28 OCT 2019

NHS Vote

The Labour Party have launched a hostile and untruthful campaign attacking the Lib Dems.

Their amendment to the Queens Speech sought to promote their own damaging reorganisation of the NHS. The NHS itself has, after a long period of consultation with patient groups, the workforce, unions, Royal Colleges, the voluntary sector and academics from think tanks, launched a clear set of recommendations for future NHS legislation. As chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee I have also worked in tandem with the NHS throughout this period and my cross-party committee scrutinised their initial draft. The following are links to the NHS's own clear asks of Parliament and to my committee's report which preceded that final version.



The clearest ask of all from the NHS was not to subject the service to another major top down administrative reorganisation and I think politicians have a duty to listen. Labour's proposals however would create turmoil and are unwanted by the NHS.

The NHS's own proposals include a pragmatic way to ditch the competition rules and reduce the wasteful procurement and contracting rounds. This would be a better way forward and it is deeply disappointing that the Labour Party have chosen to launch this attack ad campaign which is misleading at every level.

You may be interested to see that Labour's claims have also been condemned by the independent fact checking site Full Fact https://fullfact.org/health/liberal-democrat-nhs-privatisation/

I am grateful to you for reading this and I want to assure you that Lib Dems will be listening to those who work in and alongside the NHS and those who lead it, not following a damaging political dogma.

1 comment

Good luck with your campaign ,we want you as are MP . Robert James Slapton
- Robert James

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28 OCT 2019

The Last Chance to Stop Brexit is Now a General Election on December 9th

Liberal Democrats believe that a People's Vote is the best way forward to stop Brexit. After 19 Labour MPs backed Boris Johnson's Brexit Bill last week and Jeremy Corbyn again refused to back our People's Vote amendment, we have reluctantly had to accept that we do not have the numbers in Parliament to make this happen. Wishful thinking is not going to break the current impasse in or stop the Prime Minister forcing through his bad deal, which will affect us all for generations, on a rushed timetable without proper scrutiny.

This week is likely to be the last chance to stop Brexit and we think that bringing forward a general election date is now the only realistic way to give people a final say before it is too late.

The Bill we are proposing would set the date for a General Election on December 9th, take No-Deal off the table, and prevent Boris Johnson from rushing through his own bad deal and controlling when the next General Election takes place..

There are millions of people across this country who are sick of Brexit, believe that we are better off inside the EU, and they deserve a better choice than two Brexiteers in Johnson and Corbyn.

We are ready to take our pro-European message to the country, where our policy will be that a Liberal Democrat majority government will revoke Article 50 to Stop Brexit. We do not want to trash our economy, put a border down the Irish Sea or sign away environmental and employment protections. Johnson's deal won't "get Brexit done" it will only get it started by kicking off years of further wrangling over our future relationship and trade negotiations in which we will be the junior partner. The only way to stop the division, cost and chaos of this whole miserable saga is to stop Brexit.

While the alternative route of a vote of no confidence would remove Boris Johnson, if an emergency Government could not be formed then it would be Boris Johnson who picked the date of the next election, and he could pick a date after any extension and crash us out with no deal. Boris Johnson has proved we cannot trust him, so we do not think it is right to give him any power to do that.

If Boris Johnson really wants a general election, which he repeatedly says he does, then he should be prepared to put his Tory government's record to the people on December 9th.


Your "last chance to stop Brexit"? I still find it extraordinary that your latest Party's leader Swinson is so brazen about wishing to overturn the result of a democratic referendum approved overwhelmingly by Parliament - the result of which the major Parties undertook to honour, then and prior to the 2017 Election. It's cocking a snook at the people and at democracy. You yourself did so when you turned from Leave to Remain at the time of the referendum, and this year you held up two fingers to those who voted for you, switching first to the little TIG grouping, then nominally to being an independent when TIG proved a flop, and now to the LibDems. Let's see how the voters of Totnes consider the propriety of your actions, when they vote on 12th December.
- Tony Harrison

Agree completely with Tony Harrison.
- Jane Dev

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20 OCT 2019

We need a Statesman as PM, not this showman

Whatever happens next, we are in dangerous and uncharted waters when a Prime Minister chooses to ignore the clear purpose of an Act of Parliament. Sending a photocopy and a side letter to the EU shows the Prime Minister has abandoned Statesmanship for cheap showmanship.

I joined the majority of MPs in voting to protect against No Deal in the immediate future. The debate on Saturday also made it clear that the Government's current proposals risk No Deal once the transition period comes to an end and I will continue to oppose this unless the people have given their consent to the actual Brexit deal as opposed to the false promises of the referendum campaign. The Deal will put a permanent border down the Irish Sea that will inevitably lead to the breakup of our United Kingdom starting with Northern Ireland and then Scotland. It will deliver an economic downturn of the same order as the banking crash and it will remove the protection of workers rights and environmental standards from the internationally binding treaty and switch these to the wish list of the non-binding political declaration. The Deal does not "get Brexit done", it is merely the start of long and acrimonious wrangling over the future of our relationship with Europe in which we will be the junior and relatively powerless partner.

At the weekend hundreds of thousands of people marched to demand the final say and I was delighted to meet so many of those who travelled from this constituency to join them. I will continue to press for everyone to have the opportunity to decide if the Deal delivers the kind of Brexit they want or to ditch Brexit for good.


The 2016 vote was to Leave the EU. There were no Terms and Conditions. Some MPs think they know better than those who voted to leave and that is deeply offensive. Leaving means this country has the opportunity to trade with the world and not just a ‘private safe club’ for those invited in. I cannot understand how MPs can support another vote simply because they PERSONALLY disagreed with the Referendum outcome. Their PROFESSIONAL duty is to uphold Democracy whether they like the result ir not. It is difficult to watch them tearing up our democratic principals and being supported by the Speaker of the House. Its mob rule and its disgraceful. Dr Wollaston. I dont understand why you think I should support you as you have changed party and views so many times.
- Jane Dev

It's a bit rich for MPs like yourself to speak of the PM avoiding scrutiny when you have jumped ship how many times? - without offering your constituents the chance to get rid of you and choose a Conservative party member. Please do not presume to be 'holding the PM to account' in my name; my concern is about who is holding you to account as you ride roughshod over the clearly stated direction of the voters, and how on earth to get through to this wrecking parliament. Finally, if this is the third time your summons has been turned down by the PM, then your committee must be bent on vexatious time-wasting tactics that were not used on previous holders of the office.
- Melanie Grieveson

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12 SEP 2019


Like so many people, I'm deeply worried about the violence of language and behaviour that has become so common in our politics. As this becomes ever more divisive and with both main parties drifting to their extremes, I'm very glad to have joined the growing band of Liberal Democrats in the moderate, progressive centre ground.

I gave a clear commitment at the time of joining the Lib Dems that I would vote for a general election so that you can decide if you would rather be represented by an MP from a different political party. I have kept that promise but the government did not reach the two thirds majority required to trigger an election. It is very likely that this will only mean a short delay as the PM has lost his majority and excluded 21 of his moderate Conservative colleagues.

Following the vote, the Prime Minister decided to shut down Parliament for five weeks, cutting off all the opportunities for MPs to hold him to account. I deeply regret the fact that he is running from scrutiny and we are even hearing that he may decide not to obey the law.

I have tried to do everything I can to flag up the serious risks of a No Deal Brexit. I think it is really important to make sure that everyone can have a say on the final arrangements. I think it would best for that to be through a People's Vote, but if that is ruled out by the PM and we have a general election, the Liberal Democrats will be campaigning unequivocally to stop Brexit.


Since the rejection of the result to the referendum by parliament it has shown just how anti democratic they are. This has caused great concern to the people who belieced the result would be accepted. The falling standards are due to this betrayal of the people.
- Johnny Norfolk

I reject this comment for three reasons. Firstly, the commenter doesn't understand the nature of parliamentary democracy, where we elect MP's to use their own good judgment on our behalf. Dr Wollaston, and other MPs who are aware just how serious No deal would be, are therefore not antidemocratic. Secondly, the commenter confuses those who voted to Leave (52%) with the whole of the nation, and therefore misuses the word "people." Thirdly,I object to the use of the word "betrayal." Such a word, with its suggestion of retribution, is inappropriate in a democracy. Have those of us who voted to Remain betrayed the nation?
- Robert Lawson-Peebles

The only party drifting to the extreme is the Non-Liberal Non-Democrats. The people voted overwhelmingly in the largest referendum ever held in the UK to leave the Federal Superstate. Please adhere to our democratic principles.
- Jean Genie Totnes

Leave now and start rebuilding our country together. Politicians with in fighting and party politics have prevented any progress in the country ifor 3 very long years. If they had been contracted to deliver this by a private employer and after 3 years had made no progress the board would be held accountable and fired.... Give the country a general election now and allow us to do just that. Not wait until it suits them to play more games.
- Margaret Henderson

Totnes and Torbay voted to leave the EU, and both of their democratically elected representatives voted for Article 50. Then they reneged, adopted the LD position of 'Bollocks to Brexit' (an example of non-divisive language, presumably), and in one case compared betraying their constituents with 'casting off a dirty raincoat'. So keep the hysteria going, try to make accurate criticism 'unacceptable', or else call an election and give your constituents a chance to elect someone who believes in their own manifesto.
- Jim Brodie - Totnes

I must disagree with the three posters above. 1: 52% of those voting in the Referendum to Leave is hardly an "overwhelming" majority. It is a misuse of the word "the people" to suggest that 17.4 million who voted Leave represent a population of over 60 million. 2: To continue to debate the most serious issue in the future of the nation since WWII is hardly "game playing." 3: I think Dr Wollaston shows great courage in changing her mind, and her carefully argued post can hardly be called "hysteria." It is Alexander Johnson, familiarly known as "Boris," who is stoking the fires of hysteria, and turning the Conservative Party into a Brexit Party.
- Robert Lawson-Peebles

Under our democratic system it's first past the post wins, with losers going along with the result. Yes, there could be better methods but until then that's what we must live with. Doesn't 'playing the game' mean anything any more, how many sore losers are there out there or is it just a few spoilt individuals ?
- John

John's comment above helpfully shows that general elections and referenda are both subject to the "first past the post" system. With general elections, people are given the opportunity every few years to change their mind about those who govern them. So why shouldn't it happen with referenda? A democracy is succeeded by a dictatorship when people are not given further opportunities to vote. Germany in the early 1930s is a case in point.
- Robert Lawson-Peebles

Sarah. You stood in front of a packed audience in Stokenham Parish Hall in October 2016. You stated to our faces that whilst you had voted to Remain, you would respect the outcome of the referendum and work for a good Brexit. You have lied to the electorate who voted you in as MP. If you had one shred of honour you would resign your seat and stand for re-election on a LibDem manifesto.
- David Kerr

Robert. Agreed, there's no reason not have another Referendum in a few years if the electorate seek it !
- John

The behaviour of MPs in Parliament today nails the lie that remain supporting MPs are only fighting against a no deal Brexit. They could have voted for a fair and equitable deal today (Saturday) but yet again they have used parliamentary procedure to avoid voting for a satisfactory deal. Their ongoing betrayal of 17.4 million voters has been laid bare - they are engaged in a campaign designed to thwart the democratically expressed will of the people. They will never be forgiven for this and neither should they be. In addition to leaving the EU this country is in need of root and branch reform of the political system as it is no longer fit for purpose. What an appalling day for democracy!
- David H

When we joined the EU , the voters who voted not to join had no say after ! The same applies now , The Remain vote LOST now get on with leaving !! The outcome of leaving is not important, its about democracy !
- Adam L

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12 JUL 2019

No Deal is a disaster for local farmers. I won't be voting to destroy local businesses

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) has said that a No Deal Brexit is the worst possible deal for the farming industry.

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has called it a "grisly prospect".

No Deal would lead to bankruptcies and shortages hitting local businesses and consumers alike. The UK has a trade deficit in food, drink and animal feed products with both the EU and with non-EU countries.

The UK imported £46 billion of food products in 2018, 70% of which were from the EU. These imports are necessary because we are not and have no prospect of being self-sufficient in feeding our nation. We are currently 61% self-sufficient in all foods and only 75% sufficient in foods that can be grown here. Whilst we can source food further afield than the EU, our rapid supply chains for fresh produce from our nearest and most important trading partners will inevitably face disruption, especially so if there is a bad tempered exit alongside threats to renege on international commitments.

As it stands, EU farm subsidies to the UK currently make up around 50-80% of farm income. The CAP currently provides nearly £4billion of support annually to farmers across the UK as well as providing a market safety net. There is a serious question mark over whether the Government will continue to offer this support in the long term after Brexit and, if our economy takes a hit even close to the levels predicted, we are unlikely to be able to afford these as well as the host of other commitments that the leadership candidates have signed up to. Something will have to give but these costs have not been properly set out by those claiming No Deal will be pain free.

The government has assured the industry that all rules and processes, regarding farm payments, will remain the same until the Agriculture Bill is introduced in to the UK Parliament but farmers are understandably anxious about the long term.

They are even more worried about the short-term impact of a No Deal scenario because WTO tariffs will immediately be applied for EU trade, as well as WTO rules for plant and animal health checks.

These will have major impacts on both import and export markets, consumer choice, the speed of supply chains, and prices.

Tariffs are usually higher for agricultural products than for other goods and services and perishable products such as fish and meat from local producers are very sensitive to delays at borders. Without an alternative arrangement, the EU will treat the UK as a third country and a range of tariffs as well as costly checks, registrations and certifications will start to apply for the first time and these costs will leave many local businesses unable to compete.

Agriculture is also impacted by the no deal effects of other policies e.g. immigration (for seasonal, agri-food workers and vets).

If the UK wishes to sign Free Trade Agreements with non-EU countries such as the USA, we may be required to alter standards and accept intensively reared animals which have been fed hormones or antibiotics as growth promoters or whose carcasses have been treated with products like chlorine.

I know there are some MPs who feel all this is a price worth paying for Brexit, but this is easier to insist on when their own livelihoods are not at stake. I won't be voting to put local farmers out of business, to risk lower food standards or to have completely avoidable shortages and higher prices.


Wollaston is an utter disgrace. I voted for a Tory MP and have been robbed. When is the by-election? Cretins like Wollaston have brought politicians into contempt.
- George, Paignton

I'm sorry that George of Paignton feels like this, and his dismissive words about Dr Wollaston - who gives serious reasons for her decisions - does nothing to help his cause.
- Robert Lawson-Peebles

You were elected because you represented the Conservative party, and accepted the job on that basis, you are paid a substantial sum plus many benefits to do that role, when you decided to leave the Conservative party and go “Independent “ then Liberal” the honest and decent thing for you to do was to hold a by-election. But no ,Sarah hangs on to he benefits and over generous pension, I believe in 2011 you sponsored a bill that called for any MP who resigns from their Party, to be required to hold a by-election, like most things doesn’t apply to you. As far as I and many other constituents are concerned you are receiving the tax payers money under false pretences . Your very keen on changing the rules as often you change your mind. You want a 2nd Referendum, let your constituents have theirs by way of a by-election.
- Peter Paignton

Sadly Sarah now lives in a bubble as can be observed that at every interview it is I, I, I, with no concern for the people that elected her. It is not enough to say you're working for your constituents best interests whilst ignoring them. Seems like a case of 'doctor knows best !
- John

Well here we are again, witnessing double standards from pro remain MPs that have used every opportunity parliamentary procedure offers them to thwart the democratically expressed will of the people to LEAVE the EU. Now we hear them shouting foul because we have a Prime Minister and a Goverment that is using parliamentary procedure to DELIVER what the public voted for! Boris Johnson and the current Goverment are the real Democrats in parliament. The rest, including Sarah I'm sorry to say, are abusing their position to try and override the democratically expressed will of the people and they CANNOT be allowed to get away with that any longer. Boris and the Goverment have my full support.
- David H

Dear George of Paignton (although I doubt you are really called George or that you live in paignton) Please take your Brexit party bile elsewhere. You contribute nothing to the debate.
- Bob

Is Paignton is Sarah Wollaston's constituency? There seem to be negative comments from there which should perhaps be directed elsewhere?
- Ruth

Ruth, of course part of Paignton is in Woolastons constituency, I unfortunately voted for her, or rather the Conservative Party, still a Conservative. Your comment shows the level of your political knowledge, and bias.
- peter paignton tq33xu

The NFU have also said that they are VERY HAPPY with the Withdrawal Agreement that Boris Johnson has negotiated, yet you do not support that either. In fact the NFU spokesman for Devon said that Boris' WA delivers the best possible options for the farming community as we exit the EU. What ARE you supporting this week, besides Remain and Extinction Rebellion - it certainly isn't respecting 17.4 million people or the health of democracy in this country - because you most definitely DO NOT represent the farming community.
- Elizabeth Graham

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03 APR 2019

Brexit Update

I wish I could be responding with more positive news but the truth is that Brexit has left us deeply divided and that is reflected in our politics and Parliament. We have reached gridlock. The Prime Minister's deal failed to pass for the third time and none of the alternative options presented by backbench MPs reached a majority. The greatest number of votes was for a referendum on the final deal and the slimmest margin of defeat was for a customs union to be added to the deal.

The legal position is that, unless a deal is agreed by Parliament, we leave with No Deal in little over a week's time. This is I know the preferred option for many who have written to me but not for the majority. It would lead to such serious real-world harms both locally and nationally that I could never support it. It would mean knowingly and deliberately voting to make this community poorer and for many of my constituents to lose their jobs and livelihoods.

I won't don't that.

It could not be more obvious that the problem with the original referendum was that it never defined which of the many versions of Brexit was on offer. The risks, trade offs and benefits of No Deal, Canada Plus, Norway, Norway Plus and the Prime Minister's Deal are all very different but campaigners were able to talk up the benefits and downplay the risks. It turns out that we cannot have our cake and eat it and that countries are not queuing at our door to sign up to advantageous trade deals.

Our future prosperity is already taking a hammering with the steady drum beat of industries and agencies taking future investment and jobs elsewhere. The list is long and growing, from car manufacturers to pharmaceuticals and the European Medicines Agency and this will have a ripple effect far beyond their immediate home towns and cities. Many local businesses including farming would also be hit, particularly by No Deal.

The impasse in Parliament could be broken if the Prime Minister simply agreed to combine the support for her Deal from the government benches with the wide cross party support for putting the final deal back to the people to check it has their consent. It is a great shame that she has so rigidly refused to countenance this.

The PM has now announced that she wants to reach an alternative compromise with Jeremy Corbyn. Few expect this to work if the Prime Minister listens to compromise arguments and then presses on with her own plans. Her current position seems more like running down the clock to No Deal with the ultimatum of accepting her Deal or going over the edge.

Today, back bench MPs are trying to press through a bill to extend the date of that cliff edge. In my view any extension must be long enough to allow the government to put this decision back to the people for a final say either through a general election or a second referendum.

Ultimately, a compromise for a softer Brexit would be preferable to risking the known harms of No Deal but I still feel it would be wise to check that it represented the will of the people and to give everyone the opportunity to have their say, not just MPs.

Without that final say, any decision will continue to cause division and acrimony long into the future.

If confirmed, Parliament could rapidly implement the defined deal or revoke Article 50 depending on the outcome and we could finally move on together.

We all want to be able to focus on issues other than Brexit.


Well said. There are many outside the Westminster Bubble who support your sensible approach to ensuring the best way forward for the UK. Good luck, stay strong and keep going.
- Malc

Hear hear, As I have said in correspondence, please keep up your stand on this, although I recognise it has cost you. It seems crazy after over 45 years for Brexiteers to be panicking over taking a bit of extra time to get things right. I agree that whatever (if anything) TM and JC are able to come up with as a way forward, the final proposal on leaving must be put back to the people in a binary referendum with 'Remain' as the other option. (I was never keen on a referendum as the means for deciding this, but accept it is probably the only way to get out of the mess.) Best wishes,
- John


Surely the only referendum that could possibly satisfy democracy would be a vote on whatever deal comes up versus leave with no deal - I would be firmly in favour of this. Surely Remain was defeated in the first referendum? If our MP supported this choice, I would be much more sympathetic to her cause but alas, the only thing on offer is to remain in the EU against the wishes of the majority of the electorate at the time of the referendum.
- Patrick, Brixham

As usual your blog contains comments from 'remainers' that are refusing to accept the original referendum result. If the first one is not honoured then the second one has no legitimacy whatsoever. What we do need, regrettably, is a one year extension to our membership so that there is time to ditch the Trojan Horse, Theresa May, and renegotiate the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, which cannot be allowed to pass. As for the PM and Corbyn offering a so called 'confirmatory vote' on Theresa's rotten deal or a Customs Union that idea is RIGGED from the start! If the public have to decide on where we go from the shambles we are in then ALL of the options should be available to choose from, including Canada Plus and a managed 'no deal. Unless of course you subscribe to the theory that members of the public are too thick to make their own decisions, which I am sure many in the Westminster bubble firmly believe. I must admit to a deep sense of forboding when the referendum result was given to Parliament for implentation, but nothing could have prepared me for the unfolding deceipt and treachery that is being rolled out on a daily basis. Our Parliament is disfunctional, outdated and rotten to the core.
- David H

Have to say, yet again Dr Wollaston pursuing her own agenda. This is not what you were elected to do! The idea of a 2nd referendum (actually 3rd on this subject) is so null and void it's mind-bending. It basically says 17.4m ppl, of which 29,308 voted Leave in the South Hams, should be ignored because remainers want a 2nd go at it. Bear this in mind when you are running for re-election. Further more, what this 2yr exercise has proved is that MPs / civil servants have so little real word experience that they just can't negotiate a deal. To me, Dr Sarah, you have repeatedly ignored your constituent's wishes, the gravy train ends now. At most you've got 2yrs left in this job and unless you've got an exit strategy planned the real world is going to be a shock to you, including the shambles that you & the Labour party have left the NHS in.
- Neil Patterson-Azzopardi

Those of us who normally don't get involved in politics and are reserved and polite by nature for once were allowed to speak out and are now horrified by the aggressive devious behaviour of some undemocratic remainers seeking to deprive us of the clear decision to rule ourselves. For clarity everyone knows that means leaving EU control (borders, customs, market, money, justice). We are the majority in England and Wales according to this week's YouGov poll (without an agreed deal or extension on 12 April then 44% want a no-deal exit and 42% remain). So now is the time to combat those dishonourable changelings by speaking up, locally and nationally, by writing and voting and indeed taking to the streets (as before the Iraq war). Let us use the systems in place like the Government Petitions website to help the emerging and accelerating vote for the promised fallback position at https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/248281 Since I moved here in 2010, I have come to admire Totnesians for their independence and their retention of traditional English values going back over the centuries. We should now see that extended to the whole of our once great country. Just like Blair and Charles, powerful or rich remainers and outsiders with vast vested interests (especially in London) have hired spin-doctors, PR firms and fake media outlets to disguise the truth, using highly emotive wording like cliff-edge, catastrophy, hard vs soft, crashing out, backed by an exchequer using its usual project fear threats of collapsing GDP and employment, with spiralling debt. Negotiation is hard but already the EU has (just) voted to confirm UK citizens will continue to benefit from 90-day visa-free travel to member states after a no-deal Brexit. WTOK !
- Jean Xavier

It's not Brexit that has left us divided. It's 45 years of European treaties that there was never popular consent for. Sarah for you there will be no more issues after Brexit. You are a liar, and have no future beyond the next election...which I expect to be soon.
- George, Paignton

It is amusing to see 'Slippery Sarah' talking of 'moving on together''. The opportunity for that was for all participents in the Referendum to accept the result; not too difficult unless you are selfish, privileged and consider yourself superior !
- John

Well here we go again! The UK is bending over backwards to accommodate the latest string of demands from the EU and what do we get in return? Arrogance, belligerance and complete intransigence that is humiliating this country all over the world. They know damn well that the Irish backstop is the main stumbling block and yet they steadfastly refuse to do anything about that. If their written assurances about the 'temporary' nature of the backstop are worth anything why don't they include them in the legally binding Withdrawal Agreement? The answer is their assurances are WORTHLESS and their sole objective is to force Theresa May's lousy agreement on us so that we can be well and truly screwed during any future trade talks. Theresa May has to go immediately and be replaced by someone that is up to the job. This total shambles cannot be allowed to continue any longer!
- David H

"Good to know Dr Sarah you are still "respecting the result of the referendum" Does this mean that if I came to you as a patient you would be "respecting my right to privacy" by publishing my personal details in the Sun? Only asking.
- Martin Beagley

Why would anyone think Dr. Wollaston reads these comments? But on the off-chance... You said, ...It would lead to such serious real-world harms both locally and nationally that I could never support it. It would mean knowingly and deliberately voting to make this community poorer and for many of my constituents to lose their jobs and livelihoods. I won't don't that... What an utter disgrace. You have absolutely no insight into your supposed alarmist and dystopian future. The option to leave or remain was a UK vote, not a constituency vote. As an MP, in this matter you should be acting on behalf of the majority, not traitorously following your own agenda. Don't be misled: we've all seen through you.
- John, Brixham

Eleven days to the Euro Elections, latest poll gives the Brexit Party 34%, Change Party 3%. Suggests to me that Sarah and her sidekicks have completely misjudged the public. They are really so out of touch that they should think about getting proper day jobs and not have their selfish views paid for by the Public Purse !
- John

Wollaston's behaviour is disgraceful. Since when does "principled" mean ignoring the wishes of your electorate?
- Tony

Six days to go and down to 1%. Let's see how Sarah spins that one !
- John

Let's see, with the Euro results in, the Brexit Party in the South West scored 36.7% of the vote and three seats; Dr Wollaston's new home "ChUK" got 2.8% - and no seats in the entire country. Say no more.
- Tony Harrison

Well done to the Brexit Party. They have effectively put all MPs on notice that if they don't deliver the 'clean break' Brexit that our electorate voted for then after the next general election they will - thank goodness for Nigel Farage. With regard to the EU election result we are now seeing the Labour Party trying to curry favour with the remain camp by offering a second referendum. This is being promoted as a solution to everything when in reality it would be a step towards complete anarchy. What on earth leads so called rational people to believe that a second referendum result that went the other way would be accepted by 17.4m people that have already voted to leave? If the democratically arrived at result of the first referendum is not implemented then democracy in this country is DEAD and only anarchy could follow. We need to LEAVE on 31 October, preferably with a legally binding agreement on a free trade deal, or if that is not forthcoming from the EU then regrettably on WTO terms. The fture of our entire democracy depends upon that.
- David H

Latest poll, Change UK 1%, Brexit Party 26%. Think Sarah has to question her judgement and decide what to do next. Suggests she revalidates and goes back to working, She'll be much happier !
- John

Joking apart, I feel highly offended when someone I helped vote in to Parliament, on the back of a Party, are so arrogant that they feel they can ignore a democratic vote, then hop from one Party to another. When that all fails they carry on collecting all the benefits. Diagnosis: Superiority Complex, Muddled Thinking, Disregard for other Opinions, No Staying Power !
- John

Well, bye bye ChUK! Has it finally sunk into that cranium Sarah? Any other party you'd like to try?
- Tony

Which way is the wind blowing? Ah, there she is.
- John, Brixham

Sarah has lost all integrity by not going for a by-election. She had backed a move to make it mandatory where an MP changed party but clearly she doesn't believe it applies to her. The people of Totnes deserve someone who understands the meaning of 'playing the game' and 'sticking to your word'. Could it be that her pay & perks mean more to her ?
- John

Looks like Chuka has chucked it in with the LDs. Another featherlight blowing in the wind - no direction but will feather his nest regardless like turncoat Wollaston.
- John, Brixham

The Referendum vote was to ‘Take back control’ and ‘’spend more on the NHS’, Neither is achieved by a No Deal Brexit. We’ll instead be at the mercy of every other country in the world who can tell us where to go and in recession so we have event less money to spend on the NHS. That’s why we need a referendum on what is to happen now we know what it might mean.
- Paul, Loddiswell

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15 MAR 2019

What next for Brexit?

One of the few things that everyone agrees on when it comes to Brexit is that it is all a complete mess. No one voted for this divisive shambles undermining our economy and trashing our international reputation. But the undeliverable promises made during the campaign have collided with reality and a hung Parliament. It's like being locked in a car with a broken handbrake and an incompetent driver, rolling towards the edge of a cliff.

The Prime Minister has twice put her Withdrawal Agreement and Future Framework, to a meaningful vote claiming it to be the 'will of the people'. It certainly isn't the will of Parliament which has rejected it on both occasions by historic margins.

Brexit reality turns out to please almost nobody, neither the 48% who voted remain nor the majority of Leave voters. The Deal is deeply flawed and looks nothing like the sunlit uplands promised during the 2016 referendum campaign. The problem is that the Prime Minister's alternative, to leave with No Deal, is even worse.

In a crowded field, one of the strangest moments of this past week was for the Chancellor and other cabinet ministers to be setting out the stark and grim reality of No Deal, only for the government, just a few hours later, to be effectively whipping their own MPs to vote for it. Many abstained rather than vote for catastrophe. Collective Cabinet responsibility and the Prime Minister's authority have evaporated but given the reality that we are just a fortnight from Brexit, the government limps on.

Thankfully Parliament has made it clear that it absolutely rejects No Deal because of the compelling evidence of the real world harm that would inflict.

The problem remains that MPs remain deeply divided and cannot agree what they do want. Parliament is completely gridlocked.

Meanwhile the Prime Minister continues to stick rigidly to her false binary choice between the Deal on the table and heading over the cliff and intends to bring the Deal back for the third time of asking. There are no changes to the legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement and little prospect of a different answer.

At that point the PM has been instructed to return to the EU to ask for an extension to Article 50. A short extension would only help if the existing Deal was agreed and the time could then allow the backlog of legislation to be passed. Otherwise it would be like constructing a gangplank from the edge of the cliff to No Deal. A longer extension however would draw us into elections to the European Parliament.

The Withdrawal Agreement and Future Framework are flawed but this 'warts and all' Brexit is the best that could be negotiated. Whilst an alternative Norway style model with or without a customs union would be less economically damaging, the trade-offs would infuriate hard Brexiteers even more.

The divisive reality of Brexit leaves no one happy. It has already cost us billions and it has drained time and energy away from so many other pressing priorities. We should be striving to end austerity and getting to grips with issues like social care, education and police funding, housing and the environment but instead, two years on, we are still consumed by the hard choices underlying Brexit.

In my view, it is time to take the decision on Brexit reality back to voters. There is no consent to the deal on offer, no one voted for this mess and people should have the right to weigh up the risks and benefits of the actual Deal on the table, or a clearly defined alternative, and decide whether to go ahead or to stick with the deal we already have.

Parliament had the opportunity to show its opinion on this yesterday but for all their protestations to support a second referendum, the Labour leadership, decided to scupper the vote by heavily whipping its MPs to sit on their hands and abstain. The only leadership on offer this week from the Labour benches was from Select Committee chairs like Yvette Cooper and Hilary Benn. More than ever, Jeremy Corbyn looked like an opposition leader in hiding rather a Prime Minister in waiting.


Sarah, you've about turned on Brexit, about turned on MPs having a by-election if resigning from their party (which you have done), spent nearly 3 years spewing unsupportable Project Fear and just lost a vote supporting a 2nd referendum. You persist with this nonsense, do you not see that you've lost all credibility and are no longer fit to be an MP ?
- John

As the PM has said many times no deal is better than a bad deal and she has negotiated the worst possible deal imaginable. Parliament is no longer representative of the people and is openly defying the electorate. As I have said before several times 17.4 million voters will NOT be denied!
- David H

Your up-to-date explanation is very helpful. Thank you for all you are doing to get the best possible outcome.
- Mary Light

ps. should have added that Sarah voted for Article 50, saying No Deal if a deal is not agreed before 29th March !!!
- John

This former NHS worker who retired at 48 after being educated at vast expense by the taxpayer has the audacity and arrogance to ignore the will of her constituents and directly oppose their democratic will. Will she resign and force a by election or carry on extracting money from the taxpayer ?
- Rebecca

Well done, Sarah, please keep fighting.
- Jon B

Thank you for your brave decision to put our country before your Party. Whilst we are all aware of the 48.1 v 51.9 result in 2016, we are now also aware of the false promises made at the time, the electoral irregularities, the illegal funding of the Leave campaignwhich is being investigated by the police and the daily saga of lost orders and companies and wealth being moved abroad. The poor and vulnerable will suffer the most from this Brexit. There is nothing honourable in supporting this deal.
- Tricia L

An excellent local MP and one of the few MPs with both the common sense and the courage to stand up against this coup by the far right. keep up the good work.
- Keith Browning

Unworthy Keith Browning, referring to the 17.4 million as 'far right. Typical retort of undemocratic 'sore losers'.
- John

Glad Sarah is carefully representing the views of the constituency (that voted narrowly to remain), and doing so very thoughtfully and using her own judgement - through the shameful chaos created by the partisan approach adopted over the last 2 years by this defunct govt.
- Margaret

Well Sarah, I have just seen you on TV saying yet again that there should be a second referendum. This time you say it is to endorse the PMs deal, or remain in the EU. This is clearly another blatant attempt by you and your remain colleagues to overturn the referendum result. If there were to be a second referendum there should only be two questions on the ballot paper i.e Theresa May's deal or No Deal. This would respect the original referendum result and allow the public to decide what they really wan't after years of betrayal from rogue MPs like yourself.
- David H

Sarah has the right to change her mind, like many other people have with regard to the UK leaving the EU. There are far more positive reasons to stay with the security of the EU than there are positive reasons to leave the EU. In fact there are no positive reasons to leave the EU. Thank you Sarah for resigning the Tory Whip and standing up to the dictatorship that Theresa May has developed.
- Philip

Sarah, please keep up your good work. I am livid about the PMs broadcast last night. I am not tired, I’m angry. It’s time to revoke A50 and start over. A PV on a rational deal that has support of HoC, or revoke and get back to real business. People (like David H above) talk about “respect for the referendum”. There should be no respect for a referendum, which was based on lies and deceit. 26% of the population and 34% of the electorate is NOT “the British people”. People like Farage claim the biggest democratic exercise ever, but is afraid of a PV to confirm a narrow 52-48 “victory”. There is nothing to celebrate in Brexit. All deals make us poorer. I agree with Philip above, there are no positive reasons to leave the EU. All this nonsense about “taking back control” is right wing crap. How much money has this country now wasted over the last 3 years (must be coming from the magic money tree) on civil servants, consultants, parliamentary time, hiring fridges to stockpile medicines, and on and on? David Cameron and the Conservative party should be banished for decades from power for the damage they have caused this country. How lucky we are in the South Hams to have an independent-minded MP willing to stand against this madness. Well done and thank you: it can’t have been easy for you.
- Kevin G

Thank you Sarah for all that you've done - I agree wholeheartedly with everything Kevin G and Philip have said. Well done
- Liz

Well done Sarah. So difficult in this age of fake news and mindless partisanship to stand head and shoulders above the rest of them. My daughter told me this morning why her hairdresser voted to leave - because the Europeans don't vote for us in the Eurovision Song Contest. I think she must be confusing the EU with the ESC!
- Rob

Congratulations Dr Wollaston and your fellow MPs who didn’t agree with the original referendum. The betrayal of both this original referendum and of Labour and Conservative manifesto is almost complete. You have now ushered in a time when half of the electorate will become disenfranchised and who knows who they will vote for. Congratulations Mr Corbyn – your ability to appear to be siding with both sides will see you into Downing Street at the next opportunity – for as sure as night follows day, the Tories will be annihilated for not delivering Brexit. If we thought that Brexit was going to be bad for the economy – well let’s see what this ‘socialist’ government will bring. But alas, hardworking people like myself coming from a very working class background, born to Irish immigrants but given strong values of work ethic, honesty and integrity will suffer – the something for nothing brigade will have free rein in our new socialist paradise until the money runs out. But hey-ho, the continuing globalisation and absorption in to the United States of Europe will continue, life will go on, the majority will continue to be ignored and kept down. Our population will continue to increase at unsustainable levels, our NHS won’t cope, wages will be kept down, we will build over all of the green belt and all in a ‘free’ country where we dare not speak our mind less we are castigated for being extremists and before long arrested for not having the ‘correct’ views. Good luck to all who refused to accept the will of the majority and the resulting impact on what we used to call ‘Democracy’.
- Patrick, Brixham

Don`t despair Patrick, for our democracy to function requires that we stick to the rules, ‘play the game’. The Referendum was won, yet there are weasel words, smoke & mirror arguments by selfish people who feel ‘entitled’, attempting to subvert the system. My bet is they`ll lose again !
- John

The polls say the public do not want a second referendum which includes remain.. Parliament has twice rejected a second referendum.. What happens next? For three years you sat around, voted for Article 50, stood for an election on a manifesto to leave, which I voted for. Then stopped listening to the people and finally stood down before we could voice our displeasure. I am concerned that the continued pretence that Parliament is in any way competent risks the rise of fringe groups and beg you respect the most democratic vote ever held in this country. I am one of an increasing number who are not being represented by our lawmakers.
- Giles, Paignton

Totally agree with the previous comments. It is crystal clear what the majority voted for: 1. To leave the EU, full stop and 2. To do so, preferably with an agreement for a Canada Plus free trade agreement. This would enable a continued business relationship with the EU, but crucially leave us free to sign other free trade deals around the world and there is NOTHING wrong with that. Sadly from the now infamous Chequers weekend which resulted in the resignation of David Davis and subsequently Dominque Raab the PM has pursued her own fudged version of Brexit which satifies nobody, except the EU. As for today's indicative votes whether the 'remainer' MPs vote for a customs union or not remains to be seen. If they do it changes NOTHING - 17.4 million people voted to LEAVE in the face of 'project fear' and ALL MPs have a direct responsibility to deliver the result, IN FULL.
- David H

It is a charade that a majority of the whole adult Electorate voted 'Leave' - that was never the case. Totnes Constituency just displayed sufficient strength to Remain. Usurpation of the Union Jack as emblem of any political Party, especially any whose policies will break up the U.K if implemented, should be declared illegal. The insanity of expecting 237 Trade Agreements to be re- - negotiated to our advantage immediately upon leaving the E U needs to be exposed - at least a decade of difficult talks will be needed.. A 'no deal' Brexit would be ruinous to our economy for many years to come. The interests of the rising generation are side-lined, as also international environmental policies to safeguard our future existence. How will NHS be funded to cope with ageing population ? Our courageous M.P. now stands for Change Britain. More power to her elbow !
- Robin K

@Robin K... Another bleating remoaner. Wind your neck in.
- Richie S

On 15th March you asked “ What next for Brexit?” The next question must be to the 2 candidates for tory leader/prime minister, “Where will the economic benefits you so generously promise actually come from?”. Our potential prime ministers tell us that our leaving the EU will be followed by raised government spending on education, health, increasing the housing stock, and ending austerity. At the same time they are promising, among other goodies, substantial reductions in taxes for both the the low paid and the high paid, in corporation tax and in national insurance contributions; and of course there is also £39 billion to pay to the EU itself. They indicate that the resources to achieve all this are going to come from higher foreign and domestic investment and greater productivity and employment in an economy 'freed-up' by lower tariffs and therefore increased trade with the rest of the world, plus about £9 billion per year in net savings from ending annual contributions to the EU. So the precise question must be, “How will you get the great trading nations of the world to give us a better deal than we now receive as a member of the EU?” The latest data on foreign direct investment into UK from the Office for National Statistics showed a fall of nearly £31 billion at the end of the first quarter of 2019 in the previous 6 months, with investment in quarter 1 at minus about £15 billion. Meanwhile the British Chambers of Commerce Economic Survey for first quarter 2019 showed domestic investment intentions to be the lowest since 2012. The survey also reported the lowest level of export sales since 2009 and more firms indicating declines in cash flows than those predicting rises. On these figures, to afford any of these promises, there will be the need for a remarkable boost to investment, productivity and exports as a result of the “tremendous” trade deals we are told will be made possible by Brexit. Will Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt therefore explain, not only in their hustings for the Tory members, but also to the other 99.6% of the population to whom this is a vital question, how a country with a market of only 65 million will be able to negotiate more advantageous trade deals than the EU managed to negotiate with its market of 550 million? Countries like India or China have populations in the billions, and the USA, Russia, Brazil, Iran and Indonesia also have much bigger actual or potential markets than the UK. These countries pursue very different global policies from those of the UK, including some or all of the following: continuing extensive production and use of hydro-carbon fuels; failure to recognise and combat global warming and its consequences; persecution of ethnic minorities; and murder of civil protesters, journalists and others who oppose dictatorial regimes; aggression against neighbours and disregard of international systems and law. And they will, as we have seen, use tariff policy to achieve their political objectives, including, in the case of the most powerful, penal duties to get their way. Having to agree to import chlorinated chicken might be the least of our worries. Just one example is the certainty that the price for a Chinese trade deal will include us shutting up about Hongkong's rights. So, it is up to Boris and Jeremy to tell us in a bit more detail, how they will negotiate trade deals to make us all richer, not poorer - and please, leave out claims of possessing super powers making you able to achieve miraculous results. David Prag, Brixham
- David Prag

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03 FEB 2019

Brexit. What Happens Next

The grim news from Sunderland that Nissan have pulled out from a major future investment, should come as no surprise. Even Patrick Minford, one of the very few economists who Mr Rees Mogg and other hard Brexiteers can rely on to support their views, told a Parliamentary committee that WTO would all but destroy the UK car industry, but inferred this would be a price worth paying. Not for the tens of thousands of people and their families who depend on Nissan for their livelihoods across the North East.

It is not just the steady drum beat of warnings from firms like Jaguar Land Rover, Honda, Airbus and the pharmaceuticals sector that should worry us but the deep concerns of small and medium size companies the length and breadth of the UK about the consequences of No Deal.

It's easy to talk glibly about 'clean Brexit' but there is nothing clean or appealing about the reality of No Deal. I've seen the slogans 'Let's go WTO' outside Parliament, but there is a good reason why no country chooses to trade exclusively on those 4th division terms. All nations prefer trade deals but these are complex and time consuming to negotiate. At a stroke, if we exit with No Deal, we lose the trade deals we enjoy covering nearly 80 countries which extend to us because we are members of the EU. These deals cover around two thirds of all our goods exports and, as with the car industry, it is likely that other countries would prefer to import from nations with whom there are deals in place.

For our part, simply removing tariffs unilaterally on imports from one country, would oblige us under WTO rules to remove them from all which would mean kissing goodbye to major sectors of our own industries. How would our own farmers compete with a flood of cheap imports of lamb, beef and vegetables? The simple answer is that they would not cope with a rush to the bottom on pricing and the inevitable trade offs on welfare standards.

Far from being the 'easiest deal in human history', to quote the International Trade Secretary, Brexit reality does involve difficult trade offs and compromises. We were promised that scores of deals would be ready on the stroke of midnight as we left the EU, that 'Britain would hold all the cards' and that we would retain the 'exact same benefits'.

The reality is that the Prime Minister is  presenting us with a choice between a bad deal that leaves us with no future certainty and No Deal.

It turns out that No Deal is worse than a bad deal - but I do not accept that this is a binary choice. I don't accept that either of these choices can be said to represent the 'will of the people'.

Having lost the vote to ratify the deal in Parliament by an historic margin of 230, the government then cobbled together an assortment of backbenchers to produce an amendment to try to paper over the cracks. The deliberate fiction underlying the so called Brady Amendment, was a mirage that the Prime Minister could unilaterally achieve a renegotiation of the Irish Backstop. That together with offers of constituency bungs for wavering Labour MPs was enough to scrape the amendment over the line last week but I suspect the divisions within both main parties run too deep for that alliance to hold when the Meaningful Vote to ratify the deal returns to Parliament..

There is no prospect that the legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement will be reopened and the Brady amendment will have achieved nothing but leave us rolling closer to the edge of the cliff edge of No Deal on March 29th.

We are woefully unprepared for that crash and it is worth looking at the report from the independent Institute for Government which sets out the sheer scale of the legislative and planning backlog https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/brexit-two-months-to-go-final-web.pdf

Despite the looming chaos, this week Parliament has no Brexit bills on the order paper. On Monday for example, government has scheduled a general debate on sport. I support the cancellation of the February recess but this must be used for serious action on the backlog, not left as window dressing with MPs free to continue any holiday plans they might find it inconvenient to rearrange. We do not have the luxury of time as there are fewer than thirty Parliamentary sitting days until the UK is set to leave an alliance of structures and interdependencies that have built up over more than four decades.

As the countdown to the meaningful vote on 14th February continues, many MPs will be weighing up whether they should knowingly vote for a bad deal in order to avoid the chaos of leaving with No Deal and no transition.

They should not accept that miserable binary choice but make it clear that no responsible government could inflict that kind of pain on the people. I could not remain in the Conservative Party if its policy objective was to deliver such a disaster or if that became its de facto policy after the Meaningful Vote by deliberately continuing to run down the clock.

The current deal is also problematic in that it pleases neither remainers nor the leavers who were lied to about the inevitable trade offs that would be necessary to at least partially protect jobs, livelihoods, supply chains and the wider economy, security and health.

Government could and should rule out No Deal and seek consent from the British People before an irreversible leap into economic decline which will set back our ability to reverse austerity. Checking consent through a People's Vote is the only way to be sure that this really is the will of the people.

It may be that people decide the benefits of Brexit outweigh the risks but this would be in the full knowledge of the version of Brexit involved.

Without this valid consent there is no consent and we face years of ongoing division, recrimination and resentment as the consequences unfold.

There is nothing anti democratic about pausing Article 50 for a further democratic process and I will continue to press for this. In the words of David Davis, one of the most vocal campaigners for Leave, "if a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy".


Sarah Wollaston has almost excelled herself by regurgitating hackneyed misinformation to try to persuade us that undermining a democratic vote is justifiable, pure Project Fear. She attempts to mislead us for her own ends, check her examples and you`ll soon she is exaggerating eg. Nissan making a model in the East because of Brexit, rather than EU directives against diesel engines make it foolish to make a car here that won`t sell well here, whereas it would in Japan. She plumbs new depths by misrepresenting a colleague, David Davis, when he said ‘if a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy’. Yes, he did, in 2012 when suggesting a new referendum would be valid after 40 years from the previous referendum. The Referendum in the 70s had been implemented, we had experience of the result. When we implement the 2016 Referendum and time has passed, we, if we wish, could have another. This behaviour is unworthy of a Parliamentary Representative for Totnes. Whilst on the point of democracy in relation to her beloved EU consider it`s action in regard to Referendums: Denmark Maastricht Treaty Referendum 1992- NO 51% Yes 49% = VOTE AGAIN. Eire Nice Treaty Referendum 2001 – NO 54% Yes 46% = VOTE AGAIN. France EU Constitution 2005 – NO 55% Yes 45% = IGNORE. Dutch EU Constitution2005 - NO 62% Yes 38% = IGNORE. Eire Lisbon Treaty 2005 - No 53% Yes 47% =VOTE AGAIN. Greece Bailout Referendum 2015 - NO 61% Yes 39% = IGNORE. Dutch EU Ukraine Deal Referendum 2016 - NO 61% Yes 39% = IGNORE. Let`s hope we`re never added to this contemptable list. When Sarah asks `What Happens Next`, I suggest if she has her way, what Helmut Kohl German Chancellor and architect of the EU said ` we decided to renounce the framework of the old style nation state. We agreed that the establishment of a common currency is crucial to the process of European political union becoming irreversible`. Yes IRREVERSIBLE !
- John

Einstein said of the Nazi era "The lack of courage on the part of the educated class has been catastrophic". Sarah has courage and judgement, we should be grateful. She is one of the few. Edmund Burke, arguably the greatest philosopher of conservatism, wrote more than 200 years ago: “It is with infinite caution that any man ought to venture upon pulling down an edifice which has answered in any tolerable degree for ages the common purposes of society, or on building it up again without having models and patterns of approved utility before his eyes.” Our society is fractured. Sarah is absolutely correct, MP's need to cobble together an agreement they can live with, seek an extension to Art 50, and put that deal against remain to the people in Ref 2. It's not rocket science.
- Richard

Richard. Yes our society is fractured because people engaged in a vote but do not respect the principle of 'loser's consent'. Instead of pulling together they whinge and whine like spoilt children.
- John

Richard's sycophantic worship of Burke is embarrassing naïve, as is his support for Sarah Wollaston (our would-be Burke?). He is fond of quoting Burke selectively, so let's have some balance by reflecting on facts and his other thoughts. Burke was possibly the worst constituency representative to have ventured into Westminster. No mean feat. He paid his constituents so little regard that even he himself did not dare stand for re-election in Bristol (much preferring the 'rotten borough' of Malton). The man considered an election candidate to be “a bidder at an auction of popularity”...such democratic accountability was much beneath him. The man was a patrician and an utter snob. The Roman Republic would have been too modern for him. Witness “as ability is a vigorous and active principle, and as property is sluggish, inert, and timid, it can never be safe from the invasions of ability, unless it be, out of all proportion, predominant in the representation. It must be represented too in great masses of accumulation, or it is not rightly protected...the power of perpetuating our property in our families is one of the most valuable...circumstances belonging to it…some decent regulated pre-eminence, some preference.. given to birth, is neither unnatural, nor unjust, nor impolitic”. Really? That our model for the distribution of wealth and power in society?! Keep the property in the hands of the aristocrats and out of the hands of capable people. Good luck selling that under universal suffrage(!). Burke never fails..."we have never dreamt that parliaments had any right whatever to violate property". An argument against any form of taxation ever. A tad right-wing even for me, and I'm a Tory. He was an all-rounder, supporting the physical punishment of black slaves. He believed that black slaves should have to buy their freedom, but never came up with an answer for how they were to get the money. Even then he stated that blacks were not civilised creatures and should not attain their freedom until such time as they had secured that desirable status. He believed that poverty was the result of “Divine Displeasure”, not misfortune. Laws of commerce could not be changed because they were “the laws of nature” and therefore the “laws of God”. More Islamic theocracy than One Nation I'd have said. Of course to complete the basket of sins, he was also an anti-Semite. He ranted in the relation to the French Revolution..."Jew brokers contending with each other who could best remedy with fraudulent circulation and depreciated paper the wretchedness and ruin brought on their country by their degenerate councils…". Even after the Revolution, which he deplored but for no decent reason he states "the next generation of the nobility will resemble the artificers and clowns, the money-jobbers, usurers and Jews who will always be their fellows and sometimes their masters." Burke was wrong on slavery. Wrong on anti-Semitism. Wrong on representative democracy. He'd be wrong on the EU and anything else he ventured an opinion on. Citing him as a guru for Parliament's attempts to keep us in the EU against the will of the people is dim beyond conception. He was anti-democratic, reactionary, contemptuous of the people and a racist bigot. Actually, he's the perfect poster boy for the European Union...just not in the way that you think Richard.
- George, Paignton

George. Thanks for your wisdom. My mother used to say, "empty vessels make the most noise". She taught me to respect the quality and brevity of the word. The Brexiteers truly deserve their special place in Hell. The EU have now started to comment on the quality of UK leadership:-- Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s point man on the Brexit negotiations tweeted of the hardline Brexiters: “Well, I doubt Lucifer would welcome them, as after what they did to Britain, they would even manage to divide hell " Senior EU officials also doubted the sincerity of Labour’s offer to the prime minister, fearing it is an attempt to weaken May’s hopes of getting a deal through parliament. One official said: “It is a shame that we have this perfect storm: a lousy government and an even lousier official opposition.” Sarah is absolutely right. We are at a point in our history where principles and judgement really matter. We are not getting either from the leaders of our 2 main parties
- Richard

I get the impression from what I read in newspaper articles that Theresa May is trying to prepare the ground for staying in an EU customs union. This would be totally unacceptable and is NOT in keeping with the referendum result. If pushed through Parliament it will decimate the Conservative party at the next election and result in a total collapse in any faith that remains in our democracy - and there is precious little of that left already.
- David H

Everybody would be wise compared to you Richard. Why don't you come back when you've got some sort of education? Verhofstadt and the other Brit haters are about your level.
- George, Paignton

Sadly so David H. worth watching this to see how our MP and Parliament treats us with contempt : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6pwZ1saqBc
- John

Thank you Sarah for taking a principled stand on this issue: you have my full support if only from Liverpool! Wishing you and yours well.
- Tom

I am sorry to see the quality of intellectual comment from the Georges of this world so reduced by my fellow George from Paignton. "Brit Haters"? The only hate around here comes from the extreme Brexiteers, who are so committed to damaging our country regardless of the consequences - which have been laid out repeatedly by many respected and respectable think tanks and international analysts. The head in the sand refusal to accept the facts, by the cheap use of the phrase "Project Fear", when the real "Project Fear" is being perpetrated by Theresa May, is risible. I salute Sarah Wollaston for her principled, intelligent and courageous stand. Well done Sarah, it is great to be represented by an MP with guts and integrity. As for the argument that "we must deliver what the people voted for", every serious opinion poll for some considerable time has been showing a majority of UK citizens now support Remain. Why don't those who oppose Theresa May's 'deal to do a deal' because they hate the backstop agree on a People's Vote? That's where the 'Fear' is - because you know that without Russian money behind your campaign, and with the false forecasts of the original campaign now fully exposed, you would lose. Hate and Fear are Brexiteer qualities.
- George Two

With respect George Two - deluded woffle.
- John

Yet again remainer MPs are trying to undermine the UK negotiating position by plotting another attempt at blocking a no deal brexit. Can't these people, including I am sorry to say our own MP understand that the only thing that will get the EU to alter or better still get rid of the backstop is the threat of no deal? Oh, but of course I am missing the real point here. Their real intent is to thwart the electorates wishes and block Brexit at every opportunity, regardless of the mid and longer term interests of the country. Come the next election it will be pay back time for many MPs that are ignoring the expressed political will of the British people.
- David H

David H Completely agree. No deal is a bargaining tool and not voting for Sarah Wollaston at any future election is my intention and the intention of a great many people I know.
- Candy Totnes

Dear Sarah...I agree with almost everything you say about brexit...the last thing we need now is an economic crash when every public service we all rely on is in crisis. We need massive reinvestment in health, education, police and all the local government sevices. It would be lovely if we could invest in more council-type housing so that our young people might have more hope for their futures. None of this is possible with a crashed economy. Brexit has already done enough damage, look at the value of the pound now. If a people's vote can be used to stop the largest collective act of lunacy ever seen when 17.5 million people voted for brexit, then we have an obligation to support it....Rory O'Connor...retired dairy farmer and grand-parent who doesnt want to spoil my grand children's opportunities and chances in life.
- Rory O'Connor

So it seems that de-selection has moved a step closer for our former Tory MP, who I did once support. My understanding is that a vote against her at the AGM in the next fortnight. I am sure that all of Sarah's wellwishers on here will make her feel better. But none of them are Tory you see? And well...she is rather supposed to be adhering to a Tory manifesto. Bye bye Sarah. I'd suggest Sarah resigns before the inevitable and allows Totnes to vote (oh the irony!). That way it might look like she's got an ounce of credibility, rather than having her own local party eject her incompetent and disloyal miserable face.
- George, Paignton

So Sarah has jumped before being pushed ! Do the right thing and call a by election as we didn`t know what we were voting for when we elected you.
- John

Dear Dr. Wollaston Thank you for standing up for what is correct, decent and fundamentally democratic. Your resigning of the party whip shows that you care about the people and future of this constituency and country. I wish you well in the weeks and months ahead and hope that there are more MPs like you who are prepared to do the right thing. Yours sincerely, with gratitude. Zoe
- Zoe

Dear Dr Wollaston Please can you let the people of Totnes know when we can expect you to stand down as an MP and allow us the choice (via a By-Election) as to whether or not we still can support you as an Independent MP for our constituency?
- Sharon Carrino

Well Sarah Wollaston you really do take the biscuit! After almost two years of undermining the Prime Minister and our negotiating team you have now decided to betray your political party and your consituents by joining Labour's breakaway party. In your resignation statement you try to claim the high moral ground, but it is clearly a case of 'jumping ship' before you were deselected. I have spent hours over the last two years pleading for you to support the Government at a time of national importance only to be ignored and betrayed at every turn. I cannot put into words how utterly disappointed and completely betrayed I feel. Politics in this country is now at an all time low, due in no small measure to the way MPs like you have behaved. I will not be voting for you in any election, that is for sure.
- David H

Thankyou for being one of the few politicians to finally take a sensible moderate stand, and meaning that if (as seens entirely plausible) we have a general election next week I will have someone to vote for, rather than needing to spoil my ballot paper again to avoid having to vote for two extreme wings. I rarely write any comments on blogs like this, but you have taken a very brave and courageous decision, and I want you to know that there are equally moderate people here and around the country who wish you all the best, and wish that there were another 600 MPs like you in Westminster!
- Paul, Brixham

Well said, Paul. Thank you Sarah for your principled and courageous decision to leave the Tory party. If you stand as an independent here, I will vote for you.
- Tim, South Milton

Am glad the inevitable has happened. As I have stated on here before, Wollaston, Soubry and Allen stopped being Tories some time ago. One look at Wollaston's twitter feed tells you that she hasn't agreed with a Tory policy on any subject for quite some time. I would say to the disenfranchised people of Totnes...be of good cheer! This is only a good thing. Her voting record will not change as a result of today. It is just that the party and the local people will be free of her. And without the unpleasantness of having to deselect (which was surely coming). It is ironic that they got elected on a manifesto that was clear about leaving the EU. These must be the first group of MPs to leave a party because it WON'T renege on manifesto commitments. And that MPs whose substantial disagreement with the government is that they want a "People's Vote" on the decision already reached to leave the EU...and yet when they have changed party they refuse to consent to a by-election. What happened to "informed consent"?! This arrant hypocrisy will undermine what precious little credibility they have. That's a good thing. And be clear...if they thought they could win a by-election, they'd relish holding it. they care nothing for "democracy"...that's why they love the EU! For all the people queuing up to congratulate her. Fanatical pro-Europeans without a democratic bone in their body. What is to be the difference between the new party and the Lib Dems? And why then would we expect these people to have any more popularity than the Lib Dems? So forgive me if I am not devastated at the threat these three pose to my political vision. I won't post on here again. There is nothing left to say about Wollaston. The only word from her I would be interested in would be "by-election". And when it happens, I'll be there to campaign against any attempt for her to remain as an MP. She is done, and will soon be out of Parliament for good. It's been an excellent day.
- George, Paignton

Thank you for helping rejuvinate the trust in our Politicians , showing that we can be Pragmatic , that we can change our minds when new evidence comes to light and for going up against dogma and demonstrating leadership when we have none . I fully support the move and look forward to voting for you when the chance comes .
- G David

Have commented before about your lack of faith in your constituents but your judgement to jump ship reminds me of the time you believed in Brexit then changed your mind when you maybe thought it was not in your favour. Now you are looking to a new party to justify your decision. Would never go to you for a second opinion, Farage's party will sink you and your cohorts.
- Jane

Thank you for doing the decent thing. Stay true to your conscience and keep smiling.
- Stan, Brixham

So Sarah has jumped rather than being pushed. True to her 'beliefs' this way she keeps her salary, expenses and perks. Truthfully, I cannot decide wether she is deliberately spewing disinformation or is basically ignorent of the facts. Is she out on a limb for her beliefs or is she supported by the likes of Blair and Soros ? She could prove her 'honesty' by having a by election, that way we could tell and the people of Totnes could have a Peoples Vote !
- John

Oh dear, careful what you wish for Kippers.(No point in calling you Tories anymore.) Again the reaction is to prioritize the party rather than the national interest. Whatever way people voted, few envisaged the situation we find ourselves in, much less clowns like Rees-Mogg holding the political balance of power. I suspect you will find very broad support for Sarah Wollaston right across the constituency and some hapless candidate parachuted in from central office being defeated.
- Paul

Dear Sarah...many of the comments above fall into the category of “don’t confuse me with the facts”, they prefer to cling to ideology rather than evaluate and consider the options, as you have. Incapable of real thought, they cling to the sinking ship. Thank you for the work you have done, please accept my best wishes for your future....Rory O'Connor
- Rory O'Connor

Well said Sarah. As an expat living in France we are so uncertain of our future status. Just over a month to go and nobody knows what is happening. Revoke article 50 rather than a no deal situation. This whole business is getting more out of control by the day.
- Jayne Taplin

Thank you Sarah for standing up for what is right, and representing the best interests of your constituents - despite the protestations of the rabid Brextremists. I have only just moved into the area from Swindon, where the Honda exit will devastate a town which is already struggling, with a dying town centre. I am also working on several projects to improve our house, and am finding almost all of the trades I need are available immediately because work has dried up for them. They are seeing the true cost of Brexit already - lack of confidence, people battening down the hatches to try and stay 'safe', rising prices because of how weak the pound has become. Almost everywhere I speak with people about Brexit, I'm finding people who have changed their minds since the 2016 lies have been exposed for what they are. Above all, the young, the people who didn't get a chance to vote for their futures, will almost exclusively vote for remain if we can get the second referendum that is so desperately needed.
- Neil

Thank you for doing the right thing, you Three who have resigned give me hope ,!
- Anne

You’ve been a disgrace to your party and your voters, ever since you changed your mind from wanting to leave to wanting to remain, and weakening Theresa’s position from the start of the negotiations along with Soubry and others. Maybe we didn’t know the full effects of leaving the EU either good or bad, but the people voted for it, MP’s from all parties should respect that, as a matter of democracy. I voted for you as my Conservative representative, you are not that anymore, do the decent and honest thing , call a by-election and stand as whatever you now see yourself, I truly wish WE could have the opportunity to let you see how dissatisfied the constituents are.. Nice to see you laughing and smiling with Soubry on the National news, how CRASS, you have done the good people of this great country, irreparable damage. Peter M
- Petermulloy

In the 2017 election I put my cross against: 'Wollaston. Sarah, The Conservative Party'. She has now stolen my vote, my representative is no more; what say you Sarah ?
- John

As you were voted in as the Conservative candidate, do you believe you should be collecting a salary expenses as you are not fulfilling the job for which we elected you? Surely the honest and democratic thing to do would be to resign completely, call a by-election, not really honest to take money under false pretences is it? I’m sure no one voted for you to vote with Corbyn or sit on his side of the house
- Petermulloy

Petermulloy (and others wanting a By-Election) You voted for Sarah, you won. Get Over It. Second Votes are - according to the Brextremists - undemocratic. I want a second vote on Europe so that people can vote based on truth not lies, but your ilk don't want that because you are now obviously in the minority.
- Neil

So, all the critics expect Sarah to be un-thinking Lobby-fodder for a PM who is being held to ransom by the ERG and DUP. Great idea!! I take the point about defection from the party under whose banner she was elected - BUT do we really want our MPs to blindly follow "The Party" irrespective of the evidence in front of them? The reality is no-one really knows what a no-deal Brexit will entail, but we do know that everyone (ERG included) agree that it will be bad news to some extent. However, the ERG have a "price worth paying" mentality - try telling that to my family who work in areas dependent on free flow of materials and goods across the channel every day. They are the ones who will pay the price, not the ERG and their fellow-thinkers.
- John2

I wasn't sure why she was nicknamed Slippery Sarah until I discovered that she supported a Bill to make MPs, that left their party, should have to fight a By-Election. What hypocrisy !
- John

For those who doubt John’s comment above, the bill in question was put forward by Chis Skidmore in 2011 and sponsored/supported by Dr Sarah Wollaston – google it, it is clear and unambiguous – an MP “who crosses the floor, or ‘defects’, should trigger an automatic by-election so their constituents can have a final say on their decision”. This goes to the heart of why our politics are broken – MPs are acting in their own interests and ignoring the wishes of the majority. Maybe democracy was always a sham and this has made it clear to all. I understand that a significant number on here and in the wider country wish to Remain and for some it seems it doesn’t matter what the cost is and how it is achieved – maybe setting a very dangerous precedent. The ‘Politics of Fear’ has gone into overdrive over the last couple of years; people who disagree are ‘stupid’, ‘old’, ‘right wing’, ‘fascist’ or even worse. The original ‘Leave’ majority are being bullied into submission and won’t even be offered a real choice to leave if/when there is a ‘People Vote’. I really do worry, not for now, but for the future as we are forced to follow the path of ever closer EU union – politically, financially, monetary, legally and military – as this must happen for the EU dream to survive and we are unlikely to get another say in our lifetimes. Previous examples of this sort of power base in history are not looked back in good light – e.g. the breakup of the USSR, more recently the former Yugoslavia etc. or even further back there are many examples of uprisings against empires – some very close to home!!
- Patrick, Brixham

Patrick. 'MPs are acting in their own interests and ignoring the wishes of the majority'. Yes but why ? Certainly some hope to make a buck or two by keeping the status quo ! By far the majority are those who actually start to believe they are superior beings and know better than the rest of us, justifying dispensing with democracy. That of course is nonsense, if true they would mostly all agree, which they don't. They work in a convenient little club with pay and conditions others can only dream of. Both Left and Right feel more akin than with mere mortals. I have known many MPs who would not 'cut it' inthe real world, some who are quite able. Those who are the most contemptible are like 'our Sarah' who feel so superior that they can do complete about turns without having to test their views with their constituents !
- John

ps. now that she has left the Conservative party and joined a company, who is Sarah W answerable to ? Cannot be the electorate, she has disenfranchised them, yet we still pay her wages !
- John

Thank you to those MPs who reject tribalism and extremes both of which so often seem to bring out the worst in society and politics
- Tim

I voted for the candidate not the party so I do hope that Sarah continues to be my MP.
- Pat

I see that a pro Israel lobbyist claims he is funding Sarah's new group; what is going on when a foreign power is trying to influence our Parliament ?
- John

I am used to the cliches, the idiocies, the falsehoods, the unfounded assertions and the dishonesty that fill all the diatribes of the Remainers, so when Dr Wallaston makes her pitch to justify her action one is not at all surprised. I might ask her for a medical opinion but her understanding and knowledge of economics, politics, democracy and the EU is so limited, so crass, so, dare I say it, populist, that one could not trust her with any decision. If things were left to her, we would never get a say on anything major - we are all (in her view and those of her fellow travellers) too stupid, too uneducated, too ignorant to understand the big issues which only she and her ilk understand. It would be laughable if it were not so disastrous for this country. Test your opinions, Dr Wallaston, resign your seat, and stand as a brave new independent committed to EU membership no matter what. Or just be laughed at.
- Jos

I don't think MPs living in the bubble of Westminster have the faintest idea how much their ongoing betrayal of our country and the electorate is going down in this country. If Brexit is not delivered, with or without Theresa May's rotten deal there will be serious trouble in this country and I personally will cannot see myself voting for ANY of the mainstream political parties again in a national election. As for those advocating a second referendum I would say the first one must be honoured or such a thing is totally WORTHLESS!
- David H

Leaving aside Dr Wollaston's disingenuous and misleading comments on Nissan/UK, I just emailed her again, thus: Dear Dr Wollaston, I note your contribution to Parlieamentary debate: Exiting the European Union (11 Mar 2019) https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2019-03-11a.127.0&s=speaker:24761#g149.5 Sarah Wollaston: Even if this monumental fudge is enough to satisfy the ERG and just about manages to scrape through the House tomorrow, what happens next if it is not ratified by the European Parliament? I must point out that our PM does not merely have to "satisfy the ERG" but meet her obligations to the 17.4 million people who voted to leave the EU - the figure in England, with 85% of the UK population, was of course 53% Leave, and in your constituency the figure was 56%... The Brussels WA, drawn up in and by Brussels then handed to May to be rubber stamped by (they imagined) a supine Parliament, is truly shameful and could not be acceded to by any country with a vestige of national pride or a sense of its best interests. Your view differs, of course. One wonders why you have not resigned, and why a byelection is not yet due in Totnes.
- Anthony Harrison

I agree Anthony. Why does Sarah wollaston not resign? She is no longer a Conservative MP so I dont understand. If you resign from a company, you don't get to continue to draw a salary from it! Won't vote for her again. She has cast aside democracy in favour of her personal virws. That is disgraceful.
- Jane devon

Not going too well for Sarah and her cohorts, I'm glad to say. I conclude that she's in a rarified atmosphere and 'doesn't know that she doesn't know !
- John

Sarah is right to make a stand Remember she really does care - as she has shown for working for us all - and is not in Parliament for personal gain / which is more than can be said for others. I like, a lot of people, are so very grateful for her hard work often quietly, caring and very much behind the scenes! I am so glad she looks after us and my area. Brexit is so much of a shambles with so many views and opinions and ideas - With no clear view of which is the best result for the UK. We will not know what is right way forward for many many years! Who can say Sarah is wrong? We don’t! We need to move in a way that causes least damage to UK Crashing out on WTO is not the way.
- Richard H

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19 JAN 2019

Brexit and Confidence

I voted against the PM's Brexit deal on Tuesday not only because of concerns about the Withdrawal Agreement itself but because the accompanying political declaration on the Future Framework delivered nothing but uncertainty and the prospect of years of wrangling to come. The scale of the government defeat has made it absolutely clear that this deal cannot pass the House of Commons. It is not just a matter of a few tweaks, the Deal fundamentally pleased neither remainers nor the majority of those who had campaigned for leave.

