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John Penrose: The conventional wisdom about this leadership election is wrong. Hunt’s spending plans are neither unaffordable nor irresponsible.

John Penrose is MP for Weston-super-Mare and a Northern Ireland Office Minister.

If you listen to the sober-sided, serious economists at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, or to the Chancellor Philip Hammond himself, you’d think the Conservative leadership election is a horrible bidding war of doolally spending promises from Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson. Has the party of sound money lost its soul? Betrayed its heritage? Are Margaret Thatcher and Milton Friedman spinning in their graves as leadership contenders try to out-Corbyn each other with unaffordable spending promises?

Well no, not really. I can’t speak for Boris Johnson but, as someone who’s been involved in a lot of Jeremy Hunt’s policy development work, that’s not what we’re doing at all.

Let’s start with the charge that, if it was right to introduce austerity in 2010, we should do the same for Brexit in 2019. Otherwise we aren’t being consistent.

But the problem in 2019 isn’t the same as 2010. Brexit isn’t the banking crisis, thank goodness. And if the problem is different, the answers should be too.

By 2010, Gordon Brown was trying to keep the economy going with huge increases in public spending, paid for with ballooning debt. Something like one pound in every four the Government spent had to be borrowed, to be repaid by taxpayers later. If we’d carried on like that, pretty soon the country’s credit card would have been snipped up and the bailiffs would have been knocking at the door. So we simply had to throttle back, to stop spending money we hadn’t got.

But today is different. Public spending isn’t ballooning and borrowing is under control. We’re living within our means, and there’s even headroom for a bit more spending if we’re careful. We’ve come a long way, and it hasn’t been easy. You can understand why Hammond doesn’t want the next Prime Minister to blow it.

What are today’s problems, if they’re different from 2010? The biggest is that some – although certainly not all – firms are putting off growth-creating investments until after the Brexit fog has cleared. And that no-one knows whether our trade with the EU will be easy or awful once we’ve left.

So it makes sense to spend a bit of money to promote economic growth. Post-Brexit Britain needs a stronger, more dynamic, more energetic, turbocharged economy, so we’re prepared for the challenges of life outside the EU. And Jeremy Hunt’s plans to cut corporation tax to 12 and a half per cent, increase investment allowances and exempt small high street firms from business rates would do exactly that. They would spark economic renewal and investment in UKplc, making us more resilient in economic shocks and recessions, and more productive and efficient so we can grow faster too.

In other words, it’s OK to use different answers in 2019 than in 2010. But what about the charge that we’re making the same mistake as Brown, by spending and borrowing unaffordably?

Hunt is on pretty firm ground here, because he agrees we’ve got to keep the national debt falling relative to the size of our economy. That means borrowing can’t balloon, and we’ll always be able to repay our debts. And his business career helps here too, because his plans to turbocharge post-Brexit Britain’s economy would mean we’d be investing to grow. They’re sensible investments in our economic future, not pale copies of unworkable, hard-left Corbynomic plans.

Nor is he expecting to do everything at once. We’d need to raise defence spending progressively over five years, for example, to allow time to plan. Otherwise you’d simply waste money on the wrong things.

The same goes for fixing illiteracy. That will take ten years, building on the huge progress over the last decade that has seen more pupils being taught in good or outstanding schools than ever before.

And some of the plans would only be temporary, too. The pledge to help farmers adjust to a post-Brexit world has to be a hard-headed, short term plan to help re-equip machinery, buildings and breeding for new global markets, for example. Not a woolly, open-ended subsidy.

The plans have got to be about changing things, so we’re ready for a new world. Not expensively preserving the way they were before we voted to leave. Transformation and preparation, not status quo. But, for Hunt’s proposals at least, they are sound, practical, affordable ideas. And, most important of all, they’re thoroughly Conservative too.

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Greg Hands: Here are the next steps towards implementing our Alternative Arrangements plan

Greg Hands is the MP for Chelsea and Fulham.

One point just about everyone in the Conservative Party agrees on is we need to deliver Brexit as soon as possible if we are not going to face some sort of existential crisis at the ballot box.

All effective political action, in my experience, rests on three qualities: keeping your overall objective resolutely in sight, but be being willing to listen and to compromise when it comes to implementation.

It was that philosophy which underpinned the Brady Amendment, the only positive Brexit amendment to pass during the recent Parliamentary debates on Brexit. It recommends approving the Withdrawal Agreement, as long as the Backstop could be “replaced with Alternative Arrangements”.

