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Ham&High letters: People’s Vote, Brexit clarity and Royal Free elective surgery,

PUBLISHED: 17:15 29 November 2018

Anti-Brexit campaigners take part in the 'People's Vote March' for the Future earlier this year. Picture: YUI MOK/PA WIRE

Anti-Brexit campaigners take part in the 'People's Vote March' for the Future earlier this year. Picture: YUI MOK/PA WIRE

PA Wire/PA Images

Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Ham&High readers this week.

Support for People’s Vote

Jonathan Livingstone, Frognal Gardens, Hampstead, writes:

I want to thank my local Conservative councillor, Gio Spinella, in voting unequivocally for a “People’s Vote” on the final Brexit deal with an option to remain in the recent Camden Council motion.

Fellow People’s Vote supporter Jo Johnson MP is absolutely right in refuting the “will of the people” mantra by asking: “Is it more democratic to rely on a three-year-old vote based on what an idealised Brexit might offer, or to have a vote based on what we know it does actually entail?”

However, locally, we now appear to have the “will of the manifesto”, with local Tory councillor Maria Higson justifying her decision not to vote on the people’s vote motion on the basis it was a manifesto commitment to “abstain on issues outside of the council’s control”.

A local voter I spoke to recently mentioned he had abstained in the 2016 referendum as he thought it was a decision best left to politicians but is now in favour of remain. His message is clear; we elect our politicians to take a stance and he joins many of the 12,125 remain voters (78.8 per cent of votes cast) in the three wards represented by Camden Conservative councillors in the 2016 Brexit referendum in addition to some leave voters who would welcome a commitment to the people’s vote expressed outside the council chamber by those unwilling to back it inside.

Don’t fall for Brexit deal - support the growing calls for a ‘People’s Vote’

Doug Crawford, Hampstead, full address supplied, writes:

The lies and distortions that dogged the referendum are returning as May tries to sell her deal to the people.

Theresa May says her deal is “in our national interest” and hence we should support it.

Let’s look at this statement a bit more closely. The latest economic projections suggest that accepting this deal will reduce the value of the UK economy by 3.9 per cent per annum compared with staying in the EU (equivalent to more than £1,000 a person). And if the “backstop” (designed to prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland) needs to be triggered it is estimated that this will cost the economy about £70bn per annum.

The deal claims we are “taking back control” – but should the “backstop” need to be triggered then we will be bound by EU rules on trade policy (including use of state aid, environmental and labour standards) and have no say in the how these rules are formulated – unlike at present. It will also mean that services (which make up 80pc of our economic wealth) will remain unprotected. It could also have a profound impact on NHS ability to obtain vital medical isotopes, access to EU data bases to fight crime, the ability to participate in EU research and student exchange programmes, and potentially on citizens’ rights to visa free travel. And just ask those involved in the fishing industry if they feel they will have more control over UK waters. The answer would be a resounding “no”.

What about immigration? The current freedom of movement arrangements will cease, to be replaced by an as yet unspecified immigration policy that will prioritise high skilled workers. But already our NHS, care and farming sectors are suffering through labour shortages and as low or medium skilled workers fill many of the positions, it is highly likely that these shortages will intensify if May’s deal is passed. Her priority has always been to “get the numbers down” irrespective of the needs of the public and private sector so the impact on services and jobs is likely to be dire.

And finally, in 2016, Theresa May said: “It is clearly in our national interests to remain within the EU. Remaining within the EU makes us more secure, makes us more prosperous and increases our influence beyond our shores”. This is a position now endorsed by and increasing number of MPs. Has May had a miraculous change of heart or is the rhetoric surrounding her proposed deal just the latest example of a cynical attempt to con the people? Don’t fall for it – support the call for a “people’s vote” and take the decision out of the hands of cynical, dishonest and incompetent politicians!

Lobbying my MP over Brexit fiasco

Jo Phoebe Potter, Hampstead, full address supplied, writes:

Jonathan Livingstone, (Frognal Gardens, ) is right to suggest we need a “People’s Vote” – this is why I lobbied in parliament on Tuesday to talk to my MP with hundreds of other young people from across the UK.

We went to Parliament with a simple message. The Brexit deal that Theresa May is trying to ram through parliament fails us. It doesn’t provide us security for our futures. It doesn’t guarantee the same rights that we’ve previously enjoyed. It threatens our environmental protections; it threatens our families, our friendships, our relationships.