Far from being the easiest deal in history, the reality was always going to be that compromises and trade offs would be necessary during negotiations. Brexit reality is very far from the sunlit uplands promised during the campaign.

Parliament has reached a complete impasse and I do not believe there will be a majority for any of the alternative proposals and least of all for leaving with no deal at all. In the meantime the days are counting down to March 29th and we risk falling into a chaotic No Deal Brexit unless an alternative is in place. No responsible government could knowingly and deliberately allow that to happen given the serious real world harm to individuals, communities and our economy. The term 'clean Brexit' is a misnomer, it would leave a great deal of avoidable misery for too many of our fellow citizens. No doubt the comfortably off leaders of the Leave campaign would be fine but the economic fallout would hit the poorest the hardest. It has taken a decade to recover from the effects of the 2008 crash and that involved many tough choices about government spending. I want to see an end to austerity, not see us deliberately crashing out with no deal and putting that recovery in jeopardy.

I believe that the only alternative way out of this mess will be to seek an extension of Article 50 and a People's Vote.

My feeling is that a People's Vote should at least include the only negotiated deal as well as an option to remain. I know many people would also like to see No Deal included. The Electoral Commission would advise and Parliament would debate and decide on the question if a decision was made to go ahead with a Referendum Bill. The following report from the Constitution Unit at University College London on the mechanics of a referendum sets out the mechanics of organising a referendum and how this could be achieved in far less than a year https://www.ucl.ac.uk/constitution-unit/sites/constitution-unit/files/the_mechanics_of_a_further_referendum_on_brexit_-_constitution_unit_report_183_revised.pdf

Due to a recent amendment which I supported, the PM must now announce her next steps on Monday, rather than having 21 days as she would otherwise have been able to do. Reports are that the government is now in listening mode but I struggle to see any changes to the Deal that would unite enough backbenchers and secondly be approved by the EU to see it succeed. Others a pushing for a Norway Style deal which would allow us to continue membership of the Single Market, alongside a customs arrangement. This would be the softest type of Brexit and whilst far less economically damaging than No Deal, would again run into the problem of pleasing neither remainers nor leavers. It is likely that many leave campaigners would find it even less acceptable than the PM's Deal given that so called 'Norway plus' would prevent an independent trade policy and see the continuation of free movement of people.

I think it is unlikely that the Commons will agree a compromise that the majority of MPs can support and I would only agree to back Norway Plus if the public were also given the opportunity to weigh up its risks and benefits and have the final say.

I am working with colleagues from Parties across both sides of the Commons to bring an amendment in support of a People's Vote.

I realise that Brexit remains a highly contentious issue and I hear passionate views from both sides of the argument.

I supported the government in the confidence vote on Wednesday and I do not think this lies in contradiction with my vote against the Brexit deal the day before. A general election will not resolve the single most contentious issue before us because these are never fought on a single issue.

I believe that a People's vote would allow us to move forward together with confidence that the nation had given its consent based on the facts and Brexit reality rather than unrealistic promises. It is now over two years since the original referendum, longer than the period between our two most recent general elections and it is nonsense fo some to suggest it is somehow anti democratic to allow people to change their minds and express a democratic opinion. I fully accept that the result could be the same but it would at least be a settled decision based on all the facts and we could finally move forward together rather than tearing ourselves apart.


In a way Parliament currently reflects the confusion and disagreements within the electorate so in one sense it is being democratic. Given there are so many different views how many options would there be on a ballot paper in a People's vote? And would it be a simple majority again? We seem to be heading to a situation where there is no majority for any option and whatever happens now the public are a) losing faith in our politicians b) destined to be very unhappy and divided. All very sad.
- Howard

I agree with what you've said Sarah as I realise what a mess the country is in although I will find that I am so angry at conservatives for doing this to the country in the first place. This is without a doubt the result of money interfering with normal democracy and to think our parliament trundled along and accepted all this and now does nothing to investigate and repair its broken system scares the living daylights out of me. We need to agree on something that will not hurt the people or does the least damage possible. I'd prefer a peoples vote but the amount of money being thrown at leave from outside UK is already paying for a massive campaign against the EU and the lies are unbelievable, todays Telegraph saying remain have had ads campaign all the time in facebook paid by Soros is complete rubbish but no doubt leavers will believe it. If I could quite frankly I would leave UK now and go live in Europe a bigoted right wing Britain is not somewhere I ever imagined finding myself. Overall feeling though is anger at our government, in representing leave and declaring "the will of the people" rubbish it is feeding the decline. WE are the people too and right now we are the majority who wish to remain and not be hurt by this our children's futures are at stake here to. MP's telling untruths and not being called out for them, media continually spinning the truth and 90% percent of the press controlled by those who would do this is a nightmare which if allowed to go on will destroy our economy, set people against people in the country and will not end well. It is alright for all those who have their millions and sit their on the back benches spouting utter nonsense, but all of us ordinary people are feeling the results of this and I can assure you it is not pleasant. The EU has offered us peace, stability, safety, economic benefits and opportunities that previously was only available to the wealthy with freedom of movement. Together we are a force that matter in world politics and business. To turn on them in this way is horrid and frankly unacceptable. I think you are in the wrong party now, as the conservatives cannot survive this either way, people will never trust you again and if money can buy you all so easily you are not worth having as representatives in parliament anyway. This is not personal against you but many others in your party do have a lot to answer for. Mr Corbyn is another matter his beliefs have driven him to where he sits now uncomfortably on the fence, however how he ever came to be leader is for another time. I hope you and the sensible ones in all parties separate so we can get behind you all and sort the mess as well as we can. I shall however always be remain fully in EU because I believe in being together as one voice peacefully.
- Carolanne

Sir John Major in his article on 13th January last cites the need to revoke Article 50. I am in total agreement with that. It has to be a precursor. His article I feel is very well reasoned and shows a lot of wisdom. It should be widely read and considered, especially by our MP who needs the desperate help we all need right now.
- David Burrell

As well as being dishonest, Wollaston is just not bright enough to be an MP. Witness this line at the start of her incoherent post: "...the reality was always going to be that compromises and trade offs would be necessary during negotiations. Brexit reality is very far from the sunlit uplands promised during the campaign". The first sentence is literally contradicted by the second sentence. If there were always going to be "trade offs", then when people made their choice, they were not voting for "the sunny uplands promised". They made a choice in the knowledge "that compromises and trade offs would be necessary". Unless she is suggesting that the people did not know this. In which case, if she believes that the little people were too stupid to make such a decision, why did she support the government in offering a referendum and promise to respect the outcome? Remainers lost because their case was and is incoherent. Now they claim May's deal is bad, but in the same breath say "there is no such thing as a good Brexit". Thus we have to stay in the EU. Then why did they support having a referendum? Because they (the political establishment) thought they could trick and intimidate the little people into voting the way of the establishment...and when the little people didn't follow the government funded propaganda, they simply didn't know what to do. Now the elite claim..."well, we tried, but it's not possible...sorry!". when in really they didn't try to get a good deal, and worked from the day after the referendum to make the process as difficult as possible. Almost the definition of political sabotage. Then they claim "abuse", because some people (having watched our political elite try to rob them of their democratic choice) yell nasty stuff at some of the worst culprits. Well if the political elite think that such a transparently stupid attempt to dupe the people will wash, and continue to thwart the choice made by the British people in June 2016, history tells us that it ends badly for them. It's two years since the last "People's Vote" in Totnes, and circumstances have obviously changed. Sarah should resign her seat, follow her heart to the Lib Dems, and allow the people of Totnes to give "informed consent" to her continuing as our MP.
- George, Paignton

Sorry, in my comment I meant PM, not MP - however, here is a quote from Sir John’s article: I would therefore suggest that, while there remains no consensus in parliament about how best to proceed, the government should, without delay: ● Ask parliament to rescind the European Union (Withdrawal) Act; ● Withdraw the article 50 notification; ● Establish a national consultation process; ● Agree “headline” points on our future relationship with the EU and put that outcome to a binding referendum, with the option of maintaining the status quo. The binding nature of this should be enforced by the confirmation from each party leader that the outcome of this further referendum would be definitive. Only this will provide voters with the facts and reassurance they need to reach a final decision on where best our country’s future — and their own personal future — lies.
- David Burrell

It is perfectly reasonable for the people to have the final say via a 2nd referendum, and it must not be denied, if we are to start healing division. And George from Paignton, attacking personalities is the gutter end of argument. It's not helpful. There are rumours of another GE...how come we can have a another GE, but a second referendum is denied? Blows the "will of the people nonsense" that's for sure. I've attach a quote from the Washington Post recording how low we have fallen. "Brexit has been a catastrophic political failure. This messy, unpopular deal, the most unpopular government policy that anybody can remember, was produced by a political class that turned out to be ignorant — about Europe, Europeans, trade arrangements, institutions — and arrogant, disdaining knowledge and expertise. It was the work of leaders who favoured identity politics over economics, who preferred an undefined notion of “sovereignty” to the real institutions that gave Britain influence and power, who believed in fantasies and scorned reality." Anne Applebaum. Washington Post
- richard

I think Sarah Wollaston has made her position clear and what a shabby one it is. Smoke and mirrors, muddying the waters and weasel words are her forte. The fact that Parliament cannot agree to proceed with Brexit in no way justifies another referendum until the first is implemented. It suggests that Parliament has a majority of Remainers trying various ways to subvert a result they disagree with. The people of this country understand the meaning of 'fair play' and won't be fooled by such disgraceful behaviour. Parliament voted overwhelmingly to leave on 29th March with either a deal or on WTO terms, now a stalement has been engineered in an attempt to reverse the people's decision. Unless the result is respected I believe the Conservatives will lose the next election with Remainer MPs voted out and jolly good to. Time to send in our letters to Totnes Conservative Assoc. asking for a trustworthy candidate !
- John

John, I merely suggested that her constant flip-flopping on this issue (remember that for most of the campaign she WAS a Brexiteer) and regular. It is not the gutter to suggest that Wollaston is dishonest, lacks judgement and lacks intelligence...it's evident for all to see. "How come we can have a another GE, but a second referendum is denied". That would be because we have not left the EU yet you see? The logic of your argument would be that we should have a another General Election before a government could actually take office. As for Anne Applebaum...well not really the honest impartial international arbiter you portray her as is she? She is the wife of Radoslaw Sikorski. He is a former candidate for the post of EU High Representative and well known Brussels sycophant...he obviously aspires to higher political office with the Brussels kleptocracy, and his wife is doing an excellent job of peddling their line. Usually with the EU, you really just have to join the dots to see what the connection is to the gravy train. No wonder no trusts the mainstream media and our political establishment, when so many of them have their snouts in the trough.
- George, Paignton

George you are obviously losing the arguments when you have to resort to personal insults against Dr Wollaston. We know your opinions and can see through them. What we need to do now is to find a way out of this mess that Cameron dropped us into. Just being rude won't help at all.
- Bob

Bob, the mess is a result of the majority of Parliament being Remainers who are trying to subvert the democratic process by various means ! I voted Leave: Having negotiated with the EU at Commission level and have a relative in a senior position; I am left with the inescapable view that the EU is a corrupt, self serving organization. The EU will not be happy until parity is achieved between the pieces of land formerly known as nations. If that requires reducing the UK economy to the level of states recovering from years behind the Iron Curtain, then that is what they will attempt !
- John

Bob, the argument finished for most people on 23 June 2016. You haven't addressed any point I have ever made in correspondence with you, so you are not so much losing an argument as avoiding it on the grounds you are out of your depth. I won't respond to you again because you never make any sensible or relevant point.
- George, Paignton

If the argument finished in 2016 why are we still having it now. The PM's deal was voted down. The commons is split. The country is split. The tory party is split. I will say it again, we need to find a way out of this mess. No deal will be a disaster, if we try to fight with the big boys in the WTO playground we will get thrashed. Our services sector will suffer ( Look at Rees Mogg - he has opened a Dublin office to keep his access to the EU. There is a vote of confidence in the future) Where do we go from here? I will say it again, if the brexiteers are so confident of their position, why not confirm it with another vote?
- Bob

I really do not know how to reply or whether I should try! Your dramatisations - crash out, chaotic, apparent reliance on hearsay, end to austerity, etc. - demonstrate a tremendous lack of thought. And your patronising remarks about comfortably off leaders of the Leave campaign are beyond the pale when one reads that the current Leave lobbying, being organised by the likes of Mandelson and Roland Rudd, is funded by no less than George Soros. If you are so convinced about the damage a clean Brexit will do, which is what you so stridently claim, where is your supporting analysis? I spent an hour or so recently listening to Hilary Benn’s EUExit Select Committee putting questions to Chris Heaton-Morris, Minister responsible for no-deal preparations. His evidence as to our preparedness for the short term issues that might arise with a whole range of EU goods, perishable foodstuffs, pharma supplies, etc., was most reassuring. It is worth noting the relevance of Mr Heaton-Morris’s background. Before politics including a spell as an MEP, he ran a family business at Covent Market importing perishable foods from around the world including from the EU. He foresees few no-deal problems beyond a short period of adjustment. Elsewhere it is easy enough to access official reports indicating arrangements are in place for other no-deal issues that must be addressed – Euratom, airline over-flights, etc. As to your suggestion that a so-called people’s vote should involve just two questions: remain or the May deal that Parliament overwhelmingly voted down? Well who would accept that as a fair proposition, who would not see through that sort of gerrymandering? The Conservative manifesto that you presumably supported in 2017 ruled out joining the single market and customs union, which rules out a Norway type solution, which essentially rules out anything softer than Mrs May’s deal, which in turn has been rejected by Parliament. So what was wrong with the proposals offered up by David Davis, that Michel Barnier was reported to have been working toward - based on a free trade agreement such as the one signed with Canada. You should consider very, very carefully the consequences of a re-run: the horrendous ructions in the event of a slim Remain 51:49 win - a real possibility - polling continues to show opinion is as divided as it has always been. Everyone favours a good trade deal but few political union. Take a step back and think how the two separate issues of UK’s relationship with Europe, trade and sovereignty have developed. In the 60s the cry was for the UK to modernise: we were being left behind in the wake of the post-war US funded German economic miracle. Membership of the EEC trading bloc was the answer. But there were many Labour and Conservative voices warning that loss of sovereignty would be the eventual outcome. For most EU countries memories of invasion, atrocity and dictatorship are recent and raw. To prevent a return of such instability they have been increasingly ready to hand over national sovereignty to a relatively benign centralising, but in the British experience, authoritarian power. Mikhail Gorbachev went as far as to say the EU is simply the old Soviet Union dressed in Western clothes. De Gaulle said membership of the EEC would be difficult for the UK, we have always been reluctant to sign up to anything beyond a trade deal, we got Euro and Schengen opt outs. Cameron failed on immigration and proposed a two-speed Europe. For centuries, unlike mainland Europeans, we British have enjoyed the unbroken benefits of being a sovereign people - up until the recent, difficult decades that is. All Brexiteers want is a good trade deal. Reluctant Remainers want the same but worry about the mechanics of leaving. Together they make up a big majority for bringing back control. Parliament does not get this and wants to retrieve sovereignty from the people, abdicate and return control to Europe. What we need is a Parliament which represents and is able to implement the clear will of the people.
- Stephen, Totnes

Very well put Stephen – clearly researched and well written. Your first sentence sums up my exasperation with the situation – I have been shouted down on more than one occasion for not listening but I, like you, do take the time to understand what lies behind the headlines. A story in the BBC no less (hardly biased towards the Leave argument) that people may be interested in - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-46908205. For me, this is not an economic argument (although I do not buy into the crash out, chaotic, end of life as we know it rhetoric) but one of where our future lies. Remain is not the status quo as some people would argue – the EU is on a course for ‘Ever Closer Union’ – fiscal, political, military etc. – and, if you believe the report above, primarily driven by France and Germany. Do we climb on board all-in and follow along or do we seek to free ourselves to choose our own direction?
- Patrick, Brixham


I am sick to death of the antics of remainer MPs who are deliberately taking every opportunity to wreck our chances of leaving the EU on acceptable terms. Leave means just that, it does NOT mean remaining in a customs union! Those warning of serious electoral consequences if Brexit is hijacked are right to do so. I am no extremist and I am certainly not a racist either, but if the leave vote is not respected I cannot see myself voting for any of the mainstream political parties again. Those working in the political bubble of Westminster and London have no idea how angry ordinary voters like me are getting. Please stop being obstructive and start being constructive, even at this late stage. It will make such a difference . . .
- David H

Sarah Wollaston continues to undermine our party in an attempt thwart the Referendum vote. Could we please have another election for a Conservative MP for Totnes, as clearly we 'did not know what we were voting for'. In the meantime suggest e-mails to the local association voicing our displeasure with the person we elected.
- John

A people's vote is simply a democratic-sounding phrase for requesting a choice between a non-existent or rejected EU agreement and staying in that manipulative organisation. Hardly a fair choice! Woolly thinking! Sadly, influential remainers dismiss the real option with emotive words like catastrophe and cliff-edge - instead of fairly discussing the pros and cons of WTO which we co-founded and UK and EU are members. You are wrong about the poor being worse off - price of basics like food, clothing, textiles can actually fall after Brexit, not rise, by becoming independent and reducing our tariffs. Just read the assessment by lawyers and ex-judges which followed the forced publication of the government's legal advice. It's conclusion? The positive advantages of leaving the EU without a trade agreement and without a withdrawal or transition agreement are enormous. Given the lack of EU cooperation, it is the only way forward which fulfills the decision of the British people to leave the EU. It hands back control and it leads to huge economic benefits. https://lawyersforbritain.org/leaving-the-eu-on-wto-terms-pulling-down-the-barriers-to-world-trade
- David Hopkins

The Prime Minister on Monday repeatedly made the point, that without agreeing her deal, trying to extend the Article 50 period only delays a ‘No Deal’ and needs agreement of all the other EU members, but revoking Article 50 doesn’t need that and prevents a ‘No Deal’ implementation. Parliament can discuss that via Amendments to her neutral motion next week. I was just wondering whether you think she was confident that no-one would be bold enough to do that and hence was able to float the idea more than once?

A no-deal outcome would be so appalling for the Brixham fishing community, and yet the only real way of preventing this as we run out of time is to table an amendment for an agreement to revoke Article 50, and yet I understand you have had to pull your amendment to extend the period, due to lack of support. It seems tragic that our fishermen could lose their livelihoods because so much of their trade with the EU would be blocked by headstrong French fishermen retaliating against the loss of their fishing in our waters. Not the rosy future our guys thought they were voting for. They have been mislead, but the only way to stop it immediately is to revoke Article 50, but no-one is bold enough to do that.

DTR- As independent coastal state, the UK will have the opportunity to move towards a fairer share of fishing opportunities - overhauling the current system where UK fishermen have received a poor deal that is based on fishing patterns from the 1970s. EU Member States currently land around eight times as much fish in UK waters than the UK does in EU Member States’ waters. The UK proposes a suite of measures to improve the sustainability of the fishing industry, supporting the next generation of fishermen while protecting our precious marine environment. Prime Minister Theresa May said: As an island nation our fishing industry is the lifeblood of coastal communities around the UK. I have been clear that when we leave the EU we will take back control of our waters. The plans set out today demonstrate the bright future in store as we build a UK fishing industry for future generations.
- John

Having read an article in New Statesman about the pros and cons of a no deal exit's impact on fishing ( https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/economy/2018/09/end-black-gold-how-no-deal-brexit-could-backfire-britain-s-fishermen ) and noting that such a respected local authority such as Jim Portus is highlighting the potential problems with exporting fish to the Continent, I do wonder whether things can really improve in that scenario. The bit about lack of patrol vessels also raises the question of how much the government really wants to take control of uK waters anyway!
- Francis South Brent

Clueless fickle woman. We had the arguments BEFORE the referendum. In fact REMAIN told most of the lies.
- Stu

I suppose it's too much to expect that Sarah Wollaston will not vote in a way that frustrates the 2016 Democratic Peoples Referendum. At least she could do the decent thing and abstain or resign !
- John

Dr Wollaston. You have tweeted about Sir James Dyson saying that he will go offshore. You may not have noticed but he paid £176m in taxes according to the Sunday Times. Also you are factually incorrect as what he is doing is setting up Interlectual Propert Rights (IP) in Singapore in relation to a venture to build electric cars for the Asian markets especially China. That is massively expensive and will require enormous investment most of which will come from the Far East. His IP for vacuum cleaners will remain in UK incurring UK tax. Also he is opening a College in Hullavington to build on his dream of creating more engineers for the UK. Leaving the EU still not change anything for his Company - remember most of the World trade is not European. Only 10% of global GDP. I think an apology is in order. At least try not to become as bad as other remainders and Brexiteers who are resorting to arguments better left in the playground. Be nice to have a few politicians who actually understand business and inport/exports. Try talking with James Dyson and you may learn something. Guess it won't change your mind but it may at least get you to see the realities on international trade.
- Andy

And so it continues. I was naive enough to think that this big push to remove ‘No Deal’ option was just because politicians had no idea how to negotiate – i.e. just when we are starting to see a little movement in some of the EU position, they want to remove our main (only real) bargaining chip! But then I realised, this has nothing to do with removing ‘No Deal’ but everything to do with stopping us leaving the EU. Just as the ‘Peoples Vote’ is nothing to do with democracy but everything to do with staying in the EU. Not surprised that you can’t get support for the ‘Peoples Vote’ – even politicians are realising that if you ask again (with a ‘fair’ question) the margin to leave could be even greater – no wonder you can’t get support for this. Stop the democratically voted for will of the people if you wish – but don’t be surprised at the consequences to the make-up of our Parliament in the years to come!
- Patrick, Brixham

No one can quantify Brexit or no Brexit as the future is unquantifiable and to continue suggesting otherwise is ridiculous. The future paths that we individually or collectively choose to travel will bring us to different futures. One and all will never know the outcome of a future unchosen as this path will never be known to anyone. This is the dilemma we face individually and collectively and no one can promise a certain outcome of any unknown paths that may be chosen. Therefore to Brexit or not to Brexit remains guesswork as both paths have potential to be fraught with difficulties,both paths could equally prove beneficial to the country. Who knows these answers?No one. And he who says he knows is a snake, a confidence trickster.
- Derek

True Derek, but we can at least see the direction in which the EU is going. Last week Junker said we must remove nation states in favour of a federation ! Sarah Wollaston has been in overdrive with 'project fear' and as you say, cannot actually lnow. Now that a second referendum is less likely it will be interesting to see what tricks she gets up to. Thanks to her, Soubrey, Grieve etc the Government have been hamstrung, contributing to the present difficult situation. What will it take for her to jump ship before being pushed ?
- John

Just received this from Government today. SW clearly does not respect the referendum result and democracy and will do anything to try and reverse the result. The Government’s policy is not to revoke the Article 50 notice. The British people gave a clear instruction to leave and we are delivering on that instruction. In 2016, almost three quarters of the electorate took part in the referendum and 17.4 million people voted to leave the European Union. This is the highest number of votes cast for anything in UK electoral history and the biggest democratic mandate for a course of action ever directed at any UK Government. In 2017’s General Election, over 80% of people then also voted for parties committing to respect the result of the referendum - it was the stated policy of both major parties that the decision of the people would be respected. The Government is clear that it is now its duty to implement the will expressed by the electorate in the referendum. The British people must be able to trust in its Government both to effect their will, and to deliver the best outcome for them. As the Prime Minister has said: “This is about more than the decision to leave the EU; it is about whether the public can trust their politicians to put in place the decision they took.” We recognise that to do otherwise would be to undermine the decision of the British people, and to disrespect the powerful democratic values of this country and this Government. To revoke the Article 50 notice would go against the referendum result and is not a course of action the Government feels we should take. The Government continues to be committed to delivering on the instruction given to us by the British people; working to overcome the challenges and seize the opportunities this brings to deliver an outcome which betters the lives of British people - whether they voted to Leave or to Remain. In doing so, we will honour the mandate of the British people and leave the European Union in a way which benefits every part of our United Kingdom and every citizen of our country. Whilst we note the judgment in the recent Wightman litigation, the Government's policy is not to revoke the Article 50 notice. Department for Exiting the European Union
- Fred Paignton

First trick of SW is a 10 minute bill, certain to fail. Please do the decent thing, resign, stand as an Independant; we deserve another 'Totnes People's Vote'.
- John

PS. Just seen Sarah on the Politics program. If the Conservative party follows a Brexit course she disagrees with, she'll resign the whip and stand as an Independent at the next election. I have to ask, why wait ?
- John

John and others here. What do you make of having to Bribe the DUP to support her views and today learn TM wants to offer extra payments ( read Bribes - as that is what it is ) to Labour constituencies to ensure the6 vote for her Deal . Is bribery not illegal , and made illegal by the Tories . A party i used to vote for before they ripped the guts out of our self respect and effectively spat in the face of our neighbours . Surely these bribes are not only illegal but unecessary . I alos question whether 17 miloin of the whole country is genuinely sufficinet to wreak a country . Do you fear a Second , more genuinely informed Referendum ?
- G david

Thank you for your continuing tenacious efforts to apply some critical thinking to Brexit, and for reaching out across the party devide to try and prevent no-deal’. The sight of 317 MPs waving order papers and cheering the utterly meaningless Brady-Malthouse amendment, and then abrogating responsibility by voting down the Cooper-Grieve amendment must have been a bitter disappointment. For me it was one of the low points of a dismal 2 years in which 40 or 50 Brexit fanatics seem determined to lead the country to sever all connections to the EU, wharever the cost to Ireland, the Union, or the Economy, and then in the same breath talk about a wide-ranging FTA. It is surreal to think that a 52-48 in-out referendum 2 years ago gives licence for this utter shambles, and it is depressing that so many MPs are acting like so many rabbits frozen in the headlights. As a country we seem to have lost a sense of proportion. Please don’t give up, although there will undoubtedly be critics, there are many who hope like me that you continue your efforts on our behalf with like-minded colleagues to reverse a chaotic Brexit.
- Bob

G david & Bob, I`ll try to answer you both. No I don`t like any form of bribery. Nor do I like people engaging in a democratic system, losing, then spending over 2 years griping and doing their best to subvert a necessary process. Like it or not we have a majority wins system, keeping to the result is essential in a democracy. Remember that the People and the Queen are Sovereign, not Parliament who are given an administrative roll for 5 years only; any change in the Constitution has to be assented by the People, Parliament doesn`t have that power. It`s because of this that we see MPs trying to frustrate the Will of the People by devious means. We don`t know how things will pan out, too much scaremongering and disinformation. Do not confuse the EU with Europe, the EU makes nothing, sells nothing, just taxes and issues directives. The EU is, I believe, a corrupt, self serving organisation that runs a protectionist racket ! The EU makes it clear that it wants to see the end of Sovereign states, replaced by a Federal system, with an army, unified taxation etc etc. Remember that our Common Law is supreme and does not allow transfer of any governance to a foreign power; if this is done by a statute it is illegal under Common Law. Common Law trumps Statutes, if this were changed we would be in a dictatorship, Hitler tried it !
- John

John, I'm no lawyer but I don't see where the bit about the people and the Queen being sovereign comes from. There isn't a single codified constitution as such but rather a number of sources of laws including Parliament as well as common law but Parliament has the ultimate right to change the law, any law, as it stands. That makes Parliament sovereign by the look of it.
- Francis South brent

Francis: suggest you learn about The British Constitution in relation to Common Law. Parliament can make Acts but not change Common Law; that's why they are Acts of Parliament rather than Laws of Parliament. Politicians would have you believe otherwise for convenience but their power is limited. If you're hauled up in court for breaking an Act and a jury finds you not guilty, the Act fails, the People decide what is acceptable. also Judges are non political and protect the People from despots ! That's just for starters, check it out.
- John

Sorry John, your take on common law doesn't stack up. All the references I look at make clear that common law is the set of laws that have evolved through the years largely through judicial rulings in court cases (= case law). The judicial decision is arrived at through looking at the current precedents set by case law and any Acts of Parliament that apply to the situation. If an Act specifically says something that counters previous precedent then that determines the decision for that case and case law changes as a result. If things didn't work that way we would still have slavery, children working down mines etc.
- Francis South Brent

Francis- read the rest !
- John

FRED it is only the highest number because of population growth. The percentage turning out for general elections in the post war period was higher. As it is the majority, now they have seen the reality, want to remain. More young people have signed up to vote and their choice would reverse the decision if we were allowed to have a confirmatory referendum.
- Ian Bridgwater

Good constituency MP. But not a democrat. The people voted and she has denied their wishes. I was a remained who voted to stay with a heavy heart. But once it was leave me you have to go with the vote. I'm guessing she has never worked in an environment when you go with the majority even if you haven't agreed. She should have and stayed from within the Conservative Party. But I'm guessing she is not really a Conservative Party member at heart. Good luck at the next election. Bye or otherwise as you will lose. As a parting comment: I wouldn't vote UKIP or a Cornyn Labour for that matter if my life depended upon it. The is no purple momentum. Just Conservatives who a tad dissappointed. Good luck back as a medical professional. We need them.
- Andy

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09 JAN 2019

Brexit Amendment

Over the past couple of days I have supported a series of amendments to try to reduce the risk of the U.K. crashing out of the EU on March 29th with No Deal. The Government must stop introducing deliberate delays and instead make serious plans for what happens if the Prime Minister's Deal is rejected. As there have been no changes to the legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement, rejection looks to be near certain and we do not have the luxury of time on our side with just 79 days to go until Brexit.

Yesterday I voted for an amendment that will prevent the Government implementing the "no deal" provisions of The Withdrawal Act without the explicit consent of Parliament.

In essence, this was about Parliament making it clear to Government that there is no majority for No Deal. That message was highlighted further during a cross Party meeting between the Prime Minister and over 200 MPs after we had written to set out our deep concerns about the damaging effect of No Deal on individuals, businesses and communities.

Today I supported a further amendment in order to reduce the timeframe for Government to return with its proposals about what should happen next if the Deal is voted down next week. The Government will now have 3 days rather than 21 days to respond.

This matters because of the very serious consequences that would follow if we left the EU in a chaotic manner and the increasing risk of that happening as a result of running out of time for any alternatives.

A majority of MPs won't support No Deal because of both the immediate and longer term damage this would inflict on our economy. The government's own forecasts predict that growth over the next 15 years without a deal would be 9.3% lower than it would otherwise have been on current terms.

WTO rules are not the panacea that some claim, British exports to the EU would be hit by tariffs of around £6bn. The cost of Imports would also be affected, increasing the cost of living in the UK.

There would be serious disruption to complex supply chains hitting many of our key manufacturers and also creating delays to the supplies many products including diagnostic supplies and medicines which are crucial to patients who rely on NHS care. Stockpiling and other No Deal planning costs are already running into billions and the Government could and should prevent this waste by ruling out No Deal.

But the avoidable problems created by No Deal extend beyond this to the major disruption to networks of cooperation in vital areas such as policing, security, research and travel.

We would all be affected and whatever the rhetoric from those who argue for No Deal, Britain would be far poorer, weaker and more isolated. No responsible Government or MP could vote to knowingly and deliberately inflict this on the people they represent. I and many of my colleagues would resign the Conservative whip if it became the Party's stated policy objective.

It is also time for Government to stop presenting this as a simple binary choice between the Prime Minister's deal and No Deal. Parliament has shown and will continue to demonstrate that it is not prepared to accept that.


Sarah thinks she knows better than the little people. I have been enlisting support of fellow Conservative Members in the constituency to organise for the deselection of Mrs Wollaston. From speaking with people on the ground, I can be fairly certain that she will not represent us for long. Either she will be deselected, or the seat will be lost. Looking forward to the next election to get an MP with integrity and intelligence.
- George, Paignton

More project fear from Sarah and her cronies, in the corner of the house. SW is failing to support her party and PM and her behaviour is disgraceful. Using the familiar phrase "crashing out" when she should be promoting immense "opportunities" afforded by Brexit. I`m pretty sure SW voted for the referendum but as the result did not go her way she is trying to reverse Brexit. I`m pretty sure SW also voted for the withdrawal bill which means the deal is WTO terms if no deal agreed with EU. If TM`s deal is rejected the other deal on the table is the default WTO deal which would suit us fine if only the back stabbing MP`s would get on and implement the will of the majority of the British people. I knew what I was voting for , not sure if SW has been so sure.
- Fred.

Well done Sarah. You are one of the true brave 17 Tory heroes on the Grieve amendment standing up for everyone. Allen, Boles, Clarke, Djanogly, Greening, Grieve, Gyimah, Johnson, Lee, Letwin, Mitchell, Morgan, Neill, Sandbach, Soubry, Vaizey, Wollaston. If the Tories want to remain the party of Government, our next PM will be from this group. If not, the Tories will be utterly hammered in the polls, and become a UKIP shell.
- Richard

Agree completely with George. She should be deselected from this constituency before the next election. I for one, a Conservative voter all my life, will NOT vote for her again. Her energies put into local issues are pathetic, compared to the time she has used making trouble for the PM and paving the way for Corbyn.
- Cindy

Clearly Sarah Wollaston does not understand her role in a representative democracy. After a Referendum and General Election where a simple 'Leave' was the result and her party stood on a manifesto of implementing the result, she had only 2 choices, support her party or abstain. Instead we hear weasel words and attempts to undermine a democratic vote and her party at every possible opportunity. Yes she is entitled to have personal views that conflict with the results but not to act as she has. Like the rest of us she had one vote, by doing so she accepts the result, even if she dislikes it; 'Losers Consent'. The honourable thing would be for her to resign, possibly too much to expect; count me in George.
- John

Thank you Sarah for your brave stance on this - I am heartened by your common sense in what is swiftly becoming a perilous situation for the nation. No one voted in the referendum for the deal the PM has negotiated and anyone with an eye on the younger generation and their futures will know that No Deal would be an insult to them. Well done for staying level headed and clear thinking and thank you for the work you are doing.
- Angus

John, you spout on about representative democracy, but you clearly do not understand what it means. I refer you to Edmund Burke's address to the electors of Bristol where he makes clear the difference between a representative and a delegate: "Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion." http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch13s7.html
- Andy

Thank you Sarah for pointing out the folly of leaving with no deal, and all the chaotic consequences that would follow - however we each voted in 2016, surely none of us voted to become poorer, nor did we vote for stockpiling medicines and food and wasting £m's on a ferry company with no ships. If that is an indicator of the Brexit dividend then it reveals the marked absence of planning and foresight with a whiff of corruption
- Sylvia

You have let us all down, what don't you get, I voted Conservative, not for you, you have gone against the Conservative Manifesto, your Constituents, the People of the UK, and DEMOCRACY. Do you agree with one of your gang of 12 Anna Soubry, who declared on the night of the Referendum result, that all the people who voted to leave were mis- guided and stupid? she said the Bank of England would be closed for business by the following Thursday, and catasrophe would ensue. Myself and my family, (not all Leave supporters!!) will support your deselection , we are Conservatives, Join Jeremy and Mo Molam
- peter paignton

Very good Andy, although "spouting on" would be giving your view too much credit. So in that case why did the Conservative Party of which Sarah is a nominal member offer a referendum on the subject, why did the government of the day bother 33 million to vote in the referendum, why did it spend a fortune on the campaign, why did it use its taxpayer-funded propaganda to promise a once in a generation opportunity, why did it promise to implement the people's will and why did the party for which Sarah stood promise to respect the referendum result and withdraw from the Customs Union and Single Market? As for your lecture on Burke...that's your democratic inspiration is it?! No wonder you love the EU. A man who claimed that electing a Head of State was "utterly destructive of the unity, peace and tranquillity of a nation". He added “The road to eminence, and power from obscure condition ought not to be made too easy, nor a thing of much course”. Yes the plebs must know their place! Good luck getting popular support for that thesis! As Tom Paine said, “Immortal power is not a human right, and therefore cannot be a right of parliament”.
- George, Paignton

Almost correct Andy but in this case the 'representatives' gave the decision to the people by way of a referendum. This was necessary as, under the British Constitution, Parliament alone cannot give up any sovereignty without the consent of the 'People'. In other cases a representative is morally bound to 'keep their word' if they were elected having made promises. In relation to Burke, do not confuse 'your opinion' with. 'their promise to you', many a dictator would be otherwise legitimised !
- John





Siv...Caps Locks. Typing in capitals makes you seem like a lunatic. And that's before you even read the tripe you've written. If Sarah wants to stand as an Independent, that could happen tomorrow. She deceived the people of Totnes in 2017, including Tory Party members who worked hard for her, and pretended to support a manifesto she abhorred. She could be honest with everybody and accept that she is no longer a Tory. Resign the whip, resign the seat, and let the people of Totnes decide. She won't do that, because she knows she'd lose. The rest of your message is just a boring dimwitted rehash of the argument you made unsuccessfully in June 2016. You lost then, and after reading that again, no bloody wonder.
- George, Paignton

Shouting will not help. Aim here is to stop Corbryn becoming PM. As for the issues about BREXIT. As a man who voted Remain the issues raised by SIV WHITE are flawed purely because for example, air travel is covered by international agreements out with the EU. Also the German economy amongst others exports more to us then we to them. Scaremonging doesn't help. Can you imagine the effect on Spanish and French farmers if their exports to us were majorly disrupted? Spain has 40% youth unemployment! Also as a net contributor to the EU to a sum of 9 bn not sure what SIV White is on about. Those grants is just our money coming back to us minus the 9 bn. No the issue is the Referendum was lost but our politicians from all sides can't accept it. Cornyn being particularly deceitful as a Bennite leaver without Tony Ben's intelligence. The EU always punishes those who don't play the EU integration game. Even if we stay we will lose our rebate be subject to more tax integration and defence conformity. And having worked in Brussels the EU employs thousands on better expense allowances than we in NATO had. I voted Remain because I knew what would happen.Better an imperfect world. Now we are here it is too late. We cannot go back to the past. Our MP needs to understand that. I will be abstaining during the next election if Dr Wollaston remains as our MP. A shame really as she is good for the South Hams.
- Andy

Sarah - please Ignore George , he is from Paignton. I would be bitter as well in such circumstance. You would think that he could see that this country faces far bugger issues that the white baby boomer gripe of being in the EU
- Rob

Insulting people because of their views "that way madness lies". It is important that everyone sets out their opinions without reverting to rude or mocking taunts or asides. If you resort to verbal attacks you diminish your argument. This is anything but a simple argument. And remember right now the EU is suffering from attacks on many sides including from Italy, Poland, Hungary before we look at the issues around the rise of AfD in Germany. So their negotiating aim has always been to make the heretics suffer, while trying to fend off the issues in the East and rise of nationalism. As the Irish often say " I wouldn't be starting from here" is apt. We are in a mess and I suspect a no deal or extension to Article 50 are the only way forward. Realism is now needed rather than idealism.
- Andy

I agree with George, Sarah should quit the Tory party and and make room for someone who supports the result of the referendum. I have supported the Tory Party all my life but will not support Sarah at the next election. Scare mongering about a no deal won’t work. I worked in the EU prior to us joining and there were No problem flying to or moving between EU states. I would support a campaign to remove Sarah Wollaston as the representative of the South Hams constituency.
- David

This woman and her barmy ideas does NOT represent me or my family. We are all democrats here and expect the people's decision to be honoured. I've never voted for another party but in the absence of a satisfactory alternative I will abstain if Dr W and Mrs May are still in place.
- Michael

Democracy is not a one off. We have general elections regularly, the last one came 2 years after the one before. Lets have a public vote on the brexit deal. As the tory party can't agree if they like it or not, (or even if they like their leader) and the deal will get voted down, the someone has to make a decision. No deal will be a disaster and parliament will never allow it. Let the people take control (remember that slogan "take control") and wecan move on from there.
- Bob

Sarah, if you block the implementation of Brexit in any form, not only will I not vote for you again I will simply never vote again. All trust we had in our demicratic process will evaporate so there will be no point in voting
- Paul

If Conservative MP's such as you pitch Parliament against the people I'm afraid you mustn't be surprised at what happens. I for one shall work for any party that promises a clean Brexit and if that means holding my nose whilst voting UKIP so be it
- Oscar

It's clear that Sarah will most likely lose at the next General Election; after admittedly colluding with the opposition, should she not 'do the right thing' and resign the party whip now ?
- John

Sarah, I voted for you in last election so you could vote for me on Brexit but all you are doing is making a mess of it all. I live in Brixham and used to be a fisherman so I understand about being let down by our government and the European union. We have been fighting for a better deal for years but all that happens is more disappointment and regulation to make it harder for a hard working person to make a honest living, and you not supporting your own voters is disgraceful. Pete
- Pete

Dr Woolleston you are a disgrace. We in Devon voted Out of EU, and you were elected knowing this but you have gone back on your word and your parties manifesto just because you think you know better than anyone else. You are not the only one and the whole of the Members of parliament should be sacked and a new lot who do respect their constituents put in place. I have voted all my life as I feel that it’s right to have a say in this Wonderful Country’s future, but if you and the politicians who are laughably supposed to be there to represent the constituents disregard the Vote to LEAVE then I shall never vote again.
- Elizabeth Dowling

1) The people are sovereign - if you don't accept that then revolution will ensue and the streets will run red. 2) The people delegate their sovereignty to elected representatives who run the country using their own judgement. 3) If enough of us dislike their judgement then we can remove them at the next regular election. 4) Sometimes our representatives are either incapable of making an important decision or consider the issue so important that it must be referred back to the people. 5) Once the people decide according to the rules of the referral the representatives must implement the overall decision or resign. 6) Resigning triggers an election where the issue is effectively voted on again considering all the circumstances and all the views and promises of those standing for election. 7) A sufficient majority voted for leave. And then an election was called which produced a majority of candidates of all parties who either supported leave or who didn't but yet promised to carry out the decision of the first vote. Our sovereignty was thus maintained but if any fight against the first decision and its endorsement, those representatives will be responsible and will suffer the consequence mentioned in (1).
- Jean Xavier

Jean Xavier. In this case your no.6 is void as there is now a EU Withdrawel Act in place and has to be implemented by whoever is in power. (Unless a new Act is created, which would be against the ratified will of the people).
- John

With respect to all, may I share what I feel are Principles, upon which action must be based, that help us all recognise integrity. 1. A Majority of all those who chose to vote, voted Leave 2. As a Democrat I respect that "Majority", so I believe should all MPs. 3. My MP and those for whom others voted and now represent were elected on a Party Policy to "Leave", over 80 percent of the Electorate, if to Remain was your most important issue the Lib Dems were asking for your vote. 4. The date to Leave is set in law at 29th March 2019. 5. All MPs must now vote either on the deal that has taken 2 years to negotiate and which has the support of 27 united EU Members or if no cross Party compromise can be achieved, then with no agreement. Remember how many Labour MPs supported Heath's entry in the first place. For what it's worth I wrote to Sarah asking her to vehemently argue for a cross party negotiating team as we could all see this is not a Party issue it remains decision of the greatest National Interest. Finally, for Remainers like myself, we were actually always "In but Out" and I am sure we will end up "Out but In." All this has done is turn the Conservative Party Inside Out, and now Upside Down. Keep Smiling, and realise how privileged we are to be discussing this with out Bombs and Bullets....well thus far !
- Martin Beck

The referendum vote in 2016 was counted on district councils not parliamentary constituencies (see BBC election night coverage). Sarah's mandate cannot be based on her constituents as in a general election but as an approximate fit to for instance South Hams which in fact voted 52.9% to remain. That aside I'm not quite sure why people are so determined to leave despite the difficulty our 'best' politicians have experienced negotiating and obtaining a deal that pleases anyone. Maybe they didn't try hard enough or it might just be too difficult to extricate our economy from its intricate links with other countries in the time Article 50 allows. Or if a no deal Brexit Is the goal why has there been so little progress negotiating deals with non-EU economies? I think I'd prefer a backup plan if we leave without a deal personally and I don't see one emerging. Those who still fancy crashing out generally have the substantial resources to sustain themselves in the event our economy sees a dip (Jacob Rees Mogg for one) and may even be able to benefit. Or maybe it is just all 'Project Fear' but I'm not confident myself. I'd rather take time to take stock and change my mind if the facts change. Maybe now's the time to reflect on what's been achieved.i is it what the people who voted to leave wanted in 2016?
- Helen

Helen, your post is rather heavy on dodgy logic. In a democracy, where you have a vote amongst opposing views, you will always have disappointed losers. We survive by the losers accepting the result, by voting at all you agree to accept the outcome. The present situation is because Mrs May did not want to leave and was incapable of fulfilling her duty, clear from the fact that she was scheming to undermine her Brexit Minister. Leaving offers so many more opportunities for the country than remaining; within a couple of years it's likely that people will have forgotten they had wanted to remain. The world is comprised of optimists and pessimists, never be led by a pessimist; optimists are the ones that get the prizes !
- John

Thank you Sarah for being outspoken about the consequences of a no deal and for your support for the amendment. I am also encouraged by your support for a second referendum. I find it an affront that when we were given the vote for such a major constitutional change that a simple majority was considered sufficient, particularly when the consequences (good or bad) were very confusing, to say the least. It is interesting that a majority of 66% in favour is required when MPs vote for a General Election. Why were constituents not treated similarly in the referendum?
- Nic

"The noble one is not a mere instrument"– Confucius. Sarah, I believe you are showing that you are not just a cog in the machine. Though you may lose your current position, if you're doing what's right, it will be for the best in the end. To those who take grievance from her actions: We are all individuals here; nobody is forced to do what you want them to do. If you are unhappy with what they do, tell them calmly the reasons why and they will listen to you calmly. They are not necessarily trying to go against you; perhaps they are trying to do what they think is right and best in their situation. Maybe something they can see from their vantage point makes that course of action look better than it does from yours, and not just personal gain. I'm not saying that for instance a councillor is superior to a voter; but being directly involved in the political process she may see some things more clearly. Maybe her actions will unexpectedly turn out good for you. Even if Sarah didn't do what you wanted her to do, it doesn't mean she has something against you. You can assume that Sarah is out to get you, or out to gain something for herself, and get all worked up and angry, but I'm not sure how much good that does either of you or us as a whole. I'm sure she knows that people are suffering from the way things are; but to make a real and lasting change for the better can't necessarily happen in an instant, nor may the process take precisely the path you want it to. Maybe what seemed like a good step at one point in time, now doesn't seem like such a good step. This is not necessarily evidence of someone's intention turning against you, or evidence that they were against you all along; perhaps it is just them acting strategically, updating their course moment-by-moment, still aiming for the best result for all of us in the end. To those who say asking for a second referendum is going against democracy; if a first referendum is democracy, how is a second referendum not also democracy? Can the people not change their minds? Changing one's course mid-way in this case is not necessarily a sign of weakness or "flip-flopping"; it is a sign of flexibility and awareness. It is a sign of strength to admit that you were wrong. Some argue that having seen the result but being "sore losers", those in government made the whole process difficult just because of their soreness. Maybe there is some soreness there. But that wouldn't be the whole picture. The other side of the picture is that it is indeed difficult to do something like this well and cleanly. Maybe we need a breather. If the country still doesn't like the result, maybe we can have a third referendum :) more and more referendums means a better and better democracy, right? In any case, we can see that the whole issue is still controversial; so another referendum can be considered a refinement in the democratic process... I would like to ask if those who have such trust in democracy can trust it once again. Maybe the "will of the people" can change. Those who say "the losers have to accept the result", surely wouldn't object to "losing" a second referendum if the new, more informed, democratic will of the people changed from the last time? There are pros and cons. You can object that a second referendum is "forced", "sore losing". But you can also say that a second referendum benefits from having had time to reflect further on the matter. I hope that people can see the benefit of it.
- James

Many thanks Sarah for once again representing the best interests of the people of the UK and voting as you have. Now the quicker parliament puts in place what’s necessary to prevent a ‘No Deal’ exit the better for everyone. And then let the people decide - either Theresa Mays ‘Withdrawal Agreement’ or ‘Remain’ People can cast a vote based upon the facts and not on the nonsense articulated by Champions of Leave in the last referendum. Again, many thanks.
- Peter

Dr Wollaston, Peter and all who want a second referendum – I have absolutely no issue with a 'fair' referendum - I don’t think it would change anything and perhaps lead to even more division. However, the question suggested by Dr Wollaston and many of you for a ‘Peoples Vote’ – i.e. Remain or Mays (overwhelmingly rejected) Deal – is as far from right and democratic as I think it is possible to be. Where is the real Leave option? Why is Dr Wollaston and other ‘Peoples Vote’ supporters determined to not present this as an option? “….You can have a ‘Peoples Vote’ but you won’t have the option to really Leave…!” Those who support a second referendum do you really want a ‘Peoples Vote’? Or do you want to Remain in the EU at all costs? At least be honest about it – but please acknowledge that those who don’t wish to remain in the EU deserve an option to vote for if you have any belief at all in democracy.
- Patrick, Brixham

For the sake of Democracy , we need a second referendum . If there is anyone here or anywhere else who does not now realise we were lied to in the run up to the Referendum. How can we be proud of that ? We know so much more now . What would you have to lose to have another , but more informed referendum . This time , we are quite sure that Turkey is not going to join the EU and 700k wont come straight to the UK for benefits and the we know that the NHS wont get 350m Extra a week - but actually may not have the EU staff to look after us if we did opt out . If they do , it will be becasue we have opened more doors to non europeans ( i have no problem with that ). We know we will lose skilled people , who will go home . We know our mobile phone bills will be higher when we go on hols. We also know that the once strong London banking sector that paid x billions into the Treasury , wont pay those billions once its jobs have been fully exported to Paris , Frankfurt, Holland and other places . We know that WE will have to pay extra in tax to fill that gap ( or perhaps we have yet fewer services from government spending ) or perhaps we borrow more , at higher interest rates and and and . Come on , anyone who is sane knows this execise was a complete waste of time , money , energy . There are so many other things to worry about in life , why was this issue chosen. For the sake of sanity , another vote very soon and get on with it before we have to lay off even more staff .
- G David

Given that our MPs cannot support May’s Deal or No Deal, we need a second referendum. I think the ballot paper should be: Answer Question 1 and Question 2. For each question, vote by putting a cross in the box next to your choice. Question 1 Should the United Kingdom leave the European Union, or reverse its decision and remain a member of the European Union? Leave the European Union [ ] Remain a member of the European Union [ ] Question 2 If the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, should it exit under the terms of the deal agreed between the British Government and the European Union, or exit with no deal? Leave with the deal agreed between the UK and the EU [ ] Leave with no deal [ ]
- Tim

A lot of Remainers just repeating the same tired arguments they had before June 2016. You lost then and as time ticks on, you're losing now. Perhaps change the record. If it involves staying in the EU, I stopped listening two and a half years ago. The EU was always anti-democratic. Now it cheerleaders are showing themselves for anti-democratic bad losers. Happy to have another vote. But the people have already decided to Leave. They did not vote to "leave with a deal" or leave with any other caveat. Just Leave. So it has to happen one way or another. Remain could not be on the ballot paper for any other reason than the establishment don't like the view expressed by the people. Hard luck. The only question is what sort of Leave. So the choices would be Leave with May's deal, or leave without her deal. Her agreement is so bad that I suspect most would vote against it. In any case, unless the government proposes legislation and gets a majority of MPs to vote FOR something (and not just against), then we will leave on WTO terms in ten weeks. I'm fine with that.
- George, Paignton

Couldn't agree more George. It seems there's an abundance of people that agreed to participate in a vote with the intention of ignoring the result if it wasn't to their liking; bad faith. A democracy relies on good faith in these situations. Instead we see 'smoke & mirrors', 'muddying the waters', weasel words and worst of all the claim people didn't know enough. In a democracy, with any vote, you could claim that some didn't know enough. The Referendum was In or Out, with the promise that Government would implement the decision, this was then part of major party manifestos and then put in to law. The 'correct' path is to try to get a good deal, failing which we leave on WTO rules as embodied in law, yet we have politicians like Sarah Wollaston doing their best to subvert the people's will, claiming that they are representatives not delegates. On this issue they are delegates, change in sovereignty has to be put to the people under the Constitution ! Time to move on, if we don't like being outside the EU, we can rejoin.
- John

Why are some people so scared of another referendum? Is it that they think they might lose? If you are so convinced that we should leave, then man up and grow some. Take on the 48% and see what happens.
- bob

So resign and good riddance. Don’t forget we had a referendum because Cameron was afraid of UKIP. If you cheat us out of leaving, how much support do you suppose will flip back to to UKIP?
- John D

I have tried to engage with Dr Sarah and have come to the conclusion we need a second vote.. Clearly we did not know what we were voting for at the last election when Dr Sarah stood on a manifesto to leave, respecting the referendum result.. Anyone who supports their government in a vote of confidence, but will not support their negotiated position and calls for remain, pretending it is in the interest of the people to rerun the election, should resign the party and stand down so we have a choice who should represent us based on their actual beliefs rather than a lie.
- Giles, Paignton

Spot on Sarah. The true facts and catastrophic impacts of the no deal are now clear. The decision should now be taken to the people in the light of this. BREXIT cannot be delivered in the way that it was sold.
- Paul Church

First points. We have another vote. It is still leave. Will Parliament then implement Article 50? We need to go back to the EU hard and tgreaten the worse and negotiate from strength not weakness. To lose out to an EU President with an alcohol problem it beyond characature. Secondly. Every single government economic prediction on Brexit has been dramatically wrong. Currently we have third highest economic growth forecasts in the G7 according to the IMF. More people in work at anytime in my lifetime and inflation at 2.3% and wages growing at 3.4%. BREXIT post predictions predicted slump. So where to go? I have never seen anything like it from both sides of the argument. Thirdly, we need to come down the crisis talk. Win or lose - from whatever standpoint- the EU will punish us. Thirdly. Watch what is going on elsewhere in the EU. It's not good and tax harmonisation will be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Fourthly. Dr Wollaston needs to accept she is no longer a conservative even with a small c and resign the whip. Your tweets recently only confirm that fact.
- Andy

Seems an awful lot of fuss for what it costs to be in the EU, about £30 per year for the average taxpayer - check your latest notification from HMRC of tax paid if you don't believe me.
- Derek

Sarah as a life long conservative supporter may I thank you once again for all that you are doing to protect the best interests of this country - if you are ever deselected then not only will this constituency have lost a great MP but also my vote. Please keep up the great work and don’t waiver in the face of adversity.
- Peter (Kingsbridge)

Dear Sarah I am not one of your constituents but after reading so much negative venom from some who are I am writing to post a message of support for the brave stand you have taken. The longer this farce continues the clearer it becomes that both main parties are morally bankrupt and incapable of moving things forward in this country either on Brexit or on anything else. Good luck to you and every success to you and your moderate parliamentary colleagues to avoid a no deal Brexit.
- Larry

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07 JAN 2019

The NHS Long Term Plan

I welcome the NHS Long Term Plan, which is wide ranging and ambitious. It rightly celebrates the successes of the NHS but is realistic about the scale of the challenge to meet relentlessly rising demand and to improve services. It acknowledges the pressure on staff as a result of the workforce shortfall and the urgent need to upgrade facilities including digital resources.

It is one of the greatest triumphs of our age that we are living longer but more of us are living with complex and long term conditions and there are widening inequalities in the degree to which both young and old are living in poorer health. There also remains an unacceptable variation in outcomes and experiences for patients from one area to the next even where that cannot be accounted for by resources or local challenges.

The Plan sets a number of priorities such as making sure that a greater share of NHS resource goes to mental health, especially for children and young people as well as to GP and wider community services. It lays out a number of proposed improvements to major areas such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and respiratory disease as well as a welcome focus on children and young people.

I'm glad to see the Plan accept the recommendations of the Health and Social Care Committee on closer joined up working across the NHS. Not only to bring truly integrated services with social care but to break down unnecessary barriers between GPs and hospitals, and between mental and physical health. Some of these artificial barriers could be better cleared if there were changes to legislation, including to help reduce wasteful and bureaucratic competitive procurement rounds and to allow a greater priority for joint cooperative working rather than competition. The HSCC recommended that any legislative proposals should be designed by and come from those working in and alongside the NHS, rather than as top down proposals from government.

The success of the Plan will depend on having the NHS and Social Care workforce to deliver it and much will also depend on the Spending Review settlement ahead. The 3.4% average annual uplift for NHS England over the next 5 years does not include the public health grants which are central to prevention of ill health and reducing inequality, grants which this year are continuing to fall. Nor does the NHS settlement include the crucial funding for Health Education England which covers education, training and professional development.

The Plan also makes clear that it cannot deliver without a stable and realistic long term settlement for social care. The government's Social Care Green Paper is expected within weeks and it is not possible to fully assess the NHS Long Term Plan without also seeing the long term proposals, including the financial settlement, for social care.

Likewise for capital funding, which is also due to be announced in the Spending Review later this year, because this will underpin new facilities, technology and equipment as well as tackle a worrying maintenance backlog.

The Plan proposes to fund evidence-based NHS prevention programmes, including to cut smoking; to reduce obesity, doubling enrolment in the successful Type 2 NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme; to limit alcohol-related A&E admissions; and for the NHS to contribute to lowering air pollution for example. But for these to be successful there will also need to be cross government action with a willingness to be prepared to look at tackling health inequality and prevention in all areas of policy as these big issues cannot be properly tackled in isolation by the NHS.

In many ways the Plan mirrors themes and priorities that were also set out in the last long term plan, the 5 Year Forward View, many of which remain unfinished business. The last plan was undermined by the cuts to social care, public health, capital and training budgets and it is important not to see this repeated. It is also important to recognise the many important changes that did get underway and a number of successful pilots are highlighted as pointing the way ahead for what delivers better and more joined up health and care for patients. This new plan will be trying to make sure that the best care is delivered everywhere rather than as scattered examples of best practice and that Integrated Care Systems make sure that all parts of the wider health system are working together more effectively.

My view is that there will need to be access to the up-front resources to transform services in the same way as is often available to pilot projects for them to succeed, and to cover the double running costs that make sure that new facilities are in place before old services are dismantled. It is also important to allow time for changes to demonstrate an effect. In the short term new ways of working may even appear to increase costs but if in the longer term they help to prevent conditions worsening and reduce the need for more expensive treatments down the line that is in the best interests of individuals as well as reducing long term demand.

It is easy to end up talking about systems but all those tasked with delivering this ambitious Plan must above all keep the needs of patients, families and communities at the heart of everything they do.


Our daughter's local hospital in London says it cannot hire new staff, and Europeans are moving back to the Mainland. It plans to open a branch hospital in Calais, which should work, but could you approach Ms May to ask that those ambulances be given priority on the ferries, to avoid the lorry park in Kent?
- Richard

Anything to help the NHS is a positive as it is a service for all. The staff always making every difficult situation work as best they can with the resources available to them. I do however have a question Sarah..We have thousands of GP Surgeries all over the UK with good facilities why do they shut at night if they were able to stay open it would take a lot of pressure from our overstretched Hospitals also working people would be able to see a Doctor without losing time off work it does seem a big waste of a perfectly good building not used to its full capabilities.

