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Brexit: What Next?

Earlier this evening, the Government’s Brexit deal was rejected (again). There’s some more important votes in the Commons in the next few days that will shape how Brexit will play out over the coming weeks.

The Government’s Brexit deal was defeated by 391 votes to 242. 40 MPs (39 Conservative and 1 Labour), who voted against the deal in January, switched and voted for the deal this evening.

Tomorrow, Parliament will vote on whether to keep no-deal on the table, and depending on that result, on Thursday will vote on whether to ask the EU to extend Article 50.

The Parliamentary machinery has unfortunately meddled enough to scupper the idea that the Government could take things right to the wire (e.g. the day before we leave) to clinch a deal, but for Parliament to say that it rejects no-deal, would mean the one bargaining chip left would no longer be in play.

But there are no hidden agendas in Parliament when it comes to Brexit, every MP has openly declared which faction they’re in (deal, no deal, no Brexit), so the prospect of weakening the Government further is an exciting prospect for many opposition MPs (as it always is).

But, despite Parliament looking like it’s split three ways, there is a Parliamentary majority for an amended Withdrawal Agreement that gives either party (the UK or the EU) the ability to unilaterally withdraw from it. That would win over the Brexit rebels, DUP and some Labour moderates. It would be a wafer-thin majority, but a majority nevertheless.

But without that, the three factions of Parliament will continue to tie themselves in knots with motions, amendments, defections and who knows what else.

The Government doesn’t have a majority, it can’t get its flagship policy through, and an awful lot of Parliamentarians are able to have their say and make an impact on proceedings, all the while with the whole world watching. It’s messy, it’s frustrating, it’s democracy.

We are scheduled to leave the EU on 29 March. Unless there can be a third vote in Parliament on an amended Withdrawal Agreement, this time with the Withdrawal Agreement actually amended, then we’ll probably have to ask the EU for an extension of Article 50.

But if the EU isn’t bluffing, and this Withdrawal Agreement really is as good as it gets, then there are only really two options: no deal or no Brexit. And either of those would need a Government that can command a Parliamentary majority, and that genuinely believes in one of those two things.

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Worst Train Service In The World Gets Even Worse

With Arriva Trains Wales finally a thing of the past, the new rail operator, KeolisAmey (under the moniker Transport for Wales) has succeeded in making a shockingly poor rail service even worse.

Commuters had hoped the worst was behind them when the Arriva franchise ended last October, but things seem to have gone from bad to worse. The new operator was caught off guard by leaves on the track late last year, resulting in over a dozen trains being out of action, and was forced to publicly apologise for train cancellations and revised schedules.

A jam-pack packed train in Cardiff
A good day is when you’re actually able to get on the train from Lisvane & Thornhill or Llanishen stations in the morning, let alone get a seat.
Photo credit: Shaun Jenkins (Councillor for Llanishen & Thornhill)

And all this at a time when local Councils continue to escalate their war against motorists, with ballooning parking charges, fines, more pot holes, speed bumps and whatever else they can think to throw at the poor folks just wanting to get to work on time.

As a Councillor, it’s frustrating that Cardiff Council hasn’t done enough to make public transport better, and not only that, but it continues to trip up, catch out and belittle motorists, at a time when there is no credible alternative for commuters in the city.

How any senior manager at KeolisAmey/Transport for Wales can be happy with how things are going is beyond me. And to add insult to injury, rail users pay gobsmackingly high prices to use the service; it is quite literally daylight robbery.

How we’ve gone from rail pioneers to this mess is a national tragedy and the sooner we have the guts to be radical with the rails, the better.

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Welsh Assembly Campaign Gets Under Way

I know what you’re thinking (“not another election”), but don’t worry, this one is not for another two years, but the Welsh Assembly campaign started today, and I was more than happy to lend my support.

Llanishen residents were offered not one, not two but three treats today when myself, John and Tom were out canvassing, talking about local issues and introducing our new assembly candidate. And Llanishen & Thornhill are both vital areas to win over if we’re going to stand a chance of winning Cardiff North back in 2021.

Given the current political climate, it will be quite something if we don’t have a general election before then but given voter apathy towards the assembly (and rightly so), we’re starting early to ensure we’re able to get our positive and ambitious message out there.

Interested in learning more about the assembly campaign? Visit the campaign Facebook page.

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UPDATE: Unfortunately the Cemetery was granted planning permission on 18 September, 2018.

WHY I’M OBJECTING TO THE PROPOSED NEW CEMETERY

You may be thinking that there are more important things to worry about than a Cemetery; and you’re right (I worry about other things too…) But, I thought I’d briefly outline why I’m objecting to Phase 2 of Thornhill Cemetery.

Background

A bit of background: there are currently about 380,000 people living in Cardiff, with that expected to increase by an extra 40,000 over the next 20 years (although this figure is disputed). The LDP, which is supposed to ensure development is done in a sustainable way, was set in 2016.

Why I’m objecting

The main reason I’m objecting is that this development is being built on protected land, with land north of the M4 designated as green wedge land in the LDP (Local Development Plan). I think the Council sets an unimpressive example by building on land that it itself designated as protected.

There’s ample space across the city to accommodate a new Cemetery, and we have a real fight on our hands over the coming years to protect land to the north of the M4 from being swamped with planning applications for new houses. The Council may just be firing the starting gun on a change of perspective of what green wedge land actually means. This is not a good thing.

It strikes me that a loophole has been found in the Councils own Local Development Plan that allows it to build on the green wedge – and if the Council is prepared to use such loopholes others will be too.

As Cardiff grows, we invariably need to consider extra burial space, and Thornhill Cemetery has already undergone multiple extensions, encroaching further north, west and south – but this proposal will be the biggest expansion yet, moving away from the existing site entirely, across Thornhill Road and the M4 and on to farm land. Thornhill Cemetery cannot extend indefinitely and the Council must think long-term, which I don’t think it’s doing with the current proposal.

Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts and if you’d like to learn more or have any questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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