I, and hundreds of activists from the youth wing of the people’s vote campaign – Our Future, Our Choice – have been ignored by our MPs. We have been refused surgery visits due to the fact our fears about the botched Brexit deal currently being presented are “not an urgent matter”. One MP even asked us to explain why the “deal would be bad for young people”.

This is why we’re taking matters into our own hands.

We need legal clarity on Brexit

Angus Hislop, Hampstead, full address supplied, writes:

One option still rarely mentioned in the press or TV is the revocation of Article 50 as the basis either of a parliamentary decision that remaining is better than leaving without a deal, or of a decision to delay and prepare for a referendum to decide between the Brexit deal on offer and remaining.

Little publicity has been given to the fact that the European Court of Justice was due to consider whether the UK has the right to unilateral revocation of Article 50 on Tuesday. Since one of the reasons accepted for the referral to the ECJ (from the Scottish Court of Sessions) was to inform the debate in Parliament, it is reasonable to expect an early judgement, ie before the debate on December 11. Most lawyers expect the European judges to rule that the UK can revoke Article 50 since it only refers to an “intention” (to withdraw from EU); and it is quite normal for governments’ intentions to change.

It is high time that people were made aware that legal clarity on the availability of this option will probably exist before the debate in Parliament. Only then can there be legitimate discussion of the merits and risks of the several alternatives to the deal arranged by our prime minister.

Patients can still choose to use the Royal Free

Kate Slemeck, chief executive, Royal Free Hospital, writes:

In response to the letter “Concern over surgery plan”, I would like to reassure our patients that they are still able to choose which of our hospitals they attend for their elective surgery – and that of course includes the Royal Free Hospital.

In discussion with their clinical teams, all of our patients are being offered the opportunity to have their surgery at the best hospital for their needs.

The opening of the £200m Chase Farm Hospital in September means we are able to offer our patients the option of having their planned surgery in the most modern healthcare environment in the NHS.

Making Chase Farm Hospital the focal point for our planned surgery will free up capacity at the Royal Free Hospital for more specialist services and emergency care.

There are many benefits for patients who attend Chase Farm Hospital – it is the newest, most digitally advanced hospital in the NHS, where activity can be planned and appointments not cancelled at the last minute because of the need to treat emergency patients. Patients can also recover in their own single rooms.

They can then have their follow-up outpatient appointments elsewhere, including the Royal Free Hospital, if it is more convenient for them.

Having a dedicated elective centre at Chase Farm Hospital will help us use our facilities and staff in the most effective and efficient way – something that is especially important as we enter the busy winter months.

But if it is not convenient for them, patients can choose to have their surgery at the Royal Free Hospital.

Back hospital shuttle bus plan

A Camden residient, full address supplied, writes:

I’m writing about the Royal Free Hospital’s (RFH) approach to allow some elective (planned) surgery, namely gynaecology, maxillofacial, orthopaedic, ear, nose and throat and general surgery, to move to Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield. Getting there by public transport is very hard, even for able bodied people.

The official announcement (see above) says: “Patients in some specialties may choose to have their elective surgery at Chase Farm. [...] However, if patients would still prefer to have their elective surgery at the Royal Free then they can choose to do so.”

What does this mean, exactly? Can the patients who might choose to have their surgery at the RFH include those whose specialties are moving to Chase Farm?

If those specialties move to Chase Farm, then so will the relevant staff and resources, so how can the RFH be in a position to deal with such cases? It’s hard to see how those patients will have a real choice to have their operation at the RFH. Even with a “choice”, in practice, will that happen with the absence of the necessary resources? How long will RFH electees have to wait? Will there be a quota system?

Surely all RFH patients would choose to have their surgery at the RFH, but clearly the management is trying to steer people to Chase Farm hence the reference to “modern healthcare environment” and “single rooms”. Given this, what quality of care will patients requesting Royal Free surgery receive?

The Chase Farm website says it will be “the location for most of our elective (planned) surgery with eight operating theatres, a dedicated day surgery area and 50 surgical in-patient beds to support this”.

I don’t think the trust is going to rethink relocations to Chase Farm, no matter what patients say.

They shouldn’t have happened to begin with, but I think it’s a losing battle to try and reverse it.

If a shuttle bus service was available, it would be the easiest way to ensure equal access to transport for all patients, including those with mobility problems. Chase Farm could schedule procedures to coincide with the shuttle bus schedule (to ensure nobody misses their appointment).

Sign the shuttle bus petition at bit.ly/2M2YFbK and do the anonymous needs analysis at bit.ly/2vGY7Ow. There are also links to both at the campaign Facebook page (Pylom Gow).