Thanks Sarah. I think your comments on social spending are very important. In answer to S Bruus, I am a retired GP and married to one still working. Keeping GP surgeries open seems attractive but for two problems. One is staffing - we could take doctors, nurses and administration staff from hospitals to work in GP Surgeries but that would defeat the object. The second is that GP Surgeries are not trained or equipped to deal with Accidents and Emergencies. A far better solution is to improve access to GP Surgeries during the day, and leave A&E work to the experts.
- Simon Lansdown

Further to my previous comment. All the NHS Doctors (GPs and Consultants) I know are highly stressed. Numerous are retiring at the earliest opportunity (many under age 60) and many are going off sick. Opening extra clinics etc will not solve the staffing crisis. I have heard that on Boxing Day this year, there was an out of hours GP service in a local Surgery. There was only one patient booked and for that one person there was a GP, a HCA, a Nurse and a Receptionist all being paid by the taxpayer. When I was a young GP I did evening surgeries and I worked from 8am until the last patient left (sometimes as often as 10 at night). I found that quite unbearable.
- Simon Lansdown

Wouldn't it be nice if this was the last NHS reorganisation for quite a few years. I started work in the NHS in 1972 and it was being reorganised then, and it seems that about every five years the politicians come along and have another good meddle with it. The Lansley reforms tore apart a system which worked well and wasted a shedload of cash in a move designed to prepare the NHS for privatisation. Now that is being chucked out as introducing competition hasn't worked. Please will the politicians stop treating the NHS as a political football.
- Bob


While welcoming the fine aspirations of the latest NHS long-term plan i’d Jlike to flag a fundamental issue that I identified in a recent MSc thesis for my Organisational Psychology degree. Very simply it is that none of the experienced frontline GPs I interviewed have any belief in either what they described as “Ivory Tower” national leadership. They are leaving in droves because they believe the BMA/RCGP & NHS England leadership are self interested, remote, out of touch and incapable of helping deliver what is needed. This was exemplified by none of them challenging the clear failures of the last 5 year plan “Forward View”, the lack of accountability, clear plans and oversight and the complete lack of interest in exciting local innovations that could become best practice. I’ve tried to raise this with the BMA
- Chris Jones

So tell me why did you lie to parliament over GC Math and as such 2000 people have now dieed due to your ineptness in this matter.... you are a GP nothing more, if you were you would have a phd after your name and you do not. You should be prossecuted for the crimes against humanity you have committed...
- John Carlsson

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19 DEC 2018

Brexit Update 9.30am

It is now just 100 days until we are due to leave the EU and businesses, public services and the Public Accounts Committee are again producing evidence and warnings that the UK is unprepared for the shock of a No Deal Brexit with no transition. Any talk of 'managed no deal' is no more than a dangerous delusion and no more reassuring than a 'managed' car crash. No responsible government could knowingly inflict this kind of pain on the people and I could not remain a member of the Conservative Party if they made that their main policy objective to deliver such a disastrous outcome. No one voted for economic, health and social problems on the scale that would be unleashed in the event of a chaotic exit at very short notice.

I will continue to campaign in Parliament for the people to have the opportunity to examine and give their own verdict on the Prime Minister's deal with an alternative option to remain.

Many people have asked what I would do if the result were the same and Britain voted to leave. The answer is straightforward, I would do all I could to make that work in the full knowledge that we would be going forward together as a nation with informed consent. It is not asking the people that undermines trust in democracy, rather it would be to blunder ahead with plans that neither please the 48% nor the majority of the loudest campaigners for Leave.


To those who say that a second referendum would be undemocratic: then refer to definition of democracy. The people cannot betray the people. To those who say that it would be divisive: I doubt there has ever been a country more divided than we are now. And to those, like Mrs May herself, who say that we should all get behind her deal to unify the country?--why should we, it's a shoddy half backed deal that will do irreparable harm. May has had her narrow focus on immigration and ignored the views and concerns of the wider public, Scotland, the sciences, our manufacturing business and the service sector from the moment she took office. Bring on the second referendum. The only hope left is for the better UK that it might bring. And if it doesn't, so be it: then it will be crystal clear that the time has come to abandon this country.
- richard

'I would do all I could to make it work' says Sarah. Yet she has spent 2 years undermining her party in an attempt to not make it work. She should back the Referendum result so we can move forward together but she won't because she disagrees with the result. Her. Informed consent arguement is not only inaccurate but foolish, we cannot know what is ahead either in or out of the EU. We do know that for many years the EU has been undemocratic and corrupt, I doubt that it's about to change. Sarah has a low opinion of her countryfolk, I believe we can do better outside the EU than in; how about a bit of self belief Sarah !
- John

The more interesting question for Sarah would be "what would you do if the vote was to remain, and the situation changed again (as it surely will, as the EU moves towards ever closer union). Would we have another referendum to ensure that the choice of the British people is fully informed?". Surely the logic of her current argument would apply equally to another referendum. And indeed to further referenda endlessly because events always change. The bottom line is that people voted to leave. This was an instruction of the British people. A much more direct and clear instruction than even a general election. It should happen. If subsequently the people change their minds, then they should elect a government committed to a referendum and campaign to re-join the EU.
- George, Paignton

You are doing a fantastic job, stick to your principles! Government is putting its electorate in harms way and is using every strategy, including the blackmail of Parliament ( 'May's Way' or the Highway over 'Brexit Cliff') to secure the Prime Minister's inadequate deal. If it ever delivered on this foul threat it would create such chaos that our people would suffer for a generation. We are a representative Democracy and other MPs should reflect on their duty. Those who trumpet our taking back of Parliamentary sovereignty should reflect on that and step up to the plate. Delaying or revoking article 50 is going to be needed to buy time for a People's vote . 'Above all do no harm' was instilled in you as a Doctor and many of your Parliamentary colleagues on all sides of the house would do well to adopt this principle. To use your metaphor the consent form for the radical operation that was proposed in 2016 has, in the light of subsequent research, been revealed as most probably very dangerous to the health of the patient. Will Dr Parliament , deny Patient UK the chance to reconsider her consent and wheel her kicking and screaming into the operating theatre? This horror story cannot be allowed to materialise. Keep up the good work!
- Peter

Keep up the good work? Yes ignore people, tell them they made a mistake, overrule their wishes and tell them that doctor knows best...how to discredit the political system and the medical profession at the same time and give the far right the biggest boost ever.
- Steven Spence

Wheel the patient in! The doctor saying "no you made your decision back in 2016, you can't change your mind!" Two years ago the patient was only 52% sure an operation was required. She has been doing some independent research of her own every day since then and wants a chance to exercise her rights over her own body. She wants to decide for herself. No one is saying she made a mistake two years ago. The metaphor places Government in the role of a Doctor who didn't put the patient in a truly informed position. How can giving her a chance to exercise her choice be telling her she has made a mistake? That's why consent is an active process. If a doctor acted towards a patient in the way Government is acting towards the electorate it would be committing assault.
- Peter

Peter, now that you have exhausted that metaphor. Can you tell me one occasion when you or anyone else supporting a People's Vote has suggested that we have a referendum on any European issue before. Maastricht? The Euro? Amsterdam? Nice? Even the original EU Referendum? I suspect not. But now things are going against you, you are the biggest fan of referenda going. You want two votes on this issue, but were not prepared for one on any of the other issues. With all due respect, people see you and the entire People's Vote brigade for the charlatans they are.
- George, Paignton

George, We didn't have a referendum on Maastricht, The Euro, Amsterdam or Nice, because we live in a representative democracy where Parliament is sovereign. The problem now is that Parliament is incapable of making a decision on the the outcome of the referendum and as they turned some sovereignty to the people. The only way to make another decision is to ask the people again in another referendum.
- Simon

George, I'm not sure that metaphor it's exhausted. However to answer your question; I am not a fan of referenda at all, but a big fan of our British Representative Democracy. The whole thing is a disaster. Both Clement Attlee and Margaret Thatcher were highly suspicious of referenda (Thatcher referenced Attlee in a Lancaster House speech, she shared his view that referenda are 'alien to our Constitution and the tool of demagogs and dictators.') Remember that at the time of the 2016 referendum there was an overwhelming majority for Remain in Parliament. However once David Cameron was very cleverly out-manoeuvred by a small cabal of eurosceptic M.P.s ( looking no doubt to benefit from a post Brexit de-regulated Singapore style off-shore tax haven economy ) we were sunk. Inflict years of austerity on vast swathes of the electorate, then offer them a referendum and tell them if they vote Brexit they're going to have £350 million/ week for the NHS and an improvement in their prospects with no down sides and the result is not that surprising.. It's not looking so good now is it? If you think it is, you haven't been looking at the weight of evidence building against your analysis. Parliament, not the people, made a huge error in giving us the 2016 referendum, when as our representatives, they overwhelmingly viewed the EU as a net benefit to our people. Don't use 'with all due respect ' then show absolutely none, by name calling, you have thereby undermined your position. If a new referendum is called by our Parliamentary representatives, so be it, I'll exercise my democratic right and vote. Personally I'd prefer Parliament to exercise its true British Sovereignty and vote to revocate Article 50 but I can understand that a second referendum is likely to be its final preference.
- Peter

Mass hysteria everywhere! (Some) MPs running around like headless chickens clucking – “If we leave the EU Club without a deal, the world we end as we know and the sky will fall in! I have a cunning plan! The deal is rubbish – everyone knows this. But let’s offer them a referendum; no call it a ‘Peoples Vote’; that gives them the choice of the rubbish deal or to not leave at all – everyone will want to Remain!” My, my, what would our parents/grandparents/great grandparents who lived through real hardship and two world wars think of us now? Please get a grip – I can’t see the mass hysteria in the EU with the contingency plans they have put in place in the last few days – eminently sensible from their perspective. Let’s get our contingency plans in place and continue to talk. If we can’t agree before we leave, let’s reciprocate where necessary and implement our plans, but carry on talking. It is in the long term interest of all to come to an agreement – anyone in business knows this! Anyone who has negotiated a complex business deal knows this! Now, Dr Wollaston and your fellow MPs, cut out the hysterical nonsense, act more like the responsible adults you are and carry out the express wishes of the electorate which you originally agreed to do so and signed up to with your manifesto. If you and your fellow elected MPs are unable to do this – please move aside for someone who can.
- Patrick, Brixham

Parliament has made a decision. Surprised you hadn't noticed. It has passed primary legislation that we will leave the EU at 11pm on 29 March 2019. I'm looking forward to that. Unless it passes contrary primary legislation, then that is what will happen. The inability to act on a simple instruction from the people would indicate that our parliament represents only itself, and not the people. That would be a strange sort of representative democracy. History suggests that parliaments that act contrary to the views of the people they purport to represent rarely live happily every after. The greatest danger to this country is not some phantom warning about the economic consequences of national independence. It is the threat to our democracy from a political elite who do not give tuppence for the clearly expressed view of the British people.
- George, Paignton

It's important to remember that under the British Constitution Parliament cannot embark on surrendering or changing sovereignty without going to the people, ie. A Referendum.
- John

George and Patrick. I can tell you have strong views. I can suggest a reading from Mathew 13:9 "He who has ears let him hear". Please don't try to deny others the opportunity to express their view on their future via a referendum.
- richard

Richard, quite right. Please don't try to deny others the implementation of a referendum result after they have expressed their view on their future ! Once implemented by all means go for another referendum if it starts to go bottom up, otherwise eat humble pie.
- John

Richard – vary condescending and may I say, quite insulting comment – my views have been very factual and I have not insulted anyone and have full respect for your views. I have listened to all the arguments (and I mean all arguments) including the latest story in the respected Irish Examiner newspaper about the Irish backstop – look it up if you’re interested although it may not fit in with your view of where we are! My last comment may have been a bit flippant – but can anyone not see the irony of whole situation? I am a traditional Tory voter – my main fear is that the Tory party will be wiped out if they continue down the current path – perhaps that is the agenda of some of the Remain supporters. I am tired of being insulted as a thick, old brexiteer whose views are wrong! If Remain had won the referendum. I would have accepted the view of the majority and moved on. As I have said many times before, I have no problem with another referendum – but please present a fair one – not the one our MP is advocating i.e. a discredited deal no one wants v Remain or even the option of a referendum that will split the leave vote between 2 Leave options v 1 Remain option. This is the first time I have ever added comments to any blog or political discussion – and probably will be my last. All I ask in a forum such as this is facts – please keep on posting factual information which I do read and it may help to persuade me to change my mind – rather than telling me I don’t listen!
- Patrick, Brixham

Let there be peace. Come the new year peace will reign across the land and Parliament will resume and recognise this peace and in recognising this peace will vote favourably for Brexit and achieve a magnificent outcome that recognises the people's vote of '16 . This will bring further peace and goodwill into the distant future and the country will live happily without outside interference. I see further peace being achieved in the next general election when we the people exercise our democratic process and elect an entirely different set of parliamentarians and progress further with our new unified and refreshed government. May the peace reign long and long may the future parliamentarians desist from hypocrisy. Who called me a stupid woman?
- Derek

Very good Richard. I'm lot altogether sure that the Gospel of Matthew was suggesting that government should hold endless referenda and postpone any action until you are satisfied with the result. Your freedom of speech is protected with rights guaranteed long before 1973. And when you seek to use a governing elite to frustrate the clearly expressed view of the British people, I have the same right to hold you in contempt.
- George, Paignton

No one can quantify Brexit or no Brexit as the future is unquantifiable and to continue suggesting otherwise is ridiculous. The future paths that we individually or collectively choose to travel will bring us to different futures. One and all will never know the outcome of a future unchosen as this path will never be known to anyone. This is the dilemma we face individually and collectively and no one can promise a certain outcome of any unknown paths that may be chosen. Therefore to Brexit or not to Brexit remains guesswork as both paths have potential to be fraught with difficulties,both paths could equally prove beneficial to the country. Who knows these answers?No one. And he who says he knows is a snake, a confidence trickster.
- Derek

The current withdrawal agreement cannot and must not be accepted by Parliament. Our country and it's people deserve better than that! As for 'Plan B' there are only two options that fulfill the mandate delivered by the referendum vote: 1. Canada Plus, Plus, or 2. WTO (or No Deal as Remainers like to call it) These are the only options that result in us LEAVING the EU and being completely free to pursue lucrative new free trade deals around the world e.g. US, Asia-Pacific, India, Australia and New Zealand. THIS is where the real Brexit dividend can be found, NOT tying ourselves to the sinking ship of the EU.
- David H

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13 DEC 2018

Brexit Update 8.45am

Last night's confidence vote has clearly demonstrated that there is no majority in the Conservative Party in the Commons, let alone across Parliament, for the hard Brexiteer's vision of Brexit. I supported the PM in last night's vote. The inescapable truth is that the Withdrawal Agreement and Future Framework will not pass the Commons either but it is the only realistic negotiated version of Brexit. We have reached deadlock and sooner or later the PM will have to take her deal direct to the people or risk us crashing out in a chaotic Brexit with inadequate transition arrangements in place. Britain is woefully unprepared for that and no responsible government could allow that to happen.

This whole episode was unwelcome and unnecessary but at least we will all be spared the weekly threats of the '48' letters for at least a year and the PM should now stop trying to appease the right wing of the Party.


Wholly and completely agree. Coming from someone who would rather a full leave or remain choice. Too many people on here protecting their personal view at all cists rather than what is good for the country and miilions of YOUNGER generation who will be deeply affected by thus. Why are some so desperate to avoid a 2nd referendum? What are you worried about?
- David R

We voted for Brexit, not Brino ( Brexit in name only) and that's why so called Brexiteers are angry. The referendum result could not be clearer. What we have now is a disfunctional parliament full of remain voting MPs that are refusing to deliver what people have democratically voted for. When this is all finally sorted out we need a root and branch reform of parliament as it is clearly not fit for purpose. This is a democracy that is no longer democratic.
- David H

More weasel words Sarah. Brexit is Brexit as stated at the Referendum, neither soft or hard. The fact that MPs will not honour their pledge in the manifesto or their duty to the electorate does not justify their actions; it shows a disconnect.
- John

Parliament is full of people who realise the brexit will make us poorer and that no deal will make us a lot poorer. I don't blame them for trying to prevent this. As is plain from the events of the last few days, the hard brexiters have no loyalty to anything except their own ideology. Ask yourself what this very rich club want to gain from brexit. The removal of regulation for environmental, food safety, workers protection. The fact that millions of peoples jobs depend upon the free movement of goods across EU borders means nothing to them.
- Bob

When May steps aside, the next leader elected by the membership will be a Brexiteer. The 48 are well placed to control the future. Sarah you should join the Lib Dems. You'll feel more at home there.
- George, Paignton

So the member for the 18th century will control the future! He will have to find it first
- Bob

The Luddite Dad's Army buffoons were seen off in fine style. May cannot now be challenged for a year. If she has any forethought, intelligence, or nouse ( which I doubt) she should change direction, sweep out the deadwood in her cabinet like Fox and Loathsome, and bring in some younger blood. She could do this now before her deal comes back to the Commons. To reach out and get anybody decent on board she would have to commit to a 2nd referendum. To deny us a 2nd referendum is a denial of democracy and justice. Meanwhile she could loose a confidence vote, as the Members have lost confidence in her ability to govern, her authority has utterly evaporated and the ERG group are fuming.
- Richard

Yes Richard, leaving the silly name calling aside, she could do all you suggest. I suppose this would show some degree of strength I guess. However, judging by the comments on the blogs on this page, this is likely to consign the Tory Party (or possibly Parties as over a third voted against the leader) to the wilderness for many years to come leaving a Corbyn Government. It could be worse, I guess – not sure how! I just can’t understand how a second referendum will change anything – unless everyone suddenly ‘sees the light’, converts and decides they want to Remain. How likely is that? Here’s a novel idea – why can’t we all just get behind the original referendum and get on with it wherever that might lead! Once the uncertainty is removed, we can all get on with making it work and business can get on with doing business!
- Patrick, Brixham

I am not against a second referendum - bearing in mind the number of people who must have been misled by the campaign on the red bus, it seems the right thing to do. However, if we are going to go ahead with Brexit, the big problem seems to be the Irish border. I have heard lots of talk about following the Norway model, but no one has mentioned Switzerland. As far as I know the Swiss border is fairly 'soft'. Would this be a model to follow?
- Jeremy

It doesn't need everyone to see the light, don't forget leave won by quite a small margin. Polls are already suggesting that a referendum run today would give remain the edge. Why else are the leavers so scared of another vote. Cameron only called the referendum to stop the exodus of tory voters to ukip and to stop the party losing power. He never wanted it, and never expected to lose.
- Bob

As I previously said - So, we have a ‘Peoples Vote’ and Remain win by say 52 to 48%. Now we have nearly half of the electorate feeling cut off and ignored. What do they do? They can no longer vote for their current MP who they will see as failing them. So in this vacuum, the electorate turns to the extreme (left or right) to protest – there are already parties here in the UK looking to exploit this. This is the lesson from history. Let's say Leave wins - then how will the be any more accepted than the last time? Not scared of another vote (even though the question may be set to ensure we get the correct answer) - just sure that it won't actually change anything and worried of where it will lead and the impact on democracy.
- Patrick, Brixham

The 48% feel cut off and ignored now. I can see that some people will be tempted by extremists, but most people in this country struggle to get out to vote anyway. Even the referendum turnout was only about 70%, so almost 13,000,000 couldn't be bothered. The % who voted leave was about 37 The main argument for another vote is to set a way forward. May's deal, no deal, some other sort of deal or remain with the deal we have now.
- Bob

Bob you lost. The referendum was a clear choice and the minority were not going to get their choice. You would not have given a damn for Leavers if the public had voted Remain. Now I'm expected to care for your views? Cry me a river. The turnout was anybody eligible who could be bothered to vote. You have no idea of the views of those who did not vote, just as you have no idea of the views of people too young to vote. You won't be getting another vote so get over it and stop your moaning.
- George, Paignton

So, now it is time to do what we voted for and leave the EU. I voted and expected parliament to work together to deliver, after all both main parties stood on a manifesto to leave. It is not my fault you did not work to leave with treaties to enable a smooth transition.. Your fault as a politician, not mine for voting as I have wanted to for all my adult life in the only vote where my vote actually counted.
- Giles, Paignton

George. With due respect, at the last referendum there was widespread deceit and outright lies. The bigger the whopper the more it was believed. The Leave side produced no prospectus. Now we have the prospectus and voters can make an informed judgement. And why deny the people the right to change their minds? May was elected Leader 2 years ago, but the ERG group called an election as they changed their minds. The duped DUP have changed their minds. Why can't the opportunity be offered to the electorate in a referendum? Sarah is absolutely correct. You will thank her in the end for having the courage to stand up for her beliefs.
- Richard

Remain told lies about plans for common European Foreign and Defence policy. All political campaigns have lies. That's part of the deal. You have to judge their credibility and decide. People did. You lost. As for a prospectus. Well they weren't the government. How would you propose they enacted their prospectus. In terms of change. The only person who has changed their mind in these two years is May. Read the Lancaster House Speech and then look at current policy. The ERG and the DUP have been entirely consistent. May has broken clear promises, and it's right that 2/3 of the non-payroll Tory MPs declared no confidence. If she had any pride she'd have gone to the Queen. The people do of course have the right to change their minds, as they changed their minds after 1975. Get a political party to promise a referendum in their manifesto, win a majority, put a vote to the people and win a majority. Good luck with that, it took Leave 41 years. I'm sure British people will be queueing up for Schengen, the Euro and a federal Europe(!). The only thanks Wollaston will get from me is being deselected.
- George, Paignton

One final question on the “Peoples Vote”. Maybe someone can answer this – maybe even our MP? Can someone please, please tell me how it is democratic to have a referendum with the 2 questions as advocated by our MP (if you haven’t read the piece on PoliticsHome that Dr Wollaston wrote and tweeted about yesterday, please do – it is very illuminating) – i.e. “…take her (i.e. Mrs Mays) deal direct to the people with the simple question, is this the Brexit you voted for or would you rather remain?”. The deal has clearly been dismissed as a real option and will be voted down in Parliament (including by our MP) should the vote happen. Why present this option to the People? This is exactly why I don’t trust a second referendum – where is the real Leave option? Read on in the piece mentioned above – we have Conservative MP looking to the Labour Front Bench for support. If I had wanted Labour to be driving this, I would have voted Labour. Oh to have a true Conservative MP to represent true Tory values. I give up with Politics and will just get back to running my business!
- Patrick, Brixham

Patrick, in a democracy you have to put your faith in Joe Public. Joe is actually quite astute and wouldn't be dumb enough to vote Leave again, now knowing the full consequences. Hence the Brexiteers resistance to another vote, and that includes Corbyn. And the youth will show up to vote this time. I would expect a very high turnout, and a substantial majority to stay. (in Quebec turnout for the 2nd referendum in 1995 was 93%)
- Richard

The conservative party needs to unite in the face of total disrespect and aggression from the EU. They are exploiting the disunity caused by remainers and unless the Goverment is prepared to walk away there will not be any change in the backstop that everyone hates and insists on changing. The EU MUST be given an ultimatum asap. It is the current withdrawal deal, minus the backstop, or no deal and a WTO trading relationship until a future trade deal is agreed. Given the weak state of the the EU and the French and German economies it is blatantly obvious they would HAVE to accept the need for change as they would LOSE a guaranteed £39 billion pounds from the UK causing an even greater rise in membership costs. Come on British polititians, even at this late hour it is time to unite in the NATIONAL INTEREST instead of pursuing your own selfish wishes and desires.
- David H

Richard. I agree partly with your points but you kind of missed my main point entirely. Yes – given the options I outlined above and advocated by our MP, of course Remain will win because there is no real alternative. Given a real choice (Leave or Stay), I still believe it will be very close and could go either way and won’t really solve anything – but our politicians are not going to let that happen again are they? By the way, I don't believe Leave voters were "dumb" the first time or for that matter the Remain voters - people on both sides have their own reasons/beliefs for voting the way they did and I respect this entirely.
- Patrick, Brixham

Ok then George, what should we do about leaving the EU May's deal or no deal?
- Bob

I am quite happy to cooperate with the states of Europe who are our neighbours. That they do not have the guts to leave the EU Kleptocracy is a genuine sadness for me when I respect their cultures so much. I doubt that there is much to be agreed with the EU and the Commission, which are thoroughly nasty and undemocratic institutions bent on punishing the people of the UK for having the audacity to vote to leave. I would offer a comprehensive trade deal along the lines of the Canada deal. No payments to the EU. No role for ECJ, which is a foreign court and can never overrule our own courts if we are to be a free nation. No backstop which is an affront for any democratic and free nation. The UK will be asserting control over its border like any other free nation. Leaving the panoply of EU apparatus was implicit in the people's decision to leave the EU. We should negotiate a sensible arrangement with the Irish Republic to deal with our common land border...a relationship not based on the current threats from the ROI and the EU27. If these terms are not acceptable to Juncker, Tusk and Barnier...and given that they are determined to punish the UK Versailles-style "pour encourager les autres", I realise that it is unacceptable...then we leave on WTO terms, the same terms that happily govern 60% and rising of our global trade with the other 93% of the world's people.
- George, Paignton

There are two criticisms of “the only realistic negotiated version of Brexit”. First, it is tendentious & absurd, to say the least, to describe May’s WA as “realistic”, not least because Dr Wollaston herself concedes it will not pass Parliament. Her position is contradictory. It cannot be a “realistic” Brexit when so many, even in a remain-heavy HoC, will not give it time of day. Second, “negotiated”? Really? Theresa May might be the world’s worst negotiator, certainly at the level of Prime Ministership of a leading nation. In 2016 she scurried off to Brussels, rolled over, and offered £39 billion without conditions – thereby breaching one of negotiation’s fundamental rules. She is naïve, starry-eyed, weak, gauche and thoroughly hopeless, someone over-promoted way beyond her level of competence in a fit of madness by the shambolic Tory Party. I wouldn’t hire Mrs May to negotiate the purchase of a s/h car. Disappointing to see so many tired clichés trotted out here in the comments, e.g. assertions that “Brexit will make us poorer” suggest complete ignorance of England’s having existed 1000 years or so, mostly with very great success and becoming one of the wealthiest (for a while THE wealthiest) countries on earth, long before the EEC/EU was dreamed of – and a dismal pessimism about our national qualities, proven time and again. “Luddite Dad's Army buffoons” is all too typical of the crass smears levelled by people apparently unaware of the contradiction in their cleaving to a centralised, heavily bureaucratic, undemocratic, protectionist E with a sclerotic economy – Tim Wallace in the DT Business section Friday: “Growth in the eurozone has almost completely disappeared as businesses reported the weakest expansion in four years…The influential purchasing managers’ index (PMI) survey of businesses slid to 51.3 for the eurozone, 52.2 in Germany and 49.3 in France….growth will barely recover from the disappointing 0.2pc expansion in GDP in the third quarter of the year, and could worsen into 2019…The surveys point to quarterly GDP growth momentum slipping closer to 0.1pc in December alone…that demand growth is stalling, adding to downside risks to the immediate outlook.” And let’s not mention the ECB/Euro, re especially Greece and Italy… I am deeply disappointed with Dr Wollaston - as, I gather, are more than a few people in her constituency.
- Tony, Totnes

Do you really think that all that can be done by the end of March? No deal then and all the chaos that will come with it.
- Bob

Yes we were the richest nation on Earth. But we did it by making the majority of the people work themselves to death in terrible conditions. Hang on a mo, that's what the brexiteers want isn't it.
- Bob

"Do you really think that all that can be done by the end of March? No deal then and all the chaos that will come with it". It certainly won't be done by the end of March next year. It might have been difficult to do even if we'd pursued a proper negotiating strategy, not the kind of doom laden timidity that seems to chime with so much of your sentiments. I doubt the EU is the kind of organisation that lets countries walk away without trying to cripple it. As JRM said after the vote, do we really want to be forced to stay as a member of a club just because they threaten to kneecap you if you leave. And we don't accept that No Deal means chaos. It is convenient for you and so much of the establishment to argue such a thing, since it reinforced your view. But such points were made before the vote in 2016. One Treasury estimate said that 500k jobs would go even if we VOTED to leave. That was shortly before UK unemployment hit a 45 year low. The truth is that people didn't believe these lies then and they don't believe them now. People advocating a second vote just show themselves for bad losers and deserve to be ignored or ridiculed.
- George, Paignton

Yes let's ridicule those looking for a second referendum. A certain Boris Johnson did just that in 2016. A point about UK unemployment being at it's 45 year low. If you have a job on a fixed hours contract that gives you 30 MINUTES work a week then you are counted to be employed. Talk about massaging the data. Now JRM may be able to survive on 2 hours pay per month, but a worker at Toyota in Derby wouldn't. As for chaos, if it will all be fine, why is the government looking to charter planes to fly medication into the country. And for your information, I am not a bad loser, but I do want to see my country continue to prosper which it has quite well since we joined the EU. Remember our name in the 1970's - The sick man of Europe
- Bob

To those that don't read the Guardian there is an excellent piece written by Andrew Rawnsley on the deadly state of British politics https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/dec/16/failed-by-both-major-parties-betrayed-britain-lurches-towards-the-abyss
- Richard

Bob, I can't argue for ever with you on this subject (mainly because the British people have already made a judgement on all the issues we are discussing), so this will be my last reply. 1 Facts. According to the ONS, only 1.4% of people in the UK classed as employed work six or fewer hours a week. Many because they want to work light hours. This figure is lower than the year 2000 (1.8%). There has been no explosion in this form of employment, contrary to arguments regularly made in the media. Your attempt to "massage data" to pretend that the EU is good for job is apparent for all to see. 2 I cannot say why our government is doing anything. They bewilder me. I suspect they are planning for No Deal, and certainly hope they are. Would you advocate they shouldn't bother? So the EU is going to stop selling us drugs? Really? How would that even work? Presumably we can purchase whatever we choose. I think you are working off assumptions that the UK would choose to impose tariffs and checks on EU products at 11pm on 29 March. Won't happen. We'll buy whatever we need. This argument is a fairly transparent attempt to scare people. Such tactics failed in June 2016...why would you think they work now? 3 Your description of the UK in the 1970s. Couldn't agree more. The UK remained an economic basket case until the early 1980, when Margaret Thatcher's supply side reforms bore fruit. Our economic rise has little to do with our trade with Europe. In any case, during our EEC/EC/EU membership, global tariffs have fallen and continue to fall. Why can't you just accept that people voted to Leave the EU, and that they were not stupid or misguided? Given that 52% voted Leave because they felt ignored by the political class, how do you think such an attitude helps resolve this basic and fundamental problem? If the political class treat the British public with such contempt on this issue and thwart the choice made by them, they'll have a lot more to worry about than trade dislocation. This issue is now more important than our relationship with the declining and failing EU. It is about whether the British people have the right to make their own decisions. We'll wait and see with interest. Regards.
- George, Paignton

George – some excellent points there – I wasn’t going to comment further either but I saw this information which I thought might add some balance to the scare stories – it is a long but very informative read – see https://brexitcentral.com/plea-pm-leave-supporting-businessperson-stop-scare-stories-embrace-sovereign-brexit/ Also, @sarahwollaston Tweet 17/12 – “What undermines democracy is to push through a deal which is hated by both the 48% who didn’t want to leave & the loudest campaigners for Leave. Clearly no majority.” Contrast this with the previously mentioned PoliticsHome story by the same “could and should take her deal direct to the people with the simple question, is this the Brexit you voted for or would you rather remain with the deal we already have?” As I said before, how is democracy served by having an option which was defeated in the first referendum and another (as our MP has pointed about above) has already been dismissed by the majority whilst at the same time having no true ‘Leave’ option which was carried by the majority in the first referendum?
- Patrick, Brixham

Another important News story to add some balance to the argument - https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-to-remain-in-common-transit-convention-after-brexit - can't think why the BBC etc. haven't picked up on this?
- Patrick, Brixham

We’ve reached the point where only four diagnoses are now left. The prime minister is in a delusional, psychotic state and is in urgent need of help. Or the prime minister is focused purely on her own short-term survival: even she can’t be so far gone as to believe she has a long-term future. Or the prime minister is a sleeper agent for a hostile government committed to the destruction of the UK. Or the prime minister is totally incompetent. John Gace 18h Dec 2018 Guardian
- Richard

lets have another vote, but what happens when you lose again, remain voters will never never, come to terms with leaving, bollocks to brexit would return again after a few years.
- Fred

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12 DEC 2018

Today's Vote 3.30pm

I will be backing Theresa May in this evening's confidence vote. I hope that the ERG will finally be shown for what they are, a small and unrepresentative faction pushing for a version of Brexit that has no chance of passing the Conservative Party let alone the House of Commons. It was irresponsible and self-indulgent for a few individuals to be pushing their own leadership ambitions at such a time of national crisis and particularly to have done so whilst our Prime Minister was meeting EU leaders abroad.

No one should doubt Theresa May's personal integrity and sense of duty and the contrast with those scheming to take her place could not be in sharper relief. Whilst I continue to hope that the PM will move to take her deal direct to the people, I have great personal respect for her determined efforts to try to find a compromise through the Withdrawal Agreement and Future Framework.

I hope we will now be spared the ERG posturing for a while as, following an unsuccessful leadership challenge, there cannot be another for 12 months.


Although I personally do not think that we should have another vote. Thank you for your clear statement. I hope that you are one of many and that the Prime minister is recognised for her integrity as stated and has a clear majority supporting her this evening
- Hazel Howe

What a joke! Sarah has undermined Theresa May at every opportunity during the withdrawal negotitations and no wishes to support her. Your stance is somewhat hypocritical Sarah and is only designed to thwart the efforts of those genuinely honouring the referendum result. Your support is shallow to say the least.
- David H

So in the midst of the most important negotiations in our lifetime the ERG and followers have lobbed a grenade into the tory party. Now there's loyalty to the country for you. I don't like the deal we have waited two years for, but all the ERG can offer is chaos. No wonder John Major called his anti EU mob B*****ds!
- Bob

If you are going to support our PM, then really support her. Enough of this ‘Peoples Vote’. I do have doubts about some aspects of the deal but if you support her, then do it fully. Please get on with honouring the manifesto on the basis of which you were elected. I would also say that you may be surprised at the size of the support in the country for this “small and unrepresentative faction” as you put it judging by the comments on these recent blogs and how this support will grow if Brexit is thwarted.
- Patrick, Brixham

We are in a pickle, no doubt about it. Ms May's government had to be dragged though the Supreme Court for Parliament to trigger Article 50. May resisted a meaningful vote in Parliament, and it only just squeaked through (thanks to Sarah and others). She’s trying to deny the public a referendum on the facts, and now she's denied Parliament a vote on her doggy deal. But she'll all we have. The ERG group are a bunch of Dad's Army fanatics. So Sarah is correct. it's a complete shambles, we are laughing stock, and the last thing we need now is a Tory Leadership election. But May needs to compromise and offer the people a vote on her deal. She's a lame duck leader now.
- Richard

Sarah, I hope you continue to campaign for a people’s Vote. It is the only democratic way forward with the government not functioning and destroying itself with its political infighting. Never before has democracy been so important. The first referendum should never have been taken as a final say, it should have been purely advisory. Also, it was so close that the result should not have been followed on such an important issue which will affect us permanently for the rest of the future. Those nasty self interested hard ERG Brexiteers have no interest in democracy or the interests of the people, many of whom already struggle to make ends meet, and I hope that they are voted down tonight . I’m not a fan of May, but the alternative is worse! Please know that you have lots of support. Helen (member of Devon for Europe)
- Helen Petit

These are not my original ideas but the 40 reasons below come from the Conservative website. Can you Sarah counter the reasons why we should honour the people’s vote already cast. I’m certain your constituents who you should represent, will not support your change of views so I would ask you again to change back to your original position of wanting to leave. Listen to your constituents....please. Free movement will come to an end, once and for all, with the introduction of a new skills-based immigration system. We will take back full control of our money which we will be able to spend on our priorities such as the NHS. We will leave EU regional funding programmes – with the UK deciding how we spend this money in the future. The jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK will end. In the future we will make our own laws in our own Parliaments and Assemblies in Westminster, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast. We will leave the Common Agricultural Policy. We will leave the Common Fisheries Policy and become an independent coastal state again, with control over our waters. We will be able to strike trade deals with other countries around the world. Deals can be negotiated and ratified during the implementation period and put in place straight afterwards. We will be an independent voice for free trade on the global stage, speaking for ourselves at the World Trade Organisation, for the first time in decades. We will be freed from the EU’s political commitment to ever closer union. We will be out of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, recognising the UK’s long track record in protecting human rights. A fair settlement of our financial obligations, which will be less than half what was originally predicted. Both the one million UK citizens living in the EU and the three million EU citizens living in the UK will have their rights legally guaranteed so they can carry on living their lives as before. We will have a free trade area with the EU, with no tariffs, fees, charges or quantative restrictions across all sectors, helping to protect UK jobs. We will be the only major economy with such a relationship with the EU. We’ve agreed with the EU that we will be as ambitious as possible in easing the movement of goods between the UK and the EU as part of our free trade area. We will have an implementation period after we leave the EU during which trade will continue much as it does now. This will allow Government, businesses and citizens time to prepare for our new relationship. The deal will see a greater reduction in barriers to trade in services than in any previous trade deal. There will be an agreement that means UK citizens can practice their profession in the EU. A comprehensive deal that secures access to the EU market for our financial services sector meaning the EU cannot withdraw it on a whim. This will provide stability and certainty for the industry. A best in class agreement on digital, helping to facilitate e-commerce and reduce unjustified barriers to trade by electronic means. We have agreed that there will be arrangements that will let data continue to flow freely, vital across our economy and for our shared security. Trade arrangements for gas and electricity will help to ease pressure on prices and keep supply secure. Strong rules will be in place to keep trade fair, so neither the UK nor EU can unfairly subsidise their industries against the other. We will have a comprehensive Air Transport Agreement and comparable access for freight operators, buses and coaches. We have agreed that there will be arrangements so we can take part in EU programmes like Horizon and Erasmus. There will be a co-operation agreement with Euratom, covering all the key areas where we want to collaborate. Visa-free travel to the EU for holidays and business trips will continue. Our new security partnership will mean sharing of data like DNA, passenger records and fingerprints to fight crime and terrorism, going beyond any previous agreement the EU has made with a third country. Our new security partnership will enable the efficient and swift surrender of suspected and wanted criminals. Close co-operation for our police forces and other law enforcement bodies. We will continue to work together on sanctions against those who violate international rules. We will work together on cyber-security threats and support international efforts to prevent money laundering and the financing of terrorism. Disputes between the UK and the EU on the agreement will be settled by an independent arbitrator, ensuring a fair outcome. We will meet our commitment to ensure that there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. We will keep the Common Travel Area between the United Kingdom and Ireland, ensuring everyday life continues as now. We will keep the Single Electricity Market between Northern Ireland and Ireland, which will help maintain a stable energy supply and keep prices down in Northern Ireland. Both sides will be legally committed, by the Withdrawal Agreement, to use “best endeavours” to get the future relationship in place by the end of the implementation period, helping to ensure the backstop is never used. An agreement to consider alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, including all facilitative arrangements and technologies, and to begin preparatory work on this before we leave the EU, reflecting shared determination to replace the backstop. In the unlikely event we do have to use the backstop, a UK-wide customs area will ensure there is no customs border in the Irish Sea. Gibraltar’s British sovereignty will be protected. The deal delivers on the referendum result. It takes back control of our money, borders and laws whilst protecting jobs, security and the integrity of the United Kingdom.
- Mike Freeman

I agree with David H. Sarah Wollaston, in her capacity as MP for Totnes, has been disloyal to the party and its leadership on too many occasions for anyone to think that she is a true Tory. I suggest that she is supporting the PM on this occasion because any potential replacement would be a real Brexiteer.
- Lewis Mosse

People will remember Sarah Wollaston as just another sycophantic anti-democrat intent on keeping someone in office who has no concept of democracy, sovereignty or any of the other things people voted for in the referendum. The people had their vote already, respect it.
- Peter Hearn

117 votes. No Backstop here! The truth is that May is running out of road and the next leader will be Boris Johnson. Elected by the members. Sarah can stop pretending to be a Tory then.
- George, Paignton

2 faced or delusional , which is it Sarah??
- Peter Mulloy

ERG posturing? are you going to stop your posturing for a peoples vote that we've already had?? and get behind the parties commitments, maybe you just can't let your personal views be put before, Democracy , your constituents, and your Party. You are supposed to stand by the peoples (including constituents) wishes, Leave the job please if you can't do it.
- peter paignton

Write to the Totnes Conservative Assoc. asking for a new candidate at the next election. Sarah W has undermined democracy and the party on whose back she was elected. She clearly has more sense of self than of duty to the people who elected her.
- John

Boris as PM Saints and Angels of mercy protect us
- Bob

Putting aside the internal power struggle within (all) parties. Our MPs, from all sides clearly recognise that parliament is pre-eminent and that MPs are voted in by constituents. They clearly feel that the referendum does nor carry the weight of a normal election process. So be it. Consider then the outcome of the referendum based on constituencies. 63% Leave 37% remain. Had this been a NORMAL election, Leave would have a majority of 174 seats. I have excluded Wallasey which was 50/50. Source https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/parliament-and-elections/elections-elections/brexit-votes-by-constituency/ It seems to me that our democracy is lying in taters thanks to Westminster self interest and pity squabbles. Keep in mind this whole debacle is a Conservative debacle, created by 30 years of infighting, a moment of weakness (and ignorance) by David Cameron and a complete late of focus on what is important for the country from all sides of the house.
- Geoff

Seems to me that what is required is an outbreak of common sense on behalf of Cons members which one would hope might infect the idiotic faction led b the ERG. Sarah a 2nd referendum is a pipedream ,the cons party is going to split anyway so Mays deal is all we have !! D P
- Derek

Just one word sums up Wollaston - TRAITOR - a traitor to her constituents, her party, her country and above all democracy !!!"!
- Pete

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10 DEC 2018

Brexit Update 12.30pm

The Parliamentary vote on Tuesday has now been delayed and we are awaiting a Statement from the Prime Minister in the Commons at 3.30 today to set out what happens next. I hope that there will be an acknowledgement of the gridlock in Parliament and a pledge to return the decision on the final deal to the British people, with an option to remain with the deal we already have.

The European Court of Justice has this morning ruled that the UK can unilaterally withdraw Article 50 if that follows a democratic process and that if it did so we would remain on current terms. This matters because there has been some false speculation that Britain might face a penalty for remaining and this puts beyond doubt that this would not be the case.


The only penalty Britain would face for remaining in the EU would be remaining in the EU. Can we have the decision on who our MP will be returned to the people of Totnes? "A people's vote"? It's just that I voted a party committed to honouring the referendum result and removing us from the EU, the Single Market and the Customs Union. Now I find the constituency lumbered with Sarah Wollaston, elected under false pretences and refusing to do as she promised. Surely this is the vote that is really required?
- George, Paignton

The Referendum was quite clear - a vote to Leave the EU. It doesn't matter whether you want to remain or leave - the result was given by the majority of the people in the UK. Whether we were misled by either side doesn't matter. If Democracy is to be followed then we leave. There was no agreement to give people another vote, a voice or anything else. It is the responsibility of Government to Leave. We are a Democratic country. If ways around the outcome of that Vote are found and actioned, then we are no longer a Democratic country. Agree with George, if we voted Conservatives into power and then some of us changed our minds, would anything be done? If you don't honour this Vote, you let down everyone who voted, whether they changed their minds subsequently or not. This is about the importance of democracy.
- jane

Dr Wollaston now wants a “people’s vote” what is the difference between this and a referendum. Apparently those who voted “leave” in the first referendum didn’t understand what they were voting for, how would they know the second time? I agree with George, Paignton, i am 72 years old, I have always voted Conservative, but for sure Dr.Wollaston will not got my vote in any future election, as she is rolling out the carpet for a Corbyn government.
- Cindy

Dr Wollaston spoke passionately in Parliament about going back to the people to vote on a Brexit now known more about. I would ask Dr Wollaston whether she is prepared to support the Prime Minster and support the leaving Europe after conducting a constituency review? My understanding is all party Manifestos were to honour Brexit. To go to a people’s vote and it’s to stay, what about the disenfranchised voters who still remain convinced that being a “51st state of Europe”. Do we then seek a third vote when staying in is examined in detail and it’s disadvantages highlighted. If she is not prepared to honour her constituents views to leave, perhaps she should make way for someone who represents the views of her voters.
- Mike Freeman

Just wondering who voted in 2016 , was it guinea pigs? Oh wait a minute , it was people. We've already had the people's vote and the result was to leave failing, corrupt EU. How has Sarah Wollaston got the audacity to be an MP when she clearly does not believe in or support democracy?
- Fred Paignton

Personally I am disgusted by Dr Wollaston's conduct throughout the Brexit issue. A last minute change of mind on something as important as leaving the EU, coupled with the usual publicity that she seems to crave - really! She seemed then to forget she was elected to represent a fishing constituency! Since then her and her like have sought to undermine the PM and the democratic vote to leave the EU. That made the task of negotiating a fair exit for the UK an almost impossible task, given the weakness of the undermined negotiators. As a result we have now a weak compromise. Dr Wollaston seems to want to tie the UK into a deal that sees the UK taxpayer having to pay for the failings in countries such as the currently riotous France, the failing economies of Greece and Italy, let alone the many other countries in the group of 27. I doubt most UK citizens could correctly name all those countries if asked! I fully support the views of Fred and George above. When we next face an election I, as a normal Tory voter together I suspect with all my extended family will not be voting for her! She is a disgrace! Good on health issues, but very poor on much else!
- David Pakes - South Brent

The referendum was a very close vote. Only 70% of those eligible to vote bothered to turn out so by no stretch of the imagination can it be said to be a majority of the country. Brexit will make us poorer. The young people of this country will have to live with the choice we make now for the next 50 years so we neen to be very careful what we do next. Anyone who has taken the trouble to watch the debate (sadly curtailed) on the deal will have seen the division amongst MPs, and the wide range of opinopns on what to do next. We can stop brexit, take stock and think what to do next and take an informed decision on what to do next. This is too important to make a hasty panicked decision.
- Bob

Who ever says we must be bound indefinitely by the result of a general election, regardless of our experience of what happens afterwards? We learn more after each result and hey-ho, some want to change their minds next time! And what's all this about 'the majority of the people in the UK'? If by 'the people in the UK' we mean those entitled to express a view through the ballot box, only 37.4% of those people in the UK actually voted in favour of over-turning, potentially irrevocably, a 45-year-established constitutional dispensation. Whatever happened to the usual requirement for constitutional changes to be based on a two-thirds majority? The much-hyped 52% falls a tad short of that. We should now be planning back from Thursday 23rd May 2019, the date of the next Euro-elections. The plan goes like this, with the questions to be put in that UK vote on Thursday 23rd May, in sequence: 1 - A) do you wish the UK to continue its membership of the EU, or B) do you wish the UK to cease its membership of the EU? ['X' marks the spot for your choice]. 2 - in the event that 1 A) commands majority support, please now vote for your preferred candidate to be elected to the European Parliament for 2019-24, so that in continuing its membership of the EU the UK will maintain its ability to influence the decisions of the European Parliament and of other European institutions with a voice, a vote, and if necessary a veto. Remember that the UK is one of 28 EU countries ie 3.6%, with 10% of the seats in the European Parliament [is that not already a good deal?] 3 - in the event that 1 B) commands majority support, please indicate if you wish the UK to cease its membership of the EU A) with the deal with the EU which has been negotiated, or B) without any deal with the EU. ['X' marks the spot for your choice]. And by the way, postpone the other UK elections due on Thursday 2nd May 2019 and hold them on the 23rd too, as we've already done several times before. If the Leavers are so confident that they're still right, why are they frit?
- Rog Laker

Of course we're not bound indefinitly by an election result. In a democracy you implement the result and are able to revisit at a later time; tough if you're on the losing side but don't whinge. The referendum was won by 3.8%, many elected MPs were elected by smaller margins but you don't hear them demanding a new election. The Remainers seem to have rather defeatist personalities, maybe they were spoiled as children, success comes from believing in something and working towards it.
- John

Hope your pleased with yourself Sarah, now a vote of no confidence in Teresa May, a woman who has tried to carry out the peoples democratic vote. Teresa and the Conservative party were badly let down by you, Anna Soubry, and 10 other vipers, from the onset. Your constituents voted to leave 53% so you didn't represent them, you didn't represent the Conservative Party who I voted for to have the referendum and carry out the result of that referendum, so I can only conclude you believe yourself above, the democratic view of the Public, your Party, and your constituents. Surely you should stand as an Independent ?? You have contributed to irreparable damage both financially and democratically to this great country. Teresa May is an honest person who stands by Conservative values and standards, unlike yourself. I'm sure Jeremy Corbyn is eternally grateful to you and your little gang. SHAMEFUL.
- Peter Mulloy

Theresa May has to go, no question. Since the Chequers weekend where she took direct control over negotiations with the EU the whole process has been shambolic. All she has managed to achieve in two years is a draft withdrawal agreement that nobody likes and which gives the EU everything it wants, in return for making the UK an EU colony with no say over regulations affecting it's future. Even at this late hour I would prefer to see David Davis or Dominique Raab (preferably the former) take over to sort this terrible mess out. As I have said many times in earlier contributions to these pages Theresa May is taking our country in the wrong direction and unless she is removed she will lead the conservative party to a serious collapse at the next general election.
- David H

Rog Laker. An interesting if very complex referendum question. And to answer your question – am I ‘frit’ – the answer is yes, but not for the reasons you think. Look back at history to see why – the party of the most dangerous European leader of the 20th century was actually elected! When there is widespread dissatisfaction and the governing elite decide to ignore the wishes of a significant number of its electorate, therein lies trouble. So, we have a ‘Peoples Vote’ and Remain win by say 52 to 48%. Now we have nearly half of the electorate feeling cut off and ignored. What do they do? They can no longer vote for their current MP if they feel that they have been ignored. So in this vacuum, the electorate turns to the extreme (left or right) to protest – there are already parties here in the UK looking to exploit this. Look over the channel – what do you think is fuelling the rise of extremism? Could it be a distant centralised elite who ignore the wishes of the electorate? Please, Dr Wollaston, get behind your party to deliver what you had promised, deliver Brexit and let us avoid the disaster of extremism and learn our lessons from history!
- Patrick, Brixham

When was the authority to decide national policy devolved to just 600 Parliamentary individuals? I thought, maybe naively that our MPs were elected to represent the wishes of those who elected them! In this constituency we voted to leave the EU and after all these months have an opportunity to leave under a deal, which although imperfect, represents months of talks, negotiations and compromises or leave with no deal and forge our own future. I, for one, favour the latter - a clean break -- we can be self-determining and not held hostage to EU manipulators. The EU need us as much as we need them as a market for goods and services! Dr. Wollaston was elected to serve the people who make up the democracy we treasure and should not simply vote according to her own predilections. Theresa May has maintained a dignified and statesmanlike position throughout this process and, whether you agree with the deal on the table or not, she deserves respect and support. In all the rhetoric flying about from all sides at the moment the two options above mentioned seem to be all that is possible - the deal negotiated or no deal at all.
- Gerry - Kingsbridge

Just an observation - in the overall referendum vote in the South Hams 29308 voted to remain and 26142 voted to leave on an 80.3% turnout which is about 53% in favour of remaining, the opposite to the overall national result. While South Hams is more than just the Totnes constituency it seems unlikely to me that the higher level of voting to remain was confined to areas of the South Hams outside Totnes. On that basis, isn't it possible that our MP is actually following the wishes of the majority of her constituents?!
- Francis South Brent

The referendum was 2.5 years ago, and the facts now are totally different from the lies and deceit presented by the Brexit side, and of course a major benefactor is under criminal investigation. Democracy demands that the Parliament return the deal to the people for approval, as a union would seek ratification from the workers after negotiating a deal with the employers. So Sarah is quite correct in the brave stance she is taking.
- Richard

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10 DEC 2018

Brexit Update 11.30am

Thank you to everyone who has written to me about Brexit and the Parliamentary votes due to take place on Tuesday. It used to be said that 'a week is a long time in politics', but the situation appears to be evolving far more rapidly than that.

As things stand, it looks certain that the Approval Motion for the Withdrawal Agreement and Future Framework will fail to pass the Commons. This defeat would then come on the heels of three avoidable defeats last week where the government was found in contempt of Parliament for refusing to abide by its own promise to publish its legal advice, and on the issue of Parliament's demand to be able to amend future motions on Brexit.

In 'normal' times, the official opposition would then move to a vote of no confidence in order to try to trigger a general election. That Labour now say that they will delay, this reflects their ongoing reluctance to come off the fence on the issue of a People's Vote, as they have long promised their members that they would move to back such a vote if their bid to trigger an election failed.

The simple reality of the situation we face is that both the main political parties are divided on Brexit. The same is true of our country, this constituency, communities and even within families.

Parliament has reached gridlock, with no majority in support of any of the options, not for the Prime Minister's compromise, not for the softest 'Norway' style Brexit, with or without a customs union, not for a Canada style free trade agreement and least of all, because of the scale of the consequences, for No Deal without any transition.

Once the approval motion falls, it is likely that the PM will try to seek further concessions from the EU but their position has remained united and that looks unlikely. Coming back to the Commons with cosmetic warm words will not yield a different result.

The fact is that this negotiation was always going to be far tougher than was claimed during the referendum campaign in 2016. Far from being 'the easiest deal in human history', breaking away from more than four decades of close ties will leave Britain poorer and more isolated. Brexit is about far more than free trade deals or being in the fourth division trading on WTO rules.

The uncomfortable Brexit reality is set out in the WA and FF, full of trade-offs, compromises and future uncertainties that please no one. If agreed this wouldn't end the wrangling, the real negotiations about our future relationship would just be beginning as set out in the 26 page wish list of the Future Framework, but with no leverage on the part of the UK.

I cannot support it for that reason, but also because I do not think it has the valid consent of the British people. At the time of the original referendum, Brexit was sold on a false prospectus of unrealistic promises and at a time when no one could say which of the many versions would be the final outcome. We now know what Brexit looks like and people are in a position to weigh up the risks and benefits of the negotiated deal as opposed to unrealistic promises that cannot be delivered. Rather than plunge us into weeks of constitutional crisis or risk crashing out with no deal or transition, I hope the PM will take her deal to the people with a simple question about whether they wish to proceed on these terms or stick with the deal we already have. I will be supporting a People's Vote.


To paraphrase your own parties mantra, which you stood on at the last ill-advised election.. No Government is better than a Bad Government..
- Giles, Paignton

Sarah, much is made of you following your conscience on the matter of our relationship with the EU. Your contract with those that voted for you and 'your' party was based on what you had said and the Conservative manifesto. You have renaged on both, undermining our negotiating position........ If you do indeed have a conscience you should resign forthwith and stand as an Independent, you'll no longer get our vote by weasel words and smoke and mirrors.
- John

Sarah, You talk of the people’s vote, what about your constituents who put you into parliament ? We have already voted. Are you saying we are uninformed? A very patronising view. If you have changed your views and want to vote to stay in, to a Europe who are making sure it’s as difficult to leave as possible as a ‘lesson’ to other nations disgruntled, then put your seat to the members of your own constituency. That’s as much democracy as the people’s vote you are championing. If we fail to leave now you are promoting a nation to be in an organisation that will keep kicking us and we will have zero teeth. Your view is also a real kick in the teeth for Brixham and it’s fishermen who brave dangerous work place. Be careful what you wish for and be democratic, poll your constituents first before you promote the ‘people’s vote’. But you won’t do that will you. The only thing I will agree with is the support of the prime minister. The Conservative party...no others! mess. Cameron wanted power and sold out to keep his personal ambitions. Then runs away. Then the prime minister called an election, again to put down her own party ‘rebels’ not the opposition and that failed. Since then though she has sought to deliver to peoples vote to leave, unlike you who has chan ged your mind. Support the prime minster and her deal. Your as much to blame for putting the prime minister under the pressure she is under.
- Mike Freeman

I am pleased that you are taking a principalled stance in holding out for a People’s vote. Now that the government is falling apart, not able to find any way forward , it time for us, the people, to have the final say on our future. That would be democracy. We now know the facts and the implications of Brexit, economically, socially and politically, this is what we need to vote on, not the lies and misinformation we were fed the first time around.
- Helen Petit

Whole heartedly agree with John "if indeed you have any conscience, you should resign and stand as an Independent". Your dithering, and lack of support for the outcome of Brexit will not get my vote.
- Charles

strange when the campaign started you were in the Brexit camp then when you had all their plans and tactics you jumped ship do you have no morals no self pride just another leech why dont you resign and stand as an independent
- Stephen Andrews

Please do the honorable thing and resign - you are no longer fit or purpose as an independent. You received the backing, resources and funding from the conservative association and after receiving this support you slapped them in the face. You have changed your mind on almost every important issue - do you know where you stand or do you wake up in the morning asking yourself "what or where do I stand today on issues"? You are really very naïve and not qualified in any respect to hold the title of MP. I suggest you enjoy it while you can as you will pay for your betrayal of your constituents and the party who supported you.
- N. Carter

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28 NOV 2018

It is time for a Peoples Vote. Without informed consent to the final version of Brexit there is no valid consent

The message from clinicians and scientists is clear; Brexit is bad for our health. It will be harmful for people who rely on the NHS, research, social care and public health as well as for the workforce on which these depend. Having listened to the evidence presented to the Health and Social Care Committee in Parliament over the past couple of years, I cannot remain silent about the impact this will have on the communities I was elected to represent, especially in the event of a chaotic exit with no deal and no transition. Hard Brexit in particular would knowingly, and avoidably, inflict reckless damage to the close partnerships, built up over decades, in place at every stage from research and development to medicines and devices arriving on the community pharmacy or hospital shelf.

There is no version of Brexit which will benefit the NHS, social care, public health or our life sciences sector, only varying degrees of harm. This, together with the wider economic fallout from Brexit, will have the hardest impact on the most disadvantaged in society. We would not be insulated from the economic damage here in Devon.

Brexit reality is vastly different to the fantasy Brexit miss-sold to the public during the referendum campaign. The promise on the side of the bus of an extra £350m per week has crashed into the inconvenient truth that there is no Brexit bonanza for the NHS, only a Brexit penalty. A new report, Brexit and the Health and Social Care Workforce in the UK - by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) - also highlights the vital role of EEA nationals across social care as well as the NHS, and the scale of the threat to recruitment and retention as a result of Brexit.

It is likely that there will be provision for doctors and nurses coming to the UK after Brexit, albeit at extra cost and bureaucracy, if the government follows the guidance of the Migration Advisory Committee. But the effect on the social care workforce and those who rely on them for care will be particularly serious because of the salary threshold of £30,000. We already have a serious shortfall of healthcare assistants in social care in our area. We cannot afford to lose or further demoralise those who have given so much to our health and care services.

Brexit is major constitutional, economic and social surgery and we are all being wheeled into the operating theatre on the basis of a vague consent form signed over two years ago when no one knew which of the many versions of Brexit would be taken forward. It is time to insist that our politicians apply the principle of informed consent. The Withdrawal Agreement has been published alongside a draft Future Framework for our relationship with the EU after Brexit. Only now can we properly weigh up the risks and benefits of the proposed surgery rather than the fantasy Brexit touted in the referendum. Parliament is in gridlock and there is no majority for any of the options. It is wholly disingenuous for Mr Corbyn or the right wing of the Tory Party to pretend that they could negotiate a better deal with less than 130 days until we could end up crashing out with no deal and no transition. Neither will an irresponsible leadership challenge help in such a moment of national crisis.

The Government needs to recognise the stalemate and suspend Article 50 to allow the public their say on the only realistic deal that could be negotiated. That People's Vote should include the option to remain in the EU.

People may come to the same conclusion to leave the European Union. To proceed without informed consent, however, would not only be grossly unethical, it would also place the blame for the unintended consequences squarely at the feet of all those politicians from across both main Parties who allowed it to happen.

Alongside a group of current and former clinicians in Parliament, I plan to bring forward an 'informed consent' amendment to the 'meaningful vote' approval motion on the final deal that would make the deal conditional on a People's Vote. It is not acceptable for MPs to sit on the sidelines claiming that the people have already delivered their verdict. Without informed consent there is no valid consent.