Prosperity UK’s Alternative Arrangements Commission (AAC), which I co-chair with Nicky Morgan, was launched in April to build on the Brady Amendment by developing credible and practical Alternative Arrangements to the Irish backstop. The AAC is neutral on Brexit outcomes and politically independent. We draw our legitimacy from a Parliamentary Commission, including over 40 MPs and peers, and a Technical Panel chaired by Shanker Singham and including a former head of UK Border Force, a leading Dutch customs expert, Sweden’s former Director of Customs and Fujitsu’s Industry Lead for Customs and Borders.

This week the AAC launched its interim report at an all-day consultative conference in Westminster. It’s taken a lot of work to get this far, but one thing we don’t have is time because, frankly, the Government should have started doing this work months ago. In that regard, I am delighted that, as the DEXEU Secretary of State, Stephen Barclay, told the conference, the Government has now commenced its own work in this area and set up three advisory panels.

Our ambition has been to produce credible and detailed Alternative Arrangements, and a protocol on how to implement them, and publish them as a resource for all sides in the Brexit negotiations. It’s up to the next UK Prime Minister, and his interlocutors in Brussels, Belfast, Dublin and other European capitals to work out how best to use them. We recommend that Alternative Arrangements can be fully implemented within two to three years, or sooner in many cases.

We have not recommended any single solution. Instead we have suggested a tiered trusted trader programme for large and medium-sized companies; special economic zones for cross-border communities, such Derry/Londonderry-Donegal and Newry/Dundalk; exemptions for the very smallest companies; and that Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) checks should be carried out by mobile units away from the border using the existing EU Customs Code or a potential common area for SPS measures.

We will spend the next few weeks sharing our ideas with key stakeholders in Belfast, Dublin, Berlin, Brussels, The Hague and Paris – indeed, I am due to visit Holland and Germany as I write. We are also encouraging people to share their comments and ideas by filling in the consultation form. We will listen carefully to what people have to say before publishing a final report, including the Protocol, in July.

The first and most important precondition we set for the report is that any workable arrangements must protect the Belfast-Good Friday Agreement. An important aspect of the AAC’s work has been the opportunity to spend time in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Let’ s be honest, listening and respecting Irish opinion on the ground has not actually ever been a strong point of Westminster politics and we have been determined to behave and to act differently.

We’ve tried to spend spent as much time as we can talking to people, organisations and businesses in Northern Ireland and Ireland. In total, we met over 50 organisations on three separate visits. These have included Diageo (the owner of Guinness); the Irish Cattle and Sheep Association; the Irish International Freight Association; the Irish SME Association; Manufacturing NI; Londonderry Chamber of Commerce; the NI Retail Consortium; the list goes on…

The second precondition is that any solutions should rely on existing technology and processes – which, incidentally, are advancing all the time – and not any high-tech “unicorns”.

And the third precondition is that Alternative Arrangements must be compatible with any of the potential Brexit outcomes, including but not limited to the current draft Withdrawal Agreement. This means Britain would be ultimately able to adopt its own independent trade and regulatory policy.

We believe our Commission has met these conditions.

So what are we going to do, once we have finished consulting on our findings? We are going to finalise the report and publish alongside it next month a Draft Alternative Arrangements Protocol. This could either be inserted into the Withdrawal Agreement to ensure the Backstop is superseded or used on a standalone basis in any other Brexit outcome.

Politically, we hope that by genuinely listening, engaging and doing the technical work we can help break the Brexit logjam and give both sides something to negotiate around. Having demonstrated that Alternative Arrangements are possible, in a reasonably short time-frame, we can further say to both the EU and to the Irish Government that a negotiated Brexit is within reach, as long as they can make progress on the Backstop issue.

That is an incredibly important prize and it is no exaggeration to say that upon it the future of both Brexit and the Conservative Party depend. I hope all colleagues in the party can wish us good luck.

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Michael Gove: I have shown in government that I deliver. And as Prime Minister, I will deliver Brexit – and stop Corbyn.

Michael Gove is Environment Secretary and is MP for Surrey Heath.

To be Conservative is to believe in the importance of the special worth of each individual, liberated to become the author of their own life story – supported by strengthened families, communities and historic institutions. That was the answer I gave ConservativeHome this week, when asked by this website’s readers and editors for my definition of conservatism.

