with the world’s largest free trade area.

It’s clear that neither the UK government nor the European Union is currently able to devote adequate time or attention to the complex negotiations needed to secure a workable trade agreement. It thus looks very likely that the government’s artificially imposed deadline will lead to the hardest of Brexits on 31 December, with no agreement – or an inadequate one – in place.

For many businesses that are already in extreme difficulty, from farms to manufacturers, this would mean bankruptcy and closure. For the UK and a whole, it would mean an even deeper recession, when the Bank of England is already predicting a 14 per cent drop in GDP – worse than has been seen in 300 years.

Failure to secure an adequate agreement would also have very serious repercussions for the very large numbers of EU citizens living in the UK and for UK citizens resident in EU countries. At present, these people continue to have full rights as underwritten by the Court of Justice of the European Union. But as the Public Law Project pointed out in February, it is by no means clear what the situation for them would be in the event of an end to the transition period on 31 December – particularly if no comprehensive agreement has been reached with the EU. This situation is causing great stress and anxiety, not least among the many EU citizens in the UK who are currently proving so vital as key workers in the NHS, in care homes and in many other roles.

We were pleased to see that you raised the need to extend the transition period in your first interview as Labour leader, but are concerned that since then this issue appears to have been largely eclipsed by the coronavirus crisis. And, as you will know, the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement stipulate that the UK–EU Joint Committee must sign off any extension before 1 July. Missing this window would make it very difficult for any extension to be agreed. We are now in mid-May, so this could hardly be more urgent.

We hope that you will lose no time in working with other parties in Parliament to put all possible pressure on the government to request an extension. The jobs and wellbeing of so many people depend on this, and – at this of all times – the UK cannot afford to see more self-inflicted and unnecessary harm inflicted on its citizens and those of our EU neighbours.

Swindon for Europe

Selfish isn't social

What do people not understand about social distancing? As part of my daily exercise I went for a walk around Lawns and Town Gardens on Sunday. In Lawns people were respecting the social distancing guidelines, but in Town Gardens it was another matter. That place was absolutely packed. I walked through as quickly as I could while keeping my distance where I could. The stupidity and selfishness of some people is staggering at times.

Granted there are those who live in high rise flats or accommodation without open spaces who need to get out into the open but I would suggest that most of the people I saw would have been local and have gardens within their properties. We are not out of the woods yet. The great majority in the country have been superb in their approach to this awful pandemic and are thinking of others, but there is a rump who just don't care.

This virus has not gone away, the chances of being infected are still high, but some people seem to think that all is OK and it is fine to congregate in numbers outside at the first opaque instruction from our utterly rudderless national leadership.

Please people, get real!

Ged Meheran

Goddard Avenue