Oh dear! Don’t know what to say! Buzz words “informed consent”, “Peoples Vote” etc. etc. All code for “We don’t like what you said so we are going to do everything we can to make you to change your mind”. I believe anyone who wanted to be was well informed – Mr Cameron and Mr Osbourne made clear what voting Leave meant. Mr Carney made clear the likely outcome on the economy. Yet the majority still voted to leave. If our MPs stopped to reflect and understand why people voted to leave instead of blaming the other side for the ‘exaggerations’ made by both sides (and continuing to be made), perhaps we would have made some progress. We trusted our representatives to get on with it – the Conservative manifesto was clear (as was the opposition manifesto) and was the contract between us, the electorate, and our representatives. The argument should be over – we decided to leave. If we wanted to remain, the Liberal Democrat manifesto was also clear. We voted to leave, we voted for the two biggest parties whose manifestos promised that we would leave. Now we want a third “Peoples Vote” because we didn’t give the right answer in the first two. What has democracy come to? If our elected representatives fail to represent us and honour their contract, why do we vote? It’s a crying shame what we have come to! Yes there will be bumps in the road and challenges. I left the safety of secure employment to set up on my own so know that feeling. We are resourceful and with the right leadership will succeed. If we had got on with it from the start, rather than going over old arguments, we would have been most of the way to addressing the challenges we will face.
- Patrick, Brixham

There is only one trade deal that would be acceptable to me and I suspect over 17 million people that voted for Brexit, in the face of Project Fear and that is the Canada plus, plus that we set out to negotiate in the first place. While this and all other versions of Brexit comes with a short term economic impact in the medium and longer term this will be more than compensated for when new trade deals with the Asia Pacific, US and other countries are in place. With respect we do NOT need another referendum when the first one is NOT being delivered by MP's, many of whom are in the remain camp and are STILL refusing to accept the original referendum result. Theresa May's shambolic deal needs to be rejected for the betrayal that it is and the text amended to retain good things that have been agreed covering citizens rights, defence and security and a Canada plus, plus agreement made. This delivers the Brexit I and millions of others voted for and gives true soveriegnty back to our Parliament, where it belongs.
- David H

When does Totnes get to give its informed consent for Sarah Wollaston to continue be our MP?
- George, Paignton

Here we go again, more project fear from Remoaner in chief, who does not believe in democracy and will not accept the will of the majority of British people All the usual buzzwords and phrases being rolled out. We`ve already had the people's vote and we voted to leave the EU governed by unelected bureaucrats. I notice SW uses the term `hard` brexit when the term should be `clean` Brexit. I`m fed up of being told I did not know what I was voting for. We had months and months of debate prior to the vote and the options were very clear. This current bunch of 650 MP`s (apart from about 40) are a complete and utter disgrace who I would not trust to run a bath , never mind the country. MP`s cannot have much faith in their own abilities if they are now afraid to govern a sovereign , successful, free trading nation with wonderful opportunities ahead. To add to my woes I have recently moved down to the area and was convinced and hopeful that Kevin Foster was my MP to represent only to find out it`s the dreadful Sarah Wollaston.
- Fred Paignton

Sarah, your constituents have voted overwhelmingly voted to leave the United States of Europe. Are you going to represent us or continue to fly in the face of democracy ?
- Debbie, Totnes

It appears that MPs are overwhelming opposed to Mrs May’s fake Brexit. Are you seriously proposing that if the House votes against, the decision could then be overturned by a people’s vote? If the only deal on offer is unacceptable, the choice is binary: in or out, and We the People have already decided. Please do your duty, and fulfill your manifesto pledge.
- John

I am delighted with your stand. The Leave Campaign sold a lie to the British people. Now that we know what we would get from Brexit, the people deserve a chance to think again. Well done Doctor!
- Peter

Remember that your vision or strategy should be to prevent a Corbyn Government. That is a far more serious threat to the well being of the UK than leaving The EU. Corbyn and McDonnell cannot be allowed anywhere near the Government as both are anti EU and would bankrupt the Country. They see the EU as being a neo liberal construct formed by an elite. Remember that. History will not view you in a positive light if the he destorys the econony. We cannot go back. We had the vote and the people spoke. If we stay in the EU we will lose our rebate and be dragged into ever closer Union. And an Euro Army beckons. I was a remainer but not now. I have to follow the democratic vote from 2016. So should you.
- Andy Totnes

Your whole stance appears to be based solely on the possible effects of Brexit on the workings of the NHS which is unsurprising as a GP. Your constituency contains Brixham who's whole livelyhood depends on fishing and the restrictions applied to them of the CFP. Would this not be a more pertinent sector to concern yourself with?
- Mark Dartmouth

The Referendum result was to leave, the Government to work for a best deal. Implementation was in the hands of Remainers who have engineered a bad deal in the hope to overturn the result. Sore losers. Time for a new leader to renegotiate with the EU, yes, of course they will, they have to. All undemocratic MPs like Sarah Wollaston, who voted with the intention of ignoring the result if they lost, should resign or await deselection.
- John

All we hear from Remain MPs is one deception heaped upon another. We were told this morning from the Culture secretary that we have three choices in fron of us. Accept the dreadful withdrawal agreement negotiated by Theresa May, leave the EU without a deal or have a second referendum. This is a deception and a barefaced LIE! The choices are clear if the PM does not see the futility of her position. We must vote down her deal and either leave with no deal, which gives us back a free and democratic country, or we have further discussion with the EU about a Canada plus style deal which those producing dodgy economic forecasts are deliberately avoiding. I don't buy their public statements that there will be no further discussion as they need a sensible trade deal just as much as we do. No amount of scaremongering will make me change my position. Either MPs respect the referendum result and support the decision to leave or the Conservative Party is finished, it is that simple. Furthermore Theresa May keeps saying she has secured a deal with the EU when anyone with half a brain can see she has nothing of the sort. Discussion of a deal only starts once we have left the EU and as the latest Cabinet Minister to resign has said if the withdrawal agreement is approved this country will be HAMMERED by the EU. The deception must end and the withdrawal agreement must be rejected. Only no deal or a Canada plus deal delivers on the referendum result.
- David H

as Liam Fox says, half the time the people and their MPs do not understand that we need a Withdrawal Agreement before ANY KIND of trade deal can be negotiated - whatever that may be. Quote: “Whatever deal we want to have in future still requires a Withdrawal Agreement. This is something people don’t seem to be grasping. Whether it’s the deal that the prime minister has set out for leaving the EU, or the Norway style, or the Canada FTA; they still require the Withdrawal Agreement.” So, we still require the Withdrawal Agreement before we get to the Canada FTA - our future TRADE DEAL as roughly outlined in the 26-page Political Statement tagged onto the Withdrawal Agreement. This is STILL to be finalised in the 2 - 4 years of the transition period (hopefully 2 years at most). All of this is much too much for Labour, SNP or the DUP members to understand it seems. Only the Labour Brexiteers have an inkling what Brexit actually means, but even Kate Hooey looks to be stumbling. She should have consulted Dr Fox... All this CR*P about a "peoples' Vote or a new EU-Referendum" will merely DELAY our Trade Deal negotiations and that could be crucial to a good Brexit. I'm not sure that even RED-Labour realises that. Their aim of course, is to take over from the Conservative Government in a G.E but little do they anticipate a groundswell of support for the PM Theresa May, a lot coming from Labour Leave voters and Jeremy Corbyn, before he was influenced by Seumus Milne his new Commie best friend and/or Marxist hanger-on McDonnell, to vote against the WA.
- Janet TT

We were sold lies in the first referendum . This is now so obvious that even ardent Brexiteers would be pretty blind or just plain stubborn not to accept they were lies . T May tried to get a better majority , and lost it it even then , ie the people actually did not support her Brexit . The government has only been functioning because of the effective ‘bribe’ in giving £ 1 Billion extra spending in Northern Ireland in return for 10 DUP votes to keep her goverment afloat . That actually means she had no Mandate . ( leave the fact that she spent my hard earned taxes propping up her government via the DUP deal ) . Now we can all see that the Deal is bad - it was always going to . You cant leave a club without losing benefits of being a Member , despite leading Politicians promising us that we could . TMs deal probably is the best we can get , but I absolutely agree its not good enough . I employ 50 staff . We are one of the few manufacturing companies in the UK and fewer still that export . I am told that the WTO tariiffs I will face will be outweighed by the amazing deals we will get in countries that are not as close geographically and that we deal little with at the moment . I frankly do not believe that . I am not alone , the government own figures tell us that these deals may only add 0.2% to GDP . So we now know so much more about the facts that the only reasonable and in fact honest and Democratic choice is a Second ( Thruthful ) Referendum . We were lied to. The first Referendum was therefore not Democratic. If politicians lie , the people in effect become puppets of those lies , it was not Democratoc at all. Repeated reference to that as ‘ the People have decided” is not only ignorant it is perpetuating dishonesty in Politics - and its Teresa May who is still beating that dishonest drum. The “leader” is perpetuating a lie, on behalf of the likes of Boris Johnson and Rees Mog. I was a true Conservative but its really difficult (almost impossible) to have any faith in that dogma . However I do believe that our Sarah Wollaston is an extraordinary MP to push for a correction in the Tory dogma and begin to restore our faith in Tory politics. A Truthful Second Referendum , but to get that universally accepted by Brexiters we have to out the liars - and that is Taking the precious time that we dont have much of .
- G David

I support your principled stand Dr Wollaston. I am appalled by the insults lobbed at you in the comments above by people who cannot distinguish between debate and rant. I find it bizarre that those in the Leave campaign will not simply accept that we were missold Brexit when the fact of that stares us in the face. No amount of justification based on selective facts will change that. Do you Brexiteers not understand the catastrophe that will result if we implement the dogs breakfast of a plan that your leaders have prepared for us. They had free rein to create and deliver what they promised and instead have come up with this. There is no solution to the Irish Border; no solution to the decimation to British Industry that will result from the removal of easy to pass borders; no solution to the immigration 'problem'. Just a vastly demeaned and impoverished country trying to tell itself it now has 'control'. Please come back to the real world, Brexiteers. Leave your fantasies. Stop this madness. We need you to help us get out of this mess.
- Peter Scott

Peter, I keep hearing that we didn’t know what we were voting for – that we were missold BREXIT. The truth is that the facts are out there if you want to find them. I mean real facts – not “decimation to British Industry”, “no solution to immigration” or “no solution to the Irish Border”. However, I completely agree with you on the “dogs breakfast of a plan” drawn up and will fully support Dr Wollaston should she vote against it. However, a real fact – this was not by a “BREXIT leader” as you suggest, but by someone firmly in the Remain camp! I admire the principled stand made by Dr Wollaston– although I do not agree with it. I don’t see lots of abuse above as you do– just a degree of frustration with the current situation and an electorate who wish they had understood these views before the last General Election. When can we really trust politicians to tell us the complete truth – only selective information that supports their view? This has always been the case. For example, let’s look at some real facts – YES, we hear a lot about the fact that nearly half (44%) of UK exports in goods and services went to other countries in the EU in 2017. However, the rest of the EU as a whole sells a lot more to us than we sell to it – in fact, 23 of the 27 countries sell more to us than we do to them. As an example, Germany sold us over £20bn more than we sold them. Overall, the EU sold around £70bn more to us than we did to them – figures vary slightly from one website to another but are all of this magnitude. The only country with a significant balance of trade in our favour is Ireland. Think about it – that is a strong position to be able to negotiate from! Why would Germany want to put trade barriers and tariffs in place? Lots more examples like this if you want to look. I base my decision on a number of factors and not the selective ‘truths’ (or what some people call lies) of either side – whether it be the £350 million for the NHS or the total collapse of the economy (and everything else it seemed) if we dared vote for BREXIT. Let’s just get on and implement the outcome of the referendum and negotiate from a position of strength as the trade figures above suggest we should be able to. Such incompetence and infighting in government can only lead to the conclusion that the majority of our political representatives (apart from a few) have never had the intention of acting on the outcome of the referendum – so came up with a ‘deal’ so bad that it is rejected out of hand and then seek to manipulate the outcome of a second referendum by the choices given to ensure that we give the right answer this time. It is all so disappointing from a democracy point of view! I am probably wasting my breath here as we have all already made up our minds!
- Patrick, Brixham

Peter above. More marks for comedy than cohesion in that argument. Seriously, get a grip. "I support your principled stand Dr Wollaston"...this is Sarah Wollaston? An MP who initially stood for election in 2015 on a pledge to have an EU referendum. When her party won this election, she voted to have a referendum. She initially advocated a Leave vote, consistently tweeting messages about the Brussels kleptocracy and how undemocratic the EU was. Then she converted, miraculously advocating a Remain vote just weeks before the vote. She then pivoted, supporting a party pledging to honour the referendum vote and withdraw us from the Customs Union and Single Market. Then she advocated a "People's Vote" (as if we haven't had one). She is many things (most far more insulting than any comments above you claim to be so offended by). But PRINCIPLED?! Are you having a laugh? "They (presumably he means Brexiteers) had free rein to create and deliver what they promised and instead have come up with this". Really? We've had a Remainer as PM. All of the Ministries of State are occupied by Remainers. PM, Chancellor, Foreign Sec, Home Sec, Deputy PM. Civil Service entirely dominated by Remainers. Again, not really backed by the facts. "There is no solution to the Irish Border". Aside from the solutions that any other countries with borders have? The previous Irish government of Enda Kenny did not raise this issue. The EU has used this issue to meddle in the NI Peace process, aided by a very anti-unionist Varadkhar government in Dublin. The EU used this issue to hijack and break these talks. Remainers have enthusiastically used this issue to thwart the referendum result of 2016. Colluding with a hostile foreign government to weaken the British negotiating position...almost the definition of a Fifth Column. No wonder EU enthusiasts have such a job in convincing people that they have any affection for Britain. "Please come back to the real world". Oh the irony. Why don't you take that advice yourself?
- George, Paignton

I am in your constituency but did not vote Tory. As a Lib Dem I am very pleased that you have changed your mind about Brexit. Changing your mind after more information becomes available is a democratic right and common sense. Please carry on backing another vote. The disaster of Brexit must be stopped.
- Susan. Paignton

I voted to remain in the EU as did the majority of people in the South Hams! I have seen nothing to change my opinion and I’m not sure that a second vote is necessarily the right thing. I hope that you vote for the deal that’s on the table as I dread to think what will happen if we leave with no deal. I worked in the NHS for over 20years and was not taken in by the pledge on the side of a bus or indeed anything else that was said by those Brexiteers who turned tail and ran away when they got what they wanted! Well done Theresa for taking on the job!
- Carole

If by informed you mean acknowledging both the poisitves as well as the negatives of the UK leaving the EU, then as somene who only focuses on the negatives, I'm not entirely sure you are qualified to impose such a decision on us. And isnt this at the numb of the argument. My firm believe is the government, servants of the people, should in 2016 have remained non-partisan, presenting a co-herent argument both for why we should stay and why we should leave. Instead it was a free-for-all, with both sides indulging in slightly misleading information. So the population had to filter all this 'noise' whilst being told time and time again... you have this one go. No re-runs. No second chances. So, how do you think people reacted to this? After weeks of TV debates, MSM reporting, you honestly believe people made their mind up on catching sight of a bus with a number on the side... or the endless 'cliff-edge' scenaros? Let alone your change of sides days, with the coordinated MSM coverage? And since we are talking about informed... perhaps you'd like to explain how you envisage the EU will developing over the coming 5, 10, 15 years? As someone who had to provide a brief to a multi-national business on the Maastricht treaty, I distinctly recall identifying it as a one-way street to a Federal Europe. Something subsequent treaties have built on. So please, lets be honest here. During this informed vote, are you going to stand up and tell the people of the UK what staying will entail? ie The true cost.
- Stuart Price

I wholeheartedly agree with Sarah's views. I think Brexit will be a disaster. I voted remain but I had no idea of the chaos it would cause and therefore I doubt that anyone else did. We were fed a load of lies by the Leave campaign. The Remain campaign was frankly poor and I think they were convinced the result would be to stay that they didn't try hard enough. I think we need a second referendum. The first one was very close. I think we should have a second one to check that the first represents the (now) informed opinion of the people. I will accept the second result.
- Simon Lansdown

Like Simon, I'm in compete agreement with Sarah's views. As the Leave campaign was full of non- or even misinformation (and the Remain campaign was scarcely a campaign), it is time to ask a (little) more-informed voting public what they think. Now we have more of an idea of how any Brexit will affect aspects of our everyday lives - cost of living, the NHS, the environment, food safety, workers' rights - I hope people will think carefully about the whole idea rather than one or two aspects that appeal to them.
- Morgaine

Anyone that thinks a betrayal of 17.4 million people that voted to LEAVE the EU in the face of 'project fear' will get them re-elected is living in cloud cuckoo land! The current Withdrawal Agreement needs to be rejected and we need to go back to the EU with a very clear message that there is no agreement while the 'backstop' remains. They clearly wan't to keep this 'trump card' so they can blackmail us with it again during the future trade negotiations and it MUST be withdrawn. If it is successfully removed we can then enter trade negotiations with the EU on an equal footing, without blackmail. An approval of the current agreement will only lead to a Labour Government under Jeremy Corbyn and a massive increase in political discontent among the British People. If Theresa May does lose the vote next week, and I certainly hope she does, we certainly do NOT need second referendum as the decision to LEAVE has already been taken.
- David H

Unfortunately Sarah is ignorant of her responsibilty as our representative in Parliament, it is not a playplace for her conscience. She was elected as a member of the Conservative party and she had a contract with us but she has undermined the party on whose back she was elected. Of course she is entitled to her views but should stand as an Independent !
- John

As matters in Parliament move at a pace the suggestion of a second referendum supported by Sarah has one major flaw. No one has put forward a credible suggestion as to what we would exactly be voting for . Mrs Mays deal is fatally flawed because of the backstop, No Deal we are told will be voted out as an option by Parliament . So Sarah please tell us realistically What ? will the question be on the Ballot paper. We have already voted on Leave or Remain. Leave won which you promised to honour in the last Conservative manifesto as did Labour. Time is running out. May I suggest you all get together to sort out a workable and fair Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Framework with the EU and get on with negotiating Brexit as you promised. Now is not the time for another vote
- Andrea

The problem with a second vote is we don't know what the question should be. I think the best solution now as the deal is certain to be rejected is to withdraw article 50. We can then have a proper debate without being under a very restricted time limit to plan where we go next. One thing is clear, article 50 was triggered and the negotiations were started before anyone had a coherent plan of what we wanted to achieve. Only when you know your preferred outcome can you start to negotiate. When we have a firm idea of what the possible outcomes are, then we can have another vote. Oh and next time let's have a tighter control on who is paying the campaign bills.
- Bob

The problem with a second vote is that we've already had one. Remainers are struggling to find ways to nullify the first result, supported by the dark establishment. The Scottish referendum result, Welsh devolution referendum with a 51% turnout won by 0.7%, voting system referendum result; all accepted without a murmer. The 2016 Referendum had over 70% turnout and won by 3.8%, there are over 40 MPs who won by a smaller margin, no call for a second vote. The reason, that's how a democracy has to work, you have to accept the result. Please take note Sarah !
- John

I live in your constituency and I fully support your position as we approach these critical few days for the future of our country. The democratic principle is crystal clear and the terms of Brexit should be put to the British people to decide whether to proceed on those terms or to keep the current deal we have as a member of the EU. Thank you Sarah!
- Tom

The fact that Sarah Wollaston has changed her mind on Brexit is not evidence that she is unprincipled, unless that principle be that it’s wrong ever to change your mind. Be wary of high principles in politics; they are often used to justify simplistic and uncharitable policies (left or right). I value kindness, compassion, and a willingness to compromise and to alter your views when the facts change or when you become better acquainted with them. I’ve seen that in bucket-loads in Sarah Wollaston. She is a fine MP. I’ve never been a Tory voter, but I might just change my mind if Sarah stands again. Keep up the good work, Sarah.
- Tim, South Milton

Patrick from Brixham said that Canada-plus-plus would “deliver the Brexit I and millions of others voted for”. That may be true, but the reasons for voting leave were many and varied. About a third of leave voters simply want to curb immigration (but many other leavers are unconcerned about levels of immigration); another large minority were attracted by the idea that we’d be richer outside the EU and were swayed by the promise of an extra £350m to spend on the NHS (while other more economically-savvy leave voters realised this was nonsense); some libertarians simply want to have complete control of our laws, come what may (but EU regulations do not particularly bother other leave voters); another group, especially in poorer areas, were fed up of eight years of austerity and falling living standards and thought Brexit might be a way out; others still were fed up of being ignored by the liberal elites, and were simply lashing out at those in power. Whatever reasons people had for voting leave or remain, what was not on the ballot paper was the form Brexit would take; Switzerland-, Norway- and Canada-style arrangements, as well as Brexit to WTO rules, were all mooted but none was settled on. No particular vision of Britain after Brexit was properly explained and agreed on - beyond the fairly meaningless but brilliant slogan ‘Take back control’. Furthermore, the referendum was advisory but the government chose to treat the result as a political mandate. This is important. I think it was a mistake and undemocratic, and should have been challenged then and still should be. If the referendum result had been clearer, it would probably have been fine. But the margin of victory was narrow, with only 37% of the whole electorate voting for Brexit, and a slightly smaller percentage voting against; if 500,000 people had voted differently, it would have gone the other way. The country is divided and there is no agreement on what form Brexit should take. We now all know far more about the implications of Brexit, good and bad. It is absolutely not undemocratic nor unconstitutional to call for a second referendum. In fact the idea was first proposed by none other than Jacob Rees-Mogg, who said in a speech in the Commons, “We could have two referendums, and it may make sense to have the second after the renegotiation is completed”, and also by Nigel Farage who, just before the 2016 referendum, said we should have a second referendum if the vote were very close. So, be sensible, stay calm, and be pragmatic; we British are very good at that (or used to be). Don’t shout and rant like IDS did today and threaten civil unrest. That is highly irresponsible and damaging to democracy. Democracy did not end on 23rd June 2016. Don’t be afraid of asking the people again. They are not stupid. If they are adamant that they want Brexit - whether that’s no deal or Theresa’s May’s deal - they will tell us. It should be perfectly possible to come with a fair question or set of questions that leaves all options on the table.
- Tim, South Milton

What would those questions be Tim especially as most MPs and Voters do not agree with Mrs Mays deal as it stands or crashing out with a No Deal. Plus we have to come up with something the EU will agree to and they say the negotiations are over. If there was an easy answer someone would have come up with it after 2 years How will a vote help. If we go back in it will not be business as usual everything has changed. You need something for Leavers to vote for. But of course you probably do not want that.
- Andrea

Good points, Andrea, except for your last little sneer. I do want something for leavers to vote for. I think that binary options (No deal vs May’s deal; Remain vs May’s deal; Remain vs No deal) are fraught with difficulty, but given that we voted to leave in 2016 and that May’s government has agreed a deal with the EU, then a choice between No deal and May’s deal would not be a travesty of democracy or justice. However, as you point out, no one seems to like either of those options; and recent polling suggests there is now a majority for Remain. So it isn’t ideal. We could have a two-stage vote in which we are asked to vote again on whether we want to leave or remain. If we decide to leave, then we have another vote where the choice could perhaps be May’s deal vs No deal. It isn’t easy, it needs debating, and we’d need constitutional experts and independent pollsters to come up with wording that was acceptable to most people. I think it’s possible though, and would lead to a result that was both democratic and binding.
- Tim, South Milton

Congratulations Sarah on your stance for a sensible future for the UK. It is clear that the PM's proposals can satisfy no one - we would be tied too closely to the EU for the hard Brexiteers and we would loose too much for those of us who voted to remain. The question should be put to the people to decide now that the real consequences of leaving the EU are known.
- Peter and Olga, Kellaton

Tim, South Milton - Nowhere did I advocate or suggest a Canada Plus deal or any other deal. The options in the referendum was crystal clear - Leave or Stay. The implications of leaving were spelt out clearly by our then Prime Minister, Chancellor and Head of the Bank of England. As you say, people voted for a variety of reasons but the important fact is that they voted to Leave - I would expect our Government to carry out this out. Any further referendum that gives the option of Remain raises deep questions about our democracy - especially one that carefully selects the question to ensure a 'Remain' answer such as the question proposed by Vince Cable amongst others.
- Patrick, Brixham

Apologies, Patrick. That was "David H" who said that, not you.
- Tim, South Milton

Well done Sarah on your stance to rejecting the current Brexit deal and for supporting a people's vote. There is every reason to reject this fudged and deleterious deal for our country will lose far more wealth and opportunity to create wealth than we have at present. I don't want to envisage food shortages, medicine shortages, queues of lorries trying to leave or get into the UK, a lack of trade deals if we leave and all this mess for our children to deal with. We are a prosperous country thanks to being in the EU and will be able to continue to make even more trade deals from within the EU once we decide to remain. And remain we when we are given a second referendum, for now we know what leaving looks like, and it is not at all pretty, we can choose a better future for our country by voting to remain. And when we do vote to remain, there will still be a split country to heal and a need for both leavers and remainers to work together, much as that may seem unappealing to both sides, for only by having a country that creates more wealth than at present can we have our improved plocing and efucation and NHS.
- Howard, Totnes

Forgive the spelling mistakes- it was posted automatically. Howard.
- Howard, Totnes

I laugh everytime I read the comments. We need another vote and "Will stand by the second one. How about a Third or Fourth if people are not happy with the outcome. Sarah is a disgrace to the Conservative Pary and the People of Devon, majority voted to Leave, get on with it and stop being a traitor.
- Pat Brodie

Congratulations on your courageous stand against the disaster of Brexit.
- Hilary, Totnes

Well done on your stance. Brexit is a disaster but was voted for. Leaving without a deal is the biggest disaster this country will have ever faced. We may be the fifth biggest economy in the world but we won't be if we leave without a deal. Let's remember also, all those people who own properties in Europe who voted leave and want a no deal, and yes I know lots of them, they are in for the biggest shock of their lives. I hear them moaning already about how unfair it will be if they have to get an international driving licence, face delays at customs and passport control. What do they expect, they voted to stop the freedom of movement. The implications of no deal are far bigger than any Brexiteer can imagine and I hope it doesn't happen. The Backstop has to go, that is non negotiable and if another years negotiations need to take place to find a deal, then thats what should happen.
- Steve, Totnes

You were voted in purely because you were the Conservative Candidate. You have now left the Conservative Party it is only right that you resign your seat. I would rather have a by election than have you and your airey fairy ways,changing your mind as the mood suits you, making decisions for honest people who voted for you on the Brexit Policy which was Democraticaly reached by the Referendum. The way you paraded yourself and two accomplices outside Parliament with huge grins on your smug faces as if,look at us we are holding the country to ransom,was most insulting and disrespectful.
- Trevor Dartmouth

I am delighted to hear you have joined the sane MPs I wish you well and maybe could offer a little financial support Rodney Wade Thomas
- Rodney Wade-Thomas

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21 AUG 2018

Informed consent is essential before Brexit surgery

If you were about to undergo surgery, you would expect to know what the operation involved and to be informed about all the risks and benefits. It's called informed consent and no decent surgeon would go ahead without it.

Brexit certainly is major surgery with far-reaching consequences and the government is about to proceed without informed consent.

At the time of the referendum the choice was simply to leave or to remain. The type of Brexit was not on the ballot paper, which is like a surgeon asking their patient to consent to an amputation in two years' time without either of them knowing whether this would involve a few toes or their whole leg.

Voters were assured that this would be the easiest deal in history and that the world, including the EU, would be queuing at our door to trade on our terms. There would be cake and we would be eating it, alongside every fish that swam in our waters.

In the real world, instead of a bespoke deal we are all being marched briskly to the edge of the cliff. No deal and no transition look increasingly likely to be the outcome, and is the preferred option of those MPs who have deliberately and fatally undermined the Chequers plan.

The surgery looks set to be far more radical than anything set out in the referendum and the side-effects and complications of a hard, walk-away, no-deal Brexit with no transition are very different from the promised targeted surgical excision of just the parts of the EU that the Brexiteers didn't like. Shouldn't people have an opportunity to weigh up the risks and benefits before proceeding?

Once we know the final terms there is not just an opportunity but a duty to set out the unintended consequences as well as the potential benefits. There is a compelling case for that to be followed by a people's vote: we have to make it clear to government that it should not embark on potentially ruinous surgery without the informed consent of the British people.

It might be that a majority nevertheless decide to proceed, but there is no democratic mandate for Brexit until the choice is clear and an informed decision can be made. If the hard Brexiteers are confident about their walk-away, no-deal scenario they should be happy to agree.

The polls show that public opinion is turning on Brexit, especially as the sheer scale of the cost and consequences becomes clearer.

No responsible government should countenance deliberately and knowingly inflicting such economic and social harm on its people before at least checking that is what they really wanted.


Excuse me, but I would argue that the referendum was a democratic mandate. Only subsequently do the remainers seek to redefine the result. But I have a few questions. Words like cliff edge, disaster, and devastating are all very emotive, and feed into project fear. But what exactly do you predict, and how do you know you are correct? Two world wars were disasters. Chernobyl was a disaster, and the Asian tsunami. Venezuela’s economy is a disaster. What scale of disaster do we face? Will there be a war with Germany over Brexit? Will we see stagflation, a run on the banks, food rationing, another winter of discontent in the spring? Do you think that by spreading panic, talk of stockpiling food and medicine, supermarket shelves will be stripped in a day, you will instigate the disaster you expect, and say “told you so ?
- John Daer

I agree with John as he makes many good points. We will be leaving the EU as was voted for in the referendum. Brexit is extremely popular and there is no turn against Brexit. The economy will reach dizzying highs unknown hitherto after we leave the EU. The EU is like a niggardly old man failing but unable to accept it.
- Derek

To continue Sarah’s analogy the surgeon needs to amputate as much as possible to ensure all affected and diseased parts are removed which will encourage healthy recovery from the problems . Thus Brexit needs to be a clean break to encourage recovery of the economy and a healthy future.
- Derek

It's quite wrong of scientists and businesses to attempt to derail brexit with their demonstrations against it as a democratic vote was taken and everyone had the opportunity to vote on this matter. As the scientific community are supposedly amongst the more intellectual members of our society I would expect they have the necessary intelligence to counter any constraints they may encounter after Brexit. This similarly applies to the business community which needs to adjust in a suitable way to the future as it presents itself after Brexit has taken place.
- Derek

I run a small technology business dealing with both the UK, Europe and the US. The reality is that if I produce the right goods at the right place, it doesn’t matter whether we are in or out of the EU. Successful commercial UK companies will adapt whatever the outcome despite the scare stories – that is why they are successful. There is a bigger principle at stake here – that is democracy. You tweeted a couple of days ago about the “growing prospect of poisonous extremism in power” – I too am extremely worried about this but firmly believe this becomes even more likely when the wishes of the often silent majority are ignored as may now become the case if your way forward comes to pass. You wish for a second vote. A second vote is likely to be structured to ensure that the ‘desired’ outcome is realised. Easily done - for example, have 3 choices – Leave without deal, Leave with deal proposed or Stay in EU – hence splitting the leave vote between two options. So, if we assume voting along the lines of the original vote, an outcome of 48% vote Stay, 26% vote to accept deal and leave, 26% vote to leave without deal would have those who want to Stay proclaim they are the winners – even though 52% still voted to leave! Easily done but hardly democratic! Over half of those who voted will still have voted Leave! A further nail in the coffin for democracy driving reasonable people to vote for more extreme elements in the hope of shaking up the establishment who have failed to listen in a desperate attempt to be heard! I would class myself as a traditional Tory voter – maybe even one of the silent majority. I have voted Conservative at every general election since I was old enough to vote. It is difficult to see how the traditional Tory voter will be able to vote for you at the next General Election with your current stance. If you read this, you may see me as old and out of touch and maybe in a minority of Tory voters, but rest assured, I know exactly what I voted for with Brexit, I am not old and very much in touch with what happens in the real world. But I guess we will what happens at the next election.
- Patrick, Brixham

Absolutely right Patrick. You have absolutely made my day with your splendid comments. Democracy is already a thin veil and we do not want it becoming any thinner by ignoring a majority that voted in favour of Brexit.
- Derek

Hold the line, out is out, we need to escape the moribund megalith. It is way of achieving a European power block run (by others), to achieve control by the largest economy in Europe to ultimately ‘manage’ the smaller/weaker economies of Easter Europe. This has failed militarily twice and will succeed using the European Union as the chosen vehicle to achieve it. We should not be apart of this. Common Market, - yes, Common currency - yes, Co-operation with neighbours - yes, Handing over the keys to the Kingdom - to a third party - NEVER!
- Richard

I am amazed at the tunnel vision of people who say leaving the EU has any benefits for the UK. This nonsense about “taking back control” is just another convenient sound bite for the masses, like “strong and stable”. I’m amazed that so many people can be duped by such ridiculous, vacuous statements, without anything to back it up. Brexit is madness and Dr. Wollaston is right to demand a people’s vote. Those who rattle off another favourite sound bite that Brexit is “the will of the people” to give authority for even a no-deal forget that only 57% of those eligible to vote actually voted in the referendum. And this excludes those under 18’s not allowed to vote. So, at best Brexit is the will of some of the people, the majority of whom were duped by career politicians like Gove, Johnson and co., backed by millionaire businessmen like Farage and Banks, who stand to gain personally financially from getting the UK to leave Europe. It makes no sense to leave and, yes, it will be a disaster for this country. And how ironic that those who say “it’s democracy” don’t want the people to have the final say! I have never voted for the Conservatives, but thank goodness we have a Conservative member of Parliament willing to stand up to the Tory in-fighting on Europe that has gone on for decades and who speaks for the common sense view that we need to stop this madness. Keep going, Sarah, you have plenty of support.
- Kevin, Totnes

I absolutely support your thinking on Brexit, Sarah. Thank you, thank you, thank you! We all need to know what precisely the surgeon is removing and what we will suffer as a consequence. You are a brave woman!
- Greta Jensen

I no longer support a second vote but if there is one the question should be: 1. Should we leave the EU Yes / No 2. If we do leave would you prefer to accept the terms offered? Yes / No Voting No means you support the "No Deal" option Papers are invalidated if both questions are not answered! This will ensure that the decision to leave, or not, is still based on the majority and also gives the people the choice of supporting the negotiated agreement or a "no deal". I am not a great believer in referendums as I have less confidence in "The People's" judgement then you seem to have, but if you trust their judgement then also offer the "no deal" option!
- Mike UK

Sarah, wrong party? Your thinking is rational and clear rather than wrong-headed and driven by a narrow ideology. The Tory party is in pieces and has driven the whole Nation to this absurd historic blunder fundamentally because of internal party squabbling. The 'democratic' vote was a disgrace to the necessary, vital, complex and civilized concept of Democracy. Is this what we think we are exporting to the world? Cynical untruth's, appealing to the more base instincts, promises impossible to keep but who-cares-as-long-as-we-win (something!). Long-time Tory me, I feel sick to think I may have to align myself to this chaos.
- steveK

How right Patrick is. His company will not fall of a cliff edge. He will continue to run his business and probably run it better without interference from the overpaid bureaucrats in Brussels who delight in wasting taxpayers money to ensure they maintain their splendid life style. Out means out, hardly difficult to understand and that is what the majority of the Totnes constituency voted for. We do not need another referendum or vote to trawl through the terms and our MP should recognise that fact. World Trade terms will be perfectly satisfactory and at the same time saves a large and unnecessary Billions of pounds payment to the EU. At the same time we can get our fishing back which it is not difficult to see would be the pawn to give away in some dreadful Chequers type deal.
- Graham

I am very much one of the Silent Majority. I voted Remain and have never seen or heard anything to make me change that opinion. I can only thank Sarah not only for all the work she has done in our constituency throughout the holidays but for her wise comments and action in suggesting we think again before Brexit.
- June

"Take back control" is good. That, surely, means that the people of the country take back control and make an INFORMED decision - not that a small group of public schoolboys make our decisions for us. As David Davis has said, "A Democracy that can't change it's mind is no longer a Democracy."
- Bob

The country is not run through referenda, but by elected mp s. and the process of parliament. But parliament has seccumbed to endless in fighting and the peddling of falsehoods. Leaving without a deal would be a disaster, and should be at leadt posponed until some clarity amidst the confusion which the process has engendered has subsided. Far from being a bold decision leaving especially without a clear deal is a cowardly and misguided journey into myth and idiology, of a few not a majority in parliament. Thank goodness our MP has come to see this, and is couragious enough to say so. Let us support her!
- bernard

Dr Wolloaston has lost my confidence and my vote. Given the dreadful state of UK politics, it will hard to find someone to vote for at the next election.
- Rob J

I felt very much informed as to the risks of Brexit. Every house had one of these documents sent to it. Despite this 54% of the Constituency voted leave. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/515068/why-the-government-believes-that-voting-to-remain-in-the-european-union-is-the-best-decision-for-the-uk.pdf
- Tim Harvey

Sarah`s analogy of Informed Consent to Leaving the EU is flawed, she must know this.. At best Informed Consent gives hope, certainly not a guarantee of outcome. It`s playing with words by a Remainer who cannot accept the result of The Referendum. Staying or Leaving we don`t know the position in 5 years time, the hope is for something better outside the EU structure than inside.
- John

"Out means out" is not an argument. The Brexit issue is not a game of cricket with a winning side and a losing side which should concede graciously. I have yet to hear which specific laws from Brussels are oppressing our freedoms and will be repealed to our general benefit, or see any figures put on the financial gains which we are promised will arise from no-deal Brexit. The majority of the Leave arguments have been ill-disguised appeals to emotions. I sympathize with my fellow Britons who feel that their country has been sold from under their feet and believe that the impact of Freedom of Movement, for instance, has been ignored by those who most obviously benefit from it (employers, businesses) at the emotional expense of those who live with the effects of it, in a changed daily living-environment. But this shambolic, hard-right driven Little England crusade is cutting off our faces to spite our noses. Thanks for your Economic logic and political insight, Sarah.
- Julian

I have never voted Conservative, and the current attempt by a reckless minority of self-serving Tory MPs to promote a hard Brexit agenda, interpreting an ambiguous referendum in an uncompromising and one-sided pursuit of recreating past glories re-confirms my natural antipathy - but I WOULD vote for Sarah Wollaston, because she is not like the rest of her party. She is a courageous and independent minded voice of reason, and on this issue she is right yet again. Democracy is not a once in a lifetime snapshot of opinion on an unknown outcome; it is a process of debate and compromise, constantly taking the pulse of what is good, right and acceptable. We did not know what outcome we were being asked to accept in the referendum vote. Once we know what kind of outcome is being proposed we should be able to vote on that.
- Simon, Totnes

All these sound bites offered by politicians and grabbed by the media and the public. What is project fear and who is conducting this so called project? Perhaps we should label the Brexiteers predicted economic wonders of leaving the EU as Project Fantasy. A pro Brexit MP recently said how that when we leave the EU food prices will fall dramatically, well that depends upon our currency not suffering a further loss of value. Also how are cheap imports of food good for our farming industry and where is the added value to the economy? Is it with more households spend on even more imports?
- Nick

At the referendum we were given two options leave or remain, leave campaign telling us that we would see no difference on leaving plus the famous £350m a week going into the NHS, now the leavers all tell a very different story and we here constant doom prediction. I voted remain and have seen nothing to change my onion, but the reality is that this country has voted to leave but from what I understand we are not actually leaving or staying, this is not an outcome that either side voted for so we must have a peoples vote on whatever is agreed in the final negotiations, this must give three options. 1 Accept agreement and leave on these terms. 2. Reject agreement and leave (Hard Brexit) 3.Reject agreement and remain within the EU This is the only democratic way to proceed with this decision which will dramatically effect all our lives for years to come.
- Ray Wakelin

I was given the option of leave or remain, if the vote was to leave the Government would implement the decision. This must be done failing which we have no democracy. We have to give it a go, if we don't like it we can apply to rejoin !
- John

As a long time labour/socialist voter ( I am 86!!) ,no hope in Totnes, I can only reiterate June's comments. Sarah has bravely tried to do her best for us in this Tory Government .Thank you Sarah.If only we had LibDem government??? Devon for Europe!! Here is hopeing!
- helen lindsay

If we had a Lib Dem government as Helen suggests we would not have to worry about Brexit causing a collapse of the British economy . The Lib Dems would manage to destroy the economy with or without Brexit. We voted to leave and that's exactly what we will be doing.
- Derek

Derek [and others who still support Brexit but get angry about a Second Referendum ] , What have you got to be afraid of if we have a Second Referendum ? . Its still a Democracy if the votes are counted fairly and the question we are Voting on is answered after hearing facts . I am sure you remember that we were told by UKIP that "Turkey would join the EU by 2020 and that as many as 15 million people would leave the country for the EU in the first ten years of its membership". That and other 'untruths' have since been seen to be untruths . So in Sarah Wollastons analogy , if we in fact found that the Doctors had thought, in 2016 that a left toe on the LEFT foot was to be amputated but now in 2018 the FACT was that it was a RIGHT leg that needed to go , would you not ask for a Second opinion at the very least and then also demand that you could change your mind on the decision you made to cut of your small right toe when asked in 2016 ? If not surely you will lose both . - that sounds idiotic to me . David Davis [ an ardent Brexiteer] has said, "A Democracy that can't change it's mind is no longer a Democracy." Additionally - Another likely outcome if you dont chose to support a Second referendum is there will certainly be a General Election and then all bets are off as to our future with a Corbyn government. so cut the emotion and read the facts
- only for SW will I continue to vote Tory

Are you aware that Fishing quotas can be sold and in fact many have been to other European operators so its plain wrong to think that Brexit will return these Quotas to UK control .
- a reply to getting our fishing back

Now that everything is falling apart, it makes sense more than ever to have a final, people’s vote. That is democracy! Macron was right when he spoke out this week saying that Britain had been conned by lies into thinking it should leave the EU. All power to Sarah who is standing up for what is right and fair.
- Helen Petit

If only for SW will I continue to vote Tory thinks another vote on Brexit is democratic what happened to the democratic vote we undertook in 2016. Only ditherers change their minds continuously at every twist and turn because they lack the intelligence to explore the facts. If the strangely named "Only for SW will I continue to vote Tory" had managed to make its mind up in 2016 there would be no need to waste more taxpayers money on another referendum. To continue Sarah’s analogy if the surgeon was unable to make a definitive decision and stand by that decision where will we be? I suspect there must be unpalatable decisions taken by surgeons everyday and these things can go wrong but mistakes can and will be made unless one stands by their decisions. Surgeons and Doctors do not know everything and cannot forsee every possible outcome and neither can politicians or businesses. I believe we have heard all the scaremongering from remainers over the years many times whenever there is a worry like the millennium bug etc ad nauseum. I actually believe that if we do not leave the EU we will see satellites fall from the skies and little pink pixies at the bottom of the garden. Cars will refuse to start ,washing machines will explode and catch fire and the police will experience cutbacks and pigs will fly. Actually some of these things already happen so that's proof we must leave the EU before all the other things start to happen and we all go crackers. That's already happended too.
- Derek

Leaving the EU will be like waking in a nice warm cosy bed after a successful operation. Staying in the EU will be like ending up on a cold mortuary slab after an unsuccessful operation.
- Derek

Let's not forget Sarah Wollaston was elected on a false prospectus, in a constituency voting 54% to 'Leave the EU'. With this in mind should she not tender her resignation or be deselected ?
- John

Sarah stopped being my MP when she stopped recognising the manifesto upon which she was elected. After having previously supported her personally, I can now say that I was conned by a liar. I will be voting for Johnson in the forthcoming leadership election, and look forward to Sarah either leaving the party or being removed.
- George, Paignton

I see the rentamob brexiteers from boriscentral are out in force. We were lied to in the referendum campaign and we are still being lied to. Brexit could be a disaster and we ought to be given the chance to look at what the deal will be and decide then.
- Bob

Fair comment. Is there any progress on how a customs union could be incorporated ? this seems cornerstone
- Karen

I see the rentamob remainers are kicking back with no real positive suggestions to support their views. This is usually the case with people that have been indoctrinated with ideas that are not their own. Remainers please wake up and understand we voted to leave the ailing EU and that is precisely what we will be doing.
- Derek

I totally agree with Sarah and support her view. We were sold a pig in a poke and deserve a real vote where we know what we are voting for.
- Pat

We had a vote . Voting took place a few years ago.In case you forgot we voted to leave the ailing EU. Please get with it.
- Derek

Brexit cost the tax payer £500 billion at the referendum to stop the economy crashing, which the common person has to pay back to the Bank of England. Brexiteers do not even know this. Brexit with no customs union will cost the NHS England £124 million a day, 7 days a week in tariffs as we buy most medicines from the EU, we cannot make them ourselves. That is double the mere cost (47p each per week) to be in the EU falsely claimed by Boris Johnson on the side of the red bus. Half our membership is actually spent on us in this country building our roads, hospitals, bypasses etc. MEMBERSHIP PAYS. Each week is costing us one billion poinds in bad exchange rates, endless talks and not including lost business. Brexit wil mean people will have to pay 28%-88 tariffs on foodstuffs to and from the EU. That is 94% of all Welsh food and drink, similar amounts of Irish and Scottish farming produce. It will be uncompetitive. You will also have to pay VAT on good leaving the EU and then be taxed again here. We import more than we export. That will be forever, not a one off payment. The EU employs fewer than Leeds City Council and our 200 plus MEPs improve the laws our PM and the 27 other leaders decide together to implement. However less than 6% of our laws even mention the EU in passing. Most environmental laws and fishing laws are international, not EU and we have to abide by them anyway. The EU is a stable and healthy platform which has helped this country grow and given its people rights (maternity leave, maternity benefit, gold plated child care, the guarantee of a pension). It is expected that up to 19 million jobs will go if we exit the EU, mostly women's first, as people will no longer be able to affordd to employ you. Brexit is social and economic suicide. WE are losing OUR rights, the EU citizens still have theirs. 11 EU countries want to start taxing hedge fund traders like Gove and Farage andBoris Johnson and David Davies and Rees Mogg - all these people who trade abroad despite claiming they cannot and are worth millions. The Eu wants to impose a tax of one half of one percent - their cleaners pay 19%!. They are trying to avoid tax adn governemnt controls so the people like me and you pay for all our roads, hospitals, bypasses, schools etc without tapping into Conservative MP Rees Moggs £50m in a state Russian bank or his £500m portfoliio in Indonesia where this Catholic no abortionist makes abortion drugs. YOU ARE BEING DUPED. They own bit coins - a currency on the ethernet which has no government and cannot be traced or taxed and they aim to keep all their money up their while you pay for their way of life - rather a socialist concept.. WAKE UP BRITAIN BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE. EUROPE IS ON YOUR SIDE, THERESA AND HER CHAUFFEUR DRIVEN CAR ARE NOT.

The Tories will never be able to secure a sensible EU withdrawal outcome because of its historic divisions over EU membership and the red lines Teresa May has forced upon negotiations. A second referendum/people's vote will only continue the division in the country.The British Border in Ireland can only be resolved with N. Ireland staying in a customs union/framework with the EU. Seinn Feinn, The IRA, Eire (who now have a say over furure constitional arrangements in the North) and the EU will not allow any other solution. This means the only resolution that can be found is by a General Election in which a mandate for such a position can be agreed by UK citizens.
- JB

Another Referendum is undemocratic? We’ve had 40 years to know precisely what Remain we’re offering; and two more to discover how little was understood about Leave. If Hard Brexit/Remain had been the offer, Leave would have gathered many votes and LOST. It follows that the Government have never had any mandate for No Deal. In the range of options between No Deal and a Soft Brexit, we have no way of knowing, two years on, which deal would have won a majority. Brexit was the Government’s mandate to waste more than two years on finding out what could be achieved. This debacle has been the essential and democratic consequence of David Cameron’s disastrous misjudgement. Referendums have to be simple binary choices. That was Cameron’s mistake. Once the Government has agreed a deal with the EU a People’s Vote is the only democratic option if Parliament fails to accept it. Well done, SW
- Nick

I was already aware of rumblings among local Conservatives, discontent about Dr Wollaston; but really, she seems to be saying, "Bring it on." Just the other day in the House she is reported as saying, "The only politicians’ vote would be one which contrived to deny this House a meaningful say and ignored the 700,000 people who walked past the Prime Minister’s door at the weekend to demand a people’s vote. That is because it is important that everyone has the chance to weigh up the evidence..." etc. Yet again she pretends that we did not have a "people's vote" in 2016, and that the referendum was somehow inadequate or meaningless. It was a simple binary choice to leave or remain - and the former won, by 53% in England, with almost exactly that figure for the Westcountry, though in nearby Torbay 63% plus voted Leave, in Plymouth 60%... Yet again our MP - who turned her coat from supporting Leave to become an ardent Remainer - supports those who would overturn the clear result of a referendum vote initiated by Parliament. It is wholly unsurprising that Totnes area Conservatives should be dissatisfied with the attitudes and performance of their MP. Given Dr Wollaston's stance, and Mrs May's abysmally inept conduct of Brexit negotiations, there is not a chance I shall vote Conservative next time round. I am confident a great many others feel the same.
- Tony Harrison

Fully agree on the need for informed consent. The issue is however WHAT you seek consent for. There can only be TWO democratic options given the first vote, they are to accept the deal or to leave with no deal. Yes there were 700,000 people marching, however there were 17,410,742 who voted out. I don't believe that the 700,000 should out weigh the 17,410,742 because they had a strong PR machine. Any vote that results in 'not leaving', IS UNDEMOCRATIC. Whilst this government (and to be honest: parliament as a whole) have failed the people (irrespective of your initial vote) due to self interest, we need to consider IF we wish the "home of democracy" to join those who use the term ONLY when it suits them.In this, we as voters CAN take back some control, as outlined above. From memory Dr Wollaston's constituency voted by 54.1% to leave. based on post vote analysis the vote, based on our political constituencies (the basis of our democratic model) showed 242 remain, 406 Leave, in other words a 26% majority to leave!!. Let's be clear IF the vote had been on the constituency boundaries defined by the current government then the majority to leave would not have been 3.78% but 26%. For those who voted to REMAIN, I feel your pain, I was one, however there is a wider issue (in my view) at stake and that is whether we ignore the democratic will of the people because it does not fit with our own desire or view. We may feel we know better, but do we? Does our vote mean more than theirs? A second vote, and its viability, is wholly dependent on how that vote is framed. If it in any way means the UK remains in, or under (any aspect) of EU control then it IS anti-democratic. Lets assume we have a second vote where the majority swings the other way, do we have a third vote and continue "Ad Nauseam" (I am already sick of it)? We either accept the constraints and limitations of democracy or we go to a darker place. In terms of the NI border. We have had an open border with EIRE for years and long may it remain. We have a customs structure aligned with the EU. Tell the EU there WILL be no border. Should they wish to implement one then, that is their choice. Do NOT be drawn into NI politics or the DUP (who want everything to be the same providing it is not gay marriage, abortion .....). Time for the politicians to STOP playing politics and deliver what the people said they wanted (irrespective of their own personal views). Time for us to consider whether we want Europe or democracy, I know which I will go for even though I voted REMAIN. Having said that I see Sarah Wollaston as a powerful advocate of an institution we SHOULD all be very proud off (the NHS). Unfortunately we (the voters) need to understand that we either need to pay for it, reduce the scope or turn to the American model (god forbid).
- GP

The only vote I require is a ballot of local members to remove Sarah Wollaston as the Tory MP. She has long since stopped promoting ANY Conservative policies...surely it is time the party removed the whip and deselected her.
- George, Paignton

It appears that, as our MP, you have decided to to stay as a remainer in spite of the democratic majority vote to leave. Therefore you will not receive my vote at the next election.
- Ian, East Allington

Well I am considering breaking the habit of a lifetime and voting for a tory, so that cancels out the East Allington kipper.
- Bob

Well done, Sarah. Here are quotes from an excellent article by AC Grayling in Prospect magazine, in support of a People's vote. "Recall that the referendum was advisory. No referendum in our constitution can be otherwise, because of the doctrine of the sovereignty of parliament; but MPs were expressly reminded of this in advance of their debate on the referendum Bill, in a House of Commons Library Briefing Paper (number 07212, 3rd June 2015), and confirmed on the floor of the House of Commons by the Minister for Europe, David Lidington (Hansard 16th June 2015). “Parliament has never specifically debated the outcome of the referendum, nor specifically voted on whether or not to accept the advice of the advisory vote. Instead it has chosen, without discussion, to treat the outcome as politically mandating although constitutionally advisory only. Given that parliament and the government it supports exist constitutionally (see the UK parliament website and MPs’ code) to protect and foster the interests of the country and its people, and given that the most optimistic projections of the effect of the best possible Brexit indicates that damage will accrue to the economy and livelihoods, this privileging of the political over the constitutional raises profound questions. […] “Of the electorate enfranchised for the referendum electorate, 37 per cent voted in favour of leaving the EU. On the day of the vote this proportion was represented by 51.9 per cent of votes cast. The 37 per cent figure requires context: by statute a trades union needs a vote of 40 per cent of its total membership to call a strike, otherwise the strike is illegal. There cannot be a general election outside the fixed parliamentary term unless 66 per cent of all sitting members vote for it. This high bar exists because a general election might bring about a change of government and therefore a change of national circumstances. Major and perhaps permanent constitutional change chosen by 37 per cent of a (restricted) electorate is by no standard a mandate, and this is a big reason why the referendum is far from conclusive.” […] “In light of all this, a second referendum is an absolute necessity. It conforms to the common-sense principle that it is wise to consult second thoughts, a principle applied in parliament itself in relation to no confidence votes: if a government loses a no confidence vote, a second such vote must be held two weeks later to see whether anyone has changed his or her mind. If that principle (to protect a government against the momentary anger of its own backbenchers, mainly) is good enough in parliament, in the momentous matter of the UK’s EU membership it is a must.”
- Tim

You don't give consent to have a toe removed only to wake up with an amputated leg. Can many leave voters list ALL the significant consequences of Brexit that will affect them and others? Brexit is a coup. The 2015 referendum act granted an advisory, non-binding referendum only, preserving Parliamentary sovereignty. The 2016 referendum was not therefore a democratic "decision" but an opinion. Before the vote Cameron offered implement the outcome. He was not entitled to do this. That is why it went to Parliament in 2017, but by then MPs were faced with an expectation that they should regard the referendum as binding. Parliamentary sovereignty was disempowered. Before the final implementation vote in March 2019 Parliament should be given opportunities to debate freely and vote on a number of motions regarding the relationship with the EU. This will provide a numerical view of what Parliament would support for the common good weighed against the advise from the referendum. It can then vote down the implementation bill if the deal made is unsatisfactory, without triggering a no-deal Brexit, knowing that an alternative bill would pass. Whereas the EU can absorb a no-deal Brexit, the UK cannot. It kicks in immediately, with disruption of supplies resulting in business failures. Parliament is sovereign, it is the guardian of the common good, it can only pass an implementation bill that contains a satisfactory Customs or Free Trade deal. Failing even that article 50 should be repealed. Once out, the UK stays out. Reentry would not just mean no rebate, but also compulsory joining of the Euro-zone. Terrible idea.
- Martin

Apparently our Conservative MP is not even going to vote for the Budget now. This is essentially a vote of no confidence in the government. Our manifesto was very clear. To leave the Single Market and the Customs Union. To not have a second referendum. Boosting the bands to 12.5k and 50k was in that manifesto that nearly 27000 people in Totnes voted for. They are not having their expressed wishes represented in Parliament. Why would our MP vote against this budget when it so obviously in line with Conservative Party policy and values? As a previously loyal supporter, I am sorry that Sarah Wollaston has some time ago (to all intents and purposes) left the Conservative Party. She should have the decency to resign from the party and call a by-election...that way constituents can make their wishes known either way. The party should remove the whip and make clear that it will have a different candidate in Totnes at the next election.
- George, Paignton

I entirely agree with your post Sarah. As far as I see, if democracy exists, it should exist every day, not just on the 23rd June 2016. If the Govt are insistent on respecting public opinion, they should listen to it every day, not just on that one day, in 2016. There are times in the past when inconceivable behaviours may have been supported by the public and, should the public have been given the choice, voted to be legal by them. This does not mean that we stick with the opinion of that one time and run the country forever by that opinion. We move with the times and consider what is best on a daily basis, we should not be acting on an opinion that may not even exist today. If it does exist, then what is the harm in another vote to simply 'double-check' it still stands?
- Sandra Jackson

George from Paignton wants to disrespect the verdict of the voters of Totnes, at the last general election, and have another vote. Would that be a peoples' vote?
- Nick K

The people of Totnes voted for a Conservative manifesto that Sarah Wollaston is blatantly working against. Our MP is the only one disrespecting that vote. She is the best advert for recall there is. Sarah Wollaston Members of Parliament are not little Gods on Earth with permanent tenure. If they refuse to enact the wishes of their electorates, they generally get moved on. Not sure if "Nick K" does understand democracy, or just doesn't like the recent outcomes of votes.
- George, Paignton

So, having publicly stated many times that trade negotiations cannot start until the withdrawal agreement is concluded and the UK cannot 'cherry pick' the EU has conveniently forgotten all of that and embarked on a cherry picking exercise of it's own! They are effectively trying to blackmail us into giving them fishing rights in return for avoiding an issue with the NI border and that is plain to see. All I want from the EU is a Canada plus free trade agreement and as friction free trade as possible, nothing more and nothing less. The pigs breakfast cobbled together by Theresa May does not deliver a clean Brexit and leaves the UK as an EU dependency, which is nothing short of outrageous. It should be voted down by Parliament and a new Brexit supporting PM appointed to sort this mess out. I simply cannot believe what a shambles Parliament is making of a clear instruction from the British people.
- David H

All of you Conservatives who slam Dr Woolaston dont get the idea that if there is something wrong with an idea there is little point playing Party Dogma and letting the Country go to hell in a hand cart . She has the Spine to speak her mind a vote as she feels is right , a true Leader. Open your eyes and your minds to a new way of thinking , its not Dogmatic , Stupid !
- G David - businessman

Please Sarah - do something to save us from this madness. The UK can't be ruled by simplistically-worded referenda. And can people stop talking about the "will of the people". For every 17 people who voted "leave", 16 people voted "remain". The young will be most affected, and many of them were too young to vote 2 and a half years ago.
- Margaret

Open your mind Open your mind.
- Derek

Well now we know, the 'Trojan horse', Theresa May, has finally confirmed her intention to make the UK an EU dependency, indefinitely! Her lack of political judgement was laid bare when she called a snap election with a lack of any meaningful manifesto policy commitments a short time ago, but that pales into insignificance compared to the monumental error of judgement that she has just announced with the draft Brexit agreement. Along with over 17 million other referendum voters I am left feeling like I have been totally deceived and betrayed by Theresa May and the political establishment that is Parliament. At every stage of the negotiations she has caved in to EU demands and while I admire her courage and tenacity as far as I am concerned her position is now untenable. Quite apart from a weak and feeble performance in the withdrawal negotiations she has spectacularly failed, with the assistance of Philip Hammond, to prepare the country for a 'no deal' scenario, which is nothing less than a gross dereliction of duty. This might be a 'good deal' for the EU but it is an 'unbelievably bad' deal for the UK. In return for £39 billion and a complete capitulation to the EU all she has gained in return is 15 pages of notes indicating that we will work towards some form of trade deal with the EU in the future and that is not even legally binding! It beggars belief that anyone could put this before the country as a good result, let alone a victory. If this deal gets past cabinet and through Parliament there is not a chance that I will be voting conservative at the next general election and the party is heading for political oblivion.
- David H

Written after the Cabinet ‘support’ for the Withdrawal agreement . Its is so evident that we need to go back to the Referendum. I am delighted that our MP has had an open mind and the spine to stand up for the benefit of the Country and not the short term political dogma. It is a huge decision and what is certain is that we now know a lot more about the whys and wherefores of Brexit and some of the original mantra has been outed for being incorrect ( the early fake news ) . I am in full support of a People Vote and have huge admiration for SW and her integrity in supporting this , often in the face of unecessarily aggressive comments on this blog . Let the full honest debate continue. If we do vote out again , I ill respect that as we have now had proper debate and knowledge on this enormous decision.
- Gabriel David

Oh so after voting to leave in 2016, and then voting Tory to leave the Customs Union and the Single Market in 2017, you are telling us that you'll accept it if we vote out again in 2018. Thanks for that(!). And we're supposed to believe that are we? The debate will not continue...as far as leaving the EU, it finished on 23 June 2016. Sorry you missed the memo. The only vote there will be now is a Conservative leadership election. As a member I am looking forward to voting for Johnson or Mogg. There'll be many more like me. There won't be another referendum. And Sarah Wollaston won't be a Tory MP...although anyone following her 'progress' over the last two years will scarcely have seen her espouse any core Conservative value in any case.
- George, Paignton

100% agree George, though I'd add David Davis to your list.
- John

Dear George of Paignton The debate whether or not to leave the EU didn't finish with the referendum. There were so many lies told, one of the major donors to the leave campaign is now facing a criminal investigation and still there were 16 remainers for every 17 leavers. Not exactly an overwhelming majority. Now we know more about how brexit will affect us surely we ought to re-assess our situation. There are many situations where what seems a good idea looks very different in the cold light of day. What the the leavers afraid of? If leave is such a good idea surely people will vote for it again.
- Bob

Hello Bob. Both campaigns exaggerated the truth, told lies and put across their arguments in ways that were inaccurate. I might very well point out the lies told by the Remain campaign when they denied that the EU aspired to have a common foreign and defence policy (which it this week moved towards). I might point out that David Cameron disgracefully used taxpayers' money to fund one side of the campaign. I might even point out that in 1973 British people were asked to sign up to a Common Market, and were assured that there would be no political integration...when the political establishment of the time knew that this was a lie. That's politics dear boy. All campaigns in all elections always lie. It is for the electorate to make their choice. They did that on 23 June 2016. I know you didn't like the outcome. I didn't much like the outcome the World Cup Semi Final. But I dealt with it. And so should you. I am not persuaded by the case the Electoral Commission has made against Darren Grimes and Arron Banks, and will wait for the courts to adjudicate. I do know that a significant number of individuals in senior positions at the Electoral Commission had made outspoken remarks against Brexit. This is clearly not appropriate and has damaged the credibility of the Electoral Commission. I know exactly how Brexit is affecting us. Unemployment is at a 43 year low. Latest UK growth is higher than all other major EU economies. Borrowing is falling. None of the loaded Treasury forecasts were proven true, and I have long since stopped believing their fairy tales. I am not afraid of any vote. Election results have tended my way in the last few years, and I trust the wisdom of the British people always (more than my own). But it would be perverse to ask the people again when the government still have not implemented the initial instruction. And it would be seen for the transparent anti-democratic blocking measure that it is. The cold light of day does not change the fact that after a five month campaign, 17.4 million people voted TO LEAVE THE EU. The next vote should be a Conservative leadership election...the members have not elected a leader since 2005, and it is high time we did.
- George, Paignton

Bob, "What the the leavers afraid of?" - I think the answer is obvious. Manipulation of the vote - i.e. manipulate the vote by setting 3 choices which will split the 'Leave' vote between 'Leave and accept deal' and 'Leave with no deal' ensuring that 'Remain' wins (even if it gets little more than a third of the vote!). But there is a much bigger picture here - this is no longer just about Brexit. The public are already disillusioned with politics. Ignoring the original vote just reinforces this!
- Patrick, Brixham

We cannot have another referendum which includes the question "remain in the EU". This would be a referendum on a referendum and would be profoundly undemocratic. It would simply be a rerun of the first. Notwithstanding the legal status of a referendum, the government chose to have one and to abide by the decision. Any volte-face on this point would destroy all trust in democracy. Although my view is that our elected representatives should deal with the nuts and bolts of any deal, I would not object to a further referendum on the terms of the deal, providing no questions were included which would have the effect of reversing the first referendum.
- nigel

To add to what I have said above, is seems to me that any people's vote would have to be phrased as a choice between accept the deal offered or do not accept the deal offered. This would mean that there was no question of remaining in the EU. Two points arise from this. One, if we were to remain in the EU after all, we would be crawling to it with our tails firmly between our legs and for the foreseeable future would be treated by the other major EU powers as second class citizens. We would be a laughing stock. Two, the EU negotiators have acted thus far with intransigence so as to teach the UK a lesson for daring to leave their club. There is therefore little likelihood in my view, that any alteration to the present deal on the table would be more than a tinkering round the edges at best. On the other hand, no deal would be likely to be a disaster according to most opinion. For this reason, I think we should accept the deal offered. There is little alternative.
- nigel, Dartmouth

The British people voted but they were not informed of the details and difficulties we now know about. No one can deny this . Just like agreeing to an operation you then go away and read up on the details , you go back to your surgeon nearer to the time of the planned operation. You have all the risks read out to you and the detail of the procedure. You are then asked to sign a consent form. The British people deserve the right to now sign that consent form or to change their mind in view of all they now know. This is not to repeat the process of a referendum but to fulfil it either way. I would suggest one further point of negotiation we offer to keep open borders but everyone coming to the UK has to have health insurance arranged in their country of origin. We have huge numbers of Eastern Europeans using our health service every day often requiring expensive translators and often receiving expensive care when they have not lived in the uk for long and certainly have not contributed to our taxes. I feel the EU would understand we can't afford to offer free health care any more to these new comers. There also has to be an understanding that in order for their children to receive free education they must speak English before entering our school system. Many people voted to leave thinking it would be better for our NHS -read the BMJ this last week and see just how misled they were. However with obligatory health insurance those with poor health would not be able to afford the premiums and it we would then see a reduction in the numbers coming into the UK. However we need many EU workers to keep coming maybe the employers who rely on cheap labour, fruit and veg picking for example would have to pay the health insurance for their workers. At-least then we could say to the EU we would keep our borders open and continue to benefit from the hard working healthy migrants who add so much to our country and economy.
- Cathy Peterborough

Perhaps the people campaigning for a second referendum would be taken more seriously if they'd ever supported a referendum on our EU membership in the first place. Or if they'd supported a referendum after Maastricht, Lisbon or Amsterdam. The people were not consulted then before British sovereignty was removed. How funny that we need to have two referendums on this issue, when we had none on the others...anything to do with the fact that the establishment lost perhaps?
- George, Paignton

George from Paignton makes a valid point and I completely agree with him. As for Theresa May and her appeal to the public to support the deal she has just put before us it will not be coming from me! Only a fool would sign up to this deal, which only serves the short, medium and long term interests of the EU. All it does for the UK is preserve the status quo for a few short years and then leaves us pitifully weak when the future trade negotiations finally get underway. We have been treated with utter contempt by the EU during the withdrawal negotiations and effectively blackmailed over the Northern Ireland issue. As currently worded this document will make the UK a permanent EU dependency with an obligation to comply with all future EU laws with no say in them whatsoever. The draft deal also gives the EU a veto over whether we can actually leave the transition phase, or single customs union, which means that we will again be blackmailed with that during the trade negotiations until the EU get everything it wants. How on earth can anyone, let alone a British Prime Minister, say this is a good deal? While aspects of it covering defence, security and citizens rights might be acceptable the proposed backstop arrangement cannot and must not be voted through in Parliament. It would be a betrayal of our democracy and over 17 million people that voted to LEAVE the EU. We did not vote to become a permanent EU poodle or dependency! The recently published political declaration on our future relationship has NO legal validity and is only designed to hoodwink the British public. In my view we should not sign anything with the EU until the future trade deal is agreed. They cannot be trusted to deliver and we should not agree to give them £39 billion on the promise of 'jam tomorrow'. Not since Clement Atlee declared 'peace in our time' has a British Prime Minister shown such a lack of foresight and political judgement.
- David H

So because Remain lost in 2016 there needs to be another vote. I think people will get very angry and vote leave again . People really don't like being told to vote again because they gave the wrong answer. What will you do then Sarah ? Presumably resign. By the way you might think people in Brixham , who are after all your consituents love your weird whacky views but I assure you that if you go door to door canvassing you will hear what people really think about you.
- Peter Thompson

No MP should knowlingly and willingly sabotage their PM and Party with the kind of nonsense that you spout here and in Parliament
- Janet TT

Thank God that someone decent and conscientious is prepared to serve us and our country's interests. We elect her to understand the issues as best she can and do her best. Show some respect and less "screen ignorance". Well done SW
- Nick K

'We elect her to understand the issues as best she can and do her best'. Yes, but we also expect her to keep her word based on her election claims and her party manifesto; we do not give her a blank check. SW has proved herself to be untrustworthy, that in itself makes her unsuitable to be a representative MP !
- John

Sarah, I cannot thank you enough for your principled and courageous stand against the utter madness of us leaving the EU. Great article clearly showing the damage leaving will cause our country. Only today I read that over £800 BILLION pounds has been moved by financial services/banks in London to the EU. And that, is a conservative number. The disgusting attack on Anna Soubry, killing of Jo Cox, the level of abuse female remainers receive etc says it all about the people that support Brexit. My thanks again for your stand.
- Stuart

I watched BBC Parliament & listened to the speeches made by you all in the Commons

At least Janet TT is in the real world & not spouting the total rubbish that obviously Sarah Wollaston is used to

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26 FEB 2018

A Customs Union or Arrangement is in all our interests

During and after the referendum campaign I asked many people about the priorities behind their vote. The fact is that there was no one single issue. For some it was a promise on the side of a bus, for others, 'taking back control' over issues ranging from agriculture and fisheries to immigration and sovereignty. I met almost no one, then or now, who felt that we should accept being poorer as a result. As the reality hits home that the EU will reject sector by sector deals, 'the cake and eat it' approach, even if that means economic pain on both sides of the Channel, a stark choice lies ahead: Do we really want to march out through the exit door with no deal at all and with less than a year to put in place complex customs and borders arrangements? Rather than presenting a rose-tinted view, the hard Brexiteers need to level with the public on the scale of the unintended consequences. The government should not keep the economic impact analysis locked in a secret reading room accessible only to Parliamentarians but publish these so that everyone can examine the evidence.

In supporting New Clause 5, an amendment to the Trade Bill that would keep us in a form of customs union or customs arrangement after Brexit, I am not 'blocking' Brexit or 'obstructing the will of the people'. Britain is leaving the EU. This is an argument about the type of Brexit and that was not on the referendum ballot paper. The duty for MPs in carrying out the will of the people is to examine the evidence and press for the best possible Brexit, not to make their constituents poorer.

My view is that we should also opt for membership of the EEA and EFTA at least for the transition period. This would allow us to leave the Common Fisheries Policy and, like Norway, regain control over our fisheries, an issue of great importance to Brixham. But frictionless trade is also hugely important for both fishers and the processing sector, and in particular for exports to our most important markets in the EU.