It is rooted in my experience in Government – as Education Secretary, Justice Secretary and Environment Secretary – but also in my own life story. Because I wasn’t born Michael Gove. As I explained to supporters at my leadership campaign launch in Westminster this week, I was born – 51 years ago – Graeme Logan, to a mother I never knew. I was taken from her and spent the first four months of my life in care.

In a life-changing moment, I was then adopted by my amazing mum and dad, Ernie and Christine. I still remember my mum explaining to me what adoption meant, when the right moment arrived. She said: “Son, you didn’t grow under my heart, you grew in it.” Without my parents’ love – unstinting, total and selfless as it was – I know for sure that I would never have been able to be where I am today. I would never have had the chance to serve in Government; or to stand to be Prime Minister, ready to lead the country I love.

Being adopted makes me all too personally aware of how much in life depends on chance. When I was the Shadow Education Secretary, I remember reading about a school that I could have gone to, if I hadn’t been adopted by my mum and dad. It was a school where only one child, in an entire year, got the five good GCSEs that are a passport to a brighter future.

I thought then: what if my life had started there? What would my future have been? It’s because I know how fragile fortune is – how much depends on others, and how everyone has something to give but too few get the chance – that I am in politics.

It is also why I am a Conservative. I had a clear mission as Education Secretary that reflected this too. I wanted to make sure that every child, whatever their background or circumstances, was given the chance to shine. I make no apology for driving through reform as fast as I could. There was no time to waste – because children only get one shot at education. Now, thanks to the reforms I led, 1.9 million more children are in good and outstanding schools.

For the same reason, I was just as dedicated to getting results when I was Justice Secretary. Prisons exist to keep the public safe. But at the same time, every prisoner should be given the chance of redemption and to turn their life around. As I saw it, education behind bars, and the right support from prison staff, is the only way to reduce reoffending and ultimately reduce the number of victims of crime. My reforms put that into action.

As Environment Secretary, I am also in a hurry to change things. Our planet is in peril. I don’t want the next generation to inherit a world which is dirtier, more dangerous and less beautiful. I want to ensure that the earth, which is our common home, is handed on to the next generation cleaner, greener and healthier. So I’ve taken action to help end plastic pollution, clean up our air, improve animal welfare and support our farmers better in everything they do.

Right now, no leader faces a bigger challenge than delivering a true Brexit. On this, I feel a personal responsibility. I led the campaign to leave the European Union. I made the argument to audiences of voters in the heat of the TV debates. And I knew when I made the decision to lead the campaign, it would involve personal sacrifice – putting a strain on friendships and my family.

Yet I wanted to stand up for the working people who wanted real change. People like my mum and dad, whose fish merchants in Aberdeen went to the wall when I was a teenager because of the European Union’s policies. They were not alone. The EU’s Common Fisheries Policy meant lost jobs and broken dreams for many people in my part of Scotland – thanks to decisions taken in distant committee rooms, by people we never elected and couldn’t remove. It was this experience that led me, after careful thought, to campaign to take back control – and against the odds we won.

But three years after the referendum, we still haven’t left. I share the frustration of so many that we are still in the EU. I feel it every single day and it is one of the reasons I am standing – to deliver on the result that we won in 2016. But it’s not enough to just believe in Brexit. You have got to be able to deliver it. I believe my experience in Government – mastering those detailed briefs, making my case around the Cabinet table and beyond, winning support, driving through reform, means I am in the best position to deliver Brexit.

Britain needs a Brexit that takes back control of our money, laws and borders. A Brexit that means we are out of the Common Fisheries Policy, out of the Common Agricultural Policy and out of the political structures of the EU. The UK should build a new relationship with Europe, based on a Canada-style free trade deal with Europe. That must be our urgent aim.

I am determined to deliver – and deliver quickly. As those who know me best will confirm, I am not someone who lets the grass grow beneath my feet. But there is one thing I will not do – I will not risk a general election before we deliver Brexit.

If we did do that, we’d effectively be handing the keys to Number 10 Downing Street over to Jeremy Corbyn. Gone would be the chance to deliver Brexit. Gone would be the opportunity to make Britain the best country in the world for education and science; the chance to strengthen the Union, cut tax and regulation, promote competition and free choice and spread prosperity across the country. Gone would be the chance to invest in our schools, increasing funding per pupil in real terms, to improve transport links in the South-West Midlands and North of England, and to reform social care to provide peace of mind for every family.

