That was the year that was! Many still blame David Cameron for calling the Referendum on the EU but I disagree, David Cameron was not trying to appease his back benchers, the truth is our love-in with the project really started to end in 1992 when John Major negotiated a UK opt out from the single currency. From that moment we became a semi-detached player. David Cameron had wanted a third way between leaving the EU and joining the Euro, but that was not to be. I honestly believe that was a bad call on the EU’s part. If they had been more accommodating in those negotiations, we might well have hung around a bit longer.
Brexit means we now have to negotiate the terms of Britain’s departure and it will be complicated, have no doubt, it will also dominate everything we do here at Westminster until the next general election. Already there are fierce debates whether we should have a soft or hard Brexit. Should we aim to remain in the Customs union for certain sectors or should we simply try to negotiate enhanced customs procedures as part of a free-trade deal? When Parliament tries to incorporate EU law into UK law we will see quite how much power we ceded and how complex it will be getting it back. Immigration is also a vexed issue. For many that was why they voted out. Leave’s slogan was ‘take back control’. As a member of the EU we could not do that, in that respect it was a dramatic loss of sovereignty. But on the positive side, a new immigration policy can now be created but it will be naïve to suggest that it will not involve some unskilled immigration particularly in areas such as social care, construction, hospitality and probably agriculture, areas in which we have become dependent.
Locally the overriding issue is the possible closure of community beds across Devon on which I have been working hard and will continue to prioritise in 2017. The wheels turn slowly in politics, but on an optimistic note, I get the feeling that at last the decision makers are starting to sit up and listen to those of us that are saying social care budgets need a boost. Until things change I will keep banging the same drum.
I shall also be watching carefully as to how the new Budleigh Salterton Health and Wellbeing Hub develops and if that has any read across for our other community hospitals. Another issue set to dominate politics here in Devon is the issue of fair funding for our schools. It would not be acceptable if after years of arguing for fairer funding we end up worse rather than better off.