Without a form of customs union or arrangement, border checks are an inconvenient inevitability. Without a customs union the current fudge over the border between North and South on the island of Ireland will inevitably become untenable. No one wants a return to the conflict of the past. The price of abandoning any kind of customs union is too high and I won't support it.

There is also a simple truth that there is no Parliamentary majority for a walk-away, no-deal Brexit. The small band of hard Brexiteer MPs need to stop throwing down red lines like spaghetti and stop threatening to remove the PM unless she bends to their will. The PM has herself spoken clearly of wanting a customs agreement with the EU and NC5 is compatible with that as it does not call for 'the' Customs Union on existing terms. My role as an MP is to read the evidence and to clearly state the case for what I believe is in the best interests of my constituency and the country even if that is sometimes wilfully misrepresented by those who simply want us to walk away, whatever the unintended consequences.


There is a point when you need to support your party leader, not to second guess theoretical scenarios. Subverting a democratic vote makes you unfit to stand for election as 'we would not know what we were voting for'.
- John. Dartington

One of the unintended consequences could be the defeat of the Prime Minister and the election of Jeremy Corbyn- a man who has never been a fan of the EU and could create an existential threat to Parliamentary democracy. If you vote against a 3 line whip and cause the Government to be defeated I am not sure I could vote for you again.
- Andy Totnes

I wish more MPs would take a thoughtful, well reasoned and independent approach like Sarah. Keep up the great work you do for all of us.
- John Scott

As a lifelong Tory voter who is beginning to waver, I feel rather frustrated by talk of Customs Union (including Labours turnaround) and see it as a way to really keep us in the EU - out by name only as nothing changes. If this ends up in a fudge of not really being out of the EU, not being able to control our borders and not being able to negotiate our own deals I despair! Why did we bother with a referendum? Maybe it is time for older voters like myself to give up - especially with the grief given by certain members of society. The way things are going, maybe a hark back to the 1970s will shake up a few people who didn't experience it and maybe some good will come of it?
- Patrick, Brixham

Richer or poorer? The short answer is that it's really not about the money, but about restoring our sovereign right to govern ourselves. Opinions differ about the extent to which we have been ruled by people in Brussels & Strasbourg, the most authoritative being that of the House of Commons Library some years ago: according to one's interpretation, between 15% and 50% of our laws emanate from abroad - not from our Parliament... The European Parliament
- Anthony Harrison

Little or no point in your permitting comments here if one is restricted to a single cursory paragraph: my previous comment was slashed by at least 80%. Message unwelcome, perhaps...
- Anthony Harrison

Remaining members of the customs union could be the best solution for the next 3 to 10 years. We can always review this sometime in the future [but don't let the EU hear that said]. We can then deal with all the other implications of leaving the EU and put off the trading alternatives for another day. We have to achieve this without the EU bullies adding caveats such as free movement of labour, unreasonable contributions, EU laws for unrelated issues etc. It is a shame that Labour formalised this policy before Tories. The Tories have to get their act together and demonstrate a united front. The impact of having a Labour Government would do even more damage to our economy than a bad deal Brexit.
- Mike Allen

You are right to interpret what Brexit means, it was by no means clear in the referendum question and the governments interpretation of what Brexit means is just that. Only a small fraction of the population voted to be poorer the rest of us want to continue our prosperity and hand it down to our children. A hard, brutal Brexit will damage us all both economically and socially.
- Peter Sturdgess

Re the comment from Peter Sturdgess, one has heard this before. But the referendum was wholly, unambiguously clear: it was a simple binary choice between leaving the EU or staying in. And 53% of English voters (who form 85% of the UK population) voted to leave.
- Anthony Harrison

Dr Wollaston, I think "Raedwald" (excellent blogger, construction industry professional, retired to Austria) has an excellent summary today, extract: "Brussels is said to be preparing tomorrow to destroy the progress we all imagined had been secured over Christmas. They will insist we impose a hard border in Northern Ireland, and we will refuse. Their driving the UK towards either a hard exit or a Labour government, a new referendum and a reversal of Brexit is deliberate and inescapable. This is not a negotiating process designed to ensure an amicable future, but unsheathed hostility and territorial aggrandisement, meddling by power-struck fools and amateurs in Brussels with an undistinguished record of failure, conflict, death and disaster in everything they've ventured. They're gambling, and playing with peace in Northern Ireland..."
- Anthony Harrison

'Trust me, I'm a doctor', may work in the practice of medicine but is inappropriate in representative politics. Sarah's about turns do not inspire confidence, especially when supported by smoke and mirror arguements. I think she may feel more at home with the LibDems !
- John

If you vote with Labour you will at best give succour to the EU that they can strong-arm the UK into accepting a very bad deal and at worse you will bring down the Government and potentially install Corbyn and his very left wing comrades in No10. All the hard work of the last 8 years will be wasted and within a very short-time the legacy of post Thatcher liberal economic policies will be laid waste as Corbyn and MacDonnell impose their version of a socialist state on the UK. You must know that we cannot stay in the single market and we cannot stay in a customs union because if we do Brexit is meaningless. Last year another 578000 migrants settled in the UK. If we stay in the Single market we will have to accept free movement if we stay in a customs union we will be worse than Turkey. If we cannot strike our own trade agreements we may as well stay in the EU and accept humble pie. Australia, NZ, both took this step and their fortunes and people are much the better for it. Please re-consider your position and remember that the Conservative party's future depends on delivering Brexit and keeping Corbyn our of power.
- David Taylor

I didn’t vote for you but have long admired your intelligent, independent and principled representation of your constituency.
- Ben

As a Conservative voting member of this consituency I have written to Sarah several times on the subject of Brexit and as recently as yesterday. Having read her reply and blog which talks in favour of a Customs Union I get the impression that she is about to join the ranks of Corbyn and Co and vote in direct opposition to her own Government! Theresa May and our negotiating team are working hard to deliver a departure from the EU on the best possible terms and I find it staggering that they are not being either trusted or supported by one of their own Conservative Party members. While we are almost certain to end up with customs arrangements that are acceptable to both sides this is a matter for the negotiations. Voting against the Government before the negotiations have even started will hardly help our cause and through these pages I would urge Sarah to think again on this matter. Liam Fox is absolutely right to say that if the UK was to enter into a Customs Union with the EU that prevented us from doing our own trade deals it would be disastrous for our future prospects. We will in effect have given up what little influence we had in the EU and yet remain dependent on this over-centralised, bureacracy for the foreseeable future. However, if our negotiating team are able to negotiate a customs arrangement which leaves us free to do our own trade deals that is something that could actually work in the short and long term. To get such a deal of course requires Conservative MPs to get behind and support the Prime Minister and our negotiating team, rather than joining the ranks of Labour and undermining them. A majority of the British People voted to leave the EU, full stop. We did not vote to half leave and all this talk of doom and gloom after we have left is just like 'Project Fear', a lot of hot air that has very little to do with reality. At a time like this all our MPs should be supporting the Government and working in the national interest, not working with Labour to bring down the Government and ignoring what people voted for in the referendum.
- David Hoy

Thank you for your clear, rational thoughts. There is much evidence that abandoning a customs union will damage the economy for many years. Hard Brexiteers offer little of substance and much fanciful rhetoric. It is time to face reality.
- Jennifer Smith

I find Dr Wollaston's reply somewhat condescending, as though we are unaware of how Parliament works, or able to think for ourselves. There is much discussion about 'hard' and 'soft' brexit; 'soft' appears to mean capitulation to the EU. Our negotiators have behaved in a traditional British way, by listening to the other side and being prepared to compromise, where clearly they do not. It should be recognized, and often repeated, that we are one of the world's strongest economies, and are capable of trading, and prospering as an independent nation, free from the dictats of EU interference. So to vote against the government (effectively with Corbyn and Co) only strengthens the hands of the EU, who see dissent as working for them. I suggest that if Dr Wollaston does not agree with a single point, surely it would be better to abstain, rather than vote against the government? A defeat of the government would be disastrous for this nation
- Barry Day

I voted remain as I firmly believe that our future prosperity lies in close co-operation with europe. A hard brexit that takes us out of the customs union will only do us harm. Business will suffer and imports and exports will be complicated. I remember in the referendum campaign that much was made of the 'Norwegian model' in fact in 2013 Boris Johnson said he was in favour of remaining in the single market and yet we are told the the only way forward is a hard brexit. Whilst it is very touching to see so many people trusting politicians over brexit I wonder whether this is wise. Beware the loss of the regulations which keep us safe, do you really want chlorine washed chicken or beef full of antibiotics and steroids?
- Bob Bowling

The EU (of which we, the UK, are an influential part) has negotiated over 50 trade deals with other countries, entered into over 700 international treaties, set pan-continental standards from animal husbandry standards (which we are trying to improve) and aircraft safety rules to conditions of work (of which we have the lowest as a result of an opt out) and regulated the transport of nuclear material. They have also made rules that 28 sovereign nations have to operate within to achieve the most integrated free trade area in the world that collectively makes up the world's second larges economy. All this has been approved by a democratically elected parliament and approved by the 28 nation states. What's not to like?
- Simon JD

Behave yourself and fall in line behind your leader. Vote with the whip and remember why you're there - to keep our party in Government. Also, you're qualified to give medical opinions, not economic ones. As your comments show, you have not the slightest grasp of trade or economics. Best keep your nose out.
- Mark

I note your Tweets about the Prime Minister’s excellent speech earlier today and would like as one of your constituents living in Totnes to express my concern about your stated lack of confidence in the government’s and Theresa May’s approach to Brexit. I have to say too I have been most surprised over the last few years to see how your far your position has changed since appearing initially to support leaving the EU. Leaving was always going to be a hugely important change of direction and is something that every Conservative MP contemplating supporting it ought to have been thinking through thoroughly in the years preceding the referendum. Equally of course a decision to remain would have had huge ramifications for our future. No-one can fail to be aware that the EU is unstable and that changes, which would most probably have been unpalatable to the UK outside the Eurozone, would be the inevitable way forward for Brussels. So voting to remain would have been a huge leap in the dark too. Given the importance of the arguments for and against our continuing membership and the momentous opportunity that the referendum presented in terms of reassessing our relationship with Europe, I believe each of our representatives in Parliament ought to have long had a fairly settled view on the matter. (I do recall your sudden realisation that leaving the EU might hinder NHS recruitment from continental Europe. But obviously the weighing of pros and cons has to go far beyond that.) I have been strongly for leaving the EU for many years now, having become less and less happy with the diminution of democracy and the increasingly authoritarian way Brussels goes about its business. Since I took part in the original vote to join a trading block – the old EC - the whole nature of our relationship with Europe has changed, with no participation by the UK electorate in whether or not this change is acceptable. For centuries we in this country had an incredibly stable and equally a robustly responsive, democratic system. But from Maastricht onwards our politicians became more and more willing to abandon our hard won rights to citizenry participation and to parliamentary government. I read yesterday that former Prime Minister John Major recommends MPs listen to their constituents. What irony. From a man who gave so much of this away! Beware Dr Wollaston, he would prefer you hear only from those clamouring for a second referendum. From a man who in his time refused us a referendum on the grounds that decisions on vitally important matters of state should only be made by elected members of Parliament! For me, Brexiteer that I am, I can see nothing wrong with MP’s having a vote on the final Brexit deal. This is what bringing back democracy is about. I recognise and respect the view of continental Europeans that their new found stability, within the framework of the EU, is a very reassuring and positive development for them, contrasting as it does with the horrors endured so recently and so widely under both communist and fascist rule. Like many though, I fear this new found stability is extremely fragile and will prove illusory, with a European Parliament unable to exert any effective control over the Commissioners. (We had a taste of this in Greece and maybe Italy will be next?) Whatever the future holds for the EU, it has become progressively apparent it will entail a far higher degree of centralisation and bureaucratic authoritarianism than we in the UK have found acceptable over recent centuries. This cannot be the way forward for us. And this is why I voted to leave – I’m afraid all the much ridiculed clichés apply, summed up by ‘bringing back control’ - a return to democracy. (One gets the impression our friends in Europe are somewhat despairing of the messy and rather chaotic way the UK appears to be going about the leave negotiations. To my mind the last eighteen months has seen a rather wonderful reassertion of democracy and debate. Something rather alien to M. Barnier?) One of the things that I think has been extremely unhelpful from those arguing for second thoughts is the perhaps intentional impression, that there is such a thing as a ‘soft Brexit.’ Nomenclature is important. There are two sorts of Brexit - not soft or hard, but fake and real. As Mrs May has correctly put it ‘Brexit means Brexit.’ We are now getting into discussions on trade, very much the subject of Mrs May’s very good speech earlier today. Compared with ‘bringing back control’ everything else - summed up in this one word ‘trade’ - is of course detail, very important detail, complex detail, but nevertheless mere detail compared with ‘bringing back control’. I cannot agree with you Dr Wollaston in your assertion that there should be a Plan B. I would have thought seeking the right customs arrangements and all the many sectoral resolutions, in a unique deal fair to both sides, as Mrs May outlined, is the only way forward. I am sure nothing Mrs May said today will have come as a surprise to M. Barnier and his negotiators. Her objective today in publicly disclosing the UK positions was surely and simply to emphasise one thing. That our only objective is to obtain an outcome - with compromises as happens in all ‘trade’ negotiations - that is satisfactory to both parties. To think there might be a Plan B is a misunderstanding of how negotiation works. I was impressed by what was implied in the speech – that if negotiations fail there will be chaos. She was saying there must be agreement: we will have a real Brexit or as she put it originally Brexit must mean Brexit. Anything less than a real Brexit is not a soft Brexit, which is perhaps your Plan B? As I would put it, anything less than a real Brexit is a fake Brexit. Mrs May was talking tough with the EU today: we are prepared to be reasonable as you must be, there must be a good fair agreement or there will be chaos. There can be no Plan B. An unfairness inherent in this kind of conversation with you my MP and with anonymous tweeting and so on, is that you do not know me. I expect you to represent me without your knowing me. And I must feel reasonably confident you have the interests of South Devon at heart and that you know in general how we your constituents tick. Orders of magnitude worse of course, I would argue impossible, is the situation we have when those who represent us in Brussels are in Strasbourg and in any case can only advise. How much more robust when you my representative can bring down a government. I truly hope though that will not be the unintended consequence of what I can only assume is some misunderstanding on your part of the art of negotiation. Finally I really feel I cannot close without explaining something of what I am and where I am coming from. I am a retiree of some ten or so years. I started out long ago with a first degree in physical science, went into the food and drink industry, added in some environmental health and management qualifications along the way, and ended up in charge of technical development reporting to a main board director at a FTSE 100 company. In that latter capacity I spent many years negotiating with both French and US equivalents. (I always found the French obtuse in the extreme and the Americans straight, tough and very good at execution!) My take on things is that if you think you can clearly see where negotiations are currently at, then Mrs May and her team are making a poor fist of it. Be pleased that things are unclear and let that give you the confidence to support Mrs May in every possible way. Maybe accept that your expertise rests elsewhere: there is no dishonour in deference. Good luck as you wrestle with it all!
- Stephen

The UK Does Not Want A Clumsy Brexit We write as Remain voters and labour voters who have studied the Brexit options and have been persuaded to change our minds by the following positive factual arguments for Brexit and the policies of the sensible Conservative government, not least the resolute leadership that Mrs May has shown in the face of a maelstrom of abuse from the EU, MPs and chunks of the press: A - An easy decision was never to vote for, or support in any way, a hard left labour government with a Candidate PM (Corbyn) and shadow team that are so unsuitable for the job. B - The Brexit options needed more thought and analysis. The following points summarise the arguments that swayed us to a position that agrees with the policy the PM decided from the start (Lancaster House) plus the need for an implementation period: 1. Careful analysis of the financial predictions shows GDP is more affected by less immigration than any reduction in trade up to 2030! https://briefingsforbrexit.com/recent-estimates-of-the-economic-impact-of-brexit/ . The impact on jobs of indigenous workers would be small in the worst case of a WTO based deal. 2. In a restrictive customs union versus a free trade deal, the less well off in the U.K. will be disadvantaged as prices will remain higher and choice reduced; this is an established economic fact http://www.rationaloptimist.com/blog/the-EU-customs-union/ since Britain adopted free trade in the 1840s 3. If the EU wishes to establish a hard border across Ireland then they can force The Republic to do so but not Northern Ireland. A low friction solution has been shown capable of working and when smart borders are developed and applied to all U.K. borders it will probably even give the U.K. a comparative advantage as a modern free trading nation. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/02/24/smart-borders-brexit-will-give-britain-extra-advantage-EU-commissioned/ . A partial restrictive CU does not solve the Irish problem and a smart border will still be needed around the rest of the UK so let’s gain an advantage by developing and implementing it. 4. EU trade accounts for only 12 percent of UK GDP. Please put your focus on the other 88 percent. 5. Business is much more adaptable than you might imagine. Aerospace items are not subject to tariffs by international agreement. The car industry will rapidly source parts from the UK or with friendly trading nations. Food will be cheaper outside a customs union – it was before we joined it. Note the recent large investments made in the UK as evidence of our potential. 6. EU standards are mostly establish by international bodies and followed by the EU. In fact many EU standards in my industry (manufacturing) were modelled on existing UK standards. 7. Human/workers rights will be better protected outside the EU by our Supreme Court and the ECHR and ECtHR rather that the ECJ. 8. Voting for the Soubry amendment of the 8th Feb would commit the Government to staying in a customs union ‘with the EU in the same terms as existed before exit day’. That implies ‘the customs union’ not even ‘a customs union’. The amendment is poorly worded and against what the people voted for in the referendum and would actually hurt the UK - it is just an obvious political trap. If this became a confidence vote it could lead rapidly to a general election and possibly a Labour administration. The EU supported by the powerful remainers will then try and grind Labour down to a staying in the customs union and even the single market - this must be what the ardent remainers want, a backdoor solution to staying in. 9. If we remain in any type of customs union we will have to pay 80% of the tariffs we collect to the EU and probably part of our Vat receipts as well; this is taxation without representation and not acceptable. 10. With the recent announcements of an EU army, the Macron/Junkers ‘more EU’, including pan EU financial governance, indicate that the EU is going the wrong way. Given the lack of democracy in EU governance, imagine how the EU might struggle to survive one or two more crises with a disgruntled EU population only able to vote for every increasingly anti-EU parties. With several anti EU countries acting together it is possible to imagine a right wing takeover of the non-elected EU power base and what then? The Italian elections point to a seismic shift away from support of the EU by a founder country populated, in the main, by decent friendly people. Why would we wish to chance being involved in the unstable EU future for little or no gain? 11. Sending a message that the UK supports free trade to the world by following the current government policy would benefit both the UK and other trading partners. 12. Business directors that I know are putting more effort into a plan for limiting the damage from a Corbyn government than Brexit. Recall Mervyn King predicts Brexit to be a bump in the road not a major disaster. The points above are issues that the EU are very concerned about and wish to try and dampen any advantage the U.K. will gain from Brexit and to try and damage us where they can. The EU is obviously looking ahead to other countries exiting and trying to close down a successful exit by Britain. Imagine how Brexit looks to all the other EU peoples and businesses. We are at a critical time in the negotiation and one would expect the EU to sound hard but if we can hold our nerve (I have considerable experience of international business negotiation) we can agree a win-win deal with the EU based on free trade - we have a strong hand to play. Even in the event of a WTO based deal (‘no deal’ is not going to happen) trade will not stop. UK industry will gain from any EU imposed restrictions as more material will be made here or come from trading partners outside the EU. A clumsy Brexit based on a selective customs union will be too complex, very expensive and would likely damage the UK with no say in new EU rules and regulations. Please reconsider your view on a customs union as we believe your apparent support for the/a customs union is not in the country’s long term interest or for the Conservative party. As I now believe that only the Conservatives are capable of implementing Brexit in a positive fashion, we are considering joining and contributing to this important struggle and need convincing that our MP will support the government and the country at this important time. Will you support the government?
- Sally and James Thomas

On March 29th 2019, the UK will leave the E.U. but we will hopefully not be turning our back on Europe. For the benefit of both parties it will be very important that we continue a strong trading relationship. This has always been the UK’s strength; therefore, I am very supportive of any arrangement whereby we can continue to trade freely with our European partners. I realise this may mean some compromises on both sides but we surely want to maintain trade in as frictionless way as possible. Therefore, I personally support those (including Sarah Wollaston) who wish to encourage such a frictionless trading arrangement without jeopardising our sovereignty.
- Brian Watkin

Leave the EU. Trade is fine. No backsliding like Labour. Britain voted to trade Worldwide. No to remaining in any part of club Europe. People wishing to remain in Europe may,by Moving there. No to being ruled from Brussels.
- Derek

I would never have voted for you if I thought you would jeopardise our vote for leaving the EU. This is the second time after you initially pledged to vote with the public to leave. I didn't initially have a problem with you changing sides as this was an important decision, even though I felt it was based on you thinking this was in YOUR best interest. I am sad to see that you are doing your best to change the electorates votes and feel that a Mr Blair is paying you well.
- Jane

In your view which would be more damaging, a 'hard' Brexit, or a PM by the name of Jeremy Corbyn? Because if, down the line, you vote against a Govt. 3 line whip, the result will be Corbyn Govt.
- Tom

Sadly, after hearing Sarah on Radio 4 today, an unforseen consequence should be that she no longer represents the people of the Totnes constituency. This muddled thinking is an impediment.
- John. Dartington

It seems that your arguments are surmise. You should support Ms May so that we can negotiate from a strong and united position.
- Douglas Gunn

I voted to Leave and it was clear what that meant and I am still a Brexiteer and just hope and pray that Mrs May's "Brexit means Brexit" means just that and that she doesn't do a Dr.Wollaston type about-turn and stab the Leave voters in the back as that shows weakness not strength...I have lost faith in you Dr.Wollaston and the only way you might restore my future voting for you is for you to back your PM in pressing for us leaving the customs union and all other EU restrictions that just hold us back as a country. We are a strong country still in spite of weak politicians and politics and long may that continue but I am not sure that you should as our MP....
- Kay Tee

I wonder, will Sarah support her Government or support the Lord's amendments on Brexit. I suggest her political career depends on it !
- John

Sarah - we are now at one of the most critical times in our negotiations with the EU. In the votes that are to come in Parliament this week PLEASE get behind and support Theresa May and our negotiating team. Voting with the likes of Ken Clarke, who appears to have made it his mission to sabotage our democratically arrived at decision to leave the EU, will do our country serious damage and it could bring down the Government. As you know from my previous correspondence I feel very strongly that the referendum result must be respected by Parliament and our elected MPs. You have made your views known and I respect you for that. However, now is the time to put the needs of the country first, which means supporting the Government and our negotiating team. I am not sure I could forgive the alternative and only Corbyn and extremist parties would benefit from that . . .
- David Hoy

At the next election I hope Totnes has a candidate who does not suffer from a fluctuating conscience and will honour the commitments given to aid their election !
- John

You are doing a sterling job Sarah. I see the increasing negative impacts of a potential hard BREXIT every day in my work, with the movement of legal entities and jobs to continental Europe in anticipation of such a scenario. The people did not vote to trash our trade agreement with the EU.
- Paul

Following on from my previous comments in March I should like to express my very great concern over your lack of support for the government. The intense pressure from you and like-minded MP’s, the House of Lords and associated extremely well-funded external Remain groups, is in my view likely to lead to a very bad Brexit outcome. I think it is time you explained your role in all of this to us constituents. To use your recent words are we being “treated like fools.” --------- A lot of this pressure on the government is now verging on the unconstitutional and I agree with Frank Field that the House of Lords ought now be completely reformed – Sunday Telegraph, 17th July. I supported the recent petition that this should be debated. --------- So I am sorry I have to say it again, but I cannot understand your complete change of stance over Brexit. You have said your position has been arrived at after a very careful consideration of what you consider the most pertinent evidence. The following may seem like a cheap remarks, which is not my intention. But I am afraid it is how your stance comes across. Thus you seem to have gone from originally supporting Brexit, based at that time on presumably your best evidence based assessment, to now being in agreement with a set of evidence which leads you to risking a very unsatisfactory almost non-Brexit. This seems to demonstrate a complete lack of judgemental ability in weighing matters properly? Given you are in the eyes of most outside observers in this position, surely you should accede to the far greater weight of expertise available to the government and support their position? ---------- More generally my concern is that it is surely not for MPs to take over / pre-dictate / restrict Brexit negotiations and seemingly manipulate parliamentary procedure to that end over a ‘meaningful vote.’ This is all clearly a ruse to thwart Brexit and bind the Government’s hand. It is for the Government to negotiate what will be an international agreement, free of such restrictions. The role of Parliament is surely to accept or reject after debate, what the government has managed to obtain.
- Stephen

I have to agree with Stephen`s comments. Leaving the EU is a constitutional change and requires consent of the people, a referendum. This was done and a pledge to enact was in both Conservative and Labour manifestoes, Sarah obtained our support on this basis. If her conscience does not allow her to honour her contract with us, she should abstain from voting against her Government and resign her seat; anything less would amount to deceit and fraud.
- John

Sarah, yet again I feel compelled to write to you in connection with the elected Government's unfolding plans for Brexit. The draft EU Withdrawal Bill has been carefully formulated to translate fully into UK law EU Directives so that when we finally leave this organisation we can continue to trade on a fair and equitable basis. This should make it easier for our negotiating team to establish a new and long lasting relationship with the EU that includes for example trade, security and defence. It has nothing to do with the role of Parliament after Brexit and it is clearly the case that a substantial number of remain voting ex-MPs in the House of Lords have grossly exceeded their mandate by trying to attach a mandate to the draft EU Withdrawal Bill that would seriously undermine the Government and our negotiating team, if it was accepted by the House of Commons. This amendment CANNOT be allowed to stand as it would be immensely damaging to our country's prospects and in my view it would be a violation of our constitution. Theresa May and our negotiating team will get a new and effective deal covering our future relationship with the EU, but only if she is supported by her own party members, including and especially you. For God's sake give her and our negotiating team some much needed trust in the Commons vote that is coming later today!
- David Hoy

I believe Sarah voted against the Government today. I believe Totnes deserves a candidate they can trust, at the next General Election.
- John

Very disappointed with your inability to support the Government today, as I am sure many others will be. Sadly the logical outcome is that I can no find it in myself to continue my support for you.
- Stephen

You are a traitor. We have known that since your last-minute 'change of heart' on the referendum. So whatever good you do, we will never completely trust you. Theresa is braver, stronger, a more democratic woman, so follow her lead. Help her get us out from under the yoke of the unelected parasites in Brussels. Please.
- Jean, Totnes

Sarah, I am in my 70s and do not use twitter - a shallow medium full of ill-considered remarks. Tweets do get picked up by oldies though. Which perhaps means I am allowed some cheapskate replies? One of yours yesterday included this: “The fact is that #Brexit was sold on a false prospectus”. I assume you refer to the £350m a week message on the Boris vote leave bus. Firstly I think there is the usual patronising assumption here that anyone voting leave would take literally what was meant to be a neat and snappy slogan. But since you have got me onto it, what about those infamous parts of the other false prospectus. That on a vote to leave unemployment would rocket; George Osborne’s prediction of a £30bn black hole in public finances; the immediate emergency budget and Alistair Darling’s forecast of one emergency budget after another. This pair unlike Boris you would no doubt say are people of substance? Cheap remarks on twitter and my replies on here are demeaning. Could I suggest we play the ball and not the people.--------- Secondly you say in your recent tweet “As Parliament is not now going to have a meaningful final vote, people should be able to give their own verdict on the deal.” I was at Way with Words last night listening to David Owen who I think was already picking up on your support for a second referendum or something like it. I wish you had heard him – I really do suggest you seek out his wise counsel. Here are his words in a far from adequate nutshell.---------- There have been sharp divisions over Europe amongst senior Labour and Conservatives figures going way back. Nowadays politicians from both parties with metropolitan aspirations, many of whom commute from London in and out of their provincial constituencies, have little real empathy for the problem of local decline. Parliament prior to the EU vote largely supported EU membership, in spite of its adverse effects outside of the greater London area. Its present acceptance of EU withdrawal is therefore grudging. London’s financial dominance has further fuelled in recent decades a side-lining of the declining UK regions. Added to this is the adverse effect of European centrism. All of this has resulted in a divided populace – metropolitan London versus the rest – and an elite with no understanding of the resulting resentment of the centre and a very remote European autocracy. Over many, many years and not just amongst conservatives, the parliamentary process has failed to lance this boil. In the reluctant view of Lord Owen the only way to resolve such an impasse was to hold a referendum. He would not normally advocate such a response but believes there was no alternative as our representative political processes have failed to grasp the depth of alienation from the centre as it has developed over many years. His view is that the decision of the electorate should now be entirely respected, that the matter should now be regarded as settled. His great fear on the other hand is that it is not being respected. More than that attempts to undermine and reverse it will have terrible consequences for democracy in this country.----------- My words no doubt fail to properly summarise what he said but his concern was clear. The current gathering contempt amongst the elite for the democratic outcome of the EU referendum will fatally undermine UK democracy. Sarah, if you have not already done so, you really ought to seek out the advice of Lord Owen. His experience in European and International affairs is unrivalled. He himself has on occasions been a divisive figure but I have always respected him - conservative that I am - as deeply thoughtful, a rigorous thinker. He is an impressive person, please listen to him. Stephen
- Stephen

Sarah 14th July 2018. You know that the EU is broke. You know that they are printing billions of Euro's each and every week to keep Italy, Spain and Greece afloat without mentioning the precarious financial state of other countries. You know that the UK spends 80 Billion per annum more in Europe than they send with us. I am in full agreement with Richard Littlejohn when he writes: Independent sovereign nations do not collect taxes on behalf of foreign governments. Independent sovereign nations do not accept the jurisdiction of unelected foreign judges. Independent sovereign nations do not swallow wholesale rules made by unaccountable foreign bureaucrats. Independent sovereign nations are at liberty to conclude free trade deals with any country in the world. But if May gets her way, none of that will apply. Britain will still be subject to European directives and the rulings of European judges. That’s not Brexit by any stretch of the imagination. Kind Regards, Tim South.
- Tim South

I see that Sarah does not even bother to write this blog any more, and prefers to spout her vitriol on Twitter. Sarah does not have a Conservative bone in her body. I am assuming that steps are underway in the party to deselect her. If not, I and many other will be voting to remove her and the constituency will be lost.
- George, Paignton

David Cameron won a democratic election with a majority, a promise was made for a referendum on staying or leaving EU , a democratic vote was held , the majority of people voted leave. It is your duty and all Conservative MP’s to ensure that happens, otherwise democracy is denied and the use of our vote is pointless. I really wish we could all change our mind who we had voted for in the last General Election, you would not have had my household vote! You, Anna Soubry and the others in your nest of Vipers have weakened our Government at neogotiations throughout, you have changed your views as regular as Jeremy Corbyn, you have done this great country a very great disservice. Please either leave the Party, join Labour or join Anna Soubry in LaLa land
- Peter Mulloy

You, Anna Soubry and the rest of the nest of vipers have seriously damaged the governments hand in EU negotiations, if you do not wish to follow the people’s democratic decision or your Party, stand as an Independant, and then we then know exactly what type of person we voted for, I for one didn’t give you my vote and expect treachery , and irreparable damage to Party and Country
- Peter mulloy

"There is also a simple truth that there is no Parliamentary majority for a walk-away, no-deal Brexit." It is a "simple truth" that a majority of Tory constituencies voted Leave in the referendum, besides which 53% of those in England voted to Leave. Totnes is an odd constituency, what with the post-hippe and Green Party element with the bizarre ideas one might expect; but it is nevertheless Tory, and having lived here for over half my life it seems to me your espousal of surrendering our sovereignty to Brussels, or so tying us to EU regulation that Brexit would be meaningless, must offend a great many conservative-minded people. It will be interesting to see how your position affects the outcome of the next General Election.
- Anthony Harrison

Very proud of Sarah Wollaston for courageously making the argument for PEACE ; most people commenting negatively seem to forget that it was for PEACE ACROSS EUROPE after two World Wars that so many of our allied troops and other nationals were injured or died - over 600 US soldiers alone buried on our beaches.
- Marianne

Very proud of our courageous MP who is looking towards the future and wants to ensure a prosperous country - but above all ensure PEACE across Europe which is what our fathers and grandfathers died for in two world wars. Peace across Europe can never be taken for granted.
- Marianne

Marianne, I can assure you that our fathers and grandfathers, who died in 2 World Wars, would be appalled by the way that Sarah Wollaston has behaved of late. They valued loyalty and would have given little truck to one who had renaged on a belief after obtaining their vote on an issue. A fluctuating conscience would have been viewed with contempt, honour was everything !
- John

Marianne, our fathers and grandfathers would be appalled at Sarah Wollaston`s recent approach to the democratic referendum. Gaining a vote on an understanding, then reversing a position and voting against her Government would have been considered unacceptable. A fluctuating conscience would be given short shrift, honour was everything, resignation would be the only course !
- John

One thing that is very clear in the ongoing debate about Brexit is that there are a substantial number of MP's, including our own, that will stop at nothing to prevent what the people have voted for becoming a reality. Their consistent failure to support the Government and our own team in earlier negotiations with the EU have contributed substantially to the current impasse. I was a staunch supporter of Theresa May but I have to say that when it comes to the negotiations I tend to agree with David Davis and Boris Johnson that in an effort to show goodwill she has given away far too much up front at every stage and this is being exploited by both the EU and her many political opponents in the 'House of Cards' (Parliament). If she is able to secure a fair trade deal in these negotiations at all it will be in spite of some of her colleagues in Parliament and not because of them. The Conservative Party is now in the 'Last Chance Saloon' as far as many voters are concerned. Like me they are watching every unfolding development closely and our views will be expressed at the ballot box unless the referendum result is properly respected.
- David H, Brixham

One thing that is very clear in the ongoing debate about Brexit is that there are a substantial number of MP's, including our own, that will stop at nothing to prevent what the people have voted for becoming a reality. Their consistent failure to support the Government and our own team in earlier negotiations with the EU have contributed substantially to the current impasse. I was a staunch supporter of Theresa May but I have to say that when it comes to the negotiations I tend to agree with David Davis and Boris Johnson that in an effort to show goodwill she has given away far too much up front at every stage and this is being exploited by both the EU and her many political opponents in the 'House of Cards' (Parliament). If she is able to secure a fair trade deal in these negotiations at all it will be in spite of some of her colleagues in Parliament and not because of them. The Conservative Party is now in the 'Last Chance Saloon' as far as many voters are concerned. Like me they are watching every unfolding development closely and our views will be expressed at the ballot box unless the referendum result is properly respected.
- David H, Brixham

Marianne, our fathers and grandfathers would be appalled at Sarah Wollaston`s recent approach to the democratic referendum. Gaining a vote on an understanding, then reversing a position and voting against her Government would have been considered unacceptable. A fluctuating conscience would be given short shrift, honour was everything, resignation would be the only course !
- John

Who cares whether there is a Parliamentary majority? We knew Parliament had a majority of Remainers before the referendum. Parliament gave the Brexit decision to the people, and they chose to leave, not join a half-membership EEA where we'd still be under EU rules and law. You're trying to overturn the result of the referendum, not "respect" it as you claim. You might at least be honest about it
- Ron

To quote Ed Balls: "It is dangerous to start with the assumption that voters are wrong". The people that voted to leave in the referendum did so for many reasons but don't assume that they are not prepared to put up with some hardship or turmoil to achieve the objective of leaving. As our MP, it is your duty to do everything possible to achieve what the majority voted for in the referendum, not to second guess what they "might have meant" or "didn't really mean". Please support everything you can to get us out of the EU, hopefully with a deal if possible but without, if necessary.
- Tim Mattocks

Watched my MP on TV quite a few times lately. My opinion, She is more interested in point scoring with her leader and bettering her own standing than she is in what we vote for. The Disgrace of closing our's and other Local hospitals in readiness of privatising the NHS, and the deceit This May led government is showing towards Brexit and our democratic vote. Is Shameful, or should that be SHAMELESS. I have always voted Conservative and have never regretted it in the past. NOT SO NOW!, I am appalled at the way this country is being led by this government, and will NOT vote for any further May led government and a party so disrespectful of democracy and what the electorate clearly want
- Bruce Dartmouth

Great News of the week, traitor Sarah Woolaston has warned publicly if Boris top ples Mrs May she would resign from the party.. Go for it Boris
- Pat Brodie

Some of the vitriol directed towards Dr Wollaston on here beggars belief, False statistics presented as fact, talk of traitors and even an' individual claiming to know the views of our war dead are frankly beneath contempt and indeed represent the real 'project fear'. Be honest with yourselves some of the views expressed here are much more in keeping with Farage and his motley gang of BNP rejects., If you seek Tory traitors you don't need to look too hard, Mogg, Bo Jo et al are the real traitors who will bring down Mays government but you never see calls for them to be de-selected, indeed from 'Pat's comments johnsons back stabbing behaviour qualifies him for leadership. God help us. I am very pleased that we have a moderate, reasoned MP able to think for herself and try to do her best for the country, she has my full support.
- Ged

Ged You're conflating different things, a typical sore loser tactic. Of course we cannot know exactly what those of a different age we think about Brexit. I do know that there was a time when your word was your bond and how breaking your word was regarded !
- John

I cannot believe how the negotiators have dealt with the bully boys of Europe. If in business we kowtowed to our suppliers/business partners in the same manner businesses would be going bankrupt at a faster rate than they are now. The way to treat bully’s is to stand up to them and stand firm and Not change every time the wind turns. If however they don’t like our terms walk away and get on with the other 93% of the worlds population that are not in the EU, and I can guarantee the EU would soon be back pleading for a trade deal!
- Austen

Sarah has shown that she is not only now fit for office but very capable of seeing the problems, unlike the children who understnad nothing but want to pack their bags age 2 and march out onto the pavement to find somewhere better to live then the EU loving parents. It is not Sarah who should pack her bags. Many people in Brixham are saying they could not supprot her before but do now, however, as they see it voting Labour for the first time in their lives may be the only option if Theresa May doesn't come clean. At the moment she is like a old couple who are driving the wrong way down a motorway and either doesn't know it or is refusing to stop and ask for directions.. She is refusing to stop for more fuel and is about to run out, the warning light is on, there are not many more petrol stations and the EU petrol station is the cheapest, best , nearest and most reliable.
- siv

Thank you for standing up for what you think is right in crucial life changing matters rather than following the party line. What is more we are all entitled to change our minds and finesse our positions as we learn more. I do not always agree with you - but, at the moment, I do on this.
- Paul

Thank you, Sarah, for having the guts to stand aside from playing politics and to consider what is best for the UK in the long term. Nobody who voted in the referendum had any idea what the implications of leaving the EU might be. Now things are (slightly) clearer and it is time for people to vote on what is being offered. Foe example, there could be 2 questions: 1. Leave or Remain? 2. If Leave, No Deal or Current Deal. That is true democracy and it's hard to see what people are afraid of. Let's find out what voters really think before committing the UK to an enormous historical change.
- Ali

We can't go forward if we don't let business build the factory's here, in or out of the EU. Old planning law stops them.
- John, Paignton.

So, the PM is off to Brussels to 'take personal charge' of the final phase of negotiations.Just who is she trying to kid? It is clearly the case that she has been in direct charge of these negotiations all along, which is why two Brexit Secretaries have resigned, because they were actually working to deliver what the people voted for in the referendum. This is just another example of politicians getting themselves elected and then doing what they want, rather than what they were voted in for. In addition to a genuine Brexit deal this country is in dire need of 'root and branch' political reform. I will say it again, as voters we are being deceived, betrayed and the conservative party will pay a very heavy price for this at the next election.
- David H

There have been some very eloquent posts placed here, even by strong labour supporters, who believe you are making a mistake in not supporting the PM. If parliamentarians had got behind the PM to carry out the people's wishes in the first place we would have been in a much better negotiating position. I love European countries because of their Diversity, but it is precisely because of that they cannot work easily together. The UK has always been a capable country who can show a good example as well as follow them. It is disappointing to see you call for a second referendum. I do not wish to see Labour in power mortgaging our countries future. Please support the PM or make way for someone who will.
- Les Dartmouth

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11 JAN 2018

Political courage is required and determination to properly fund the NHS and Social Care

Below is an article I wrote for the Financial Times

There is nothing new about winter pressures in the NHS. What has changed is that those pressures have become relentless, extending year round into traditionally quieter months but deepening in intensity over the winter. The current crisis is not simply caused by the number of people turning up to A&E but because those who do are far more unwell and many more need admission. With hospital bed occupancy already running at unsustainably high levels and a growing shortfall in community beds and workforce, the health and care system can rapidly become overwhelmed. An upswing in norovirus and flu over the past fortnight seems to have been the final straw. NHS England had little choice but to implement its emergency plan to ease the acute pressure by cancelling routine surgery until the end of January. Unless we address the underlying issues across both health and social care this will however become the norm for every winter. Beyond that the unsustainable pressures will result in a collapse in routine waiting time standards.

Increasing life expectancy is one of the greatest successes of our age, but as we live longer and with more complex conditions, health funding has lagged behind. There has been an abject failure on the part of successive governments to plan for the sheer scale of the long term demand and costs associated with demographic change and for the change required to integrate of health and social care,

The House of Lords Select Committee set up to examine the long term sustainability of the NHS rapidly concluded that it could not do so without including social care. The government needs to take note before repeating the mistakes of the past. A green paper that looks solely at long term funding for social care will miss the point that these two systems cannot be considered in isolation from each other. Neither should anyone underestimate the challenge of delivering policy change in a hung Parliament or under a government whose energy is so consumed by Brexit.

There is a way forward but it will take political courage from both front benches and genuine willingness to put the public interest first. Before Christmas, 90 backbenchers from across both sides of the House of Commons, wrote to the Prime Minister urging a cross Party whole-system approach to the challenges and funding of the NHS, social care and public health. Select Committees could also play a role to help to build on existing work and set out the options for the public. Theresa May's former Chief of Staff has advocated a Royal Commission but we do not have the luxury of time to kick this important issue into such long grass.

Many of the options have already been described, for example by the Barker Commission and recent House of Lords inquiry. The reality is that we will all need to be prepared to contribute more if we want the NHS to remain a universal service, free at the point of delivery and meeting our needs both now as well as in the future. This cannot in my view fall entirely on working age employed adults but also needs to consider inter-generational fairness, wealth and contributions from those who are self employed. As graduates struggle with student loans it would be unfair to expect them also to shoulder the increasing costs of health and care for those in retirement irrespective of their wealth. We could look at ideas for a hypothecated health and care tax for example paid by those over forty and with income from any source above a set threshold. Some advocate introducing charging and top ups but these bring higher transaction costs and widen health inequality. The point is that all these options should be clearly set out alongside the consequences of a failure to invest more in the NHS, care, public health and prevention.

Since 2010, total health spending has risen by an average of just over 1% per year. This is far lower than the long term average increase of around 4% and comes at a time of extraordinary rise in demand and the costs of drugs and technologies. Real terms cuts to social care have added to the strains.

It is time to stop viewing health as a bottomless pit but rather as one of our greatest successes and make increasing investment a source of national pride. I cannot think of a better way for Theresa May to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the NHS than by helping to make sure that it has a sustainable long term future.


Not being a supporter of your government and a reader of many of your posts I have come to the conclusion you are in the wrong political party. Why, you yourself must realise the Tory party will never promote a system which benefits the many and not the few. Perhaps if your government went after the multi nationals that avoid paying tax in the U.K. We would have a fully funded NHS. Cheers.
- Peter Gunn

You're an excellent advocate for health and social care, and have long recognised that matters cannot remain as they are. I wish you were Secretary of State for Health, even though I wish the Conservatives were not in government. Political parties have studiously avoided the discussion and debate which is now so pressing and necessary. Surely, the UK should benchmark its standards and funding against the best providers in Europe and elsewhere, determine the standards that it should deliver, and develop the best funding model. You are so right about another Commission - that simply kicks the can down the road. As the Barker Commission commented, hard choices need to be made about tax and public funding. A political agenda to shrink the state to unsustainable levels runs contrary to the vital needs of health and social care, and the viability of public services. As a fortunate pensioner, I recognise that my generation should be contributing more, not least because we can afford it, so I support the idea of a health and social tax on the over 40s. More generally, regardless of the arguments against hypothecation, the concept will have public support because people are prepared to pay more if they believe the funds will be ring-fenced to support health and social care. I worry that Brexit can only make matters worse, in all the obvious ways, but also in the emerging decline of tolerance and compassion. You can make a real difference, and you are doing so. We need long term sustainable funding supporting a long term plan, and to the maximum extent practicable, a de-politicisation of these vital services. History is littered with the errors of successive governments in this arena, not least with constant restrucuring and the disastrous PFI initiative. There are many tough questions around funding, taxation, what should be free at the point of deilvery, and all kinds of bioethical dilemmas. But the nation cannot sit on its hands for any longer. The threat to your party is that the NHS/social care may bring down the government while it obsesses about fantastical solutions for Brexit, when it could have elected to remain in single market within the EEA. You're doing a great job, Sarah: please stay on the case, and let the public know what we can do to support you.
- Adrian Baskerville

I agree with the comment above in that we should chase multi nationals and other tax avoiders.We should also greatly increase fuel duty as many health problems exist or are exasperated by pollution expecially pollution from diesel vehicles. Of course people do not help themselves in this respect as they can often be seen driving round and round in circles in Kingsbridge because they are too tight to pay for parking.They would also improve their health if they were to walk more often. The point being that people often do not take responsibility for their own health and therefore I do not think they should be entitled to free health care and should pay for use which would encourage many to take better care of themselves and avoid drinking like fish and smoking like chimneys. There are also many procedures available on the NHS which should not be as this was not the intentions when this institute was first founded. Finally just to calm the doomsayers, Brexit will not make any difference to the NHS or any other aspects of living in UK and will only improve matters. Oh also Sarah Wollaston's comment suggesting that living longer is something positive is subject to one's perspective and not something I would agree with.
- Derek

I believe the NHS is struggling because it undertakes procedures that should not be freely available and the sooner everybody and the government accepts this the better. There could then be more money available for procedures and treatments that truly related to one's immediate health. I do however believe the time has come to consider charging patients for their treatment. This would enthuse people to take better care of themselves as we are all aware of the need for improvement in our diets and the need to abstain from intoxicating liquor. It has recently been reported that the British eat the most processed foods and salty snacks of anywhere in Europe. Terrible diets. Cutting back on pollution from too many vehicles would also help by improving health and therefore reducing the burden upon the NHS. I do also have difficulties in regard to people suing the NHS. This gives me many sleepless nights as I cannot feel comfortable with someone suing a service that is essentially free and by suing only creates a greater burden upon the NHS. I myself have had a couple of procedures done under the NHS which have not been altogether successful, far from it,but to sue the NHS for this poor treatment I received, well I couldn't.
- Derek

With you on this one Sarah. Keep up the good work. This issue is of much greater importance to we Baby Boomers than Brexit, so please remind Mrs May of this fact. Do you have Jeremy Corbyn's phone number by any chance..?
- Roger Westlake

Surely it is time we change our political rivalries to one about our collective community in the same way of Denmark and the Scandinavian countries. That means us accepting higher taxes in return for guaranteed access to free healthcare, welfare, social services and education for all.
- John Lloyd

Mr Gunn’s comment is interesting I was about to add having just read CityAm that you sound like a socialist not a conservative. Frankly if you don’t support lower taxes, free markets and less government intervention you really are not a Tory. The NHS and social care need reform and desperately so but all you politicians think of is taxing us more! The wealthy already pay a disproportionate amount of tax as you surely know. It’s a blunt and retrograde instrument that has never worked and never will this has been proved so many times. You talk in your brexit blog about reading facts but conveniently ignore them in this issue. Free at the point of use for all is exactly part of the problem. Rich people and even middle class with insurance simply do not need free healthcare. This is a fundamental issue with the system in the same way they don’t need free bus passes etc and winter fuel allowances. I’m sure as a doctor you mean well being concerned with wellbeing but you’re applying the wrong logic and thus wrong solution. You must also be able to see the waste and inefficiency in the nhs? Come on Sarah time to be a real conservative! Real care for those in need is not throwing money at it!
- jeremy williams

The only 'customs arrangement' Brussels would accept involves accepting ECJ law, which isn't what we voted for.
- EP

THe NHS needed £4 extra a year to stand still, It did not get it 2025/27. Brexit with no customs deal will cost NHS ENgland alone £124 million a day in tariffs on drugs alone, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Sarah knows this, it was told to her Health Committee on TV by the head of NHS ENgland. Theresa May has promised less than what they are owed for just one year BY 2022. Hilarious. Customs and Borders will cost £32billion a year after Brexit on top of what we pay now - for nothing. Brexit is costing one billion pounds a week and it is going on YOUR bill. The referendum cost half a trilllion pounds to stop the Tory financial market and companies going bust. You have to repay teh Bank of England. These will be accumulating every day after Brexit. If my vacuum cleaner was rubbish I would take it back, take back Brexit, we have been sold a pup.
- sivw

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07 JAN 2018

NHS Funding

Below is an article that I wrote for the Sunday Express

There is nothing new about winter pressures in the NHS. What has changed is that those pressures are now year round but in winter the crisis is far deeper.

NHS England has put in place a plan to deal with this by cancelling routine surgery, but this will not feel 'routine' for those in pain awaiting a hip replacement for example. I understand the need to focus here and now on emergencies but we should not have to accept that cancelling this kind of life-changing surgery becomes the accepted annual response to winter.

The causes of these pressures are well known. It is of course great news we are living longer but as we do so we are living with far more complex long term conditions and the cost of treatment and technologies continues to rise faster than increases to the NHS budget. NHS staff have done an heroic job but they and the whole health and care system are stretched to the limit as they cope with far more people who are seriously unwell.

We cannot continue to provide the service we all expect on current finances, staffing and infrastructure. It is time for an urgent review to find the funding that both the NHS and social care need in order to make it happen.

We also need to end the culture of short termism and look not just at the here and now, but plan properly for the future and look at health, social care and public health together.

The public are being let down by a political failure over past decades to plan ahead, to be honest about the scale of the challenge and to work across Party lines to find a fair solution.

Before Christmas 90 back bench MPs from across political parties tried to change this, we wrote to the Prime Minister calling for this approach. Likewise in my role chairing the committee that calls the PM to give evidence, I told Theresa May that Select Committees (which work across Party political lines), stood ready to help. The fact is that no Party has a monopoly on good ideas on how this funding could be achieved and in a hung Parliament it needs cross Party working to get change such as this across the line.

No one wants to have to fork out but the truth is that we need to be prepared to pay more to support health and care services or services will decline. There are serious questions about whether it is fair for this to fall entirely on those of working age through taxes. My personal view is that it is not and that we should look at how it could be shared fairly across generations.

I know many people argue it is time to introduce charges to the NHS but this risks widening inequalities and also introduces costs and bureaucracy associated with collecting these relatively small payments. I know, as a former GP, that many of my sickest patients struggling on low incomes would have delayed coming to see me had there been a charge. This can end up not only with worse consequences for health but costing the NHS more in the long run. I also feel strongly that charging for appointments would go against one of the great founding principles of our NHS, that it is free at the point of need. It's what makes our system the fairest in the world and we should beware undermining that.

I believe the best way forward is stick with our tax and National Insurance based system as the core funding but look again at how National Insurance is collected and from whom so it can became dedicated to funding the NHS and social care.

It is time for an NHS and care convention to explore all the funding options and explain these clearly to the public and to look again at the options for sharing the costs of social care so that we no longer have the awful care costs lottery of one in ten people over 65 facing catastrophic costs.

A convention should not ignore the ongoing need to reduce waste in our NHS and I hear many examples of this in my work as chair of the Health Select Committee. Making sure that all areas learn from the best performing Trusts for example. Progress is being made in many areas already, for example driving down the huge variation in the amount the NHS pays for identical products. We also have to go further on prevention. Anyone who has spent time in an emergency department on a Friday or Saturday night will know how much drunkenness adds to the workload and avoidably ramps up waiting times.

It's easy to focus on the negative stories but the fact remains that our NHS and is doing a remarkable job and in its 70th year we should should celebrate it's successes and grasp the opportunity to make sure that it can not just survive but thrive. Rather than seeing health and care spending as a 'bottomless pit' we should view funding these properly as a source of national pride. These discussions have now become a national emergency and its time to ditch the Party politicical bickering and make it happen for the whole system our NHS, social care and public health.


We need to end internal markets between primary & secondary health, between Community
- Debra Woodhall-James

You can have a good cheap job but it will be slow You can have a fast cheap job but it will be poor quality You can have a good fast job but it will be expensive Whichever way you slice it, this is the reality of life. If we want a good NHS which delivers promptly we will need to pay for it.
- Bob Bowling

It's time to charge for the use of NHS to encourage people to improve their health themselves where they are able to. Increased costs are generally attributable to a decline in personal care and the consumption of huge quantities of fatty foods and sugary drinks. Say it as it is. If someone choses to continue to eat junk which is detrimental to their health I see no reason why I nor any other person should then contribute towards the cost of their medical needs. The main area where the government can raise further funds via national insurance,if this is the route upon which they wish to continue,would be to collect national insurance on one's entire earnings instead of having a cut off point as at present.
- Derek

I generally agree with your points, but you repeat a common statement that "extra costs will fall on people of working age through taxes". I am retired but I still pay tax. Many people on low wages and benefits do not pay tax, so "working age" is very misleading. I agree that extra money could be raised through the NI, which is now just another general tax, but this would be an extra burden on employers, many of whom struggle with such overheads. Maybe the better way is to merge NI into income tax and then fund NHS from the pool, then anyone who earns enough to pay tax will contribute. As for change, what other organisation is based on a business model created 70 years go and never changed?
- S Morrissey

Last winter my flatmate and I were very, very ill. My flatmate went to get help from the doctors at Compass House. He was told he could not see a doctor, go to the hospital, so he went to Brixham hospital where another nurse told him he could not see a doctor and go home we would be all right with Beconase sprays! The beconase did nothing for the flu or whatever it did. My friend was off work for a long time, I was in bed for a month nearly. We are both in our 60's, I am severely disabled. For 3 or 4 days I could see the angel of death beside my bed (an eye opener I did not know such a thing existed). That is health care in Britain. Give me the money to spend on myself and look after myself and let me retire to a warm, cheap country like Spain, so stay in the EU. They have one of the best helath care systems in the world.
- siv

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14 DEC 2017

Why Parliament Voted to Take Back Control

This week I voted for an amendment to the European Union Withdrawal Bill because it was necessary to guarantee that there can be Parliamentary scrutiny and sovereignty as we return control of our laws from Brussels. There have been strong opinions on both sides of the argument about this, and even suggestions that by backing this amendment I have somehow blocked Brexit, or increased the likelihood of another election. This is not true. I respect the referendum result and voted to trigger Article 50. We are leaving the European Union but need to do so in a way that leads to as few unintended consequences as possible.

In returning powers from Brussels we must not exchange one system with poor democratic oversight for another. As we take back control of our laws, Parliament has an important role to play in scrutinising the government's work. Both in my role as Chair of the Health Committee and as a Constituency MP it is my duty to be look closely at both the pitfalls and opportunities of the various options for the type of Brexit ahead.

Clause 9, which I and colleagues voted to amend, had such far reaching consequences that I have copied it verbatim below:

A Minister of the Crown may by regulations make such provision as the Minister considers appropriate for the purposes of implementing the withdrawal agreement if the Minister considers that such provision should be in force on or before exit day.

If left unamended, this clause would have been incompatible with the Prime Minister's pledge to give Parliament a 'meaningful vote' on the deal. In effect, it allowed Ministers to make changes to laws with no democratic check by Parliament. Its breadth even concerned Brexiteers like Jacob Rees-Mogg, who said during the debate, "clause 9 gives some powers that trouble even Eurosceptics. I have never felt comfortable with the self-amending part of the Bill."

I and my colleagues had made our concerns clear to government for many weeks ahead of the vote and we feel that this vote was entirely avoidable. The clause should have been removed and the government could easily have done so. This would have avoided the need for an amendment.

Far from obstructing Brexit, this vote strengthened its democratic underpinnings, preventing major constitutional change from potentially being pushed through purely by ministerial decree.

I have been dismayed with how irresponsibly my vote has been misrepresented in some parts of the press. I welcome robust debate and I am always willing to listen and to defend what I believe. Labelling MPs 'traitors' for defending a fundamental democratic principle or judges 'enemies of the people' for upholding the law, just fuels a hateful division. It also entirely misrepresents why I voted as I did and why I felt it was necessary.

As we build an independent Britain – we will need to work constructively with our European neighbours. The more I hear, during Select committee hearings, about the consequences that would arise from a disruptive and chaotic Brexit, the more I feel that we must try to achieve a soft landing. The consequences of no deal and no transition would be very serious indeed.


