Talking politics: Craig Whittaker MP (Conservative, Calder Valley)

Craig Whittaker MP
Craig Whittaker MP

This week, Craig Whittaker MP discusses Brexit, protests over President Trump and rail strikes.

EU nationals living in the UK

There has been a lot of discussion and debate about the status of EU nationals living and working in the UK now we are heading towards triggering Article 50 and starting our withdrawal from the EU.

I’ve had several hundred emails from people asking for the Government to guarantee their status before we start negotiation for exiting the EU, a sentiment I have a lot of empathy with. Campaigners point out that we need to do the right thing for the three million EU citizens that have unsure futures here.

First of all the PM has publicly stated that this will be the first and highest priority during negotiations and must be linked to the rights of UK citizens living in European countries.

For those three million EU citizens living here, we already have safeguards within our system where, if someone from the EU has lived and worked in the UK for five years they can and will continue to be able to apply for residence status here. If they continue to do so for another year they then can apply for citizenship, therefore the numbers affected by the UK triggering article 50 is nowhere near the three million figure.

It is also the first role of any Government of whatever colour to protect their own citizens and that alone is the reason why we cannot guarantee the rights of EU nationals over the rights of our own people seeking the same guarantees in European countries. I suspect that the rights of all citizens will be guaranteed and fairly in the negotiations but in the meantime it would be sheer madness for us to give an olive branch only then to find the olive branch to our own nationals has been taken away.

Protests over the US President’s travel ban

In Calderdale whenever we have a new mayor, Councillors traditionally vote for the new Mayor whatever their colour or whatever individuals feel about the person about to take on the role. The reason Councillors do this, is out of respect for the position of Mayor and not the person taking on the role. Of course we often respect the person too who takes on the role of Calderdale’s first citizen – our current Mayor is a fine example of this.

It is therefore understandable that I’ve had dozens of emails from constituents dismayed about the protests about the new President of the United States. Protests supposedly against the fact that he has banned travels to the US from seven Muslim countries.

Words like ‘hypocrisy’ and ‘hysteria’ come to mind when we see hundreds of thousands of people out on British streets protesting. I say this because not one of those people protesting were out on the streets when President Obama did the very same thing to the very same countries during his Presidency and why aren’t these people protesting against the 16 countries, for example, who don’t allow British nationals into their countries because they have Israeli passports?

I suspect the true reason people have taken to the streets in not really about the US President’s travel ban but it makes them feel better and it is about their dislike of the man himself. Sadly though, he is the democratically elected (and decisively too) President of the United States of America and like Calderdale’s Mayor, we should be showing some restraint and respect for the very position itself. The USA of course is our close ally, hugely important trading partner and the world’s biggest economy who we need to keep close in order to access their huge economy to sell our British exports. This is something incredibly important to us as a nation as we start the process of exiting the EU. The amazing thing for me is how a nation with over 300 million in their population could not have found two better candidates than Trump or Clinton, both of whom seem to be too flawed to hold one of the greatest positions of power on earth.

Train strikes next Monday

Speaking of bizarre events, we see strike action on Monday on Northern Rail services. I say bizarre, because they are striking against something that hasn’t even been announced. The train company has modernisation proposals. These are, however, still in the early stages and include getting rid of the awful Pacer trains that we still have to endure and bring in new rolling stock with greater capacity. I would hate to have fought for radical change and improvements to our rail services which should be rolled out over the next three years to then see this much needed change scuppered by militancy and self-interest with a total disregard to the thousands of people who rely on this service. We wait and see.