That is why we cannot risk Corbyn becoming Prime Minister. There is so much we can do to make our country even better. I have shown in every role in Government I’ve had that I have a passion for making people’s lives better. I have demonstrated that I can bring teams together, reach across divides and deliver real change. I have led from the front, undaunted by criticism and resolute in the need to solve complex issues. That is what this country needs, right here, right now.

It is a serious time in the life of our nation. The stakes have never been higher. And the consequences have rarely been greater. It requires a serious leader, who is ready to lead from day one. To deliver Brexit, to take the fight to Labour and to debate and argue fearlessly for what we, as Conservatives, believe in.  


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Virginia’s first lady announces new farm-to-school goal for state’s schools

Westlake Legal Group virginias-first-lady-announces-new-farm-to-school-goal-for-states-schools Virginia’s first lady announces new farm-to-school goal for state’s schools Things to Do state news schools school lunches farms Farming Events Education
Westlake Legal Group school-cafeteria Virginia’s first lady announces new farm-to-school goal for state’s schools Things to Do state news schools school lunches farms Farming Events Education
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Virginia first lady Pamela Northam is calling on the state’s school nutrition programs to start buying local. Alongside Secretary of Education Atif Qarni and Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring in March, Northam announced the initiative seeks to increase annual statewide local food purchases to at least $22 million over the next three years.

Since 2014, local food purchases by Virginia schools have at least doubled, from $7.7 million to $15.4 million in 2017, according to the Virginia Department of Education and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, attributing the growth to the increasing popularity of farm-to-school programs.

The state has over 500 schools with gardens where students are growing food for the school cafeteria and are learning directly from local farmers, according to the Department of Education.

Virginia’s Farm-to-School Network is hosting meetings across the state in April and May to develop regional plans for achieving the $22 million goal. The network will be coming to Northern Virginia on Tuesday, May 7, at the Frederick Douglass Elementary School’s garden in Leesburg, from 3 to 5:30 p.m.

The meetings are open to farmers, educators, school nutrition professionals, school administrators, students and parents and the general public. Register for the Leesburg meeting here.

To find out more information about the Farm-to-School Network, visit farmtoschool.org.

Want to keep up to date on everything impacting Virginia schools? Subscribe to our semimonthly newsletter.

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Graham Gudgin: If the EU delivers No Deal after all, there will be little to fear – and much to gain

Dr Graham Gudgin is Policy Exchange’s Chief Economic Adviser. He is a visiting Professor at the University of Ulster and Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Ulster University Economic Policy Centre.

Many like to claim that No Deal is off the table, but it remains the legal default position on April 12 – and the EU may not be bluffing in suggesting that it is now the most likely endgame. It has of course been decisively rejected in the Commons – but so has almost everything else. Decisive parliamentary rejection has hardly been a bar to reclaiming options from the dead.

What is certainly true is that there has been little cool consideration of what no deal involves. The Cabinet Secretary’s letter to last Tuesday’s cabinet meeting claimed that No Deal would lead to recession and currency depreciation. One could almost hear the laughter in the aisles as the civil service once more tried its hand at economic prediction.

Historians are likely to judge the demonisation of No Deal as one on the great triumphs of the Remain campaign. With impressive discipline, Remainers ubiquitously link the phrase No Deal to the adjectives ‘catastrophic’ or ‘disastrous’. In this, they have been greatly helped by the BBC and other media which invariably allow such descriptions to pass with no attempt to elicit any evidence.

The idea that No Deal would greatly damage the UK economy started early with detailed studies by the Treasury and other economics groups during the EU referendum campaign of 2016. Their absurdly mistaken short-term forecasts damaged the department’s credibility, but the its equally flawed long-term impact estimates live on, and were cited recently by John McDonnell as the key evidence for Labour’s aversion to No Deal. Nor has the Bank of England been much better, with its estimates for No Deal jumping all over the place.

CBI assessments of No Deal

All of this has muddied the water for what should have been a serious national debate, but this has not taken place. The CBI’s assessment of its opposition to no deal is unfocused and vague. The CBI website’s comments from individual businesses are limited to say the least. Most fear delays at ports, and appear to ignore positive statements from HMRC, Calais and other ports. They seem to be reacting to alarmist press reports rather than to up to date information. Ford views a no deal Brexit as ‘catastrophic’ (that word again) but much of its reasoning (‘border friction, a deteriorating economic outlook, further sterling devaluation and tariffs’) is speculative and outside its direct expertise.