Thank you for having the courage and conviction to vote for this amendment. The brexiteers become more extreme in their views and actions and any who disagree are portrayed as disloyal or treacherous. They must be countered by sound, logical argument by people like you to ensure that when we leave the EU, we do so on a sound and reasonable basis and do not just crash out. Thank you.
- Kevin Gleeson

" The consequences of no deal and no transition would be very serious indeed." IN YOUR OPINION
- mike

What rubbish - thoroughly disenchanted with our elected 'Representative'. Again.
- Hugh Welbourn

It’s about getting us ‘out of the eu’ but actually sliding back in by the backdoor. Which is actually worse than leaving in the first place. Still in the customs union, still in the single market, still got free movement with no say. I’m afraid our representative and the majority of parliament think we’re all a bit thick and not capable of making the right choice. They hold us in contempt. It’s not just here, the political elite in Europe hold their citizens with contempt also, hence the rise of far right parties in Europe. I’m sure the vast majority wouldn’t vote this way, but hey!! If they won’t listen. What an awful choice we’re left with
- John

Thank you for supporting the amendment to the Withdrawal Bill. The British public voted for powers to be 'returned to Parliament' not tranferred to individual Ministers enabling them to pass laws without scrutiny
- Steph Crutchley

You are put in Parliament by the people to represent OUR views NOT yours. Nothing in the above shows any sign of listening to US the people you are meant to represent . You are ONLY there because WE elect you. You are also part of a party and should also remember that . What you have done is a possible back door into a Marxist government that would destroy this country possibly forever and you should have the intelligence to realise this . The people voted for Brexit and just want to get on with it . Businesses need to see clear water ahead , what you have done and your arrogant lot is set this back. We the people who you claim to represent have had enough.
- Anne Swabey

Parliament gave the people the right to decide on brexit. We did and with a larger % turnout than for the recent election, so which is therefore more democratic? If you support democracy then the people must be obeyed not some false idea of the less democratic members of parliament!
- adrian lewis

Directed here by my email to you where I spoke of understanding your concerns re Clause 9, I now fear, having read your explanation, my sympathy was misplaced. The people of the UK, who you (the collective you) represent, voted to leave... that has to be at the forefront as to what type of Brexit you feel is best going forward. In an age when the population have never been better informed through MSM and social media, I still find it gulling how politicians continue to act as if they know best. And simply quoting Jacob Rees-Mogg as being concerned, yet not adding why he still felt inclined to support the Bill is disingenuous to say the least.
- Stuart Price

2nd paragraph of your "Blog" quote "as a Constituency MP it is my duty to look at both the pitfalls and various options for the type of Bexit ahead" Surely therefore it was your duty to "look at pitfalls,facts options etc etc etc" before becoming a Leaver, and then changing to Remainer, why the change? People of the UK voted to leave in a Democratically held Referendum , including 54% of your constituents, we entrusted the Conservative Party to honour that and get on with it, Teresa May is doing just that ,despite various factions holding her to ransom at every turn, this will only get worse coming back to Parliament with the opposition, SNP DUP various gangs of 12 who really can't accept Democracy. Your action has only strengthened Corbyn and his Marxist party, Teresa May deserves better, I feel totally let down, by your actions.
- Peter Mulloy

However well intended, a very poor decision and one which will risk further undermining our negotiating position at potentially great cost to our country. The opposition will doubtless be pleased with your conduct but I am very disappointed although, regrettably, not surprised.
- Brian Kelly

Absolutely shocked and disgusted that our local MP should be so treacherous towards the Prime Minister and to the majority of her constituents. I believe that she should be de-selected and an honourable replacement be put forward. I personally will not support her in any shape or form in the future.
- Mary Bell

Cannot but help agreeing with the post above from Mary Bell.
- bryan boswall

Those Conservative MPs who voted against the government cannot duck the self indulgent disloyalty they have demonstrated. Disloyalty to the PM, their Party and the majority of the electorate who voted to leave. Even the leaders of the EU acknowledge that this defeat weakens the government's negotiating position and increase the chance of a "no deal" exit. This, coupled with the gift handed to those who seek a Marxist government, does not bode well for the future. What is done is done but let us all hope that this mistake will not be repeated in the coming weeks and months.
- Anthony Croke

Well done, it takes courage. Go and get yourself a glass of white wine!!
- David Lavender

my comments re the same as Mary Bell de-selected or better resignation after letting us down
- jim davis

You were a Leaver first and changed - not good, you can't be trusted with our vote. I agree with the above people, let PM get on with her job with help from her party. This is not good for other countries looking in on us. This is not a well done to you but maybe 'sheep' is more like it!!
- Penny Davis

David Lavender how flippant, and pathetic are your comments. It therefore means that except for 12 Conservative MPs, the rest of her colleagues have no courage, and according to Sarah's blog they are the only ones who see the real dangers, they cannot trust the Prime Minister, her Ministers and elected Conservative MP's to get the best deal possible for leaving the EU, how insulting to those people. Arrogance at its peak, maybe the medical term could be the Anna Soubry Complex.
- peter mulloy

Steph Crutchley's post shows that she and Sarah Woolaston doesn't see the simplicity of how a Gov should work. The electorate elect , this is a show our trust, if that trust is broken then we elect some other party . By removing powers from the Cabinet the Rebels are frustrating the will of the people. I am surprised at Moog's comments quoted, Govs need to be able to get stuff done with out too much fuss. The EU now are saying that the the Article 50 period of 2 years can be extended I am afraid that if this goes on into a Labour Gov's term then Brexit will not get done which would be a disaster . The 12 Rebels have no business experience or Trade understanding . Not one of them was seen in the Pre referendum Trade select committee meeting with Professor Mindford that you can watch on Youtube. Nadhim Zahawi was there , he was at that time a remainer after that meeting he changed to a Leaver. There are very few excellent MPs that serve as they should as a conduit for the peoples will. Remainers should respect the 1st past the post system we have , they may also like to study this site , we should never have been considered part of the EU ! http://www.vernoncoleman ( dot com ) /euillegally.html
- Bill Davies

Sorry but I totally agree with Bill Davies comments, the thorn in the side of the Tories, of which I an one, will rumble on forever until it is totally removed.
- David Jennings

You say you are proud to have voted the way you did. What have you got to be proud off, causing more division in the country than there alredy is humiliating us as a country and your leader. Proud is not a proper way to justify what you did. You are a flip flopper anyway and should apologise or even better resign for your inconsistent views. How are we supposed to vote for you when you change your mind regularly. we vote for what you tell us you stand for, not for you to change you views.I'm not proud to have you as my MP when you embarres us on a world stage and belittle our standing in the world. Shame on you and your hypocracy..
- John shields

My husband and I agree with the majority of the above. My husband is of Italian origin and his relatives in Italy are on a three day week with a crippled economy caused by membership of the EU. They would also like to leave the broken EU. Your post contains I think I feel - you are in Parliament only by the will of the people to carry out the will of the people. You have failed in your duty and you have failed Theresa May. We will not support you by voting for you in this constituency again.
- Sharon Carrino

"Et tu, Brute....Knifed in the back, by one who I thought I could trust. I feel your actions and those of your fellow rebels have put OUR Prime Minister in a very difficult position to be able to negotiate a fair Brexit. Do you realise that you have jeopardised the entire future of The United Kingdom, on what terms it leaves the EU and where it will stand in the world, in the future? You really should be ashamed of yourself. Robert Summers Chairman of Wellswood Conservatives Torbay
- Robert Summers

So you have humiliated your PM,weakened the UK’s negotiating position,given encouragement to Juncker and Barnier,made the prospect of a Brexit deal even more difficult ,emboldened the Marxists and betrayed the electorate.Yet you claim on Twitter that you are proud of your achievement.If you are,then you are occupying a seat on the wrong benches in the Commons.
- MichaelR

I would urge those commenting above to take the time to read the text of the EU withdrawal Bill as proposed by the government. We are all agreed that we will leave the EU, but the Bill gives the government powers to amend any current UK legislation which originates from the EU in any way it sees fit - without having to seek parliament's approval first. This could have far reaching consequences for our personal lives and businesses - it includes legislation that covers maternity rights, our rights to keep our personal information confidential, environmental regulations.... Normally the government has to seek parliament's approval to fundamental changes to UK legislation. Why should changes to our statutes as a result of Brexit be treated any differently? Thank you, Sarah for voting for proper parliamentary scrutiny. Had the government dealt with these issues properly in the first draft of the Bill, the Brexit process would not have been held up.
- Sara Chisholm

Most of the people here who attack you do not understand the function either of our representative democracy or of the European Union. I support your action, and hope that you will continue to follow your conscience in voting for the good of your country. Thank you!
- Dr Robert Lawson-Peebles

Despite your excuses, you are a remainer as are all the other so called rebels and you clearly do not trust our Prime Minister, your leader who promised you all a vote. we need to look for another candidate to represent us, someone who knows what they feel on these issues not a last minute mind changer or turncoat.
- John Butler

It means taking our powers back when we get out of europe, then out parliament can bring in any laws they wish. You ae educated but have no sense or understanding of the matter. Watch question time from last Thursday where a man in the audience told you remainers the truth. The referendum was of the whole UK not constituency. You should be ashamed and as for courage, that does not come into it The country voted OUT so lets get out. You are a traitor
- Ken Lakin

What nonsense people write in relation to the nature of this very sensible amendment. I applaud Sarah for backing the amendment and also for making the very good point she does over clause 9. It could easily have been taken out, had the Government done so, there would not have been the degree of unrest over the potential consequences. It is ridiculous how these amendments have been taken out of context, they are not a 'sabotage Brexit' mechanism, merely an entirely sensible airing of concerns from many sides aimed at ensuring the legislation is properly scrutinized, why on earth wouldn't we want this on something as important as the Brexit deal? The government created a great deal of suspicion by virtue of its refusal to take out clause 9. People voted for Brexit and 'taking back control'. That's still what you end up with, law in this Country is subject to Parliamentary approval and scrutiny, that is how our system operates; Brexit changes nothing as to how we implement our own laws. Clause 9 however allows a 'Minister of the Crown' to draw up regulations, that would mean no scrutiny whatsoever; that can never be right in the way we legislate. Regulations are not the same as an enactment, clause 9 allows a single minister to implement secondary non debated legislation; that can never be right for something as important as this. "A Minister of the Crown may by regulations make such provision as the Minister considers appropriate for the purposes of implementing the withdrawal agreement if the Minister considers that such provision should be in force on or before exit day. " Like it or not, Theresa May does not have a strong negotiating hand, she lost her majority at the last election; this places an even greater duty upon Parliament to scrutinize the laws she she is proposing. This was an entirely sensible call by a responsible constituent MP acting in the interests of those in her locality, that includes those who voted for leave or remain.
- Nick Dilworth

Sarah is one of the few MPs who shows she reads her brief. What is forgotten is the referendum in 2016 was advisory but to see the reaction of politicians afterward they had clearly forgotten this. Parliament needed to formally vote to accept the result and then put in place withdrawal. That would have been sensible and surely within the Ken of our representatives. But what we have seen for the last eighteen months is incoherent lurching through one badly-drafted proposal to another. This is government by the seat of the pants and it isn't working. So when one of our representatives actually reads her brief to understand it she should be applauded. Not condemned and threatened with deselection. There is too much at stake for ill tempered lobs across the barricades. Leave that to the press.
- Helen Darch

She is a Remainer and a Traitor, 1 of the other 11 Heidi Allen has been hauled to a party meeting in South Cambs to face a de-selection battle this should be happening in Torbay. I will not vote for Sarah Woolaston again if she is still standing at the next election. Come on Sarah be honest about your intentions, instead of all these excuses
- Pat Brodie

What a lot of nonsense posted here. The passing of this amendment has placed the power to decide whether the brexit deal is acceptable or not firmly where it belongs. Parliament is the sovereign body, not the cabinet, the government or a handful of ministers. One of the planks of the leave campaign was to return power to parliament. To talk of treachery or deselection is just ridiculous.
- Bob Bowling

I agree entirely with Bob Bowling. Sarah Wollaston has acted perfectly correctly, according to her conscience, and posters like Pat Brodie who use such inflammatory language as "Traitor" should remember where such language leads.
- Dr Robert Lawson-Peebles

Many of the people on this message board are not from Totnes and don't seem to understand our constituency, Sarah is our representative and has always voted on issues for what she thinks is right rather than always follow the party line. As she achieved more than half the entire vote for Totnes and has been re-elected twice with a larger vote each time I'd say she's pretty popular. So please stop all this name calling and let our representative represent us in the way she has always done. This is a democracy and if you don't like it then simply vote her out when the next election comes. Intimidation has no place in anything other than a dictatorship.
- Jon Merriott

…sorry but I’m struggling to follow the logic here. These sanctimonious rebel MP’s (who all voted to remain in the EU) are now talking in dewy eyed terms about the sanctity of the UK parliament and democratic process, yet they were only too happy at the referendum to undermine our parliament in favour of the much more undemocratic EU. It seems that they only see the benefits of our democracy when it suits their objectives which seems to be either to stop, frustrate or soften BREXIT
- Mark A

Clause 9 is badly phrased, as it implies that a single Minister may change whatever he/she wishes without reference to Parliament. But we all know that this is nonsense, and Parliament could force a debate, and hence refusal, or amendment to the Minister's wishes. What I am dismayed about the most is that many people refuse to accept the referendum result; they should stop moaning, and set out to achieve a successful Brexit. The greatest danger by 'the rebels' is that they are encouraging Corbyn and Co to believe that they will form the next Government. Heaven help us, should that be the case!
- Barry Day

I don't just disagree with our MP on this. I am amazed by her lack of judgement and wit. The highlight above was where she acknowledge that the EU membership she urged us to vote for "lacked democratic oversight". She refers to "building an independent Britain". Surely any Tory MP urging Remain as she did (eventually) would have argued that we were ALREADY independent. Otherwise wasn't she therefore arguing for the British people to vote against their own independence? She sits in Parliament with that group of the most ardent Europhiliacs, federalists and remainers. When she railed on Twitter for months against Juncker, Brussels and the whole EU kleptocracy. Really? Judgement? I am sure Sarah is a very good doctor, and in many ways an intelligent person. But politics and political argument just isn't her thing is it? The bottom line is that Sarah is simply out of her depth in Parliament. Her lack of judgement shown in the Referendum, her bizarre behaviour since, and her completely incoherent articulation of her reasons for voting for this amendment are proof that she simply does not belong in Parliament. She is the best argument against open primary selection of Tory candidates that I can think of. Everyone in the area should mobilise to remove Mrs Wollaston (as much for her own good as our's). I think a Conservative who could honour the manifesto upon which they stood would be a start. A MP who could frame a coherent argument would be an added bonus.
- George, Paignton

Thank you Sarah for supporting the sovereignty of Parliament and safeguarding our parliamentary democracy. Please continue to do so .
- LizK

The people are sovereign in a democracy and they delegate their sovereignty to Parliament by election of representatives. In the case of Brexit Parliament voted for a referendum to make a stay or leave the EU decision. SW is a remainer trying to frustrate the will of the people. She has lost my vote.
- David, Brixham

Instead of all the arguing and bickering that goes on in parliament there should be far more intelligent and positive decisions made and made promptly with regard to the electorate. The facts are we should never have joined the common market in the first place. Now we need to leave as soon as possible and whether there is a deal or not is of no consequence as no one in any walk of life is able to conclusively forecast the proster and cons of leaving the EU. I suspect that the general populace will hardly notice the difference. It will however be good to leave the EU as they have lost direction especially over the last twenty years.
- Derek

A referendum was held with a decision on in or out. There was a result, Totnes also voted a majority for out. If our elected representative does anything to subvert the result, she will lose my vote next time round.
- John. Dartington

I am an employer of 50 full time people in a small manufacturing business . That gives me some right to comment here, not emotionally as some others have here , but practically . Brexit will be a disaster if it is handled the way it has been to date by this government, without any real plan. The original referendum allowed 'grown-up' politicians to brazenly lie to the electorate during live Televised debates ( most arguments made have been shown to be false) so it is essential that the government does not get the feeling that it has a carte blanche because the will of the people have given that mandate . The use of Darren Brown to give BoJo and his colleagues the hypnotic phrase "Take back Control" every xx seconds during the debate , in the hope of somehow hypnotising the electorate is an example of how far they wanted to go to get an OUT vote . If we are to unite this country and get something at all resembling a stable future we need politicians exactly like Sarah Wollaston, able and willing to stand up to Party dogma and ensure that the process is representaive and functional, not just ideological. 37% of the electorate does not a majority make - at least in a logical sense. if it does , it requires an open mind to allow for it to also change its mind if the truth comes out, which it appears to be doing at last . I call for a second "truthful " referendum , where the genuine facts are placed before us. If we dont get that then at the VERY LEAST we must let our elected representatives watch our backs and not consignus to very real changes in our earning ability ( or as some might say , being pulled over the cliff into an abyss of unknown depth) those elected individuals who read their brief , who work long ( often thankless ) hours going over dull boring details that will protect this country from the borish dogma of Nationalism. Noone can deny our genetic make up is now so mixed, there is little room for racial dogma, we all have genes from all races . I would listen to business people over the retired and to the populace as a whole if the facts put before them in a referendum were actually true - remember the 1.5m Turkish nationals who would be knocking at our front door and the now infamous 350m for the NHS . Lies of that nature should actually ensure that politicians who use those tactics are stripped of the dignity of being able to call themselves an elected politician. Call for a second Truthful Referendum , then we will ALL accept the results. The self inflicted open wound we live with at the moment is unlikely to heal without TRUTH.
- Gabriel David -

What an obnoxious and arrogant man whom assumes himself as a businessman to be above all others . The referendum was a democratic result and he needs to accept it and stop crying into his milk.It's quite clear from his comments that some are more dictatorial that democratic when their feathers are ruffled. Get real.
- Derek

Thank God for people like Sarah. David Cameron should never have held a referendom, without educating the electorate on exactly what and how the EU and its many institutions work, pros and cons, of which most of the electorate were and still are ignorant of (myself included of course). Interestingly, since we have been negotiating our withdrawal, we have learnt that immigrants/migrants to this country from Europe and beyond are not responsible for the ills of this country, a myth perpetuated by Nigel Farage and UKIP, but major contributors to its economic success. Just about every other claim by the Brexiters has no basis in fact. Most of the ills experienced by the people of the UK are the result of UK Government decisions on domestic issues, not rules and regulations introduced by the EU, which have on the whole benefited society across Europe. And Sarah's stance on the PM's promise of a 'Brexit dividend' for the NHS when we leave the EU, 'utter tosh' is spot on and supported by every economist in the land. If you believe that Brexiters you'll believe anything. You were seduced by the claim on the side of a bus during the referendom campaign, and you are still being deliberately misled by it now.
- Patricia Vincent

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28 JUL 2017

Ambulance Services in South Devon

Following concerns about long waits for ambulances and the withdrawal of local Rapid Response Vehicles, I invited South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, SWASFT, to an open meeting at Kingsbridge Community College. Chief Executive, Ken Wenman and the team leading operations in South Devon came to set out why services are changing and to answer questions. Many volunteer Community First Responders also joined the audience to share their experiences.

The Ambulance Service has undergone huge changes from one which primarily transported people to hospital to one staffed by highly trained paramedics with specialist equipment also capable of delivering treatment at home, backed up by a network of community first responders and co-responders from other emergency services.

The key challenge has been the rise in demand for their services. Over the past five years the number of calls has risen by 19.2% in the Totnes area, 29% in Plymouth and 23.7% in Torbay. One effect of this has been that once ambulances based in the rural South Hams have taken a patient to hospital in Torbay or Plymouth, they often get diverted to other calls in those urban areas rather than returning to base. The way that targets have been set in the past can mask poorer services in rural areas. Until now, those response targets only covered the most urgent calls with a requirement that a vehicle arrived on scene within 8 minutes in 75% of cases. Overall SWASFT met that target for the South Devon and Torbay CCG area at 75.65% of calls over the past year. But the figures I obtained for the Totnes constituency, which is more rural, tell a different story, with ambulances reaching just 61.1% of those calls in 8 minutes over the past three months. Targets need to be set in a way that doesn't lead to unintended consequences such as focusing on urban areas where they are easier to reach or allowing the arrival of an inappropriate ambulance vehicle to 'stop the clock' when measuring response times.

Now that many more treatments are available in specialist centres to help people who have suffered conditions like acute stroke and heart attack, it is more important than ever that the right vehicle attends a call. Ambulance cars, known as Rapid Response Vehicles, cannot take people to specialist centres but can distort the figures for waiting times. These vehicles are being removed but the meeting was told by SWASFT that overall ambulance hours cover would increase for the South Hams through a double crewed ambulance based at Totnes and use of a 'dynamic coverage tool', otherwise known as getting vehicles back out from urban centres to be closer to respond to emergencies across rural areas like the South Hams. Changes to targets will mean that all calls will count, and using mean average response times as well as the time taken to reach 9 in 10 calls will help to keep a focus on reducing long waits especially in rural areas. I will be following this carefully to make sure that the changes do lead to improvements in the service. These are being put it in place following the national Ambulance Response Programme trial and the following links give further background to this and to the changes:



At the meeting, volunteer community first responders spoke of their concern about not being able to deliver pain relief whilst waiting for an ambulance to arrive. Ken Wenman confirmed the good news that they will now be able to receive training in the use of pain relieving gas and air.

The service has been under increasing pressure due to rising demand and this has meant that it has been coping with 2.46% less funding per call over a three year period. SWASFT's operations director Neil Chevalier, told the meeting that they had received a £3.6m uplift in funding to implement the changes from the Ambulance Response Programme trial and, in response to questions about pay, said that paramedic staff had been put onto band 6 of the NHS pay scale up from band 5.

SWASFT representatives heard direct from volunteer community first responders and local residents about the pressure on services including examples of long waits and these were all examples of why the service needs to provide a better response to rural areas. I will be following this closely.

The message that came over loud and clear was the value that we all place on our ambulance service. Thank you to all our paramedics, support staff and volunteers.


Very useful update. Can I encourage St John's ambulance to train its community volunteers in emergency IM hydrocortisone for relief of adrenal crisis? This authorised under Schedule 19 of the Human Medicines Regulations. Our charity's experience has been that this is straightforward to master, and saves lives. We have a first hand report from an untrained office first aider who successfully gave IM hydrocortisone earlier this year for adrenal crisis prevention: he watched our How To training video on his phone. http://www.addisons.org.uk/forum/index.php?/videos/category-2-emergency-injection-videos/ See www.addisons,.org.uk for more information and case studies about this life-saving technique.
- Katherine White

I'm pleased that attention is being given to the response times in rural areas after waiting three and a half hours in my next-door neighbour's house after he fell in his kitchen and broke his hip. He was not classified as life-threatening, though he died a few days later. Even the 999 system did not work as it should have. Everything under great stress. There is line in the sand, which when crossed in the quest to deliver greater efficiencies and particular Ministerial targets get in the way of caring for the customer. Delivery of patients to A&E and Ambulance crews having to wait crazy times in order to hand over patients (queueing in corridors) is another pinch point for availability of manned Ambulances. We need a good shake of the money tree for the NHS in particular.
- mike north

So the response to the ARP trial has been to reduce ambulance cover in S. Hams by removing all the RRVs. The ambulances spend most of their time in the urban areas leaving the residents of S.Hams with less medical help than before, a paramedic in a car can still give life saving treatment as Katherine Whites's post shows. Hypoglycaemic patients are another group of patients as are those with major blood loss etc etc. If the number of 999 calls has gone up so much the question is are all these calls appropriate? J. Hunt was pushing the idea that the NHS should be a 24/7 organisation, has that contributed to people calling 999? Perhaps the Government could help by not listening to lobbyists from the tobacco and food industry but to the health service instead. Educate the public on when and how to access the health service. Encourage people to take responsibility for their own health and not expect the health service to fix the problems arising from smoking, overeating and being lazy.
- S. Hams resident

When can local Conservatives have an MP who votes for their interests, who shows some loyalty to the government and respects the vote of 23 June 2016? It ain't Sarah Wollaston that's for sure.
- George, Paignton

Well done for defeating the government ! We need a second referendum and this time the people of Britian will give the right answer . With the humiliating defeat of Mrs May we are thankfully closer to a Labour or Lib Labour goverment which will end the folly of Brexit and bring the UK back to where it belongs ; an integral and vital part of the European Union. Thankyou so much.
- Peter Thompson

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29 JUN 2017

Public Sector Pay and the NHS

Public sector pay increases, including for NHS staff, have been capped at 1% since 2013–14 and for two years prior to that subject to a pay freeze affecting the majority. NHS employees' pay fell by 10 per cent in real terms between 2009/10 and 2014/15 and continues to fall.

It is time in my view for pay restraint to be loosened but that cannot be done without a clear plan for how it will be funded.

In 2015–16, the Department of Health spent £48.7 billion on NHS provider staffing costs. The IFS estimates that each 1% increase in staff pay would add approximately £0.5 billion to the pay bill, just for the NHS. This means either additional funding for the service or painful reductions in other areas of the NHS or DH budget.

I agree with the pay review body that there are also costs in ignoring the need to increase pay. As the gap between NHS pay and jobs outside the public sector widens, this is hitting the recruitment and retention of key staff, especially when there is fierce international competition for skilled healthcare professionals. The fall in real incomes is also affecting morale, especially where staff are having to work under greater pressure to compensate for unfilled posts. Vacancies and staff shortages can also affect patient safety as well as lead to higher agency costs. Pay restraint is becoming a false economy.

For all these reasons I believe it is time for a rethink but it will require a clear plan from the Treasury as to how it will be paid for. Ending the pay cap won't happen through a simple amendment to the Queen's speech.

It is essential for all Political Parties to face up to the scale of the funding challenge across the NHS and social care and to work together to find a way forward. The reality is that the wider challenge in funding these vital services, in the face of an extraordinary increase in demand and costs, will be there for which ever Party is in Government after the next election. It is in everyone's interests for MPs to work constructively together across Party lines in the national interest. We have a responsibility to level with the public and with each other because the reality is that we are all going to have to pay more to put the NHS, social care and our other valued public services on a sustainable long term footing.

Much of the ground work has already been carried out and we should look again at the full range of proposals from the Barker Commission and the House of Lords inquiry into the sustainable long term funding of the NHS and social care.


I admired your stance on public sector pay in parliament yesterday, you told us how the folks we regard as heroes could take no more. Then you voted against them. I require my MP to be driven by conscience, not by a desperate need to cling to power.
- Christopher Mockridge

Brexit u-turner mid campaign. Now this slap in the face. Find a way to fund it? It took your leader five minutes to find a billion to prop your party up. Sickening. I don't believe you understand the anger at this vote; this cheering that went on. It's a game once you get into the Common, where you can forget about the salt of the earth. Like that policeman that died right there at the mother of parliaments - laid down his life for a hardened political class.
- Rosalind Salter

In my 62 years I have never been so disgusted with a party as I currently am with the current Conservative party. To see the cheering following yesterday's vote denying essential public sector workers a raise after 7 years of falling wages sickened me. Your sheer hypocrisy, claiming on your blog and twitter feed to support a loosening of the pay cap whilst voting for the opposite shows that you have no morals or integrity and are clearly in politics for the benefit of your party, not for the good of the British people. Utterly shameful.
- Ian Scott

So, why not grow a backbone and vote with the opposition last night? Austerity is a political choice, not an economic necessity. And your leader proved it by finding £1.5 billion down the back of the sofa for her bigoted DUP friends in 5 minutes. Nurses having to use food banks, policeman & fireman driven to suicide because of the pressure cuts have put them under. You and your party should be ashamed. I really don't know how any Tory MP sleeps at night. At last, the country is awakening to Tory fraud. The quicker there is another GE, the better.
- Mark Jones

You write all that and then troop through the lobies opposing any increase.It is this sort of behaviour that gets politicians a bad name.This is why Jeremy Corbyn is different.During the last Labour government,if there was a policy he disagreed with he voted against it.I hope you were not one of the hooligans who cheered when the amendment was defeated.If the amendment had been passed It would have forced the treasury to look at ways of finding the money.I am 86 and owe my life to doctors and nurses in the NHS and it's time they were adequately rewarded.The firefighters and police who risked their own lives in recent events are praised by Mrs May,but are still seeing their wages fall behind and yet a billion pounds is found to keep your party in power by bribing a party that were hardly going to oppose the government.It stinks.
- Alan Bailey

Blah blah blah. "It is in everyone's interests for MPs to work constructively together across Party lines in the national interest." You had your chance yesterday.
- Figrat

I can only agree with other posters above. Funding public serve is is a choice. Finding the money reflects choices made elsewhere. Austerity has been, and continues to be, a brake on the growth of the economy, never mind the suffering it continues to cause. Choosing to spend a billion on shoring up the outcome of a pitifully poor performance around the general election (which cost another, what, £130 million of taxpayers' money and was entirely unnecessary?) is also a choice, isn't it. The public do not want this. Our elected representatives are presumably there to serve the wishes and needs of the public, for the good of our society. We are being very very badly let down, and this public hand-wringing while continuing to support these poor decisions is hypocritical in the extreme. Cross the floor, Sarah. Please.
- Veronica Conboy

Could you please explain to us WHY you voted to keep the cap Sara? Speaking in favour of lifting the freeze and then voting to keep it is pure hypocrisy! Especially since MP's have been given a pay increase and they are public sector workers, and they are also able to claim extortionate expenses. Its a slap in the face! I work in the NHS as a Emergency ambulance crew, many of my colleagues in London and the country don't want to be hailed as hero's, we just want a right to earn a decent wage.
- Noelle

The Barker Report is wide ranging but has a very important conclusion: "With a view to raising additional revenue, we recommend a comprehensive review of wealth taxation". If you also agree with this maybe it is time to cross the house or at least vote in line with your beliefs.
- Ken Pickering

Agree with all the other comments on here, SHAME ON YOU ALL!! Unbelievable scenes yesterday, cheering the decision! I had to explain to my 6 year old why all the people of TV were so happy ! Disgraceful behaviour!! VOTE for what you believe in and stop being a May Puppet. Oh and reply to your constituents and enjoy your pay rise!
- Jack

I wish I could say I was shocked by the two faced, cowardly and selfish approach shown by yourself and other members of your party. There is no point in anyone saying shame on you, for you all lack integrity and any moral standing. Of all the people to cower to, a leader who is scared, has sold members of her own party, who saved her skin,down the river and won't stop short of buying her way out with public money. You are a representative of the people yet all you do is take for yourselves, you are pathetic and immoral, all of you. Sadly you all think this is acceptable.
- Dave Hennig

As a new constituent I was at least reassured by your public pronouncements and apparently principled response to the Leave campaign's complex relationship with the truth. However I can only agree with the other posters here: You have really let yourself, and us the people you represent, down.
- Nick Quine

Many of us in the Southwest had high hopes following your election that at last there was a person who came from and really understood the health service, its needs, pressures, and the welfare of its staff and patients. So very disappointed that after all the rhetoric, in which you appeared to understand the impact that the pay freeze has had on morale aand recruitment, and therefore patient safety, that you voted against the words you had spoken. Thank goodness most of us in the NHS are advocates for our patients and not afraid to speak out, and refuse to simply toe the line if we feel something is wrong. Let's now look forward to spending even more money on agency and locum staff, and see services wither, such as dermatology at Taunton which another Conservative lady wrongly stated that she had saved.....
- Teresa

You are a disgusting person, a disgrace to your profession and your country.
- Birte Evenden

I have always been a fan of your political stances as you always seem To represent fairness and stand up for the principles You hold dear., however I was very disappointed to see you vote against the pay rise for Nhs staff despite your entry, statements and blogs to the contrary. This would seem hypocritical and you certainly have lost a lot of this integrity in my opinion with this vote. It is also maddening when politicians have a 10%pay increase that you can credibly take this stance.
- Ed Schwallins

I think your blog and the work you do is excellent. Unfortunately, your excellent work in the commons health committee failed to hold the sec of state for health to account for misleading the house regarding "increased spending"; by changing indexing, adding a year to the period and including monies already promised. As you point out retention is disasterous, and for nursing means 1 in 5 posts vacant, and applications to nursing dropped significantly since the bursary was removed. This means more "bank/locum" work with increased costs. The SOS for health plans to privatise the body which has saved money in providing locum/bank staff. Really? When you state "an amendment in the queens speech isn't the way to address this" you are being politic. The DUP deal cost £1.5 billion. That was also being politic. Honesty is required. The govt states the NHS is "safe in our hands". It is not. We need 8% of GDP (or more) to fund the NHS. The suggested cuts have been criticised by practically every body that has commented that it is not possible. The govt should be honest that the plan is for privatisation of the NHS. Why aren't you? It's called being politic; you know anyone stating this would not get into power. So you made a choice to be politic. That's your choice. But please accept that's what it is. The cheer when the ammendmemt failed was an insult to all of us working in the emergency services (including you of course as a Doctor), and was disgusting.. I was in Washington DC last week and saw live at Capital Hill the speeches made to fight against the repeal of Obama Care which would mean 22 million people not having access to health care in the U.S. if repealed. This govt seems to be demonstrating privatisation through stealth, as per the motion passed at the BMA ARM. I ask you to consider your role in that, as I have really admired you taking SOS to task; however it seems misleading the house is just accepted these days...
- Dr Peter Taysum MBBS MPhil MSc MA (home)

I always thought you were one of the good Tory MPs. I feel sickened to see that you voted for keeping the pay cap in Parliament. You are a wicked person.
- Dimer Caprol

And despite Labour having a clear unambiguous plan on how to fund the long over due pay rises you flatly refuse to accept it as it doesnt fit in with your ideology. Meanwhile you continue supporting a failing system that has seen unfettered growth for one part of society whilst at the same time sending public servants along to food banks, leaving in huge numbers and retiring as early as they possibly can to escape the unfair pressures that your 'Austerity ' plans have created. Even Marie Antoinette offered cake. All the Tories do is offer platitudes. Ive yet to see one cooked and served up on a plate that will fill the belly of anyone. Your blog on the public sector pay cap is apropos of nothing. Nothing by way of a solution offered except bread tomorrow, if you live that long. As usual in all areas where money has to be spent its 'Lets set up a review panel and procrastinate a little longer' But it just aint good enough, Sarah . And deep down you know it. Trouble is you are stuck in the middle of this Tory quagmire and dont really know how to extricate yourself without losing a lot of your friends and being rescued by getting to the Socialist side of the mire, where I think your heart as a doctor would love to take you. The Tory patient is terminally ill no chopping off of the parts of the poor to use as transplants can save it as the one ingredient medicine cannot provide is spirit and its long gone from the tory body.
- steve howard

It seems to me, you took the Hypoctritic oath. Shame on you.
- Derek Robinson

you, your party..sicken me..You are lacking in everything that I regard as decent.Ashamed that my beautiful home Town ever considered you as someone that could represent them.
- Virginia Keyes

There is no excuse for Theresa May and your so-called government to find a huge sum of money when it suits them to prop up an unworkable majority by stitching up a deal with a bunch of ulta-right thugs. We all know it. You know it. Droning on about how to help the NHS is a little thin in the circumstance - especially as everybody knows that the Tories want to privatise it bit by bit. Your party is morally bereft, ethically corrupt and has sacrificed what little respect it might have expected.
- Sam Richards

Well said all of the above. Take heed Dr Wollaston. Your constituents are watching & they are not happy.
- Jane Begley

Absolutely disgusting behaviour in the commons the other day. You had your chance Sarah but you blew it. You just join a long list of MP's we can't trust.
- Alex Clough

Where is the fair society Theresa May promised before the election ? 1. BBC presenters vastly overpaid (at license payer expense and we have no option but to pay it) whilst public sector workers get a pay freeze. 2. Even public sector workers are much better off than those who are unable to work and only get Employment Support Allowance which is less than £6,000/PA and has also been frozen since 2104 ? Theses people need help more and long term poor health can happen to anyone. There is a lot that could be done to help theses people such as unfreezing the benefit, bringing in a council tax exemption and more.
- Stuart

I am of the opinion that the NHS is badly managed, and huge savings could be made by looking carefully at the management structure, and the way it operates. Why are there so many layers of management? I am now retired, but on one project I was involved on with the NHS, meant going to a meeting to discuss the revision to one of the hospital wards, along with the other design consultants. But, as the location of the toilets had not been decided upon, the meeting was aborted, at a cost to the NHS. This was just one small example, and no doubt is repeated many times over in many hospitals of the waste. Also I have read of many inefficiencies in the NHS with regards to purchasing such simple items as rubber gloves; it makes one wonder about the purchase of more expensive equipment. In summary, the NHS should put its own house in order before asking for more cash
- Barry Day

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19 MAY 2017

Social Care is at a tipping point but increasing funding needed intergenerational fairness

This is the original article I wrote that appeared in the Times today.

One of the the most striking figures set out by the Chief Executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, in his recent update to the NHS Forward View was that life expectancy is increasing by five hours a day. This extraordinary success has also driven an unprecedented rise in demand for health and social care to levels which can no longer be met from current spending. The Care Quality Commission is not alone in describing social care as being at a tipping point. In her manifesto, Theresa May has acknowledged that the elastic can stretch no further and promised to increase funding for social care as well as per capita spending on the NHS. The manifesto also includes a much needed boost for capital projects described as 'the most ambitious programme of investment in buildings and technology that the NHS has ever seen'. Funding promises have to be realistic and fair. The Prime Minister is right not to duck the issue of intergenerational fairness in meeting the challenge of funding social care and it would not be fair for the increasing costs of both the NHS and social care to fall entirely on the working age population. The options were never going to be easy but failure to increase spending risked the collapse of social care provision and a downward spiral of NHS performance. Hard choices on the means testing of winter fuel payments and downgrading a triple lock to a double lock on pensions after 2020 are fair if the money raised rescues social care from the brink for those who will need it the most.

It still takes many people by surprise that if they have assets over £23,250, they are liable to meet the full costs of their residential care and raising that threshold to £100,000 will be welcomed but the long awaited cap on the total that families will have to spend meeting the cost of care has been dropped. The greatest change however, is that many more people will be liable for care costs because the value of their family home will no longer be exempt if they need care in their own home. Any policy must avoid unintended consequences and ministers will need to clarify what period of grace will be applied for those who may only need short periods of care. Currently this so-called 'disregard' is set at 12 weeks for those needing residential care and it is essential that this also applies to home care. If not, it will exacerbate rather than reduce delays to hospital discharges.

The dropping of the care cap sadly leaves social care uninsurable, leaving in place the miserable lottery of care costs. A future government should at least look again at supporting state backed insurance for those who have not yet reached retirement age, so that they can begin to protect against this.


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27 FEB 2017

The 2017 Budget Needs to Provide a Lifeline for Social Care and a Plan for the Future

This is an article that I wrote for the Times.

As the Chancellor finalises his 2017 Budget he can no longer afford to ignore the stark warnings about the impact on individuals and the NHS from the crisis in adult social care. Last year the Care Quality Commission described the fragility of the system as approaching a 'tipping point'. The situation looks set to worsen without an immediate lifeline and one that goes beyond the uneven and inadequate sticking plaster of a 3% increase in council tax precepts. To put this in context, last year's uplift in the precept raised £382m but this was entirely swallowed by the £612m increase in costs from the National Living Wage. Precepts also entrench inequality as those areas least able to raise money also have a greater proportion of residents who are fully dependent on their local authority to fund their social care. The 2017 Budget needs to bring forward the so-called Better Care Fund already planned for later in the spending review and it needs to be 'new' money, not a smoke and mirrors device to transfer funding from an already overstretched NHS.

Over the last review period 09/10 to 14/15, local authority spending on adult social care fell by 10% at a time of profound and ongoing demographic change. Despite rising demand for services, more than a million people are estimated to be going without the care they need. It is a false economy because they are increasingly ending up in A&E or stuck in hospital when they could and should have been discharged. The knock on effect on NHS services has been the marked rise in waiting times, 'trolley waits', and cancelled appointments and admissions. What is surprising and unacceptable is that no government has assessed the full impact and cost of the shortfall in social care on the NHS.

The number of people with care needs is expected to rise by more than 60% over the next 20 years whilst the proportion of individuals of working age will continue to shrink in relation to those living in retirement.

It's time to stop presenting longevity as if it were a negative. It is amongst the greatest achievements of our age and government needs to highlight and support the extraordinary value that older people add to our communities. It also needs to set out how we will fund social care for the rising numbers of people who will need help to live with dignity in older age. There has been an abject failure of successive governments to plan for the future. Councils also need certainty about the Care Act provisions, delayed to 2020, which bring in a cap on care costs and change the financial threshold for entitlement.

The Prime Minister has already confirmed that she is looking at social care but it is worrying that her review currently excludes the NHS. The two systems are inextricably linked.

In his 2017 Budget, the Chancellor must show that he has grasped the seriousness of the situation and announce an immediate cash injection for social care. He should also set out plans to tackle the greatest domestic challenge of all; how to bring forward a fair and sustainable long term settlement for both the NHS and social care.


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30 JAN 2017

Trump Trading on Prejudice

This is an article that I wrote for The Guardian

Donald Trump made no secret of his deeply divisive instincts during his long campaign for the White House. Vile racial and religious stereotyping, misogyny, his support for torture, even parodying those with disabilities. All his prejudices were worn as a badge of honour, displayed from campaign platforms and television studios for months on end.

Locker room talk, we were told, of his boasts of 'grabbing women by the pussy' as voters were assured that the office of Presidency would surround him with wise counsel and bring out the statesman in him. Less than a month since his inauguration, the stark reality must be dawning on Americans, that their choice of President isn't 'draining the swamp' but dragging them into one of his own making. We don't have to join them.

It would be a mistake to dismiss Donald Trump as some oafish 'man baby' impulsively blurting whatever comes into his mind. His actions seem calculated to offend, bully and control.

Some touted the hand holding with Theresa May as the seal of a special relationship and a gentlemanly gesture. To me it smacked of the unwelcome infantilising of a strong female leader, more than capable of negotiating the White House steps on her own.

In the rush to forge a trade deal Mrs May should remember that Trump's executive orders since assuming office don't just affect millions of Americans but our own citizens. Nadhim Zahawi MP, is just one of many thousands of our fellow Britons who are now barred from the USA for no reason other than the nation of their birth. All those countries on his banned list are predominantly Muslim countries apart from, as Andrew Neil points out, 'those where Trump Org has business interests'.

A shameful curtain of prejudice and discrimination is drawing across the Land of the Free and, if we are truly in a special relationship, true friends should be frank in saying so. By his actions as well as his words Trump is also turning back the clock on women's rights across the world. His executive order bringing in the so called 'global gag' will restrict access to safe contraception and healthcare as well as to safe termination of pregnancy for the world's most disadvantaged women.

The State Visit looks set to go ahead but symbols matter. Westminster Hall has long been reserved for those Statesmen and Stateswomen who have made a lasting and positive difference in the world. That does not include Mr Trump. No doubt there will be those who wish to fawn over him, but that must not be from the steps of our nation's greatest hall.


Thank you, Sarah, for your brave and principled article in the Guardian. Bob
- Dr Robert Lawson-Peebles

Donald Trump's first week should be a warning to the UK to tread carefully. We should not appease him just as Chamberlain should not have appeased Hitler. We should not turn a blind eye to his brand of evil in case it hurts our wallets. There are those, like the Sun, who have a go at you for your stance, Sarah but they are plain wrong. Please carry on with your efforts to debar him from Westminster Hall. He has no place there, and if he finds one our democracy is diminished. Those who say we should accept him as the USA's democratically elected president and leader of the free world should remember that Hitler was democratically elected too, and in a very similar way in the first year made a grab for power that left him unassailable. Let us not make the same mistake with this 'sickening piece of work'.
- Peter Scott

Peter Scott seems to go for Godwin's law at the outset. ! The US is the largest most powerful country in the world and has elected a President who will put the interests of the American people first. We as a nation need to work with the US if we are to make Brexit ( opposed by Ms Wollaston ) a success. Most of Ms Wollastons article it is a mixture of half truths and MSM propaganda.
- Peter Thompson

Excellent article. Thank you. I am very opposed to honouring him with a state visit or the opportunity for him to talk in Parliament. Teresa May has jumped the gun in inviting him. Please pass on my thumbs down to her.
- Tracy Harris

How about adding to the rapidly growing number of Britons who are fed up with people undermining the strategy of our courageous Theresa May and sign the 'other' government petition at: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/178844 and trust the Queen and our PM when they invite President Trump to visit and see what we can do.
- David

Thank you for making such a principled stand.
- Andy Christian

Just the guy to take on Putin!
- Sam Seal

I really cannot work out why Sarah continues to sit with the Tories in the Commons. She has scarcely a Conservative bone in her body and hardly a positive thing to say Brexit or Theresa May. Joining in the hyperbole about Trump is about the level I expect these days. Why not just resign, and let the Tores stand a candidate in the constituency more in tune with their values?
- George, Paignton

Well done on your opposition to Trump speaking in Westminster Hall. This week you also expressed your opposition to 3000 child refugees being allowed to come to Britain. Could you please explain your thinking behind that?
- Chris Davison

Thank you for your principled stand - I am deeply worried about turning our backs on our biggest trading partner and allying ourselves with Trump. I believe tats a lot of people are now wondering how safe our country is economically following Brexit and Trump's nomination. By the way Chris Davison Sarah did not express opposition this week against the child refugees. Sarah remainsin favour of resettling child refugees. The decision was made by the Home Office.
- Alison Williams

We spoke to several Americans, including students, while on holiday in Florence recently. I said we felt that there must have been something seriously wrong in America for people to vote for him. They said that the alternative was worse and Hilary Clinton was not popular. The students said that they would wait and see.
- Irene Allum

I agree with George. Most of what Sarah stands for flies in the face of what the conservative government is actually doing from social cuts, women's rights Trump and environmental issues Sarah is clearly at odds with her government and its leader. Please get off the fence and fight for a opposing political that can and will make a difference.
- Rupert Eden

I think Trump is wonderful and many of his policies are well thought out and carefully considered. I would enjoy Trump dealing with the EU on behalf of United Kingdom as he would soon dismiss the idiotic notions that the EU hold and guide us to a pleasanter realm.
- Derek

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26 JAN 2017

The global gag will hit the world's poorest women

A few days into his Presidency, Donald Trump has signed an executive order dubbed the "global gag rule". It will have the effect of cutting off funding for overseas NGOs whose work is associated in any way with abortion services. This means that many international health workers and organisations, even those who receive part of their funding from other private sources for work or advice linked to abortion services, will have to decide whether or not to continue. These services risk losing crucial funding – meaning cuts to choice based contraception and other health services for the most disadvantaged women worldwide. Because the US is the largest health donor this will have an impact on unwanted pregnancies and could have a knock on effect on other areas of women's health care like screening programmes, prenatal check-ups and support for HIV sufferers.

President Trump's policy is also counterproductive – fewer abortion services does not necessarily mean fewer abortions but more unsafe 'backstreet' abortions and maternal deaths. It turns back the clock on women's rights to exercise control over their own bodies.

While organisations are being coerced by the new rules into reconsidering their future programmes, it is a relief to hear that the Netherlands have already announced plans to try to compensate for the new administration's draconian policy, by considering an international fund to help provide these services.

Britain should join with the Netherlands to help protect women's right to access safe contraception and termination of pregnancy alongside the other health services that will be hit by the global gag.


You really are something aren't you . You pontificate from the lofty heights of Totnes on the policies of the elected leader of the United States. Your only contact with Islam is when you pop into the Indian take away . It was a disappointment for you when the " plebs " voted for Brexit and devastating when the Yanks voted for Trump. Instead of getting in your pulpit why don't you try and understand what is going on and the reasons for it. get out of your politically correct bubble.
- Peter Thompson

It would be excellent if Mr Thompson would explain the relevence of Brexit and Islam to a policy that will cut health aid being delivered in countries across the world. Thank you Dr Wollaston for pointing out that this policy is not about abortion at all, but about cutting sexual health services. There is nothing pro-life about limiting HIV prevention and treatment, or leaving desperate people with no legal options.
- R Edwards

Sarah Wollaston's article is well thought out and something I agree with. Peter Thompson's abusive comment is a pathetic rant with no content whatsoever. Would you say it if you were face to face with her, or do you only get abusive from behind the veil of a computer screen? Next time string two thoughts together into a coherent sentence and perhaps we might listen to you.
- Peter Scott

To R Edwards, given the stated criterion "whose work is associated in any way with abortion services" it very clearly IS about abortion. The other services are collateral damage. Those organisations can, presumably, get access to the funding again by stopping abortion work. However, this may not be of interest. As has been demonstrated on occasion, too often "woman's health" is used as a fig-leaf of attempted respectability to distract attention from the headline act - abortion.
- Dave R

Thanks Mr Scott but I think my comment was on the nail. As for abusive rant I would think Ms Wolastons comment " Trump really is a sickening piece of work. That's the story " rather fits the bill .
- Peter Thompson

Well done, Peter Scott, for highlighting the vacuous and abusive nature of Peter Thompson's post. All he can do is repeat his point, not engage in debate. Hasn't it occurred to him that political correctness may at time be - er - correct?
- Dr Robert Lawson-Peebles

I think Sarah Wollaston's stand is principled and impressive. Peter Thompson's wild assertions and obnoxious tone make it rather hard to see whether he has any logical point of view. I am sorry her convictions have upset him but I would wager he is a man who is easy to upset if you don't fall into line with him. I am not a Conservative but I am pleased to have an independent, intelligent, well informed and progressive woman representing us.
- Andy Christian

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22 JAN 2017

My response to the consultation on re-shaping community services

Following their recent consultation, the South Devon and Torbay Clinical Commissioning Group has now published its recommendations . These will be put to their governing board when it meets in public on 26.1.17.

The most controversial aspect is that the CCG continues to recommend that several local community hospitals will close as part of their plan to introduce a new model of care. In my constituency that would mean the closure of Dartmouth hospital. Many Paignton residents will also be affected by the closure of their community hospital in the neighbouring Torbay Constituency.

Reading the document I am deeply concerned at the statements on page 24 which imply a lack of support for Dartmouth hospital from local residents and their representatives. This is simply not the case. There is huge support for our local community hospital and gratitude for the dedicated work of the staff. There was however pragmatism that the consultation was likely to result in the closure of the hospital, if nothing else by further undermining the ability of the trust to recruit staff, and therefore a determination to work to make sure that we have a commitment to an effective alternative.

Dartmouth would benefit from modern primary care facilities on the same site as Dartmouth Caring, community clinics and an enhanced primary care minor injuries service. The new service must also include commissioned beds in River View for local people who need extra care and re-ablement as a step between hospital and home, or to support them close to home at the end of life. A new combined facility could also allow us to provide better training and development for our local workforce. We know that there is a serious shortage of staff across community teams which is increasing the risk of unnecessary hospital admissions. But the support for this approach will depend on a clear commitment to put this in place and have the new facilities up and running before any closure goes ahead of our much loved community hospital. Clumsy language implying a lack of support for Dartmouth hospital should be withdrawn.

On the issue of Paignton hospital, I will be supporting Kevin Foster MP and again point out the need to have high quality alternative facilities in place before any closure goes ahead. It is also vital that the community are reassured about the quality of provision of social care following the damning CQC report on Mears.

I remain deeply concerned about the financial pressures across health and social care and will continue to press at national level in my role as chair of the Health Select Committee for an urgent review of and increase in the short and long term settlements. The pressures are not just financial but also as a result of a very serious workforce shortfall across health and social care and I would like to see greater emphasis on maximising training opportunities in the final CCG document.

I also remain deeply disappointed that there will not be a minor injuries unit with X-ray support at Brixham hospital. Concentrating services and facilities at Torbay hospital not only risks driving more people to A&E and increasing the risk of avoidable admission but also far longer travel times for Brixham residents.

I will be attending the public meeting this week to put these points to the board.

On a separate note, I have also been speaking in Parliament and directly to NHS leaders about the recent threats to Torbay's nationally and internationally respected model of integrated care. Whilst I have every confidence that Torbay council and the local NHS will continue to work closely together within the Integrated Care Organisation, ICO, it makes no sense to see their work undermined by outside threats to stop them pooling their resources to work in the best interests of patients.

1 comment

Ho ho Sarah,this was a done deal,focus on community,that’s a joke,recently,Torbay miu closed,sending casualties to newton or totnes?out of brixham?and surely in the summer influx,massive in holiday camps alone,for Paignton,brixham,what idiots in your clinical commissioning decided this was the way forward,despite meetings,no one actually spoke to front line staff..brixhamhospital,now a ghost of its former self,in my opinion,wellness,well a nice idea,but not before sacrificing acute services,because as you will be aware,dr Wollaston,our aging population need the former,not the latter,feel the gov have set the wrong target,and so will fail..
- Ronald

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09 JAN 2017

The current pressures in the NHS

I wrote the following article for the British Medical Journal (published on 3rd January 2017)

The current pressures in the NHS can be traced back to 2009 and what became known as the Nicholson challenge. In the aftermath of the economic crash this ushered in an unprecedented period of efficiency savings against a headwind of rapidly rising demand and costs. The incoming coalition government then imposed a disruptive and demoralising reorganisation that distracted from the key challenges. Rather than seizing the opportunity to integrate health and social care and to design a sustainable long term financial settlement, the Health and Social Care Act 2012 led to greater fragmentation at a time when our demographic changes demanded a different approach.

In the decade to 2015, the number of people living to age 85 and beyond increased by 31%.1That is a cause for celebration, but there has been a striking failure to plan for what this means for health and social care. The same is true for the rapidly rising cost of preventable conditions and expensive new drugs and technologies.

Over the last parliament, funding for the NHS increased annually by an average of just 1.1%, far below the actual increase in costs or the long term average of around 3.8% since 1978-79.2 The real terms increase in Department of Health spending for the current review period is just £4.5bn3 (€5.3bn; $5.5bn) and will result in reduced spending per person.2 The accompanying cuts to social care combined with a serious workforce shortfall have left more than a million older people going without the personal care that they need to live with dignity in their own homes.4 It is no surprise that so many are ending up in more expensive settings in an already overstretched NHS.

The political response to a health and care system in severe distress, and more importantly to the people it serves, has been dismal. No one listening to the yah boo of debate in the Commons would be filled with optimism. There has been a failure to grasp the scale of the financial challenge facing both health and social care and the consequences and inefficiency of their continuing separation. A serious shortfall in capital, as a result of ongoing raids to plug deficits, is undermining the prospects for the transformational changes necessary to produce future savings.

Likewise, area based joint commissioning is at risk if the financial squeeze is so unrealistic that health and social care retreat to protect their own budgets. Sustainability and transformation plans hold the possibility of moving away from a competition based approach to one based on integrated commissioning but they must be realistic and supported by the funds to deliver.

There have also been missed opportunities in public health. In her first speech on the steps of Downing Street, the Prime Minister, Theresa May, spoke compellingly of tackling the burning injustice of health inequality. That ambition now needs to be matched by effective cross government policies across the wider determinants of health. It will also require investment in public health in order to achieve the radical upgrade in prevention which underpinned the Five Year Forward View.5

At her recent appearance before the Liaison Committee of all select committee chairs, Theresa May confirmed that the government is working on a new settlement for social care but also that this doesn't currently include the NHS or involve other political parties. She should urgently revise her terms of reference to include them both.

The public has repeatedly made clear the value it places on our NHS and that it wants to see it properly funded. The financial challenge of providing sufficient funding for health and social care to cope with inexorably rising demand will be the same for whichever party is in power over the coming decades. It is in all our interests for them to work together to agree a way forward compatible with the founding principles of the NHS. Political instincts, however, have tended to focus on division and to duck the problem through arguments about data.

The most remembered statistic of the EU referendum campaign was the £350m a week for the NHS—a cynically deployed and rapidly disavowed non-fact for which no one can be held to account. Misleading data have consequences. If the chancellor believes that the NHS is receiving an extra £10bn, it is easier to see why he and the prime minister might resist the calls for more, especially having overseen far reaching cuts to the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office in their former roles.

The public has a right to expect accurate and consistent figures on total health spending, and it matters that we correctly insist on the true figure of £4.5bn. It also matters to keep setting out the facts on rising demand as well as the efficiency, fairness, and value of our NHS.

I often meet health professionals who think that politicians have no grasp of the scale of the problems they are facing. Never underestimate the impact you can make during a personal visit to MPs' surgeries or through an invitation to your workplace. We need as many MPs as possible to understand the urgency that they work together to find a sustainable long term settlement and the consequences for their constituents of political failure.


  1. Care Quality Commission. State of care. 2016. http://www.cqc.org.uk/content/state-of-care
  2. Office for Budget Responsibility. Economic and fiscal outlook, March 2016. http://budgetresponsibility.org.uk/efo/economic-fiscal-outlook-march-2016/
  3. Commons Health Select Committee. Impact of the spending review on health and social care. 2016. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmhealth/139/13902.htm
  4. Age UK. 1.2m older people don't get the social care they need. 2016. http://www.ageuk.org.uk/latest-news/12m-older-people-dont-get-the-social-care-they-need/
  5. NHS England. Five year forward view. 2014. https://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/5yfv-web.pdf


As a Wirral GP in my mid 50s I whole-heartedly agree with much of the above, especially the first sentence of your final paragraph, sadly I very much doubt that individual MPs have any impact on government policy however sympathetic to the GP 'cause' they maybe. Assuming the majority of the your colleagues on the Health Select Committee share your views, why is it that you have not been more effective in persuading the Government to change tack? I see from your Twitter feed that you have criticised Thersa May's latest demoralising attack on GP's, but I believe a far stronger, more public, response from you is essential if you are to retain any credibility in the eyes of the medical profession. If the PM continues in this vein unchallenged may I suggest that you should carefully consider your position as chair of the committee?
- Neil Cookson

I do not support the Conservatives but I admire and respect what Sarah Wollaston is saying and doing about the N H S . She obviously cares about the way in which is it currently being undermined and I hope that there is some way on which we can do some perching to save a system that was widely admired and which did so much good for our people and their health. I hope she gains support and tHat she is able to achieve what she is trying to do
- I do notservatives but I must say how impressed

I do not support the Conservative party but I wholeheartedly support and admire what Sarah Wollaston is saying and doing. Our Health Service did so much for the nation's health and was admired world wide. Now doctors and nurses are being over stressed and hospitals are under far too much pressure. They still do great work under enormous pressure but they are reaching breaking point. I hope Sarah can get support and that we can save our wonderfully caring system from disintegrating under too much pressure and inadequate support. Go for it Sarah, and your supporters"
- Audrey Webb

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15 NOV 2016

Cirl Bunting

Celebrating the success of nature friendly Devon farmers:

This Friday (18th November) I will be celebrating the great progress in saving a bird that was nearly lost and the great contribution of Devon's farmers in making this possible.

The bird is the lovely cirl bunting, for which I am delighted to be a 'species champion MP'

Often called 'Devon's Special Bird' because, while it was once much more common across southern Britain, by the 1980's its numbers had declined and range pulled back into a small zone in south Devon. At this stage then, this bird of mixed farmland was in real decline and it began to look as if we might lose it altogether in this country. Devon had a special role to play. With these signals something stirred, the nature organisations, especially the RSPB, got stuck in. What was the problem? What has happening on the farms? Could farmers help save the bird? From what I have heard about the work, something wonderful began to happen.

Collaboration around the RSPBs research, the trialling and testing of farm based solutions, all swung into place. Saving this bird of farmland was absolutely dependant on farmers rising to the cause, and they did. The RSPBs 'recovery project' supported farmers, helping them turn the key that opened recovery success.

Local communities woke up to their special bird too, schools projects, a football team with the bird as its badge, and even a Devon village – Stokeinteignhead - celebrating the countryside around it as being special for this bird, all signalled peoples support for our special bird.

So, I will be enjoying celebrating some great news from Devon this Friday. And alongside this I'll take a serious message with me – that with the right approaches, and done well, we can do so much more for nature. The story of the cirl bunting - the bird we nearly lost - the farmers who have helped so much, the nature bodies like the RSPB, and all with the right kind of support from government and others, shines a light on how we can all do better.

This could not be more important right now as we look beyond Brexit and how subsidies might operate. I'm clear that these must continue to support the vital habitats for the cirl bunting and so many of our other native species.

(Photo courtesy of Matt Adam Williams)


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01 SEP 2016

Public Health is in Crisis

I wrote the following article for The Guardian

In her first speech as Prime Minister, Theresa May promised to tackle the nine-year gap in life expectancy between rich and poor, placing this at the top of her list of burning injustices. This yawning inequality has defeated successive governments, and the gap is even wider between rich and poor for years lived in good health. Closing it will require action across areas such as poverty, housing and education, as well as those more conventionally thought of as affecting health. May will need to start early and look far beyond the short-term political cycle for results.

Public health seldom makes headlines. We tend not to recognise, let alone thank it for preventing disease or life-changing accidents, despite public health measures transforming our life expectancy. We are more likely to focus on and appreciate the specialists who treat a condition than to complain about the absence of the expertise or policy that could have helped to prevent it.

The childhood obesity strategy was the first test of the government's determination to take action on health inequality. It was greeted with near-universal dismay because of the wasted opportunities to make a difference. Whole sections from earlier drafts, covering promotions and advertising, were conspicuously erased and reformulation yet again left to ineffective voluntary agreements. The final paragraph sums up the tone that it will be "respecting consumer choice, economic realities and, ultimately, our need to eat". This crass statement entirely misses the point; of course children need to eat, but the childhood obesity strategy needed to make sure that they benefitted from a better diet.

Five years ago, amid the huge controversy surrounding the Health and Social Care Act, one proposal received a cautious welcome: the transfer of responsibility for public health from the NHS to local authorities. It was felt that local authorities could make a greater difference to the health and wellbeing of their communities if the right expertise, powers and funding were based there rather than within a health service more focused on treatment than prevention of disease. In a report published today, the Commons health select committee has looked at those changes and made a number of recommendations about how public health could be strengthened to make sure that it has the tools to do the job. These will be key to helping to narrow health inequalities.

The chief executive of the NHS, Simon Stevens, has rightly called for a "radical upgrade" in public health and prevention, not only for the benefits to health but because it will be essential to reducing future demand for health services. The future financial sustainability of the NHS depends on the prevention of more expensive long-term conditions. This was not the time to undercut the role of public health with budget reductions, including in-year cuts. Witnesses before the committee described their extreme frustration at these decisions, which they described as "irrational" given the current focus on reducing demand.

While local authority public health teams are doing their best to cope with funding cuts, the potential impact of this was clear, and unsurprising – figures from a survey conducted by the Association of Directors of Public Health show that large proportions of local authories are already having to reduce a wide range of different public health services.

Perhaps more surprising was that we heard from witnesses – both from local authorities and from NHS organisations – a sense that prevention is no longer seen as the responsibility of people practising in the NHS. While local authorities now hold the ring for funding and co-ordinating public health and preventative work across their local area, every NHS professional has the potential to advance the prevention agenda in every patient appointment they carry out – but they will also need the time and space to do so. It is also a shame that those messages on improving health will continue to be drowned out by the unfettered advertising and promotion of junk food and alcohol.

While the local mechanisms are in place to embed health in all policy decisions, this will not succeed without stronger, more joined-up action at a national level. At a time of budget cuts it is more important than ever that local authorities have the levers to make a difference. Unfortunately, they have their hands tied when it comes to negotiating with business interests even where the health of local communities is at stake. The government could and should introduce health as a material consideration in planning and licensing to allow proportionate action to develop healthier communities, homes and workplaces.

I hope that the government will prioritise health inequality, but the early signs are not encouraging. If future policy is to be judged by the childhood obesity "plan", we can expect little real progress. Tackling health inequality requires far more than warm words on education and personal responsibility.


Supporting the EU, now writing letter for the Guardian. It's hard not to see this bitter article as sour grapes at May's failure to promote Sarah.
- George, Paignton

Really George? Of course, one can read the article anyway they choose, but it would appear that you started off with a formed opinion, rather than concluding one having read the article and seeing that what Sarah is saying, is the absolute truth. Excellent Sarah, and thank you for standing strong.
- David M.

On the contrary. I have followed Sarah's conduct closely, and have formed the view that she is comfortable neither as an MP or a Conservative. I will continue to contribute to local press on the subject. I know an awful lot of Conservative voters in the constituency who feel the same. Her nanny ways seem to me at odds with the values of a country where subjects make their own choices and take responsibility for them. These are Tory values and seem alien to Sarah. She seems to think that "respecting consumer choice" is crass, and seems to favour the kind of minimum pricing strategies for alcohol that are so offensive in a free society (I see the SNP like this too, which speaks volumes about where she is on the political spectrum). Her inability to accept that there will always be a gap in life expectancy between the rich and the poor (for so many reasons there isn't space to write about...suffice to say that we have a public health service that is free at the point of delivery, so I feel rather less responsible for it than Nanny Sarah seems to want me to) is the kind of political naivety that would have worried me about someone who only became a Tory at 44. Her letter today regarding the apparent lack of funds in the NHS...when this is demonstrably not true...is the standard response of the Left when reform is just too difficult for the kind of vested interests that Sarah is actually a part of. More money is always the remedy they seek. I have a number of other problems with our MP, and have little confidence in her. Labelling decent Christian people (including a former Archbishop of Canterbury) bigots before the last election, simply because they didn't agree with her view at the time on Gay Marriage. Her volte face on the EU Referendum (going in moments from describing "the threadbare deal" attained by Cameron, our "powerlessness" in Europe, and saying our national interest lay outside the EU...to "the prime minister has returned with a threadbare deal that has highlighted our powerlessness to effect institutional change" and that "the balance of our national interest now lies outside the EU", to switching to back the Remain due to her apparent failure to understand the difference between a net and a gross contribution). Praising the SNP Health Service when it has failed by any measure. Indeed even her Twitter feed seems to praise Nicola Sturgeon, Anna Soubry and Emily Thornberry. Dear oh dear. It would be better for all that Conservative members in the constituency get the vote they were denied by David Cameron before 2010 and could elect an a candidate seems to be more in tune with fairly basic and sensible Tory values. It won't be Sarah Wollaston.
- George, Paignton

Hi! Not sure how to start this as the end-point is fixing the economy, but this is surely what you mean by closing gaps on health and income etc? Miliband and Balls joined with your former prime minister and coalition in writing the banks out of the narrative of the economic hardship of middle and lower income earners. Corbyn's business and regional banks put idiots who mean well in charge or put public finance into the hands of bankers who already operate massive frauds. It is extremely easy to simply arrange the tax and regulatory system so that banks investing in the real economy is in the banks' own best interests. Imagine if in 2008 "we" had said to the bankers, "Your top-rate of income tax is now set at ten times the percentage unemployment rate, and this will be set monthly with ONS labour market statistics. Additionally the bank-levy total will be the cost to the State of paying Jobseekers Allowance; this total to be divided among the banks pro-rata with the how the bank-levy is calculated". With 8.3% peak unemployment this would have set bankers' top-rate income tax at 83%; the total raised by the bank-levy doesn't matter, just note that unemployment benefit will not cost the State anything ever again; obviously other benefits aren't funded this way - yet. Any economist will tell you that getting SMEs access to honestly priced finance will kickstart the whole economy, and also that Brexit means that UK internal markets are even more important than ever. So that's not just inequalities sorted, but also Brexit made easy. The only people against this idea are ... well you can work that out. See here for a "FAQ": http://bailoutswindle.com/QuestionsProtestationsAnswered.html
- Harry Alffa

I would say that is surprising ro read Sarah's article since Sarah voted to reduce human rights, to reduce pensions and disability by £30 per week claiming it is better spent elsewhere, and that probably nobody else outside officialdom will agree with her. Now she wants to waste 65 billions each year exiting the EU just in exchange rates, pay 7% of our budget on nuclear rearmament and "defence", (far more than the EU "cost" us although they give us 50 % of ALL their grants) because of Brexit, and we will lose our pensions which are at the moment being removed from index linking to pay for Brexit and really bad financial managing by the government. Millions affected by Brexit were not given a vote, we are charging £1050 if their children want British passports whilst we are selling EU passports to commondwealth citizens as long as they have the money = so they see the benefit of the EU. Sarah is now disenfranchising us by saying she will vote for Article 50 for "democracy"!!! If you really want to go against our wishes, Sarah, resign and stand in a by-election. That is because she wants to be a fat cat Tory politician and not face an election or apologise for making the mistake and not going on with the suicide of Brexit. Why is Brixham is "Totnes" anyway and not Torbay? We do not want fishermen AND farmers wanting out of the EU but wanting us to pay their grants for them. We want compensation from them.
- siv white

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21 AUG 2016

Childhood Obesity; A Plan for Inaction

The childhood obesity strategy has been downgraded. The final paragraph sums up the tone that it will be 'respecting consumer choice, economic realities and, ultimately, our need to eat'. This crass statement entirely misses the point; of course children need to eat, but the childhood obesity strategy needed to make sure that they benefitted from a better diet.

Trying to capitalise on the feel good factor of the Olympics, the messaging has distorted the underlying evidence. Of course we need children to be more active but exercise matters whatever a child's age or weight. The key message on childhood obesity should have been front and centre about the importance of reducing junk calories with evidence-based action to match.

In completely removing whole sections from the draft strategy, it is hugely disappointing that the obesity plan puts the interests of the advertising industry ahead of the interests of children. The plan misses the opportunity to improve children's diets by reining in the saturation marketing and promotion of junk food. A staggering 40% of the food and drink we buy to consume at home is bought through promotional deals and the overwhelming majority of those deals are on junk food or alcohol. This was a missed opportunity to shift the balance of those promotions to healthier alternatives and to make them more affordable for those struggling on lower incomes. The plan has also completely failed to take junk away from the checkouts or restrict the hugely profitable end of aisle displays or deals flogging impulse purchases at point of sale. Responsible retailers wanted a level playing field in making those changes but their efforts will be undermined by the abject failure of the obesity 'plan' to recognise the impact of promotions and marketing.

Whilst it is good to see confirmation of the sugary drinks levy, the watered down obesity strategy is completely at odds with the pledge to tackle the burning injustice of health inequality. Even its title has been downgraded to 'plan' but it would perhaps have been better named a plan for inaction as even the proposals to reformulate are voluntary. Without 'teeth' voluntary reformulation looks set to be as ineffective as the miserable 'responsibility deal' which precedes it. Progress will be monitored against worthy but voluntary targets until 2020 but with no consequences for those manufacturers and retailers which put profits ahead of children's health.

Whilst all those in contact with children suffering from obesity are rightly urged to make every contact count in trying to help, they will be hopelessly undermined in their efforts. Big industry interests have been given free rein to continue to promote and advertise as they please including those that do so through online marketing masquerading as games or through the powerful use of cartoon characters on junk food aimed at children.

The confirmation of the increase in funding for school sport from a levy on sugary drinks manufacturers is very welcome but the levy will not come into force until 2018 and needs to be broadened to include all drinks with high added sugar content. The plan should also have given greater powers to local authorities to make changes to improve public health at local level. Especially at a time when their public health budgets are being cut, it was more important than ever to give them the levers to do the job by making health an objective in the planning system.

The gap between rich and poor children when it comes to obesity has widened every year since measurements began. One in four of the most disadvantaged children now leaves primary school not just overweight but obese, more than twice the rate for those from the most advantaged families. This plan for inaction will be remembered for its wasted opportunities, delays and spin when it could and should have been the opportunity to show that government is serious about tackling the gap in life expectancy between rich and poor. We will all be picking up the tab in the future costs of obesity for the NHS, already more than the police, fire service and judicial system combined, but no one will be paying a heavier price than the individual children facing a lifetime blighted by the consequences.