Will of the people must be reflected

Liz Morris, Highgate ward councillor and Liberal Democrat Party group leader, writes:

At a full council meeting earlier this month, Camden councillors backed a Lib Dem motion calling for a “people’s vote” on the final Brexit deal.

The motion received cross-party support, including from Labour councillors. This is perhaps not surprising as 75 per cent of Camden voters supported remain in the Brexit referendum.

However, it is still in stark contrast with Labour councillors in Haringey who, last month, uniformly voted against the Lib Dem motion on the People’s Vote, even though their borough voted more decisively for remain than Camden.

What happened just across the border makes it even more shameful that Haringey’s Labour councillors were unable to put politics aside and instead clung to their national party’s weak line.

Jeremy Corbyn said this weekend he still does not know if he would support “remain” in a people’s vote.

However, we can see there is now a majority for remain not only in places like Camden and Haringey, but across the country.

Polls last weekend showed voters are not only rejecting Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement but almost six out of 10 now back a fresh referendum and 54pc would vote to remain in the EU if one were called.

The time has come for Labour to reflect the will of the people.

They need to support a people’s vote and remaining in the EU – not just in Camden, but throughout the UK, including crucially in parliament.

We need greater Brexit negotiation

Jessica Learmond-Criqui writes an open letter to Angela Merkel on Northern Ireland and the draft Brexit agreement:

I live in the north west of London in the United Kingdom. Like the rest of the country, I have been looking on in bewilderment at the Brexit deal while politicians on both sides of the house vie for political supremacy. Divisions in government make for good news headlines but do nothing for the public’s confidence in its institutions.

You have been most vocal in your rejection of further negotiations. What is certain is that the current deal won’t get through our parliament for the reasons set out below. The purpose of this letter, therefore, is to invite you to consider two specific negotiation changes to the Withdrawal Agreement (“WA”) and Northern Ireland Protocol (“Protocol”) which may then see the WA make it through to its implementation date of March 30, 2019.

Currently, we are headed for a hard Brexit as there will be no second referendum and the UK will have a disorderly exit from the EU. This will weaken not just the UK, but also the EU. We are stronger together and while 52 per cent of voters wanted to leave the EU, it does not mean the UK cannot continue to be a friend to the EU, given our unique geography.

There are those who revel in, and will take advantage of, a disorganised UK and EU, but we must band together in these times and make the best fist of a bad job.

As you may know, the main sticking point relates to the position of Northern Ireland. The preamble to the Protocol provides that it is intended to apply temporarily and until superseded by another agreement (Article 1 of Protocol).

But the drafting does not reflect that rhetoric. The concern is that the EU, while allowing Northern Ireland to remain in the customs union and single market (just as the UK is allowed to do during the transition period), the UK (minus Northern Ireland) can cut itself free at the end of the transition period but Northern Ireland may not be allowed to be cut free.

This is because the Protocol requires Northern Ireland to remain tied to the EU after the end of the transition period unless ultimately both the UK and the EU decide that the Protocol should cease to apply. This allows Northern Ireland (and the UK with it) to be bound to the EU forever, at the EU’s behest (Article 20 of Protocol). This will never be acceptable to the people of the UK.

The annexes to the Protocol contain many rules that require the UK as a whole to abide by EU rules and regulations, particularly regarding tax, employment and the social chapter, etc, even after the end of the transitional period if no other agreement supersedes the Protocol.

So, if Northern Ireland remains tied to the EU forever, so will the UK in many respects as set out in the annexes. Again, this will never be acceptable.

Negotiating point 1: The UK is permitted by Article 50 to leave the EU and it must be allowed to make that decision at the end of the transition period not just for itself minus Northern Ireland, but for Northern Ireland too. Therefore, the decision to end the Protocol must be the UK’s alone and not the EU’s. That will end the requirements for the UK to abide by certain rules and principles of the EU in the Annexes and that would be right.

The WA and Protocol are managed by a joint committee. But there are no provisions on how many members from the EU and the UK there may be on this committee or who is able to vote. A reference to the co-chairs making decisions by mutual consent is not clear enough to understand this important mechanism. Negotiating point 2: The operation of the joint committee must be clearer, certainly with reference to equal numbers of reps from both sides so that there is a 50/50 split. If it is intended that only the co-chairs can vote, that needs to be made plain as it is not currently clear.

With these changes, the collective heart attack regarding Northern Ireland will pass and Mrs May can get on with progressing the WA through parliament.

•Have your say on stories and letters in the Ham&High. Email letters@hamhigh.co.uk

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