The potential dangers from no deal come largely from high tariffs facing and the threat of border delays. Tariffs of 10 per cent or more would affect car and food producers but account for only four per cent of UK exports. Since firms have already benefitted from a 15 per cent depreciation of Sterling, even a 10 per cent tariff on car exports into the EU would not be decisive. The UK’s own published tariff regime would be one of the most liberal in the advanced world. Many tariffs which only protect continental producers but raise prices for UK consumers would be abolished. The average tariff on imports would fall to an estimated 0.7 per cent versus 7.7 per cent for the EU now. This would make the UK an attractive place for international firms to invest because the vast bulk of imported components (including car parts, electronics and machinery) will be tariff-free.

Non-Tariff barriers

Much of the concern over a ‘WTO exit’ has revolved around ‘non-tariff barriers’ to trade. Here again, preparations and agreements over recent months mean that the picture is much brighter than usually claimed. The UK has agreed rollovers of ‘mutual recognition’ agreements with key non-EU trade partners, and many UK firms have acted to transfer product registration and safety certification to EU approved bodies. A range of contingency measures and memoranda of understanding have secured the future of finance at least until a free-trade agreement can be negotiated.

Dangers for food and agriculture

The CBI and others rightly point up the dangers to agriculture which has important exports to the EU facing tariffs of 20-40 per cent or more, enough to make some trade in food completely uneconomic. However, this affects under two per cent of UK exports and the CBI makes no mention of the authoritative AFBI study which concluded that UK prices and output would rise for most farming commodities.

The reason is that UK food producers would replace imports from the EU which face high tariffs into the UK. Proposed UK tariffs steer a sensible middle ground between higher prices for UK consumers and higher incomes for UK farmers. The main exception is UK lamb production, where the large EU market could be devastated by high EU tariffs. Much of sheep farming is however already heavily subsidised, and can be further subsidised to maintain farm incomes.

On sensitive agricultural products, there are worries that the entry of animals and goods would be prohibited unless the UK is “listed” as meeting EU sanitary standards. However, the EU has announced that it will “swiftly” list the UK to allow the entry of live animals and animal products from the UK. The French authorities have arranged for any food safety checks to be undertaken inland from Calais to avoid congestion.

Customs Delays

The risk of major delays at ports is now remote even for food products. Calais port says that there will be no more checks than today. On the UK side, HMRC says it will prioritise a free flow of goods. Eurotunnel has made it quite clear that its services and business model remain unaffected by Brexit. Government claims that large numbers of firms with EU markets have not signed up to HMRC’s new customs procedures are irrelevant. Firms will do so as they need to.

Air travel and Safety Concerns

Air transport was another supposed danger area. But the EU, despite previous threats, has now agreed to allow British planes to fly over, land in and return from the EU27. Meanwhile, the UK has 111 bilateral agreements in our own right which continue unchanged. Of the 17 negotiated via the EU, virtually all – covering 98 per cent of the passengers carried – have been successfully renegotiated. The Government has also said that there will be no implications from the UK leaving Euratom including on the flow of radioactive isotopes for the NHS.

Other safety regulation concerns have evaporated. Car manufacturers have swapped their approvals over to the recognised Swedish body, with other industries taking similar steps. The EU has also agreed to extend EASA design, production and maintenance approvals for aerospace firms temporarily, with a permanent solution to follow.


Fears of a ‘no deal’ Brexit are hugely exaggerated, not least because ‘no deal’ is not what will happen under any circumstances. A series of mini-deals between the UK, the EU and non-EU countries, plus unilateral preparations by the UK, means that most of the building blocks for a managed ‘no deal’ Brexit are already in place.

Moreover, the assumption that leaving without a deal means we will never have a free trade deal with the EU is not true either. In reality, “no deal” would not last very long, since both sides have strong mutual interests in quickly agreeing at the very least a basic free-trade agreement with no tariffs or quantitative restrictions.

It would even be possible to avoid new tariffs altogether using GATT’s Article 24, as long as a mutual intention was announced to begin free-trade negotiations. Temporary side deals would need to be made permanent, but since these are mutually advantageous no issue of principle should be involved. All of this seems manageable as a means to securing an independent trade policy.

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