As a constituent who didn't vote for you, I am glad to have ended up with an MP who will still speak up when she believes that the government makes such a big error as this. Cheers. A Smith Follaton, Totnes
- Andy Smith

Well said Sarah...I always said that you were one of the few decent tory mps. You're in the wrong party! Bravo
- Byron Jones

I fully agree! Short-term thinking continues to compromise the possibility of a better life for this and future generations, including threats to the planet generally, as outlined in a recent Press Release by the global One Health Commission...It really is time "to stop and think" what we are doing to ourselves, animals and the environment (i.e., One Health and Well-Being).The proposed One Health Commission education initiative might help to turn things around in due course: http://www.onehealthinitiative.com/publications/6-10-16 OH Education Press Release-Final.pdf
- George Lueddeke

P/try this URL re Press Release https://www.onehealthcommission.org/documents/filelibrary/commission_news/press_releases/61016__OH_Education_Press_ReleaseFi_F7644A48F9910.pdf
- George Lueddeke

The country has been waiting a long time for a national obesity strategy. It is therefore deeply disappointing that now it has finally arrived the government has not in fact published a strategy at all, not even a strategic plan for a whole system approach to tackling the obesity epidemic, but merely a lukewarm policy document that squanders both a critical window of opportunity and a wave of public support for bold and ambitious action. It needs to be judged more for what it does not include than for its timid plans to 'challenge' the food and drinks industry to reduce sugar content in some products by 20% over the next four years, to 'review' the 10 year old nutrient profile so that it can 'encourage' companies to make products healthier, to introduce a 'voluntary' healthy rating scheme for primary schools, and to launch a campaign to 'encourage' academies and free schools to commit to the new School Food Standards. The commitment to continued funding of the Healthy Start Scheme, and to ensuring that 30 minutes of physical activity is delivered daily in primary schools, assessed by Ofsted, are welcome. But the plan includes no mandatory actions (apart from the proposed levy on sugar sweetened drinks), either at national level or devolved to local government, that would have a strong and lasting impact on obesity. It needs measures such as mandatory reformulation of unhealthy foods; robust, mandatory restrictions on the marketing, advertising and promotion of high fat, high sugar food and drink; robust planning laws that would make unhealthy foods less accessible and journeys by foot and bike easier; major investment in physical activity infrastructure; or compulsory requirements for schools to tackle childhood obesity through the curriculum and whole school environment. This so-called ‘plan for action’ on childhood obesity gives the impression of a government that doesn't take the obesity epidemic seriously and prefers instead to prioritise the vested interests of some of the least healthy elements within the food industry. This is both morally questionable and economically foolish. We face a growing crisis of non-communicable diseases, already costing over £5 billion a year, and the chief executive of the NHS has warned that obesity threatens the sustainability of the health service itself. A comprehensive obesity strategy that imposes tough restrictions on the businesses that drive this huge burden of ill health is urgently needed but this ‘plan’ falls far short of this, and will fail to dent the crisis of non-communicable diseases that causes so much ill health and misery. London, and especially the more deprived parts of the city, is carrying a larger burden of child obesity than any other region in the country. The city has already taken action, locally and regionally to tackle this urgent public health crisis. We needed the national plan to take those actions that can only be taken at a national level. The only positive action to come out of the national plan, around schools, is already in place in London through the successful Healthy Schools London programme which reaches over 75% of schools and already means that schools are providing healthy food and physical activity to our children. London’s children have been let down by this plan.
- Danny Ruta

i would like to highlight a project started in WEST COUNTRY #milkandsarnies getting single pints of fresh milk out along side those sugary drinks offering a healthy alternative ..96% Fat free =full fat milk Great for bones and teeth putting milk next to the sandwiches in supermarkets..NeilParish another great west country MP ..is Twittering about this ALL is being done by suggestions at customer services by the public.. Milk v Fizz is simple 45p v £ plus cheaper too its filling the stomach so helping the need too snack ... look up #milkandsarnies better for rehyration too !!
- sylvia crocker

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08 JUL 2016

What next following the Chilcot Report?

The independent Chilcot Report was expected to report rapidly, but such was the volume and detail of the evidence examined and the sensitivity of its conclusions that in the end it took seven years. It runs to 12 volumes and 2.6m words and the final summary should be compulsory reading for all who will in future be tasked with the heaviest decision for any government, to commit our forces to war. 179 British servicemen and women lost their lives alongside 24 British civilians and over 150,000 Iraqis. The consequences for their loved ones of our failures in Iraq have been appalling and the terrorism and violence continue to this day across the region and worldwide.

Chilcot is damning in his conclusions including that:

• Military action was not a last resort as all peaceful options had not been exhausted

• Policy on the Iraq invasion was made on the basis of flawed intelligence assessments. This assessment was not challenged as it should have been, preferably by an independent body

• The continuing threat from weapons of mass destruction was presented with unjust certainty

• The circumstances in which the legal basis for military action were established were "far from satisfactory" and the authority of the United Nations Security Council was undermined.

• There was too "little time" to properly prepare. The risks were neither "properly identified nor fully exposed" to ministers, leaving our troops dangerously exposed as a result of inadequate equipment.

• Plans for post-Saddam Iraq were wholly inadequate

• The consequences of the invasion were underestimated and this left a space for extremists to flourish.

I listened to Tony Blair's apology and his acceptance of responsibility but like many was aghast to hear that he would take the same course of action again.

Next week Parliament has dedicated two full days to debate this crucial report and how this should influence the future conduct of those who advise on or take the final decisions to take us to war. Whilst I do not feel that the lesson from the Chilcot Report is that we should never engage in military action, it should be a last resort and all future governments must make sure that the grave lessons are learnt from this catalogue of disasters.


Sarah I honestly do feel you should return to your original career, as there is a great shortage of GP s. You seem in your political career to wander from this side to the other going in whichever way the wind blows or as a cynic might say whichever way is the more promising for your career. First you were for not bombing Syria and then when Mr Cameron asked you again you became a willing propagandist for RAF bombing . In the Brexit debate you ended up on the losing side after a last minute conversion giving some spurious reasons which were frankly risible. Your thoughts on Chilcot are just a repetition of the mainstream and appear glib. I see today you have hitched your wagon to Theresa May with a twitter comment . The Home secretary of course is the establishment pro Remain choice. The aim of the pro Remain group is to thwart the will of the people and to stay in the EU. If that is the aim and the end result then we truly do live in a dictatorship.
- Peter Thompson

@Peter Thompson Surely the behaviour you describe is ideally suited to being a politician but in a GP would be rather worrying. Though hardly unexpected, I am still a little surprised by the apparent relish with which former Remain politicians are embracing their role in taking us out. They told us how devastating it would be for the UK to leave. Now May for instance has been quoted as saying that we have a "better, brighter future" outside the EU. Surely, if leaving was a bad for our country before the referendum then it still is and former remainers should still be resisting our exit rather than blindly chanting "The People Have Spoken" @Dr Woolaston As you appear to be in the 'people have spoken' camp, don't forget that your constituents have spoken and they want to stay in.
- JW,Totnes

@jw,Totnes. The nation as a whole voted by a majority of over a million to leave the E.U. That may disappoint you but with a 72 % turn out it is pretty clear. Perhaps you feel that the South Hams should remain part of the EU by declaring itself independent ? Where would you put the border posts ?. You also make a significant error by confusing the boundaries of the Totnes constituency with the boundaries of the South Hams. The Totnes constituency contains Brixham which voted overwhelmingly to leave the E.U.
- Peter Thompson

@ Peter Thompson I admit that it was bit speculative of me to assume correlation between the South Hams and the Totnes constituency. However, I was not aware that separate figures for Brixham voting were available. Perhaps you could supply a reference for that so that we can work which way it went in the Totnes Constituency overall. Of course I am not suggesting independence for the S Hams. Please do not be so disingenuous as to suggest that I might subscribe to such a ridiculous notion. The Prime Minister, along with most(?) politicians from the main parties told us 'Brexit' would be a disaster for this country. I just wonder why many of them now seem so enthusiastic to proceed in that direction. I fear, coming back to your original point, that this is due to political expediency rather than a conviction of what is best for our country.
- JW, Totnes

@jw,Totnes. The vote in Torbay for Leave was 63 % on a turnout of 74 % and living and working in Brixham I would suggest the Leave proportion of the electorate was of this level if not higher . You do realise that it is a fishing port do you ? Here is a link to help you .. http://www.torquayheraldexpress.co.uk/brixham-s-fishing-port-celebrates-uk-s-vote-to-leave-eu/story-29439365-detail/story.html

@Peter Thompson I presume the anonymous comment above is from you. "You do realise that it is a fishing port do you ?" - No need for sarcasm. If we apply the Torbay percentages to the population of Brixham we get the following: Leave 7823, Remain 4555. Adding these to the S Hams result we get Leave 33965, Remain 33863. I agree that the Brigham result may have been better than that for the Leavers so I concede that there was likely to have been at least a small majority of leavers in the Totnes constituency. As a former member of the fishing community I have to say that I fear that they will not gain any great advantage from being out of the EU. I hope I'm wrong about that too.
- JW, Totnes

That should be '...'the Brixham result...' of course. Curse you autocorrect.
- JW, Totnes

Sarah we need a stronger lead from you to stop Hinkley Point: 1. Nuclear power is expensive - £18bn is too much plus EPR reactors in Finland and France are up to 7yrs late and £5bn overspent. 2. Nuclear power is unsafe - 1979 US Three Mile Island partial meltdown, 1986 USSR Chernobyl disaster, Japan 2011 Fukushima disaster, UK Windscale (cynically renamed Sellafield) disaster, repeat radioactive discharges to atmosphere and Irish Sea, clusters of nearby childhood leukaemia, falsified records, safety checks, management coverups. 3. Nuclear power is under foreign control - French government (EDF) own and operate eight of UK's ten existing nuclear power stations, plans to build three new ones. Chinese will part own Hinkley Point plus new project at Sizewell and will build their OWN reactors in Essex. The new designs have not worked anywhere and are completely unproven - and we will have no control. 4. Nuclear power is being phased out by most countries - Germany is closing all of its reactors, Belgium, Spain, and Sweden decided not to build new plants or will phase out nuclear entirely. Countries with no nuclear plants or restricting are Australia, Austria, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Ireland and Norway. 5. Spying on top - EDF partner at Hinkley Point, China General Nuclear Power, and senior adviser charged in the US conspiring to help Chinese government develop nuclear material in series of illicit transfers of US nuclear secrets. 6. Please show your support for wind, wave, solar and biomass with interim use of fossil fuel using CCS. National Grid say the country’s climate commitments achievable WITHOUT major increase in new nuclear - but only if Carbon Capture and Storage technology is developed on a large scale instead. But last November George Osborne cancelled a £1bn competition to help companies develop the technology, saying too expensive - worst decision ever. CCS is a technology that can capture up to 90% of the carbon dioxide emissions produced from the use of fossil fuels. And renewable biomass is one of the few carbon abatement technologies that can be used in a 'carbon-negative' mode actually taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Please Sarah state your position and help Theresa May stop this madness.
- DRH Broadsands

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26 JUN 2016

EU Referendum

Britain has spoken and now it is for Government and Parliament to respect the result of the referendum and carry forward the instruction to take us out of the European Union. It has been a long campaign which has divided families, communities and the nation. Almost three quarters of those under 24 voted to remain whilst their grandparents' generation voted decisively to leave. In Torbay the clear majority embraced Brexit whilst in the neighbouring South Hams most people did not. Scotland and Northern Ireland wanted in whilst England and Wales voted out. In the end, months of complex arguments seemed to boil down to a tug between immigration and sovereignty on the one hand versus the economy, stability and our links with Europe on the other. Now it is time to put the divisions behind us and move on.

My job as your MP will be to do everything I can to help to support the long task ahead. Taking us out of a 43 year relationship will not happen quickly. The tone of the debate with our 27 partners must remain positive if we are to grow Britain's place alongside them as European neighbours rather than descend into an acrimonious divorce. In setting that tone, the government must set out early to reassure those who are already living in the UK from other EU nations that they are welcome to stay. Without the 130,000 valued staff who qualified elsewhere in Europe, currently working in health and social care for example, our NHS would not be able to function. An atmosphere of mutual friendship and respect will be equally important for the hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens living across the Channel. Britain has voted to leave the institution of the EU, not Europe and voted to be able to control our borders in the future, not to slam them shut.

David Cameron has made a dignified decision to step down to allow fresh leadership to negotiate the complicated path which lies ahead of us. My view is that this needs to be someone with experience, statesmanship and stamina who can be a unifying figure at home and command respect on the world stage. Britain needs us to move quickly and decisively on this so that the negotiations can begin. A long period of uncertainty will be damaging for an economy already under pressure as a result of such a seismic shift.

Our next leader will also need to be someone capable of handling complex negotiations at home as well as with our EU partners. So much of our own legislation is in some way connected with EU directives or regulations that it will be necessary to adopt the majority of them and then take a thoughtful measured approach to repealing or amending them in our best interests. Whilst the most urgent issues can be prioritised, given the timescale for legislation to pass through Parliament, this is likely to take many years and put many other important issues on hold.

Some have called for an early General Election, but under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011, no Prime Minister or their Government can dissolve Parliament without a 2/3 majority in the Commons. Others are calling for Parliament to block the result and there is a rapidly growing petition to re-run the referendum but I would strongly oppose such a move because Britain has already delivered its verdict. Those MPs who, like myself, came to a different view during the campaign must not seek to obstruct the decision of the people but actively to make it a reality in the most constructive way possible. My job as chair of Parliament's Health Select Committee will also be to hold Leave campaigners in the future Government to account for the promises they made to provide extra support for the NHS from the money which we currently send to the EU. The Government should also continue the essential support for farmers and poorer communities which flows back from our gross EU contributions as well as the scientific research which has long been a net beneficiary.

Challenging times lie ahead for all of us as a result of this momentous decision but our leaders must work together, not sow further division as a result.


In the days since the referendum the Leave campaign have back-peddled on claims that there would be £350m for the NHS and that immigration would be reduced. They sold false hope and their supporters are now questioning their vote as the reality of Brexit begins to emerge. This is not what democracy is supposed to look like. The impact on the young is massive, their universities will be weaker without EU research funding, their prospects will be weaker as the economy can't support so many jobs and they won't have the freedom of movement to seek opportunities elsewhere. As a parent and South Hams constituent I continue to support Remain and feel passionately that I do not want my MP to support Boris Johnson or other prominent leavers to become PM. They lied to Britain and it is insane to think they could become PM as a result.
- Laura, Totnes

Thank you .As usual amid confusion!! you have given a measured and honest explanation of the situation. although I voted for Remain like the majority of young under 24s, as you say, MPs must try to influence whatever problems lie ahead. Helen Lindsay ( 84yrs young)
- helen lindsay

The demand about 350m a week extra for the NHS is ridiculous, and Sarah should know that. It was never promised. Vote Leave were never a government and never suggested they had the power to do this. They suggested that if the British people took back control, our democratically elected government could decide how to spend taxpayers' money. And so they will. But Philip Hammond (and I suggest a cabal of establishment figures who must be hard of hearing) seems keen to deny the logic of last week's expressed will of the British people. He argued this morning that we would be kept in the Single Market even if it meant continued Freedom of Movement. Presumably he would also be happy to continuing paying the membership fee for 'access'. Thus there would be no more money and no possibility to control immigration. I think not Mr Hammond. Sarah has no right to hold anybody to account after her behaviour during this debate. The local party should surely seek to hold her to account via a de-selection meeting. This is how democracy works...the people instruct their political leaders, not the reverse.
- George, Paignton

The majority of the electorate, disenfranchised by our unfit-for-purpose voting system, have given The Establishment a good 'kicking' in this two-horse referendum vote. When will we all realise that for the health of our democracy we desperately need a proportional voting system.
- Laurie, Totnes

I am appalled at this result and, considering the position of my eldest grand-daughter (16) I believe that, had the 16 & 17 year olds of this country (around 1.5 million of them) been given the opportunity to vote, the result would very probably have been different. Their influence in not only debate within their own circles but on their parents and grandparents, may well have been crucial. The reason for 16 and 17 year olds not being eligible to vote was rather lost and ignored by most of us at the time of the legislation being passed, but having now read the Briefing Paper (no. 07249 dated 11 December 2015), the decision of the House of Commons in my opinion beggars belief: "Because it would involve a charge on public funds, and the Commons do not offer any further Reason, trusting that this Reason be deemed sufficient." Then, when it was returned to the Lords, the vote against was by a majority of 17, to prevent young people voting in an issue which would affect their lives far more than many of those who were eligible to vote. As Baroness Morgan of Ely said: "Young people are the future of this country. This is their one chance to have a say in the country’s relationship with the EU. It is an exceptional vote." An application to the European Court of Human Rights, to declare the referendum unsound on this basis, should be considered, if there is anyone in a position to take the matter further. Given all the other factors which have led to the result with which we have all been saddled, it is a travesty of democracy that the youth of this country has been denied its say in its future, a clear breach of their human rights. Apart from this aspect, the UK was asked to vote for something upon which there was no definitive outcome if the result were to leave. What were we voting for if we voted to leave? No-one knew. There should therefore be a second referendum, after the principal terms of departure are settled, which can be put to the electorate in clear, unequivocal terms. At that referendum, 16 and 17 year olds should have the vote. (I am 68 years old.)
- Richard, Bovey Tracey

72 hours on from the seismic result, I'm surprised how furious I still feel...and it doesn't look like it will be diminishing any time soon. And my anger is directed right across the spectrum... With the outright lies and cynical manipulation of decent people by the Leave campaign. With the Sun, Mail and Express harnessing terminally bewildered readers with 40 years of myths and fabrication about bonkers Brussels, bendy bananas and Johnny Foreigner trying to undermine us. With the Labour leadership...or I would be if there were any to speak of. With the Remain campaign for a set of lacklustre and uninspiring messages that drove away as many as they attracted. With every successive government that has allowed communities across the UK to become disenfranchised and burning with desire to give the perceived elite a kicking they richly deserve, regardless of any connection with the UK's membership of the EU. With myself; for not speaking up to friends, family and surrounding individuals about the horrendous risks, damage and missed opportunity that I and many others believe we may now face. And with Cameron and the Conservative Party as a whole, for promising an utterly unnecessary, simple majority referendum in the first place to placate the jingoistic wing of their party. The division across the country is equally your responsibility. And for those who propose that we should respect that "the people have spoken" and that this is "democracy in action", I've got a couple of additional thoughts: 1) A key facet of democracy is the people being able to hold those in power accountable. Who are we to hold to account as a nation if/when Leave promises are not delivered and the British grass for British people turns out not to be quite so verdant? We can't vote them out and replace them...as is our democratic right...as they aren't in power? 2) Democracy on a single issue referendum means you align yourself in a binary way to others. Clearly not all Leave voters are terrible, foaming-at-the-mouth racist bigots, just as not all Remainers are effete middle class champagne socialists who think Minimum Wage is a bearded hipster band on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury. But the terrible, foaming-at-the-mouth racist bigots now think have the support of the nation behind them in a way that legitimises their attitudes and behaviours as never before. That's democracy in action I'm afraid. So don't expect anyone who feels passionately about this but finds themselves on the losing side to stoically accept the events of the last few days with an ever-so-British "never mind, we're all friends after all; let's roll up our sleeves and make the best of it". However hyperbolic you think it might be, we're grieving at the moment - well meaning cajoling might not be as well received as you think it should be. Oh, and if I see that Pooh and Piglet meme once more, I may well go full Howard Beale (one for the kids there...look it up).
- Adrian, Totnes

I absolutely agree with everything that Adrian, above, has said; this is exactly how I feel. The leave campaign has been reckless and misleading to such an extent that I cannot accept that it can be legal. This is not simply a case of accepting that other people have a different opinion to you because people have formed those opinions based on, let's face it, lies. I am not ready to accept that this is a legitimate outcome.
- Lisa, Diptford

Sarah, you say “Others are calling for Parliament to block the result … but I would strongly oppose such a move because Britain has already delivered its verdict.” But please consider the following: 1 The country is split down the middle. The majority in favour of Brexit is very small. It is hardly a clear mandate for an irreversible course of action. It is the tyranny of a simple majority. 2 The referendum is advisory, not legally binding. Parliament is sovereign. 3 MPs in constituencies where a majority of voters backed Remain (e.g. London and Scotland) can legitimately vote against the repeal of the European Communities Act, as can Labour MPs as it is their party policy. And so can you, as a majority of your constituents voted to remain. 4 Many leave voters, and some politicians too, clearly regret voting for Leave, only four days after the referendum! A majority of the population is, in all likelihood, in favour of remaining in the EU. 5 Finally, if the economy continues to suffer, if the pound collapses, if negotiations with the EU get bogged down in the summer, if the rosy future predicted by the Brexiters fails to materialise, if Scotland looks like going for independence, if there is unrest in Northern Ireland, then MPs can legitimately vote down the referendum in the national interest. Please be courageous and vote against the repeal of the European Communities Act when the time comes. Tim, South Milton
- Tim

I am really surprised by your blog post, Sarah Wollaston. MPs have the power - and a responsibility - to stop this huge threat to our economic and political stability, by using their sovereign vote. It is not about respecting the marginal majority that voted 'leave' but doing what is best for the country. Please speak up for us in Parliament, our MPs are our only hope now.
- Bethan

"Now it is time to put the divisions behind us and move on." Why, the Brexiters got the result that they wanted with a £350 million lie. There will be no putting divisions behind us. Those of us, like me, who voted Remain, will be expected to bow down to our new overlords.
- Robert, Kingsbridge

I agree with Bethan you must speak up in Parliment and try to stop this threat to our economic and political stability and vote down the referendum. It is in the country's interest.The referendum was won on the back of lies.
- Jacqueline

What has surprised me - and repeated here - is the anger felt by so many. We live in a democracy. We must try to respect the views of others. As for the claim that "almost three quarters of the young people voted to remain" this is simply not true. The best estimate of voter turnout amongst the 18-24 year olds is that 36% of that group actually voted. So when you hear that 73% of young people voted to remain what this really means is that 26% of young people voted to remain and 74% were either indifferent or voted for exit: Not quite the same is it?
- Andrew

What Tim said. We are a parliamentary democracy not a referendum led society. Please stick to your guns and oppose the repeal
- David

Standing for what is right is something that should be fought for, rather than meek acceptance of others views, or votes. Farage and the independence minded Scots didn't give up in their quest at the first set back so nor should we, when only a little over a third of the electorate actually voted to leave. Yes they won the battle, but not the war against intolerance, economic ruin, continued poverty for the most vulnerable and the end of the UK as an inclusive, outward looking, successful, thriving country, respected (but not always loved) by the rest of the world. The economy is already stuttering, with the floor of certainty having evaporated, which underpins the ability of companies to invest. Banks and funding bodies are in a state of panic, Europe won't allow us to leave on the terms the Brexiters naiively assume are theirs to demand. We need leadership not acquiescence and parliament should indeed consider what the proposals are and then decide what is best for the country. Its becoming obvious to many that last weeks decision was a flawed emotional cry of protest.
- Nick Remainian ex English

Dr Wollaston, I would urge you to read Geoffrey Robertson's article in The Guardian of 27th June. I will not repeat the points he raises, but it is essential that all right thinking MPs who do not agree with Brexit should not approve the triggering of Article 50. There is no obligation on Parliament to accept the result of the referendum; if there is any obligation it is on us all to be courageous and honest and do what we know is right. These are exceptional times and they call for exceptional measures if we are to pull ourselves out of the divisive, ugly, aggressive tailspin into which we are rapidly falling. Furthermore, whilst the cost of a new referendum logistically and financially would be huge, it is a mere drop in the ocean compared to that which going ahead with this flawed and increasingly unwanted withdrawal will create. Please, do not sleep walk into this catastrophe. Be brave and you will find the groundswell of opinion is behind you. Thank you.
- Nola

As you know, the 'Leave' vote was won by a narrow margin on the back of lies and half truths and consequently there can be no obligation to respect the result of the referendum. You and many of your constituents voted to remain in the European union so I urge you to stick to your guns and vote against the triggering of Article 50 when the time comes.
- Phil, South Hams

I am appalled by Nigel Farages triumphalist outburst in Th European Parliament today. He was rightly called a liar, and he and his outer space have employed lies and manipulative and zenaphobic propaganda to persuade British people to walk into a ghastly situation. Furthermore, Boris Johnson, a stranger to truth and honesty, is now posted as a front runner for the office of Prime Minister. I am truly terrified by the conduct of our politicians, and beg you, Sarah, to do all you can to nullify the disaster faced by my 15 year old daughter and other young people,and win back their respect in our democratic process.
- Bernard,South Hams

Dr Wollaston, in the result of an MP vote I would urge you to respect the wishes of the majority of your constituents and vote against leaving the EU. The majority of people in the South Hams have made it clear they want to remain and I believe it is correct that, as our representative, that you fight for that if it comes down to a vote as I am sure MSPs in Scotland are going to do.
- Liam, Totnes

Correct me if i'm wrong but close to 17.5 million people voted to leave the EU despite the international political,economic and business elites with their media accomplices threatening us with economic and social suffering,the loss of the welfare state and international isolation.I suggest that those who voted Remain spend some time on the ECJ and Commission websites to see the EU's plans for ever closer political,economic and social integration.Don't believe the media hype about immigration being the key vote Leave factor.We who voted leave did so because we value national identity,sovereignty,and democratic control of our destiny. Yesterday,outside Parliament we saw a Cabinet level Minister and the Leader of the Lib.Dems address a witless mob with placards displaying foul and abusive language and worse.This after a Labour MP(joke) attempted to get Parliament to subvert the will of the people in a Referendum that Parliament had voted on and agreed to.I look forward to the next General Election when that or any MP elected democratically is challenged by an unsuccessful candidate on the grounds that the result was different to that required. For Scotland,the sooner we let them go the better.We can then use the £30billion gross annual Block Vote for the benefit of people in England and Wales.I'm still unclear how Sturgeon is going to explain to the people of Scotland how she is going to replace the Block Vote,find their EU contribution and explain Scotland's use of the Euro.Good luck with that.The 8 EU countries that do not yet use the Euro are to be made(the Commission's word) to use the Euro. We are leaving the EU not Europe and to address the concern about leaving the EU by one young person she'll still be able to go clubbing in Magaluf.
- Dave Sussex

As our representative in Parliament, I feel you should represent the will of the majority of your constituents, which is those of us in the South Hams, and vote against invoking Article 50. This presents no conflict with your own beliefs or the collective will of your constituents.
- Anna, Totnes

There is no doubt that there was not a sufficient mandate [ of 1.7m people or so - less than 4% majority - only 38 per 1000 more people ] that can morally be allowed to take us on such a divergent path from our past 43 year relationship with our neighbours. Anecdotally we have probably all heard of 'leave' voters who didnt expect the world reaction or the financial reverberations from their actions . They have not yet seen the change in buying patterns and commercial activity that will accompany a decision of this nature . There is a question of tax rises or cuts in services - these are inevitable when the economy slows down . Money changes hands with less regularity and that means less taxes are paid [ Vat , Income taxes etc ]. That eventuality will take a year or two to become apparent. With reference to the variance in the youth vote. We want our young voters to make their voice heard . For some this is the first occasion they have cast a vote - [many more than the last General election]. If the UK does leave the EU - we have effectively ignored them - It is their future - they are our future . We cannot ignore what vote. The ramifications of this Referendum vote are so far reaching that we cannot simply trust a majority of 3.8% to have got that decision right - it is far far more complex than that. I employ 46 people, I have serious concerns for the future of the UK economy in the short and medium term. As things stand we are holding off on day to day business decisions - and that is slowing up commerce across the UK and Europe [ not to mention inward investment ]. The EU model is not perfect , but we have stability and a huge market to sell to - we need stability after one of the deepest Recessions in history. I ask , as our representative in Parliament that you vote against invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty - thank God we have that treaty . There remains a glimmer of hope yet - however controversial that may be .
- Gabriel - Rattery

What an interesting day yesterday.About 10 countries lined up for trade deals with the UK.We had the release of the 56 page EU Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy,complete with proposals for an EU Army and closer economic,political and military union,and George Soros asking for the creation of an EU superstate.We had the Commission,France and Germany fresh from their humiliation of the PM giving the Sturgeon the right old runaround.Then we discover you have hitched your horse to the Teresa May for PM wagon.As she went AWOL during the EU Referendum campaign perhaps you can remind her that about 9 million Conservative voters chose Vote Leave according to the psephologists.It'll be interesting to see what out is out means to her and her supporters.I suppose if she loses she can refuse to accept the result because the winner's mandate wasn't large enough according to the psephology of Kim Jong Un,Vladimir Putin,Jean-Claude Juncker,and Robert Mugabe. Finally,as someone who understands the power and influence of Select Committees I hope you have read the Foreign Affairs Select Committee Report on the costs and benefits of EU membership.It's a corker but not necessarily a good bedtime read for Remain supporters.
- Dave Sussex

@Dave Sussex Is Sussex your name or your location? In other words are you one of Dr Woolaston's constituents?
- JW,Totnes

@JW Totnes Neither.To avoid cybernats one should never give any indication of name and location. Dr Wollaston's blog is on the internet,she is the Chair of the HoC Health Select Committee,her move to the Remain camp received national and international media coverage and she appeared for Remain in front of 7000 people at Wembley and 4 million people on the BBC.She is a national politician now.If she would like to restrict her blog to her Totnes constituents she should let us know.We can always upload WhatsApp in that case.I'm looking forward to Mrs May coming down to see us in Totnes so we can be assured Brexit is Brexit.
- Dave Sussex

I think Dr Wollaston is a brilliant MP and was delighted at her eventual support for the Remain campaign. South Hams voted to Remain in the EU and Dr Wollaston should definitely represent that view by voting against invoking article 50 of the Lisbon treaty.
- Vivienne Kingsbridge

We should definitely not proceed blindly into the unknown. Time will undoubtedly demonstrate the futility of the current direction of travel. We should not invoke art 50 too soon.
- Paul church

In this potential move out of Europe , is there a very slight echo of the futility of the Battle of the Somme . It feels wrong to make an analogy in some ways but in others perhaps it is right. Surely we know the ramifications of leaving Europe . Boris Jonson may have whipped up emotions to go fearlessly head and wreak a relationship, but where is he now , He was the only 'General' who had the weight of authority to get such backing for an absurd move and he has left the battlefield in the same way . I cannot help feel that we have got into something as huge as absurd as the futility of war .
- Gabriel

Sarah, I totally agree our leaders must now work together, but much more importantly they must work together to make a great success of Brexit. Equally important will be achieving the understanding and acquiescence of those on the Remain side. Incredibly some still seek to variously overturn, neutralise, ignore or discredit the wishes of the near 17.5 million who voted for Brexit. The biggest number voting in favour of anything ever! My plea to you first and foremost is to throw your support for the Tory leadership behind someone who has declared themselves strongly in favour of Brexit. It would be a nonsense to expect someone not so disposed, someone not fundamentally supporting the position they were taking, to negotiate a way through the complexities of Brexit. Such a position would be seized upon as totally open to manipulation and ridicule by our EU counterparties and regarded as deeply suspicious amongst the 17.5 million who voted for Brexit. For me this rules out support for both Theresa May and Stephen Crabb. It would be totally bemusing to be told that either of them are capable of the necessary conviction and toughness in the exit negotiations that lie ahead. And pleas from them that they are passionate about making a great success of our newly won independence would not be credible. We desperately need a leader we can believe in. Johnson, Leadsom and Gove have clearly demonstrated their support for Brexit (Liam Fox though equally supportive did not shine in recent weeks prior to the vote?). Boris Johnson seems to have lacked speed and clarity in furthering his leadership bid and a way forward, and as a result has fallen by the wayside. So the final choice has to be between Andrea Leadsom and Michael Gove both of whom seem decisive and impressive in their understanding of what is needed. Lastly, even though a lifelong Tory supporter, and I know I am far from alone in this, I don’t see myself voting at all at the next election if anyone tainted by the Cameron/Osborne/May approach to Europe becomes the next Conservative leader.
- Stephen, Totnes

Agree with Stephen, support should be for a Brexit candidate, preferably Andrea Leadsom.
- Linda

We voted in a democratic referendum, this was called by a Government who promised to carry out the decision of the majority; this is called democracy. Our voting system is certainly not perfect but by participating you accept the outcome. Remainers have to get over it and we must all pull together, to do anything else invites civil confusion and..............!
- John. Dartington

I agree that Sarah should represent the interests of her constituents and vote against invoking Article 50. But before Parliament considers putting it to a vote we must have a clear idea of where we are going. The referendum did not give us that. Do we stay in the single market or not? Also, EU leaders are meeting in Slovakia in September to discuss their response to BREXIT. The Dutch have a general election in March 2017 and Geert Wilders, whose party wants to take the Netherlands out of the EU is leading in the polls. Will the EU finally come to its senses and take account of widespread public concern throughout the EU about the direction it is going? This is such an important decision and an irreversible one, we must not rush into anything we might later regret
- Richard Peters, South Hams

Dr Woolaston, you stood out during the referendum campaign as a person of principle and conscience. Please consider the arguments of Professor A C Grayling in his letter to MPs on 1st July. The referendum result represents by a small majority the popular accclaim at a moment in time based on misinformation and false promises and the reduction of complex political and economic considerations to a few angry slogans. There is every reason to suppose that it does not reflect the views of the electorate today and it is surely not a sound enough basis to justify Members of Parliament refusing to exercise their own competence and duty to consider whether the UK should leave the EU. Please act in the best interests of Britain and especially its young people to avert a mistake of incalculable gravity. https://www.nchlondon.ac.uk/2016/07/01/professor-c-graylings-letter-650-mps-urging-parliament-not-support-motion-trigger-article-50-lisbon-treaty-1-july-2016/
- JB, Totnes

I think I know what Sarah means, that she will support democracy. Hope she doesn`t change her mind again.
- John. Dartington

Is this the place for such a discussion? My apologies, but I cannot let it pass. I would not want my MP to take too much notice of Professor Grayling’s extraordinarily one sided thought processes. The college of which Professor Grayling is Master proudly states its purpose is to teach people how to think, not what to think. A noble objective. But what follows is entirely about what he and his students think about the outcome of the recent referendum - how appalled they are - that the outcome can be and should be disregarded. Surely he should be thinking ‘how do we interpret the result’. He clearly thinks the electorate made a huge mistake. But might it be that he and the majority of MPs who favoured Remain, are just a little bit out of touch? How can he be so vociferously certain Remain is right when the country is pretty evenly divided? He has grave doubts about the basis on which votes were cast, especially amongst those who voted ‘Brexit’ and is particularly critical of the probity of the Leave propaganda. But as Mervyn King has said, the tone was set by the government. The Professor says the wishes of the young should be given more weight! Well I was young once and the mistake my generation made in backing EEC membership in 1975, was to assume that that would be the end of it. Little did we realise the extent to which further changes would be forced upon us over the intervening years without recourse to democratic processes, hard won over many centuries. Should not young voters have considered very carefully whether in voting Remain they were really prepared to accept all the unknowns that might be foisted upon them over the next 40 years without consultation at the ballot box? I regard my vote to leave as correcting a mistake made all those years ago. for which I apologise to the young. Maybe as an exercise in ‘how to think’, the Professor ought to have proposed to his young students that they consider the benefits of joining the present day EU, had we not voted as we did in 1975? Maybe they should have considered also just how much influence they think we might have in the EU in future years given how little we have had in the past? Do they really want to spend the next 40 years ‘arguing against’ as we have done over the last 40 years?
- Stephen, Totnes

I am utterly dismayed by the result of the referendum, and shocked that so many people believed the lies on which the Brexit case was built. I am one of the many older people who voted to remain part of the EU, and am exasperated that so many younger voters didn't vote at all. I said all along that a referendum is no way to make important and complex decisions on our economy. If there had to be a referendum , it should have required a two-thirds majority, or at least a majority of the total electorate, rather than a simple majority of votes cast, before taking such a huge decision. Now we have a choice made by about 37% of the electorate, many of whom are already expressing regret, embarrassment and confusion at the result of what they have done. This decision is not binding on Parliament, and after the disgraceful walk-out by our Prime Minister (who had assured us he would stay and do the country's bidding), there is no competent leader to negotiate our exit from the EU. All our best political leaders are, quite rightly, still opposed to Brexit. Please, Sarah, do whatever you can to stop this madness. It will take true political courage to admit that the referendum was a badly organised and and misleading campaign that deceived too many voters into making a choice they now regret, but it is not too late. Do not let this issue become David Cameron's Iraq.
- Marjorie

Thank you, Dr Wollaston, for your carefully considered reasoning, as ever. I applaud your desire to heal the divisions created by this referendum - but believe the best way to do so (on balance) is to vote against the triggering of Article 50. Professor Grayling has now responded to a reply from Rob Marris MP, which I could not endorse more strongly: https://www.nchlondon.ac.uk/2016/07/01/professor-c-graylings-letter-650-mps-urging-parliament-not-support-motion-trigger-article-50-lisbon-treaty-1-july-2016/ Please heed his advice, in the interests of your constituents and of the country as a whole.
- Kathleen, Kingsbridge

I refer you to Ian Hislop's comments on Question Time: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/video_and_audio/headlines/36742691
- JW, Totnes

It is clear that there are precedents for a repeat referendum. This referendum was, legally, only advisory. Following the complete rout of the leaders of the Leave campaign, it is folly to pursue Brexit. Let the 'Leavers' make an honest case for leaving the EU, and we'll see how many people will be convinced in a second referendum. Please vote against triggering Article 50 - it is clearly against your belief as a Remain supporter.
- Jennifer, Brixham

Sarah, I would ask you to vote against triggering Article 50. The majority of your constituents voted to stay in the EU and it has quickly become clear to many of those who voted leave that they were told lies to persuade them to vote for Brexit. Most importantly the Remain voters knew what they were voting for, ie a continuation of the same, while the Leave voters had no idea, and we still don't know, what they were voting for. The only fair and democratic result would be for a second referendum when the conditions under which the UK would leave the EU are actually known. Then people could make an INFORMED choice.
- John Dartmouth

I agree with others who ask you, please, to do all you can to prevent Article 50 being triggered. How can such major change be brought about because people voted in ignorance of the lies and misinformation being presented? Since we have a parliamentary democracy and MPs are duty bound to vote for what is best for our country, as they see it, why bow to mob rule?
- Ann Collyer, South Milton

The referendum result has done its damage. We are now in recovery mode. I was pleased that Sarah was brave enough to review her initial stance and support Remain, bearing in mind Remain is not a status quo, it is an ongoing EU project. I would have equally understood if her initial stance had been to Remain and then to choose Leave. The point is, she's done what is required as an MP, which is to weigh issues carefully and come to a conclusion on our behalf. On this occasion, however, every eligible voter was also given the opportunity to go through that difficult thought process; no surprise that lots of folk ducked the opportunity and well done to those who voted for the first time ever after years of abstention. For those that chose to vote in the EU referendum I think most folk recognised the exaggeration of idiotic rhetoric on both sides for what it was. I think that the choice boiled down to whether we want 'our own idiots' in London or 'other idiots' in Brussels making decisions about how the UK is run from now on. It turns out that, by a narrow margin, we want 'our own idiots' in London making decisions about how the UK is run. Mrs May has been very astute with her selection of post-holders to her cabinet; this story has a long way to run yet. I just love having Boris Johnson responsible for Foreign Policy and MI6, where he will need to explain his gaffes around the world, and Mrs Leadsom at the Environment, where she will have to square her support for fracking with maintaining water resource quality; Mr Hunt is still stuck with sorting out the problems he has with running the health service. The thing is, if this new cabinet (which is variously talented, despite my 'idiot' branding) really does deliver on its reconciliations, then we're going to be in very good shape Brexit or not. It's not so much about Article 50 now, its about the repeal/changes to the 1972 EU Communities Act that is going to matter more, what we keep that is good about EU regulations and what we repeal that is not. So I would say, get busy, get prepared, but hold fire M'lady until we are sure we are ready to go. Meanwhile, will someone solve the housing and energy shortages...
- Derek Parsons, Dartmouth

Sarah - Parliament should vote on any proposals to leave the EU. I don't buy the Brexiteers attempts to stifle further democratic votes on proposals. So far the following have been proved false: 1. There never was 350 million available for the NHS. If this is correct, it will be swallowed up by Barristers, Negotiators in leaving EU, and in hiring more Civil Servants. 2. To think Australia (population 25 million) can replace a market of 500 million is absurb. 3. The EU will never let us have single market and free movement, unless they have a fundamental reorganisation, which we wanted all along. So companies from Japan etc in UK will have tariffs to cope with, and loss of economic growth. 4. The Australian Points system heavily promoted by Boris, has been ruled out. That's just a start. 5. So we want parliament to vote on any changes to EU relationship (doing their job) then possibly another Referendum depending on terms. If favourable terms only needs Parliament vote.
- Ian Sainsbury

Please Dr Sarah confirm that you will support our Prime Minister and trigger Article 50 before the end of March. Then we can discuss the ins and outs from a more sane viewpoint. For the doubters, I would say that it is the people who are sovereign and that sovereignty is only delegated to parliament (on the understanding that it cannot be further delegated - to the EU or others). And when that responsibility is occasionally referred back to the people via a clearly defined (or clearly undefined) referendum, a democratic UK majority is final and must be enacted. On the question of lies (from both sides) most sensible people do a little research (like checking online Treasury documents about the £350m contribution) and apply some basic economics (realistically only a fraction of any saving will go to the NHS). Sadly some losers will continue to propagate misleading statements. And to say that people who want to leave didn't anticipate the risks, the vitriol from the EU elite and some of yesterday's men, the difficulty of coming out of the shadow of the world's largest organisation, is rather insulting and belies our hope for another golden age for these amazing islands.
- DH Paignton

Post a comment

09 JUN 2016

I will be respecting the outcome of the referendum, but my personal vote will now be to remain in the EU

My postal vote sits unopened in the kitchen. Far from tearing it open to do my bit for Brexit, I have been imagining how it would feel to wake up to that result on June 24th. It would not be elation or freedom but a profound sense that something had been lost and guilt too if my vote had contributed to the turmoil ahead.

It's far easier as a politician to stick immovably to a declared position but more honest to set out why I will now be voting for Britain to remain a member of the EU.

I came into politics to campaign on health so I've listened carefully to the evidence from both sides on this. The claims about health from the leave campaign have been shameful. They have knowingly placed a financial lie at the heart of their campaign, even emblazoning it on their battle bus alongside the NHS branding to imply a financial bonanza. It's an empty promise and one which would soon backfire. A strong economy has always been the cornerstone of funding for the NHS and for all the arguments about the scale of the economic turbulence, the clear consensus is that the effects would be significant and negative. Far from a leave dividend there would be an economic penalty and the NHS would suffer the consequences. The chilling effect would not just be financial, but on the workforce. If you meet a migrant in the NHS, they are more likely to be treating you than ahead of you in the queue and very many of our core health and social care workforce come from the EU. How does it feel for them? I know from my correspondence and from private conversations how intensely painful and alienating many of my EU constituents have found the tone of the debate.

The NHS is not just a passive beneficiary of a strong economy, health is a key driver for economic growth. Listening to the evidence, the EU has played a positive role in promoting good health whether that be in terms of water and air quality or the scientific research for which the UK is clearly a net beneficiary. We contribute 11% of the EU research budget and receive 16% of its allocated funding. The UK also plays a strong leadership role in the surveillance, shared intelligence and response to the health threats which are no respecters of national boundaries as evidenced by our ability to respond to the Ebola outbreak, saving countless lives.

Could services, research and public health be put at risk in the event of a vote to leave the EU? I believe the balance of evidence is that the isolation and instability of Brexit should come with a health warning.

I've also spent time over recent weeks observing the professionalism and care of the NHS from my father's bedside as he recovered from a heart attack and a triple bypass. We had the time for long conversations about the referendum and our place in Europe. Now 81, he started training whilst still a teenager, as a mine clearance diver with the Royal Navy. For him, the risk of war in Europe is not some abstract debate but a fearsome horror against which the EU, for all its imperfections, has brought us the protection of peace. He pressed this home all the way to the doors of the operating theatre. Whilst some would celebrate the instability that would be triggered across the EU by Britain's exit, even if that lead to its collapse, I do not. We all benefit from a stable Europe.

The leave campaign has redrawn its battle lines around immigration for the final weeks of the campaign. It looks increasingly indistinguishable from UKIP but the immigration card may prove an empty promise if the price of trade with the EU requires the free movement of people. It will also have left a bitter legacy of division.

This has been an unnecessarily acrimonious and divisive campaign. It has also highlighted the scale of our disconnect from the European institutions which control so many aspects of our daily lives. If the outcome is a vote to remain then we urgently need to reset that relationship and, before we slide back into indifference, start to connect with our MEPs and make our voices count in Europe.


These are all sensible arguments. Thanks for your integrity.
- Chris

I have just looked at your history of statements on the EU in the last four months. Regardless of the merits of the debate on either side, it is obvious that you are simply too flakey to be an MP. Your actions are the best advert for recall of MPs I have ever seen. A by-election now would be the honourable thing. My vote will be for another candidate.
- Shona Hegarty

When you were selected then elected I thought "at last, an MP I can trust. This feeling was confirmed as I heard you on "Any Questions?" and other media. With this latest intervention you have shown yourself brave enough to change your mind in the light of the evidence. Yes, it's very exciting to vote to leave, but a sober assessment of the consequences is what we need. You have shown leadership and responsibility in doing just that. You have my support.
- Dave Morgan

Seriously, you've only just realised where you stand on the EU... because of the NHS? So you never weighed it up before? That's not very clever. I thought MPs were supposed to be clever. .. How about you find out what your constituents think. Some of them might be thinking you are a closet Europhile... well actually there is no question now. Well done Agent Wollaston. BBC headliner. Well at least you can't defect to the remainers again.
- Jim

You knew all the facts when you wanted to leave. The cynical side of me sees you in a "Double Agent" guise and were a plant by the Remain camp. Also mentioning your Father who worked in security during the war that he fears for our security is also lamentable.
- Glenn

This isn't brave. Instead you are consistently inconsistent. I used to like you as a strong independent MP. But now, many people will never ever believe a word you say again . You campaigned for brexit for months and now all your new found pro-EU statements contradict your previous arguments. You have now been all over the place on this issue and now support the lying OTT project fear based remain campaign which you were rightlly critical of. FARCICALI can only believe Mr Cameron/Osborne have bought your obedience on this issue as I find all your arguments unbelievable and totally contradictory . In the future try thinking first before doing anything and then stick to your position honourably. Instead the way you have behaved is totally dishonourable. As a previously loyal Tory voter - why should we ever trust either you or the government again ?
- Richard

What nonsense. If we stop in the NHS will be under total control of these UNELECTED people Plus they will have the absolute right to CHANGE anything including they want regardless. We will have lost ALL control forever. PLUS our elected MEPs and MPs will be redundant Your self interest maybe shines OUT.
- Mr Smyth

Though not in your constituency, I have been a long time supporter of your expressed views. I am puzzled by your switch which appears to me to be mostly motivated by one dishonest Brexit claim rather than a broader appreciation of the pros and cons of the EU. (I am still undecided)
- Sean Haffey

As someone who works in life sciences in the UK & Europe I can see the advantages of remaining in terms of the improved benefits for treatments for example in cancer / dementia and for ultimately NHS patients. Thank-you for having the strength of character to make what must be a difficult decision.
- Ged Yardy

This move was planned a long time ago, wasn't it?
- Dunwich

An excellent interview last night. You are very brave to step forward and lay out the reasons for the change of heart. I am hoping you will take a leading role to try and heal the rift this country faces once the dust settles regardless of the referendum outcome. You have restored my faith in politics! Thank you
- ZV

Maybe it is media misreporting but you are quoted as saying that the full £350 could not be spent on the NHS whereas I thought Leave had acknowledged the rebate and wanted only £100 per week spent on the NHS? Also, your about turn came on the day the chancellor was torn apart by Andrew Neil, implying the economics, though maybe marginally bad, are grossly exaggerated too. Both sides are guilty. Can you reassure us you haven't been promised anything, such as Health Secretary?
- Karen Long

I have a great deal of respect for you however I find you argument is built on sand and am disappointed in your acquiescence to a concoction of opinions based on vested interests. The EU is a project is to govern without having to face elections. Whilst our government's adherence to their manifesto's once elected is risible, we do have the right and ability to sack them at the ballot box if we don't like the direction they are taking. The EU too produces manifestos, the latest being the 'Five Presidents Report' and the EU has a habit of delivering on their manifestos. The only problem is the general public cannot directly influence the direction the contents of the manifesto with the threat or actuality of sacking should they go in a direction we don't want. Not one of the five presidents who authored the report have any accountability. By the way, The Five Presidents Report has the catchy title of 'Completing Europe's Economic and Monetary Union' and is about the completion of the federal superstate of Europe. The opening line of the report 'The euro is a successful and stable currency' tells you all you need to know about the acknowledgement of responsibility the presidents take for the 50% youth unemployment in Greece, 47% in Italy etc., and coming to a town near you soon should we choose to remain. That's an import we can do without. You must be aware of the developments on personal & corporate taxation proposed and the creation of the European armed force; The first will enable direct taxation of citizens by the EU without the unpleasant recourse of accountability to the citizens and the corporation tax proposals will crowbar any attempts we may have to compete and attract investment; The second won't scare Putin, will affect NATO and should scare us. Continued membership of the EU will be a disaster for the economy hence damaging the NHS and relegating our children to low wages/poor opportunity for the foreseeable future. I would never have believed that you would take a position which denies your fellow man
- Paul Ingram

So the battle bus proclaims a lie. The majority of people have worked out for themselves that all that money wouldn't be ploughed into the NHS, but a proportion of it. How many lies and scaremongering tactics have Remain employed? You have accurately previously described the issues with the EU, yet suddenly you have jumped ship on the basis of said lie, and possible economic instability being detrimental to the NHS. You are clearly aware of the EU malfunctions, yet you seem to be ignoring them, presumably now willing to accept them! You have said the EU will not change, yet you still want to be part of it. The President of the ECB has admitted that a Brexit will be disastrous for the EU, as they need us to kick start their economy. How much more is that going to cost us? I hope you can still stand by your decision in future years, but sadly, I doubt it.
- Liz Hill

Thank you. I was, frankly, embarrassed that my MP supported leaving the EU. The Leave campiagn is fanciful with its promises, clearly ignoring evidence from every major independant institution. This isn't a question of voting for the EU or the UK, it is about our position in the world and our future economy. An outward looking, fully engaged and inclusive UK isn't just a vision, it is our reality today. It would be almost criminal to walk away from that. The South Hams would be much diminished if we left, culturally, economically, and morally. You've taken a personally brave but entirely logical decision, and I thank you for it.
- David

As above my thoughts entirely, another yes person, thinks she can get a better position kowtowing to the smary Cameron & co. Why do I get the impression that MP's are only there for their own egos and not their constituents as they claim
- Marj

As one of your constituents I wholeheartedly support your decision to back the "remain" campaign. It is refreshing to be represented by an MP who steps back and re-assesses the evidence, before then having the courage to openly alter their previous stance.
- Sara

You bottled it. Known the figures for weeks. Hope you think the price for the NHS is worth paying. Your credibility as an MP has just dropped to zero. How can you be trusted if you cannot make up your own mind and stick to the principle, not the statistics, which anyone with a modicum of intellect understands can be manipulated to look favourable or otherwise. Glad you weren't my GP as how could I trust your professionalism?
- RG

I am amazed at your about turn decision to remain in.The government have not kept their promises on issues such as immigration yet you remain a tory. There is no guarantee that the NHS would benefit from the sum Brexit claim but there would certainly more money available for the NHS on leaving the EU. It is a flimsy excuse to change your mind and I have lost the rare respect I had for a Conservative MP.
- Peter Clinton

Respect your record and views greatly. I think dubious sums are being thrown around on both sides. Certainly our NHS is under strain and needs better resources all round. During the recent lengthy illness of a family member with ME, I became only too aware of lack of co-ordination and an unwillingness to refer to specialist management which the GP practice clearly couldn't provide. We just had nine months of tests and after the appointments at Chronic Diseases, Addenbrookes often found the blood testing centre full of families from the newer EU countries with poor English which took so much time that we had to go back, further exhausting the patient to the point of collapse. I know there are no easy answers, but EU decision making processes need fundamental reform.
- Angela

I'm sorry, but this looks more like a promise of a promotion come the reshuffle after the vote than an integral doubts about either the leave or remains position on the NHS. The fact also remains that we would save money from leaving the EU which can be spent on the NHS although not the £350 million a week which is sent to the EU. Does this also mean that you believe every stated fact & figure coming out of the remain camp? The fact the treasury can't correctly forecast the economic output 3 months or six months in advance why are we supposed to believe the doomsday 500,000 job losses
- Gary Smith

Don't believe you! Do you honestly think the public are that stupid to accept your last minute conversion? It is no wonder that MP's are so little trusted. You are only thinking of your own career as you probably think the remain side will win. I am so disappointed with you as I thought you were a person of integrity.
- Brenda Sharp

Well that is your parliamentary career over. People will accept an MP with strong convictions on either side of the debate but not one who so publicly damages a cause wanted by the majority of their constituents. You are suppose to represent our views, not your own....it is called being an elected MP
- andrew

I am not in your constituency but I have to salute your integrity and bravery. If you were standing in my constituency I might even break the habit of a lifetime and vote Tory.
- MF

I am interested to know why you have performed such a huge volte face since February this year, when you said 'concerns about the level of migration are genuine'. Are none of the things you said were true then, not true? Surely if Vote Leave's tactics made you uncomfortable, you could just have declared that you don't support it.
- wilfulsprite

Well done that Doctor ! There is little honesty in Politics and the Administration of the NHS It takes courage to stand up for what is right .Isolation and segregation will not enhance the reputation of the UK
- Dr Peter Tlusty

With the austerity arising from the 2008 crash, that Remain's economic experts failed to predict,you and your ilk have imposed on the British people a financial burden of about £35 billion.In the same time frame the UK's net contribution to the EU is some £90 billion.Your conversion is remarkable in light of these figures.Judas sold his soul for 30 pieces of silver but you've sold yours for an Osborne shilling.The EU humiliated your leader and they have brought Brexit on themselves.
- Dave Sussex

Is there a reason you've cut off 2/3's of my previous post? I honestly believe that the only reason you have chosen to join the remain camp is to make a major political statement because pro leave have been gaining ground & even won a couple of recent polls on the promise of a cabinet position
- Gary Smith

Your career has become one to watch in the future. You are either an incompetent ditherer who changes her mind depending on the direction of the wind or you have been planted in the Leave campaign early on to muddy the waters close to the referendum. The path of your career over the coming months and years will give us the answer.
- Unity Mitford

Dear Sarah I sincerely hope that you were a bit more concise as a gp when giving a diagnosis. This sounds a bit like you have a headache take a couple of aspirin everything will be OK - oops sorry on second thoughts it's a brain tumour.
- Colonel blimp

To swap sides, and clearly court publicity in doing so, demonstrates at best a complete lack of integrity and at worse shameless self interest. You should be ashamed of yourself, no doubt many of your electorate now are.
- Philip James August

In a campaign in which both sides and the politicians involved have shown what a corrupt and misleading group they are, this is another typical disgraceful about face! Cunningly timed or planned? Threats or promises for your future career? You represent a constituency which includes many major fishing interests at Brixham, Dartmouth and Salcombe. Their industry is being destroyed by the EU, willingly assisted by incompetent civil servants in DEFRA and ignorant politicians of both sides. Over 90% of fishermen want out of the EU. You are not fit to represent them! Your overriding concerns about the Health service, failed by your current government, just as it is failing on much of the social infrastructure in the UK, clouds your judgement! A vote for UKIP seems the better option now!
- David Pakes

" If you meet a migrant in the NHS, they are more likely to be treating you than ahead of you in the queue " This may be the case in sleepy market towns in Devon, but come ' up north' Doctor and you will see a different side to the problem, a problem that is increasing daily.
- A voter

You are an intelligent woman and I cannot understand how you can change your opinion of the EU at the last moment. You have known for weeks what the Vote Leave have been saying and up to now you have agreed with them. Most people should have known straight away how they were going to vote in this most important decision, if they have followed the path of the EU since its beginning where it has gone more and more towards taking away Democracy from the Countries involved. If it continues along this path and we remain with it, the UK will have a minority say in what happens, Our Country will be changed forever. .
- Jen

I am from your constituency in the South-West. I'd like to say thank you for standing up for what you believe in. I've been frustrated by the £350m a week figure for quite some time, and the clear mistruth that "all" of this exaggerated sum will be invested into the NHS. I am fine with both sides having their say in the debate, but clearly misleading the public is simply not fair. Claims of "more democracy" by the Leave campaign are completely undermined by this poor attempt at propaganda. I am glad to see that some Conservative politicians can stand up for principles like truth and duty to your constituents. I think the trend of spin and twisting the facts is becoming a more and more worrying part of the Conservative party and it is important that intelligent people put a stop to it.
- John Wilkes

That €350M includes a "rebate" that is entirely in the gift of the EU to spend as it thinks fit, so we do not get the money back, we are told how we are to spend our money. Try telling your grandson that the tenner you gave him for his birthday will be spent as you dictate.

Sarah, You say that "If you're in a position where you can't hand out a Vote Leave leaflet, you can't be campaigning for that organisation." I can understand that but because you don't agree with a statement made by the leave campaign you switched camps to support the opposing side !!! How does that work exactly ?? I am rather glad that in general the UK public do not follow your example and apparent lack of integrity, just imagine how many would flock to join ISIS if they did !!!! Have you no integrity at all ? It must be said that you either didn't before this or cant have now one of the two !!
- Stevo

Well, well, well. You turncoat! You are never to be trusted. What promotion and how much money is in it for you? My decision on Europe has been made for years and no one will change my mind. I know my own mind. You obviously do not. I suggest you are in the wrong job and should do the honourable thing and step down.
- Claire

I was heartened this morning to read that you changed your mind and will be voting to remain, a vote for common sense. Let's put an end to 'post truth politics'.
- Naresh Giangrande

It is sad to say that you are just another one of the spineless individuals involved in the running and ruination of this once great country of ours, we held our own long before any european union and we can again, your lame excuse for switchning sides is typical of the cowardice of members of the stay campaign. The BILLIONS saved with an exit would benefit the NHS with additional funding, staying in Europe will just increase the burden put upon it. You are supposedly educated, so why can`t you and all those other clowns get your heads round the fact that the whole world cannot live in the UK. Go on brand me a racist.... actually i`m a realist. I might not have all your qualifications and bundles of money, i went to the University of life and have a masters degree in common sense. WAKE UP!
- stephen walker

Saw your interview on Sky.Your Dad,and I really hope he's recovering well,served his country in WW2.He will tell you that the British people resented being belittled,bullied,lied to and threatened by the Axis powers.Your conversion to Remain,genuine or otherwise,means you have joined a Remain campaign who have labelled people from all walks of life,from all political parties, and all income and social strata as little Englanders,quitters,racists and worse.We will not forget.We will remember.
- Dave Sussex

The European Union is edging closer to collapse, and you wish for our still Great (although broke) country to go down with it ? Out of the EU we can control our own destiny far better, It will be hard, although some of us have felt these last 8 years of Austerity much more than others ! You have chosen to put your full confidence in Dave and George and all their world wise buddies, all of debateable Integrity ! You are turning your back on " the few " who in time will be proven to have been right ! !
- Stanley Sussex.

I have just seen your interview with Sky News and support your level headed approach and your ability to change your mind on Brexit. I understand clearly why you have taken this stance. I also applaud you for saying that people have a right to hear the truth on matters rather than be fed with spurious data. I wish more MPs possessed your integrity which might begin to give some credence to once again the belief that a Politician works for the benefit of it`s electorate. It would have been more interesting and informative had the interviewer had stopped interrupting you and allowed you to finish your sentences in answering his initial questions. I am not a Tory supporter (but don`t hold that against me!) but wish more Politicians had your honesty and openness. Re all this talk about Democracy being ceded to Europe it is interesting that so called only 23% of the UK electorate voted for the present government.
- AH

Thank you so much for voicing what so many 'normal' people are feeling about the appalling lack of dialogue and honesty that has characterised the referendum campaign. Your dignified words and demeanor are a breath of fresh air in a polluted atmosphere. I appreciate that you also bring a historic perspective to the conversation. 100 years ago we were battling on the Somme and 70 years ago beginning to clean up the devestation of the 2nd World war. Great Britain has a responsibility to stand by and work together in Europe to keep the peace not be a source of dangerous instability. Thank you again for your leadership.
- Andrew Davies

I think you are a disgrace. How can you change your opinion based on what you call a lie by the leave campaign and then decide to vote for the remain campaign who have told so many lies, their noses put together should reach from lands end to john of groats. You have one vote and could have voted for remain privately; but, no, you had to make it public for your own rewards. The health service is a mess while we are in the EU. Why continue with this mess when we have an opportunity to put it right with more funds available if we leave. Even if the net amount we give to the EU is as little as 5 billion, this will still free up money to put into the NHS. You are a traitor to your constituency and if I lived there I would certainly vote you out!
- vsb

Well, I for one am happy that an MP has had the bravery and judgment to reconsider, judge and then decide and admit she was wrong, You have stuck your head above the parapet, and can expect a load of grief, but I admire your bravery
- Richard

It takes a brave person to admit they were wrong, especially in such a heated debate as this one. I'm impressed with your integrity and respect your work. I don't live in your constituency, but if I did I would likely vote for you (and I'm not a Tory voter!)
- LS

I guess you've taken the thirty pieces of silver. Hope it brings you as much happiness as it did Judas ...
- ChrisH

I must applaud your honesty. It is heartening to know that there was one honest person in the Brexit campaign. When I look at the leaders of this campaign I feel deeply concerned for the future of this country. John Major best expressed what is the likely future of the NHS if these men gain power. I do not believe that France, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland (and hopefully Britain) etc are incapable of keeping this part of the world a pleasant and prosperous place to live, work or visit, and I do not believe that there is something odd about the British that we should be isolated from our neighbours and relatives.
- Keith Best

As mentioned by a few of those who have taken the time to reply, I am gratified by your decision. Although not an expert of the NHS (apart from being an occasional user of NHS services over the years), I do have strong concerns over the leave argument in other areas, specifically immigration. I now live in Turkey, and have been privately studying Turkish and late Ottoman political history for over fifteen years. I can guarantee that I know more about the chances of Turkey joining the EU than most in the leave campaign, even though Boris Johnson has family connections to the last Ottoman government (his great grandfather was Ali Kemal, a minister for the interior). I can also guarantee that Turkey will never, ever join the EU. Despite talks starting in July 1959, they are still barely past preliminary stage. The Turks themselves are fed up with Europe dangling carrots in front of them and with a significant rise in GDP and a growing middle class, they don’t see it as a necessity anymore. The only Turkish friends I have who have recently left have gone to Spain. The UK was never an option as they wouldn’t be able to stand the climate and, despite the rise in GDP, it’s still too expensive. If it ever got to the stage where they were ready to join, regardless of what Cameron says now, the PM at that time would have a veto. As would France, Austria and Germany – the first two would definitely block it and the latter may well do. The leave campaign keep dangling the "78 million Turks" figure in front of the electorate as an immigration scare tactic – it’s just plain wrong, and insulting to Turks to suggest they would be beating a path to UK shores should accession ever happen.
- Graham, Istanbul

Isn’t it funny. According to Cameron and Co we will be having another war if we leave the EU. Families will be over £4000 worse off if we leave the EU and yet Sarah Wollaston thinks that these outlandish claims are somehow better than the £350 million a week claim! Seriously?! I think she has been "got at" with a promise of promotion after the vote to change her mind. I used to respect David Cameron. No more after his pitch to keep us in the EU.
- Richard Goulden

Thank you for stating that the concentration on immigration as being a negative aspect of our membership of the EU is, at best, a misguided stance. I'm proud that we have at least one MP who can admit she has changed her mind.
- Joe Vorlicky

It seems to me that there has been a lot of suspect data from both Remain and Leave camps being reported as "fact". Most people will, I believe, end up voting on gut instinct since the actual facts seem to be so thin on the ground - something rather worrying, considering this is such an important decision. To my mind, there are arguments on both sides regarding the economy and immigration. However, the overriding concern for me is that of democracy. By voting to Remain, this to me sends a green light to an unelected, unaccountable elite in the EU to dictate (and I don't use the word lightly) what laws are determined in Britain and how they are carried out. Let me stress this - if we vote Remain and the EU Commission implement legislation that we do not agree with, there is NOTHING either we as the general public or our elected MEP's can do about. Nothing. This is what I do not understand about those who wish to vote Remain. Do you seriously want to be governed by people who you cannot vote out? Ever? I shall be voting Leave (as you may have gathered!) as I believe we approach a major crossroads in our social history. That crossroads for me is defined as the freedom to vote for who governs us via Westminster (and kick out if they don't do the job properly) versus subjugation by unelected faceless bureaucrats who can legislate how we are governed and never be removed. To those worried about the uncertainty of leaving the EU, I'd like to quote Kate Hoey MP who said: "The price of freedom is uncertainty. The price of certainty (i.e. remaining in the EU) is servitude and we need to set our country free from that servitude." I sincerely hope the majority of us Vote Leave on June 23rd.
- Jeremy

Well said, Sarah. I am a constituent of yours aged 70, who had never voted Tory until you became our MP. Since that time, you have been a breath of fresh air who has often voted across party lines because you follow your conscience. I'm even more impressed now. Of course people should be open to changing their minds, whether it is because of new information or any other reason. If that is the way your conscience leads you, then please let's have more MPs like you! The negative reaction of some people, with their cynicism and conspiracy theories, says everything about themselves rather than about you. You are the least likely of any MP I have ever known, to be swayed by any "inducement" or threat. I am honoured to have as my representative someone who is so open-minded and honest. In one word, you have that all important quality that is so rare in public life: INTEGRITY. I am so proud to have you as my MP.
- Peter Douglas

What a sop ! This sounds like she has done a deal with the devil ! probably offered a well paid job on an EU health committee in 10 years. The UK is full of wishy washy MPs like this in both Labour, Conservatives and the rest. She speaks on the BBC website just like a meak condescending GP who is trying to put you on every drug going and enjoying a Ski holiday from the large medical company pushing them.. humm I have personally witnesses the NHS in action while dealing with my father in laws recent stroke (in what can be classed as an affluent area of the UK) and i am now personally quite scared how it will be in 20 years time when i may need the same sort of treatment. Over streched, reliant on a labour force that doenst speak engloish as a first language and not a overpaid qualified consultant to be found. Its like waiting in a queue in a pound shop, the goods your buying are cheap and nasty and its all on a buget and no tills are open and someone that just jumped walked into the shop and jumped straight the queue gets served first ! I hope the Devil reaps his goodies on you and you sleep well taking it all.
- Dicky Cappel

Dr Wollaston I voted for you twice - once when I lived in Totnes and again last time - but never again! I thought someone with integrity and communication skills as well as hard-working real-life experience as a GP was unusual in politics. Which makes it the more surprising and sad that you give such flimsy excuses for reneging (of course £350 million isn't the net benefit and only a small part will go to the NHS, but our European cousins will continue to work with us in the NHS no-one is being sent home). And for that you've given up on what is a vote for freedom (yes to make mistakes, but also the courage to create a second Elizabethan renaissance). Osborne and Cameron are playing a dirty game too and the temptation is to believe someone has promised or threatened in return for this last-minute betrayal. I agree with others that thinking people consider carefully their position before publically backing an idea and that, especially in a position of trust, people rely on you to stay true in the absolute absence of any new evidence.
- David Hopkins

Another example of a self serving muppet trying to gain their crony position by deceit and cowardice. It is your duty to consult your constituency and provide them with facts, not hitch your wagon to whoever promises to help your political career or stick your finger in the wind and see which way the political wind is blowing and spit rhetoric and double speak. You should be walking door to door to explain yourself, not hobnobbing in media green rooms for your own self satisfaction.
- Ashamed for you

You are a contemptuous liar. You have repeatedly said that you despised the EU and now you are campaigning for it. Why not enlighten us as to what you have been offered and by whom to bring about this sea change of opinion? I hope the voters of Totnes deselect you at the earliest opportunity. You have deceived them.
- Epigenes

We can't believe that someone previously so firmly in the "out" camp has had a Road to Damascus moment and realised that a totally undemocratic and over-bureaucratic EU is suddenly preferable to a democratic self-governing United Kingdom. Having recently moved to your constituency from the West Midlands, we can assure you that the NHS problems with immigration are far from exaggerated. We have personally witnessed non-British nationals not only jumping the queue, but insisting on doing so (one of us worked in a busy GP practice). We suspect that your conversion is more to do with future political enhancement than a heartfelt personal view. Whatever your reasons, you have just lost the support of two more lifelong conservative voters.
- Roger

Good luck in your re election campaign......I suspect it will be rather uphill. A cynic might suggest that a job offer alternative has just turned up..... More seriously, what now your argument on migration, sovereignty, EU mismanagement, poor accountability, gravy train....and so on. TTIP, an enlightenment on this would be nice.....as would your current view on the economy an IN vote will deliver....
- Steve Trumm

Saw you on the Daily Politics show.You were systematically and forensically filleted. Your insincerity shone like a beacon in the dark.Integrity my foot.
- Dave Sussex

Well done for a courageous and sound decision. The £350 million is highly misleading as the cross-party Treasury Committee report of 27 May makes clear. Since your decision, the Leave campaign is maintaining that the money that does not leave the UK or comes back is only at EU officials' discretion: again untrue; it never goes in the case of the rebate negotiated by our Prime Minister and comes back for programmes agreed by UK Ministers and by Member States, which provide essential support for farmers, research and structural funds for regional development and social programmes.
- Tim

Ch Ching Sarah Doctor of deceipt!
- Disgraceful

Totally unbelievable ! You have demonstrated that you have no integrity . Do you also lie about your MPs salary by saying it is over £74,000 per year or do you call that a lie because the amount MPs receive is lower after tax ?? You and your cheating party will be toast at the next election.
- John Hughes

Staying in means we become associate (second tier) members (see the FIVE presidents report) as the EU is developed around the single currency and one-size-fits-all political control. Even our security will be diluted as EU border controls and policing is integrated, with the possibility of a European army and the weakening of NATO. The EU worked for us when it was a smaller group of similar countries based on trade and common standards. Our economy grew and is still growing despite the burden of beaucracy and incompetent attempts at trade agreements with the US, India, China, Africa, Asia, Arabia, S America. We have experience of doing all these alone, plus we have unique links with most of these growing (not stagnating like the EU) global powers. We will still be part of Europe as friends with mutual interests, and do trade with those we choose when it benefits us both. That the EU won't reform is their funeral. For us it is the chance to wake up, be brave and innovative - those are our strengths. Signed: the quiet majority of sensible courageous Britons (not self-interested establishment figures and organisations). And Sarah I haven't mentioned immigration once.
- Jean Xavier

It's so welcoming to see a politician who isn't afraid to speak their mind. Like many people in this country who would have changed their minds regarding the EU over the last few months, I don't see how it should be any different for a politician. I commend your courage.
- Ali

You move is totally cynical and political. You are right about the headline Leave claim, but Remain have told far bigger lies in their campaign, so your justification for your change is flimsy at best. Further - this issue has been there for weeks - so your timing is clearly cynical too. I guess you're just another liar, like the rest of them.
- Jeremy Penwarden

There is only one word for what you have done!! GUTLESS. You should stand down and allow someone with backbone do the job It is clear that what Dodge said about getting his own back on all Brits voters. Resignh now its the only honorable thing that you can do!!
- Dave

I find it difficult to believe that the public can't see through the likes of Boris J, Nadine D, John R, IDS, Farage etc., all people patently driven by a love of discord and hunger for the limelight. Dr Wollaston's level headed intervention today should be a powerful addition to the Remainers' message. Yvette Cooper is also doing well today, pressing home the message that blatant lying from Johnson will not stand. Heartening day. (9/6)
- Robert Cook

I'm not a Tory supporter, but you have earned my respect today by actually thinking rather than blindly following some position for the sake of it. On the other hand - the sheer vitriol in some of these comments just shows the loutish behaviour of the other side.
- Iain

- mark dorey

Judas Iscariot was rewarded with 3o pieces of silver, what can you look forward to after the referendum, a ministerial job or even bigger promotion?Turn coats always are mistrusted later.
- michael o'sullivan

Thank you for doing this. I am pleased. The £350 million figure.is of course a lie; I believe the actual net weekly figure is 100 million Euros!! ( about £80 million). And the 'rebate' (which the £350 million includes) is not so much a rebate as an amount that is never sent to Brussels in the first place. This 'rebate' is no more under threat than are other EU contribution rebates negotiated by the Netherlands and by Sweden. Worth mentioning too that Norway and Switzerland, non-EU members both, have much greater numbers of EU immigrants than we do, relative to the size of their populations - between three and four times as many. It if far from certain that Brexit would result in any reduction in EU migration to the UK.
- John Walton

I hope you get deselected you utter liar.
- Shelly

You will find that your duplicity will haunt you for the rest of your life and you will not be able to escape it. Who would ever, or would want to, trust a double agent?
- jan barnningham

I am sorry to read the abusive and (mostly) ill-thought-out responses you have received from those Brexiteers who have posted on your blog. They just prove your bravery and wisdom in changing sides. I have never been a Tory voter, but I admire your carefully considered words in support of your decision. I wish you and your equally courageous father well. Bob
- Robert Lawson-Peebles

What about TTIP and the NHS then doctor?
- Julian Hancock

Thank you Sarah for the courage to re-assess and change your mind on your individual referendum vote. I only wish the other Leavers would remove their blinkers. Let's look at some more of their scares: 1. Immigration from the EU - a) half of the recent 330k migrants to UK came from outwith the EU so what control does UK place on them? b) if the other half are returned to the EU then EU countries are likely in turn to send back to UK circa 1million mainly elderly and pensioned citizens living in their countries and how then will UK's social services cope with that burden? 2. The invasion of circa 80million Turks - as Graham from Istanbul above comments and as even Turkey's EU negotiation minister has admitted, Turkey will never join the EU even though they've been trying since 1959; besides which each individual current EU country including little Cyprus has a power of veto. 3. Loss of sovereignty - a) the cross-party commission on nuclear deterrence found that the UK's deterrent fully depends on the US, no weapon can be fired without the say-so of the US and the US only has to stop maintenance for it to fail; so, sovereignty on nuclear weapons has been given to the US; b) extradition of UK citizens can be demanded by US and UK can not refuse, the same is not true in reverse; again sovereignty ceded to US. Last time I looked the US was not part of the EU. As you conclude in your last sentence Sarah, better to stay and reform from inside rather than irrevocably exit and regret forever looking back in with noses pressed to the window.
- Dimitri, Cyprus

What did Cameron promise you?
- Tony Robinson

Well said, Sarah . . . and what a welcome breath of fresh air too!! I really admire your bravery in admitting publicly that you've changed your mind and also for explaining why. Incidentally, please pass on my warmest congratulations to your Father for his dogged persistence in seeking to persuade you to think carefully about your vote on 23 June. Although I'm not quite as old as him just yet (69 now, 70 later this year), I'm still old enough to share his perspective on the incalculable value the EU has already delivered by ensuring peace in western Europe for an unprecedentedly long period in modern history. Sadly, there are many voters today who take peace in Europe as 'a given', and simply cannot image the devastation caused by incessant wars between the major western nations in the past. Having spent 19 years serving as an officer in the British Army and Commando Forces Royal Marines, I'm acutely aware of the value of peace in Europe. Meanwhile, I do hope your Father is well after his recent major surgery. Please send him my very best wishes for a speedy recovery. He certainly deserves a medal for persuading you think deeply about Britain's future in the EU :-) Alan Meekings alanmeekings@hotmail.com
- Alan Meekings

Each person is entitled to vote according to their conscience. However, I wonder if you have seriously considered what would happen when, thanks to the EU free movement policy, more and more migrants from EU countries arrive on our doorstep to live or even to work for a short time and go back to their countries. The NHS is already on the brink of meltdown barely able to cope with the demand for its services. Sooner or later these EU visitors or migrants will get sick or have babies. In the year ending September 2015, 172,000 persons (net) came to UK from the EU which will add to the burden of on the NHS. In 2014, the number of births in NHS hospitals to EU mothers was 64,067 (UK Statistics Authority, 15 March 2016) With the estimated cost of maternity care in the NHS being £2,800 per patient, the cost of providing NHS services to those families works out at £1.8 million. And that his just a hit on the maternity services what about the other NHS services that these 172,000 EU persons will call on - and those that will come next year and the year after? Then there is the knock on effect costs to the UK economy. The growing number of births to women from other EU countries means our population is growing and those children will need schools to go to and other childcare facilities and services. Our NHS, our schools and our transport structure are all under pressure from immigration that we cannot control. So while the UK remains a member of the EU we cannot control the levels of migration from the EU and the long term impact and pressures it places on this country will be disastrous in the future. The BBC reality check website says that "We do know there are around three million people from other EU countries resident in the UK and all are entitled to use NHS services. That definitely adds to demand." You do the maths. Talking about maths, you said "that the claim that a Brexit would unlock up to £350m a week for the NHS “simply isn’t true”. On this I would like to provide real data. It is true that we we do not send £350 million worth of contributions to the EU each week, but over a year we actually do send on average of £350 million a week to the EU, if not more. At first glance, this may sound like a contradiction in terms but as always, the devil is in the detail. This figure is made up of the following based upon the 2014-2015 fiscal year figures. EU Gross Contribution = £18 billion pa (£350 million per week)(Gross) Minus £4 billion rebate = £13 billion pa ((£250 million per week)(net) That is what we send but during the year Britain receives money from the EU in the form of grants and subsidies, and the British Treasury pays out expenses that are directly attributable to being a member of the EU. These are: DEDUCTIONS Grants and Subsidies from the EU = £4 billion This deducted from EU Contributions = £13 billion minus £4 billion = 9 billion net. Total Deductions = £4 billion This deducted from EU Contributions = £13 billion (net) minus £4 billion = 9 billion (net) EXPENSES ADDED 1. Cost of EU regulations administration = £4.1 billion pa 2. Additional EU Contribution to the EU = £1.7 billion pa 3. Health Payments to EU citizens deficit = £0.7 billion (£723 million pa) 4. Cost of 73 British MPs in EU parliament= 0.13 billion (£131 million pa) Total Expenses = £ 6.63 billion Add these expenses to the £9 billion net = £15.63 billion (£300 million per week) Thus the minimum we paid to the EU for the fiscal year 2014-2015 was (£300 million per week) base on these figure. Cleaerly this is no small figure. However, there is one additional expense that the British economy has to pay out to the EU and that is the cost to businesses of the 100 most burdensome EU-derived regulations as outlined by the Open Europe Think Tank which is estimated to be £33 billion. 5. Cost to Businesses of the 100 most burdensome EU-derived regulations = £33 billion (£635 million per week. So if we to factor this in to the equation the British economy pays out anything between £300 per week and £935 per week. In conclusion therefore, the UK does pay on average £350 million each week over the year to the EU. And, even if the cost of to business of the 100 most burdensome EU-derived regulations, we are still paying out £300 million a week net, an enormous figure that we could take control of and use for the benefit of the British economy and some of that can go to the NHS. In view of the information I have supplied, I wonder if perhaps your decision to Vote Remain was premature. You decision was understandable under the circumstances, but now that you have more of the details and not the headlines, you might reconsider your position.
- Fred Harding

It would interesting to hear how you suddenly became "enlightened" about the £350m figure, even though it has been bandied around for months. Clearly you are not one for due diligence before you make decisions. And apparently you are now claiming that none of the £11-12bn NET we would save would go to the NHS. Er, how exactly? Is this one of Dave's cast-iron pledges? That he will simply fritter away any money saved? The NHS will be destroyed by TTIP and you know it. The British people and British government are not involved in the negotiations and cannot veto it. If you have helped swing this fix of a referendum, history will not remember you kindly.
- Come off it

Dr Wollaston, I believe you are to be congratulated on your decision. A conscientious politician is a rare thing and in any other scenario would be lauded, yet I note, without surprise, the derision and spite typical of the Leave campaign, gleefully propagated by its loathsome leadership. Heed not your critics, but continue to follow your conscience. I have never, and will never, vote Conservative, but know that you have my respect and admiration for your bravery.
- Luke Gage

Many of the immigrants from E.U countries are unable to speak or understand English, where most from commonwealth countries can ! In the 1930's with a population of approx. 45.000000 300 to 350000 houses were being built a year, 50's 60's 200 to 250,000 per year, very little mechanisation through these years, No JCB's, Fork Lifts. Just Hardworking British commonwealth some Italian & Polish Trades and Labour. 21century, struggling to build 140,000 are all these EU migrants not working as hard as Daves Government think they are, or is it that they can't understand each other. When Turkey join the club, there will be a potential 75000 people with the right to access UK, of course not all will but if 10 or 20 % want to, it will still be a major problem. The potential 500,000,000 Market place, are these All very wealthy people ? what does the UK have to sell them ? financial services ? what sort of % are going to be purchasing anything from UK. We need to look after ourselves and get our own countries debt sorted out , Almost £ 2 trillion
- Stanley Sussex.

Sorry, you have sold out, did the whips pressure you, did they offer you career progression, even a post in the cabinet? Whether the £350m is correct or not, we still send at least £160m to the EU that WE NEVER GET back, part of that could be used to help our ailing NHS. I'm afraid that your about turn will have ramifications the next time there is a general election, the people of your constituency will tell you how they feel about your decision and sorry, but you are a sell out and gutless coward.
- Peter Nottingham

Many comments that support you come, like mine, from non-Tory voters. Something to think about. I hope that you are genuine, do not seek a ministerial post and continue to challenge the Government on the NHS and other scandalous policies. Boris/Michael/Chris/Iain v Dave/George (and all their respective "arguments") is a tricky choice - but I think you've got it right in the end.
- Paul Hart

With due respect to your father, peace in Europe since both our fathers did their bit in our defence is not exactly due to the Union. It is NATO, which includes the US and Canada, which has brought us the protection of peace ever since the US-funded Marshall Plan. Its commitment in Article 5 is an agreement that “an armed attack against one of us… shall be considered an attack against all” and each will take “such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force". Yugoslavia is just one example of being put to the test - the EU was helpless. In 1995 NATO's no-fly zone and airstrike campaign played a major role in ending the conflict. NATO deployed a UN-mandated, multinational force of 60,000 soldiers to help implement the peace agreement and create the conditions for a self-sustaining peace. Not until 2004 did NATO hand over this role to the European Union. And NATO does more than the EU can ever do - as a political instrument for détente in areas like Asia and the Middle East with military cooperation and support around the world. And, in or out of the EU, we remain a founding member in NATO.
- Dee

I've not seen any of your TV appearances; I've simply read your blog post - and as a result also read your Blog posts from February. I have no axe to grind on either side - but I do have expectations of those who inhabit public office. From reading your comments it would appear that one of the following four scenarios is true. I do not pretend to know which - only your conscience and your electorate really matter in the end: 1) You made a public statement in February of your voting intention without actually thinking about the issues. In my view, that is not the behaviour I want to see from the political class. Thinking later and choosing to correct yourself in public later would be an admirable action - but doesn't make me feel any better about your original failure to give proper consideration to an issue. 2) Conspiracy theory / stalking horse: others have talked about that enough above. I don't need to add to this one. 3) You did think in February, but you're ignoring February in June: your current post seems to entirely ignore the concerns you argued as key in February. By ignoring them today it makes you look as if you are led by sentimentality and emotion rather than by conviction. I do not mind a politician having a heart - but it is surely necessary that a politician makes a sober analysis rather than being blown around by the breeze. Politicians have a huge responsibility as our law-makers - and law made on the basis of emotion is generally poor law once that emotional context dies down. 4) Your change of mind is actually due to more than the two things noted in the June blog - but you've done a terrible view of expressing them. This still leaves questions about conviction and analysis of complex issues - but adds a question about how well you can communicate to your constituents the realities of the issues at hand. Sadly, none of these options actually makes me feel good. I'm sure other commenters will add any scenarios I've missed. The quality of debate is influenced by the quality of debaters. Politicians are fortunate to be paid to inhabit this world while the rest of us are working - so they should be able to take a strong lead - yes, based on facts - so that the citizens can make an informed choice. It seems you had the opportunity to do this over a period of 6 months or so, and the performance seems poor. Even more sadly, the rest of the political class seems to have done no better (...let alone the Media).
- Dave M

Well it's nice to see you have the opinions of your constituents in mind. Or at least one of them. Your dad does live in Totnes doesn't he? Meanwhile I'm sure the NHS will do just splendidly with the large numbers of East European car valets paying their £500 a year tax on minimum wage into the HMRC in return for £1560 of free health cover.
- Phil Hoy

Given your comment on the Daily Politics show today that you are not part of the official Remain campaign it's surprising the amount of media output you've been associated with-from TV interviews to national newspaper articles to social media.Given the timing of your conversion perhaps we might now enjoy a period of silence from you as you come to terms with your epiphany.
- Dave Sussex

Many comments say what I think in a far more elegant way than I can. So I will just say how disappointed I am that my M.P. is not the person I thought they were, and only hope that not too many will follow suit and land us in a situation of which we have little control. My vote in future elections could well be affected.
- Barry Devon

As a Conservative Party Member and one of your constituents, I am entitled to ask for a more detailed explanation for your extraordinary intervention in this Referendum. You will be well aware of the impact of your rejection of Leave and joining of Remain at so critical a time in this Referendum. So I question how it is that you have based your rejection of Leave because of assertions made over the condition of the NHS after Brexit? Is not this Referendum about rather more than the NHS? Did you weigh in the balance on the one hand the assertions of Leave about the NHS and on the other Cameron's grubby and unethical campaign and dodgy 'Project Fear' dossier of conjecture and scaremongering - and really conclude that the NHS and claims made by Leave constituted the full scope of this Referendum decision? In your proclamation, you have in the eyes of the public explicitly rejected all of the arguments for Leave and endorsed all of the arguments for Remain. So what assertions about the NHS really drove you to this extraordinary action and how much worse could they have been than the myriad claims made by Remain? Like the outrageous lie that pensioners would be worse off after Brexit, for example? History is either going to be on the side of Leave or Remain. European countries will either reclaim their nationhood or submit to autocracy. Consider that federalism across national borders has not and will never work because people have always fought to be free to govern themselves. I find it astonishing that you have either not grasped this or consider the questionable economic benefit of remaining to be preferable to the subjugation of this Nation to a group of incompetents.
- Rupert Hanmer Grant

A great disappointment after giving months of creditable arguement on why Brexit made sense. Suddenly a conversion based on very flaky logic. We know that threat/promise pressures are in progress or maybe a temporary confusion has taken hold ! 'Trust Me I'm a Doctor' has never been more comical.
- John

Sarah, the actual net figure we provide to the EU each week is £180 million. That's the membership fee and it's been verified by the BBC's own fact-finding team - amongst others. Vote Leave are quite right to contest that the gross figure is over £350 million each week and Michael Gove has fully supported a further independent assessment of the amount. Refreshingly different from Dodgy Dave's state funded Project Fear - masquerading as truth. Was this really the justification for your decision to put a knife into Vote Leave? £180 million is still a vast amount of money - and it's loss to the public purse is made all the more grotesque when one considers that the funds go largely to support the grandiosity of the EU beurocrats and their lifestyles. For integrity, I vote for Vote Leave because they believe in this great country and recognize that we have been prosperous BECAUSE WE HAVE RESISTED THE EU's CORE DIRECTIVES - and haven't sold out to vested interests and group think like career politicians.
- Elaine Grant

Sorry Sarah, as one of your local constituents you have just lost my confidence and my vote. You have known about the £350m claim since the start of this campaign, this is more about your concience following the appeal to switch sides from your own father. Why not be honest and say that you have changed your mind for personal reasons? You would at least have won some grudging respect from some. Instead you just appear to be lacking in conviction and staying power when the fight gets dirty. Not qualities of an MP that I would wish to have representing me.
- Peter Devon

I will not be voting for you again. You say that you will feel a sense of 'loss' if you wake to a Leave vote? Surely you mean 'liberation'? Loss of what exactly: the 'loss' of more eurozone bailouts? The 'loss' of paying ever higher penalties for our successful economy? The 'loss' of the increasingly autocratic ECJ? The 'loss' of the 2,000 unelected and unaccountable beurocrats who rule our lives? The 'loss' of the UK as employer of last resort for the rest of Europe? The 'loss' of un-scrutinized EU accounts? The 'loss' of unsustainable immigration that provides no net benefit and only ever greater pressure on public services? Honestly, I am shocked at such woolly thinking.
- Nicola Maguire

What took you so long to change ? Nothing changed on the Leave side, how come it took you so long to work it out? Stinks to me
- Sylvia Loosley

Another one of your constituents you will never get a vote from again. You have made yourself look a joke. Conviction MP don't think so, pre planned stitch up disappointed but not suprised. Thought you may have had more integrity. How can you be trusted on anything now?
- steven Marldon

Dear Sarah, I think your change of mind was right. I share your views on membership you outlined above. I think seeing the bigger picture is so much needed in a time when the EU is used for mere hateful scapegoating. Also, I believe a politician who dares to say "I was wrong., I change my mind" is a stance that contrasts well the bitterness and radicaility that unfortunately marks this campaign now. On a more personal level, I believe your change is brave and shows character. I do hope that you wont have to face to much hate mail and that people remember that they are addressing a human being when writing to you. I wish you all the best!
- Henning

When politics goes back to normal on 24 June, all of the Labour, Lib Dems and Greens who are singing Sarah's praises on here will go back to opposing this Tory Government. But after Cameron and Osborne's lies, insults to most of the people who voted Tory, and Sarah's collusion in this stitch-up, who on earth is going to support this government? In the face of all this intimidation, Remain might win. But the scars of this will ruin the Tory Party, and they will have only themselves to blame.
- Maria, Totnes

I cannot believe it was pure coincidence that you made it so public today that you were switching to the In campaign on the same day of the ITV debate as the Inners cited with much glee your change of sides. This was simply a political stunt coordinated by the In side - shame on you.
- Neil

I could understand that a fence-sitting MP might at a late stage opt for Remain or Leave. Fair enough. But, I cannot understand any MP jumping - at a late stage - from Leave to Remain (or vice-versa). I can only think: there's more to this than meets the eye.
- John Gibson

Your argument against Leave's 'dishonesty' over the 350 million figure is implausible. You know that Remain's 'World War 3,' 'Global Financial Meltdown' and ' £4,300 Worse Off' claims are at least as bad, and arguably far worse, and yet you're happy to support their case. If you'd quietly withdrawn from Leave to take a neutral stance, there might have been more sympathy for your change of heart. However, the timing and delivery seem designed to cause the maximum damage for Leave and maximum support for Remain. There's something very fishy about this.You haven't done your reputation any good with these weasel words. Perhaps more mole than weasel?
- J. Fox

Before watching the three Remain Harpies give us rant,cant,bile and personal insult yesterday evening I went to a Townhall event at my local leisure centre.Place packed.Addressed by constituency MP who's for Remain.The straw poll at the end was about 90%/10% in favour of Leave.The MP looked rather pale.Keep up the good work for Remain because your oddly timed Damascene conversion is having the opposite effect to that intended.
- Dave Sussex

Spot on Sarah. The consequences of brexit don't bear thinking about. It about the economy, jobs and keeping the 'U' in UK. We have to fix the deficiencies of the EU from within rather than be exposed to the consequences on the outside.
- Paul church

Sorry to have to say this, but your Damascan "volte-face" is extremely suspicious. I am a constituent of yours but never have/never will vote Tory - ever! Other commentators have expressed their doubts over your true intentions. Like you, I also have my postal voting papers waiting on my kitchen table. I shall be voting to Remain, yet I have allowed myself ample time to weigh up the pros and cons and I am still listening to all sides of the debate. I feel that you would have engendered much more support and would have appeared far more credible if you had not initially come out so strongly in favour of leaving the EU. Indeed, I was extremely puzzled that you ever were "for" brexit - and I have been thoroughly vindicated. We will watch and see with great interest in exactly how your future public office/political/medical career develops!
- C, Torbay

Your last sentence says it all " start to connect with our MEP's". This is the problem, these MEP's our in charge of our future and you feel we need to "start to connect with them". That is a exactly why I am voting to leave, I feel we are and always will be disconnected to the people who are deciding on our country's future.
- Sue, Dartmouth

I lived through the agony of lies in the Scottish Independence vote. With only a few days left, the Yes campaign was in the lead. Then the result. What changed the vote? The sudden declaration of financial and economic meltdown. That was the lie told. With this in / out debate the first lie was to say how each family would be thousands of pounds poorer in 2024. A prediction which no human could have made. We have still to hear from George Osborne his apology. I am voting Exit because our fishermen's lives have been irreparably damaged by EEC policies. Because I know the Euro is doomed and sadly the EEC is heading down the drain and sinking with each new country it wants to eat bup. Even Germany is chocking. Its such a toxic organization I hope we all give it a wide mark on voting day. Except me. I have already posted my exit vote.
- M Caldwell

You should be thoroughly ashamed of your about-turn. What have you been promised for doing so. You know only too well the huge amount of pressure this uncontrolled immigration puts on our Health Service, which you purport to care so much about. I voted for you in the last election, I assure you I shall not be voting for you again. Those wishing to remain in an unelected institution, one where their own auditors have refused to sign off their accounts for the last 19 years, must either have ulteriop motives or be incredibley nieve. If this was a company they would have been closed down long ago. The word traitorous springs to mind.
- Jon

Sorry Sarah, another constituent who voted for you, but like others you have "lost my confidence and vote".
- Charles

I write as one who has never voted Conservative in his life. As most do, I do find myself forgiving the errors of my team all too easily and all too often. Your integrity shines through. When next I am tempted to let something slip by even though I know it is not right but suits my side I shall recall your example. I have also been impressed by David Cameron's professional and statesman like approach. Just reading the other comments to your post I can see this will be a case of letting no good deed go unpunished. I sincerely with your party was not running the country. But I must salute someone doing the right thing when it is all too easy not to.
- John Samuel

MP for Totnes. The self-serving spirit lives.
- Vicar of Bray

Sarah, you are the most deceitful person I have ever known. You work in the NHS and so do I. The NHS is suffering, most hospitals have been placed under special measures by the CQC because the can't meet the requirements placed by CQC. It's mainly about funding, and not being able to meet the agreed waiting times for paints in A and E. The agreed maximum waiting time in A&E is for hours, but patients are bad to wait for more than 6 hours. I am sure you are seeking overnight fame, after being promised a big fat BROWN ENVELOPE. you do not deserve to be an MP....... You can't be trusted!! I will never vote for you again!!
- J. Collins

You have clearly been struggling with your position - which at least is an honest admission. The arguments you make have been pretty clear to me from day 1 - but I salute the fact that you have set out the reasons for the change of heart. I hope you can take a leading role in healing the rift this country faces once the dust settles regardless of the referendum outcome - but which really needs to be a future within the EU. You are one of a band of MPs who deserves respect and support in your difficult role in parliament.
- Graham Davenport

Anyone who has the slightest doubt about the EU should read this article about James Dyson. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/sir-james-dyson-so-if-we-leave-the-eu-no-one-will-trade-with-us/ I have never come across a clearer picture spoken honestly
- simonrandal

I used to think you were one of the honest ones but after this turnaround and your outright support for ttip I certainly would never vote for you again. Another career politician in the making sigh ....
- Jc

Very surprised. To my mind a very flimsy repudiation of your previous support for Brexit. (Anyone with a modicum of intelligence understands the basis of the Battle Bus £350m.) The arguments for and against our continuing EU membership rest on weightier things than the NHS - important though this is. Most people agree that the four long standing problems with our continuing membership of the EU are loss of sovereignty, lack of democracy, inadequate control of our borders and limitations on achieving our full economic potential. You have failed to properly justify your sudden switch in respect of these four primary concerns. With respect, these are the things that those of us who support Brexit are focussed on, not the NHS. You owe a much better explanation to the likes of myself who have previously been happy with how you have represented us. Why do you now believe after what you have previously said that these major issues can be addressed by remaining in the EU? All the indications are that the problems we face by staying in are likely to become more and more intractable.
- Stephen, Totnes

The EU is indeed bigger than the NHS, important though that is, and it has conferred stability on a Europe that has all-too-often gone to war as nation after nation sought economic dominance. This has to be avoided, and the EU has brought the stability that is needed. The leave campaign complain about the EU and Brussels as being undemocratic. Really. If that was such an issue, they should campaign against the House of Lords, the Monarchy, corporate greed, and globalisation. They don't, do they? The leave campaign complains about the EU and bureaucracy. Yes, it's bureaucratic - because governments trust in civil servants rather more than other politicians. But, without the EU every company trading overseas, and every public institution coming to agreement with institutions overseas would have no framework with which to work. They would need to negotiate time after time. The EU bureaucracy gives us a common set of regulations and therefore saves us from engaging in masses of administration - transfer costs - when negotiating or bargaining with overseas partners. BREXIT - would be a complete disaster for the UK, and for much of the EU itself.
- David

It must be remembered that each one of us, including you Sarah has but ONE voteand use it how we will While you are entitled to change your mind for for your own vote it is now vital that that after the Referendum is decided that you and every other politician totally honours the decision of the people in the United King dom. David Cameron's latest "frightener" to Old Age Pensioners to withdraw bus passes and TV licenses sadly demonstrates that he believes we are lacking in backbone as much as he and his Government is. Has he forgotten that most of us OAP's actually lived through being bombed , seeing the death of loved ones and a 2 oz butter ration? We want Brexit so that we can reap the rewards of this great sacrifice we made in two world wars. We know that our younger generations have both the brain power and work ethic to put the GREAT back into Britiain.and win an economic war. There is no reason why apart from cerebrally disadvantaged politicians and overpaid bureaucrats that can stop usThe fact is that the EU is like a leach sucking the lifeblood out of our nation perhaps in a more subtle and cunning way that the killing fields of Europe did in 1939-1945 managed Just as my generation could not forecast the outcome of our war with Hitler at this moment no one, even Mr Carney, cannot forecast the outcome of an economic war.Neither can Cameron but is tops at inventing frighteners. Have successive Government made us too lily livered to fight in this new way to retain real sovereignty and law ? Thise that vot Brexit still have a spine!
- Loris Goring

Am amazed at the lack of understanding of some here. The idea that the EU is the reason for Europe's peace after 1945 is laughable. NATO? The wars of the past have not been about economic dominance, rather a refusal of some to accept the self-determination of peoples. The best safeguard against war in the future is the restoration of democracy across the continent, so that free thinking nations can work together in peace and harmony. By denying self-government and justice to the peoples of Europe, the EU is the greatest barrier against this endurable peace.
- Maria, Totnes

I was sad to hear the news that you have changed your mind about Brexit as I believed you were initially very brave to stand up against your fellow Tory MPs on the Remain side and hope for a better Britain outside the failing EU system. I am a retired GP having worked 17 years in the Armed Forces and then 17 years in the NHS. I do not believe the problems with the struggling NHS has anything to do with the EU other than it has to deal with more and more immigrants as well as everything else that the medical profession has to cope with. I have served in two wars including the First Gulf War and The Yugoslavian war, neither of which I felt had any influence from the EU but aided by the UN and NATO countries. The issues of The NHS and Defence are not affecting my decision of how to vote but the issues of trying to get back control of our own country, laws and self respect as a Great Britain are. I am also very concerned about the way Brussels governs including lack of regulation and accountability. I think that Europe is less stable now than it was 10 years ago and struggling countries such as Spain, Greece and Italy have suffered greatly not improved under this EU system. If we stay in the EU and more countries join I think things will get worse not better. If the EU was just about trade in a common market then I think that would work but it is now about far more and eroding all our ways of life. I am British first and live in Britain which happens to be in a region of the world called Europe. I love to travel to other countries and appreciate their ways of living and culture but I live in Britain and want my own MP and Government to help us live our lives and build a better future for our children. Please listen to your constituents Sarah and I am sorry that you must be now in a very difficult situation having changed your mind, not an easy thing to do. Do wish I could meet and talk to you about EU referendum but I have phoned your office and they said you were not doing Q&As.
- Tina Marldon

There are many factors to consider for what is best for the UK. Like many I was on the fence at the beginning as Sovereignty is an emotive subject, and there are aspects of the EU I dislike. If we are to believe Boris he was on the fence before he tipped towards the Brexit camp which he now promotes with gusto. He is rallying support by playing on the emotions of people and taking advantage of their concerns and fears making unsubstantiated promises that all will be resolved with Brexit. The impartial analytical documents Sarah has pointed us towards demonstate a more even and considered position which help form better judgement on the implications of Brexit. Unfortunately many people will not have the time or inclination to study these documents and take in the hype promoted by Johnson Gove and Farage. I can fully understand how people can over time come to a different conclusion than where they started. For a politician to openly declare a change in the views based on having continued to review and evaluate the issue during the cause of the debate is to be applauded. Of course those supporting the opposite camp will be less than happy but some of the comments from Brexit supporters have been disgraceful. Cutting off our nose to spite our face will resolve nothing. We have not been strong enough at the negotiated table in the EU and that is where we will start to deal with the concerns people have, not outside it without a voice to be heard. This referendum has been a wake up call for the UK and the whole of Europe and as a member we can make an impact, and start to tackle issues such as better managing immigration which has become the focus of the leave campaign. With 45% of our exports going to the EU it remains vital to our economy and the EU will impose terms on us that will be harsher than we currently experience, including free movement of people. Outside EU we resolve nothing.
- Mike Allen

This isn't your finest hour Sarah. The overriding perception of you now is of a flaky individual who can't make her mind up on anything important. It's very mystifying why you have suddenly changed your mind.
- Steve Tucker

Sarah we understand your nervousness about making the wrong decision. But you knew about all the NHS issues you mention back in February, and you must also have been aware then that lies or exaggerations have always existed on both sides. A quick visit to the relevant government websites gives anyone who cares to check, the accurate gross and net contribution, the varying rebate, the grants and subsidies. And there are estimates of the costs of the regulatory overheads on business, the MEPs, the legislation, the regulations administration. Surely, in or out of the EU, cooperation and financial help from Britain on European research projects, university education, and environmental protection, and Britain leading the response to international health emergencies, will be welcomed by all European countries, irrespective of their political masters. It helps us all. Have faith in your judgement over the past few months. And reassure your father about instability and security in Europe. Remind him of the strength and reputation of NATO (and the UN) that others have mentioned, and the risks that the EU runs in continually trying to expand eastwards. Immigration is not about UKIP. It is about wanting to invite people from Europe and the world to live and work here using a common and fair set of rules e.g. have skills we are desperately short of (doctors and nurses yes please), a good command of English, a job offer, and the absence of a criminal record or extremist associations. Most people in Britain want that, but they feel helpless when the filters aren’t there and people all come in at once (it is an endearing British characteristic to queue, but we know from experience that it is the only fair and safe way). So be honest again and review all the arguments - and the goodwill of those wanting to make it work - against your not unreasonable fears of turmoil and yes, against offending your father. Don’t be immovable, read carefully all the feedback and caring advice written to you above. They care because they want to believe in you. You can’t lose credibility twice – so follow your heart and hopefully REDECLARE YOUR SUPPORT FOR A DEMOCRATIC AND INDEPENDENT UNITED KINGDOM Love and best wishes
- J Cricket

Why did you give up medicine was you also awful at that also ? Too many wrong diagnosis ? Not good in politics either .
- JD

As one of your constituents in Totnes, I admire your decision and agree with it.t I find I am shocked and saddened by some of the toxic comments , and the personal nature of them, on here. I didn't vote for you, but you have been a terrific MP, responding to my questions or offering support and intelligent interest in local charities I am involved with. Personally, I wish the referendum had never been called, with the bigotry and hatred it has stirred up. With best wishes,
- Charlotte

Congratulations on your change of heart. It is vital that our country engage with "the other" and Remaining In is an important part of this, preventing us from becoming inward looking and isolationist.
- Simon Chater

Dear Sarah You decision to change your vote to remain impressed me. I come from a farming background but the information below is about fishing. I remember the Cod Wars and French farmers burning live sheep but the rest is educational to me, but life changing to others. It reflects the complex tension between scientific management and politics. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cod_Wars Details a fishery zone dispute between two NATO countries, Britain and Iceland that included Britain banning the importation of fish caught by Icelandic boats leading to the USSR buying the fish , the Royal Navy bearing arms against a fellow NATO country, Britain withdrawing and the devastating decline of Grimsby. http://www.cornelisvrolijk.eu/about-usis reported to have 23% of UK fish quotas. https://www.fqaregister.service.gov.uk/browse#tabs=0 In the fish quota allowance register web page above enter the vessel’s name, for example Cornelis Vrolijk or Nina May (the Exeter dinghy with 17% of the South West’s quota) scroll down and press SEARCH then on the next page press VIEW for the types of fish in their quota http://www.bxta.co.uk/index.php/general-area/rss-news/190-european-stocks-eighteen-times-more-sustainable Brixham Trawler Agents web site http://nffo.org.uk The National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations http://www.torquayheraldexpress.co.uk/brixham-lands-pound-28million-record-catch/story-18136886-detail/story.html In general, upbeat articles about success by people in the industry. Mr Portus said: "That's amazing as long as the export buyers pay the bills, but could we sell it in the UK? We import thousands and thousands of tonnes of haddock and cod into this country, but we have the top quality fish in Brixham if only we would eat it." http://www.nytimes.com/1990/09/17/world/french-protest-of-sheep-imports-turns-ugly.html http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3173410/Mob-200-furious-French-farmers-hijack-convoy-seven-British-lorries-throw-cargo-200-000-worth-fish-road-dispute-foreign-food-imports-takes-vicious-turn.html No comment.  
- Ted Stone

Look forward to seeing you elected to a senior cabinet post on Friday, to mark Cameron's appreciation of the action you have taken on his behalf. You demonstrated all the nauseating traits of a star-struck wannabee at Wembly last night. Enjoy it while it lasts....hopefully the decent people of Britain will succeed despite people like you.
- Peter

"I don't feel any sense of 'freedom' today but my job is to make sure that Parliament respects the result & work positively to implement it." Your job now is to represent the views of your constituents, most of whom want to remain. The leavers won by a pathetically small percentage. Far too small for a decision as momentous as this. This referendum is not binding as people on TV keep trying to tell us. Work for your constituents and try to get this terrible mistake overturned.
- Chris Glover

I agree with the remarks above by Chris Glover. I doubt that the petition of 1.5 million signatures will have any effect, but the government must take account of the problems presented by a country clearly (and bitterly) divided by age, nationality, social status and environment. May I suggest that one of your early jobs as a member of the Parliamentary Conservative Party is to prevent Boris Johnson becoming Prime Minister. Bob
- Robert Lawson-Peebles

Please read this this information about leaving the Union found on ta Government website while looking for information on the Petition EU Referendum Rules triggering a 2nd EU Referendum March 2016. It states that it is a process that is expected to take a decade or more. Given that Article 50 only allows 2 years and that then the matter is closed even if there is no agreement, it would appear that we are not going to come out unscathed. THE PROCESS FOR WITHDRAWING FROM THE EUROPEAN UNION The Government has published a paper on “The process for withdrawing from the European Union”. This fulfils a commitment made to Parliament during passage of the Referendum Act 2015 to provide information to the public on the process of leaving the EU. The document sets out the process that would follow a vote to leave the European Union, and the prospects for negotiations. The rules for exit are set out in Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. The report makes clear that this is the only lawful route available to withdraw from the EU. The report highlights that: • It could take up to a decade or more to negotiate firstly our exit from the EU, secondly our future arrangements with the EU, and thirdly our trade deals with countries outside of the EU, on any terms that would be acceptable to the UK. • This long period of uncertainty could have an impact on financial markets, investment and the value of the pound, and as a consequence on the wider economy and jobs. • Issues such as the rights of the approximately two million British citizens living elsewhere in the EU, access to markets for vital industries, and the status of Irish and Gibraltan borders would all need to be addressed. The process of withdrawal would be a complex negotiation requiring the involvement of all 27 remaining EU Member States, the European Commission and the European Parliament. It would mean unravelling all the rights and obligations which the UK has acquired during more than 40 years of membership - from access to the Single Market, to structural funds for poorer regions, to joint action on sanctions. Crucially, the negotiation would include the status and entitlements of the approximately 2 million UK citizens living, working and travelling elsewhere in the EU who currently enjoy a range of specific rights to live, to work and to access pensions, healthcare and public services that are only guaranteed because of EU law. Article 50 foresees a two year process but the Government believes that it would be difficult for the UK to complete a successful negotiation in this timeframe. Any extension would require the agreement of all 27 remaining EU Member States. It is unclear from Article 50 how far the arrangements for the UK’s future relationship with the EU would be included in a withdrawal agreement. But it is likely that the scope of those arrangements would require the negotiation of a separate agreement with the EU. An ambitious agreement on trade and wider co-operation could require the unanimous support of all 27 Member States and ratification by some countries’ national parliaments too – presenting a further opportunity to block the agreement for any reason. The Government believes that while these negotiations continued, the UK would be constrained in our ability to secure new trade agreements with countries outside the EU. Those countries are likely to want to know the terms of our new relationship with the EU before opening negotiations with the UK. Countries like the United States, which are already negotiating with the EU, are likely to want to conclude those deals first before negotiating with the UK. This means that a vote to leave the EU would be the start, not the end, of a process that could take up to a decade or more. The report sets out the impact of withdrawal on a number of specific sectors such as car manufacturing, farming and financial services while also setting out a number of broader issues that would need to be resolved during the withdrawal process such as: • access for UK citizens to the European Health Insurance card • cross border security arrangements including access to EU databases • the rights of UK fishermen to fish in traditional non-UK waters including those in the North Sea • access to the European Medicines Agency, responsible for safety monitoring of medicines developed by pharmaceutical companies for use in the EU. The full analysis is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-process-forwithdrawing-from-the-european-union
- Ted Stone

Why are you in the Tory Party Sarah?
- Andy

You say you "will be respecting the outcome of the referendum." I must say you have a funny way of showing it. Remaining under EU rules and ECJ law while staying in the (or a) customs union and single market was clearly NOT what we voted for. That is staying in by stealth and Brexit being delivered in name only. And yet it appears to be pretty much what you are angling for, despite this "respect" you have for the result. You're also very fond of calling Brexiteers liars, which is pretty rich coming from someone who is so anti-Brexit that it's implausible to think you were ever really part of the Leave campaign. You don't seem to realise it's not just a few "extreme" MPs who want a hard Brexit. It's millions of ordinary people who want our sovereignty back, and were ashamed to see Cameron having to beg Merkel for permission to do something as simple as control our own borders.
- Mick

Your lies and insults of fellow MPs are a disgrace. Your constituency voted remain by 54-46. If you had any honour you would resign
- Mike

You're going to get deselected.
- Nigel F

If you had an ounce of decency you would stand down and let someone who stands by their word and party manifesto take over. However we all know you have no such decency. In time we will find out what your real motivation is. what A massive con woman you are.
- P Radford

"I will be respecting the outcome of the referendum" is what you said. Except that you haven't. You're a disgrace to the UK.
- Andrew

When will you change your mind again. So looking forward to it
- Phil Marsh

Post a comment

23 MAY 2016

Both sides should stop treating the public as fools in this ugly referendum campaign

With a month to go until the EU referendum, the public deserve better from this campaign. I came into politics urging for better use of data and, like so many who are grappling with the questions at the heart of the debate, I'm dismayed by the disingenuous and at times downright misleading claims from both official campaigns.

We have seen a spiral in recent days, with both sides making ever more outlandish claims. Most recently Vote Leave has blamed EU migration for NHS pressures, brazenly hijacked their branding and continued to make the absurd claim that Brexit could divert £350million extra per week to the NHS.

There are many reasons for the pressures on the NHS, but largely because we are living longer and with multiple and complex conditions. As many have commented; if you meet a migrant in the NHS they are more likely to be caring for you than ahead of you in the queue. The NHS Chief Executive, Simon Stevens, set out the stark dependence of the service, on overseas staff during his interview on the Marr Show and, whilst many health and care workers come from outside the EU, a vote to leave would have consequences if those from the EU were made to feel unwelcome. He also highlighted the dependence of the NHS on a strong economy and the knock on consequences for any uplift in funding of financial turbulence. In my view, it is an increase in the percentage of our national income that we spend on health and care that will save the NHS, not Brexit. After the rebate and funds already committed to support farmers, exporters, regional development projects and science, the leave campaign clearly does not have an extra £350m per week to promise the NHS and they should stop treating the public as fools.

There are legitimate concerns about pressures of population growth on housing, schools and certain areas of health provision but the current pre-occupation exploiting the NHS, and its protected branding, to support the leave campaign's argument on the EU is a cynical distortion which undermines the credibility of their other arguments. I will not hand out Vote Leave's deliberately misleading leaflets about the NHS.

The issues around this referendum are complex. People are sick of the deluge of misinformation and don't know who to trust. We cannot point to either official campaign as a trusted source. I'm suggesting people look at websites like Full Fact or the detailed research published by the House of Commons library.

I remain very torn about this referendum. I had never imagined that I would vote to leave the EU and welcomed the renegotiations as an opportunity for the institution to take account of the serious concerns not just from Britain but from across the continent. I wanted to stay in a reformed EU and yet the renegotiation only served to highlight that the EU appears neither interested nor capable of genuine reform. The democratic deficit at the heart of the institution and our own detachment from it are deeply troubling.

We tend to think of the EU as benign and remote but what if a federal and ever more centralising Europe moves against our national interest? We will be powerless to effect meaningful change just as we are already unable to vote its leaders from power. The situation in Austria should act as a wake up call to those who feel that the direction of the EU could not change. My fundamental concern is that in our own mature democracy we must retain the ability to remove from power those who make the decisions which govern our lives.

I am concerned about the increasingly ugly tone of the Leave campaign but I'm also sceptical about the wild claims of a descent into chaos, war and the collapse of security from the Remain camp. In the event of Brexit wise heads would surely prevail to ensure essential cross border cooperation.

Project fear however, appears to be working. I meet many people who are switching to Remain because they have been spooked by the relentless messaging on security and the economy. They will be holding their noses to vote for remain, not endorsing the status quo. There is still a powerful feeling that people want a relationship based on trade rather than tied to the rim of an ever more centralised and powerful federal Europe.

If the majority vote to stay - which I think is likely – we must fundamentally rethink how we engage with the EU and develop a meaningful relationship between people and the currently remote bodies which make up this institution.

The remain campaign is anxious, and as a result – they and the government are overhyping both the risks of leaving and the benefits of remaining rather than leading a nuanced and honest debate. The danger of that approach is that the result will be interpreted by the EU as a ringing endorsement of business as usual.


I think it is a great shame that leaders of both campaigns are resorting to sniping, when they could be laying out the facts. Regrettably, this could be our only chance to leave an increasingly federal Europe, and we need our sovereignty back. The UK's influence in Europe is diminished, and membership is inhibiting our ability to negotiate elsewhere in the world. Of course we will have pain if we leave, but it will be much less now than in the future, when we can no longer bear the EU's stranglehold, and quest to subsume us completely.
- Jacky Davis

I agree totally with your views however do believe the cost to the UK economy if we leave will be too high a price to pay. The Brexit campaign has been abysmal and Boris has been totally unconvincing. The statistical and analytical arguments to stay are far greater, but I agree the campaign has at times been foolish and far less effective than it should have been. Trade with with the EU is vital to our economy. We cannot afford to lose circ. 45% of our exports. Some may argue the EU needs us as much as we need them but if we leave they will set an example of us the same way Russia stopped imports that harmed them more than their suppliers. Brussels will have the stronger hand in any future trade negotiations which will no doubt result in onerous terms, probably including a free movement of EU citizens such as the agreement with Norway. We will be over a barrel. Leaving the EU therefore may not resolve our immigration issues and with less influence to determine EU policy we could have less control than we have now. The answer has to be staying in Europe but getting tough, using our influence and using our veto. There will be other member Countries that share our concerns and who want to retain sovereignty and move further away from being a Federal state. We have as much right as any other EU member Country to determine the future of the EU and it is time we made our voice heard. We should oppose any more member Countries unless we get agreement on tighter controls on freedom of movement.
- Mike Allen

What is wrong these days with the word traitor. Those that are prepared to throw our sovereignty away,allow our legal system to fall pray to a foreign legal system are nothing less.
- Loris Goring

I very much respect your position on this Sarah, and as ever your tone is measured. There are clearly faults on both sides of this debate. Leave have run a poor campaign and seem destined to lose. I really don't think the campaign is helping the party or the country. I started off as a soft leaver (probably similar to yourself) and have become more convinced of Leave as the campaign has gone on. The issue is one of long-term economic prosperity and democracy. The PM's renegotiation in some ways only served to confirm for me that this organisation is incapable of the serious reform needed. As you suggest, it looks like Remain is winning. Since the campaign has been largely about the economy (the worst kind of short-termism, empty speculation about the value of the sterling in the weeks after a referendum and so on), and the general public largely doesn't understand these issues, it is reasonable to assume that many people will be swayed by the volume of information when their prosperity is threatened. This is a shame, because the economic record of the EU is hardly unblemished. The EU seems to have no idea how to resolve long-term structural weakness and achieve growth. The Prime Minister has led poorly on this, and has damaged the party. He has compromised the hard won reputation of independence in the Civil Service, Bank of England and the NHS (Mark Carney and Simon Stevens had no need to get involved in such a partisan way). The Treasury has left itself open to ridicule with its claims. I resent Mr Osborne calling Leave campaigners "economically illiterate" (many Leave supporters are clearly not such a thing), when it is many of these people who have supported him over the past six years (often against many of his new found friends), even when he has missed a succession of economic targets The spending of £9 million on a leaflet promoting the Remain view was equally embarrassing, and a breach of basic fair play that does the Party little good. Having voted for the Party and been a loyal supporter, I am angry beyond words at his claims that Brexit is unpatriotic and immoral, and that "Al Baghdadi will be smiling". The PM should remember that a great number of the people on the Leave side are (or at least were) his supporters. I am grateful for the opportunity of this referendum...it was one of the main reasons to vote Tory in 2015...and I respect his right to disagree...but his conduct during this campaign has been disgraceful. He may argue with good reason about the conduct of some on the Leave campaign...but he is the party leader, his responsibilities were clear and his conduct has been appalling. Clearly the PM believes that the end justifies the means. I disagree. Such a campaign means that the vexed issue of Europe will not be settled, and will surely be the dominant theme in the coming leadership election (which it shouldn't have). The Parliamentary group and the wider party have been ignored and insulted on this issue. I have always supported Tory candidates in all elections, but I will not be able to continue this unless Mr Cameron names a date for his departure. After 24 June the PM will be reliant on MPs who he has insulted...he cannot surely believe that he can breeze back into the 1922 Committee and say "good game chap, let's get on with governments" after that performance. There may be no Brexit (and I am scared enough about that prospect), but change is coming nonetheless.
- George, Paignton

I am heartened by this thoughtful post. I don't agree that the distortion of data falls equally on both sides of the Leave/Remain campaigns, especially when it comes to data concerning the NHS. But it is good to see a recognition that the misuse of the NHS brand in the Leave campaign is not something that goes unremarked, or without consequence, as you imply by your refusal to use material which does this. I hope that we can encourage a discussion about the EU and its decision-making processes that both recognises that our own constitutional arrangements are far from perfect, and that accepts that "the EU" isn't "them" - it is often "us" - look, for instance at the European Medicines Agency, located in London, or the many partnership arrangements between regional bodies and EU institutions for capacity-building and infrastructure investment. The EU hasn't remained the same since it was established, so we can confidently expect there will continue to be opportunities to change it for the better. (T.hervey@sheffield.ac.uk)
- Tamara Hervey

Dear Dr Sarah, I would like to say that your post is one of the most inspiring I have ever read from a politician and I respect your reason for voting to leave...if only more UK politicians could be so clear about the debate...before I comment on/repeat anything I hear, I always do my own research to get to the real truth behind the claim..my biggest concern is that our successive governments and oppositions continually put party politics before the best interests of the UK, the EU and the world...people are genuinely tired and frustrated of what's happening in the UK Parliament...I have come to the sad conclusion that it's better to trust the collective views of MEPs from 28 democratic countries rather than my own Parliament and that is the main reason I will be voting to remain in the EU...Kind Regards, David
- David Coole, Andover

What a breath of fresh air amid the incessant wind tunnel of bogus claims, lies and polarised opinions!
- Daniel Sainty

Hear! Hear! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 Although I am for IN, I think your article is a good well thought out argument and I, along with many others, are sick of BOTH sides going to extremes to support their case!
- Dr Stanley Ooi

I would just like to quote from a speech made by Winston Churchill in 1946 regarding the avoidance of another catastrophe in Europe (and hope not to be called traitor by Loris Goring) : "Yet all the while there is a remedy which, if it were generally and spontaneously adopted, would as if by a miracle transform the whole scene, and would in a few years make all Europe, or the greater part of it, as free and as happy as Switzerland is today. What is this sovereign remedy? It is to re-create the European Family, or as much of it as we can, and provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom. We must build a kind of United States of Europe." People of reason realise that some compromise is necessary in any democratic agreements between groups of countries. Consider the state of the British economy when we joined the EU in 1973; surely nobody will claim that the EU has prevented our economic development since then.
- Keith Best

Well, good to see a well balance article, well constructed, which even i am a remain voter, it good to see a outer, who is agreeing with my point of view, on this subject,while we can disagree on other points with the outers, this is a breath of fresh air, well said and done
- Geordie best

"Consider the state of the British economy when we joined the EU in 1973; surely nobody will claim that the EU has prevented our economic development since then". Our prosperity has an awful lot more to do with Thatcher's supply side reforms in the 1980s than the anti-trade EU. With so many EU economies on their knees, how on earth is membership of this crumbling relic an economic necessity for the world's fifth largest economy?!
- George, Paignton

Your article represents a sneaky attempt at damping down the patriotic effort to gain freedom from this monster called the EU. Lecturing to the "fools" about not treating us like "fools" is perverse. All this psychobabble double talk has evolved into a political double speak, originating from the old Tony Blair school of PR chicanery.
- Jack Hough

Sarah Your integrity is an example to us all. But I think you misinterpret the threat to democracy in Europe. The big threats to democracy in Europe are not coming from some vague top down institution "the EU" but from individual countries. As they react to the triple of challenges of immigration, terrorism and slow growth, far-right movements ride a wave of populism (as in Austria) and when in power erode democratic fundamentals (as in Hungary and Poland). The question is how best to respond to this. Do we isolate ourselves - content with the assumption that we can always vote out our national government if we don't like it - or work with and improve the EU to maintain and promote a set of democratic values and human rights that can challenge undemocratic member governments. The isolation option seems to me badly mistaken. We would be rash to assume that just because our government has been democratic and moderate in the past that we are immune to these same forces that affect currently affect Poland and Hungary. We already see some fundamental rights being challenged and our popular press, while far from being under government control, is rabidly right-wing, xenophobic, and appears to have even less interest in the truth than the politicians. But even if we maintain our democracy - we would be an individual state in a Europe of many individual states some of which are developing in very unpleasant ways. David Cameron never implied that Brexit would lead to WWIII - that was Boris's fertile imagination - but we have been there before and this scenario is ripe for conflict of some kind - perhaps in the East with an expansionist Russia keen to take advantage. The stay and improve option is not easy either. The EU is very far from bridging the democratic deficit but it is slowly moving in the right direction (e.g. the parliament has moved from being essentially advisory to having a veto), has some impressive achievements in promoting democracy in Europe (e.g. the incorporation of the ex-totalitarian countries of Eastern Europe), is more democratic them many realise (e.g. elected MEPs that are prepared to contribute, can and do sit on committees and participate in policy-making just as MPs do in the UK) , and if the EU should no longer be benign we can withdraw - an option that is not available to the people if we should get an undemocratic national government.
- Mark Frank

Dr. Wollaston, Sitting on the fence simply will not do, I'm afraid. Whether it's £180 million a week or £350 million a week that we hand over to the EU is hardly the question posed by this Referendum. I find it staggering that even Conservative MP's hesitate when the decision is so clear - based on the sanctity of our democratic tradition and ancient sovereignty. Has the blood price for our independence been so quickly forgotten? There will never be an occasion when we should hand over our sovereignty and the future of our Nation to un-elected and unaccountable beurocrats - even for marginal at best, short-term assurances of continued prosperity! The EU is a relic from the past that serves the interests of banks, politicians and civil servants - fast collapsing under the weight of its' own contradictions. 'Democratic deficit' hardly covers it, Dr. Wollaston. The EU is simply a shrinking protectionist racket that is hopelessly out of touch with modern economics. We can't run and hide behind it's walls. Commerce is King and if we remember why we have been successful for 600 years then the EU becomes just one more continental empire built on sand. Our future is in a global economy! If you have the integrity which many of us believe you have then you must surely stand against Cameron's Project Fear and against the tyranny of the EU.
- Rupert Hanmer Grant

I just spent a lovely night at the Dartmouth, Royal Castle Hotel. Pretty much all their staff (who served us anyway) came from all over Europe. They were polite, hard working, really lovely. Anyone supporting Brexit, including you Sarah Wollaston, should go down to Dartmouth and explain to these people why they are not welcome in our country.
- Piere Morley

Dear oh dear. If the rumours in tonight's Telegraph are true then I am genuinely sorry. Quite how the use of one statistic by (some of) the people campaigning for a Leave vote can change the entire fundamentals of the choice faced by this country is anyone's guess. It is possible to respectfully disagree about this subject, but to change one's mind on such a basis is simply not worthy of a elected representative. I won't comment again here, and I will no longer vote Tory in such circumstances.
- George, Paignton

So the lady has now turned into a Remainer . I hope Dave has made it worthwhile for you Sarah ; a peerage perhaps? Then of course you lied in your support for Cameron over bombing Syria with your assertion that the RAF would use Brimstone missiles . You didn't have a clue before Cameron's mob handed you your speech what a Brimstone missile was. Needless to say no Brimstone missiles have been used by the RAF. This will leave many people very bitter with you ; the only chance to escape the pending European Superstate dictatorship and you prefer to do a Quisling.
- Peter Thompson

I have to assume that either (a) you weren't telling the truth when you set out the case for Leave in the Dartmouth Chronicle on Sunday or (b) you aren't telling the truth now.
- Sean Fear

Very disapointed in you.David Cameron's project fear is worse than anything the Leave group have done or said.Were you always a remainder and are trying to do maximum damage. t doesn't make sense.
- Maria Hutchins

I'm very suprised at tonight news as previously I respected you as a strong independently minded MP whether remain or leave. But now Im not sure why anyone should believe another word you say. Only 3 days ago an article with your name was published for Dartouth Today stating ''... I am optimistic for our future, I believe the balance of our national interest now lies outside the EU and I will vote to leave ''.. Now to turn to remain just over the use of a single statistic is pure madness. You are now utterly unbelievable !! . If you genuinely believed in leaving the EU and honourably disagreed with the use of this single number then you should have publicly argued your case. But always be true to your beliefs, perhaps resign from leave campaign while still advocating leaving the EU. That would be the honourable and strong thing to do. Instead you've apparently now become a Remainer . So I guess you think their figures and statistics are more believable ? This beggars belief ! ..The remain campaign which you previously criticised has consitently lied and engineered the most OTT ridiculous campaign ever . Im sorry but many people will only conclude that George & Dave offered you enough sweeties to make you swtich. Im afraid you remainers in the Tory Party are destroying all your credibility. Why should Tory voters like me ever vote for you again ?
- Richard

The plan all along, a contrived defection. I hope you had a better grasp of medicine than you do of the EU or reality. You're obviously not bothered by Osborne's fantastical fiscal figures which have been debunked. p.s Totnes of course has really bore the brunt of migration, it's probably almost in double figures, so you are well placed to understand the very real concerns and fears of the public.
- James Lay

Dear Sarah, before this referendum I was completely ignorant to politics and had no real interest at all but this referendum, and my husbands encouragement for me to learn and research the truth, has really inspired me. I've now learnt so much about EU & UK politics and the importance of the UK staying in the EU as a leading nation. I had already formed the opinion some time ago that you are a decent, honest politician (few and far between unfortunately), even when you were voting Brexit and I think it's very honest and honourable of you to be brave enough to publicly change your mind, after considering all the facts and lies. However, in Boris' case I think it was dishonourable of him to change his mind as I believe he only did it to further his career. You are the type of politician this country needs....it's so important to always be true to yourself. Kind regards, Jo
- Joanne Coole

MP goes back on her word to join those who habitually go back on their words. Democratically-elected MP pledges support for an undemocratic organisation. Voters would be foolish to trust such a person again. We will remember.
- Ian G

Regarding Joanne comment above.....I’m sorry but I think this is very naive. We are not a leading nation within the EU. We should be but we most definitely not and I note the lack of reasoning as to why you think this. If we were a leading nation then Mr Cameron’s recent ‘renegotiation’ would have comprised of REAL REFORMS including such areas of immigration, subsidiarity, democracy and parliamentary control. Instead we got empty meaningless reforms dressed up as if they were real thing (eg. red cards, benefits etc). As for the 'truth', I wonder where this 'truth' she reads comes from. Instead many people are looking at Sarah's sudden change of heart and concluding that Sarah is doing this for her own career. I wonder what dark threats were recently thrown at Sarah, Jonny Mercer and Kelly Tolhurst ? In the last few days all 3 have miraculously changed their views from pro-brexit to pro-remain . This is unfortunately the grubby reality of politics and currently Cameron/Osborne appear to be the masters of using bullying tactics to try to get their way. Unfortunately for them not everyone believes them . Unfortunately for Sarah she is totally expendable to Cameron even if remain wins and if as I predict Leave wins she will not be trusted again. I say this with regret as I previously believed Sarah to be a very decent MP. But the key here is with our Westminster politicians is that if WE don’t like them , then WE can kick them out. That’s our UK democracy. Conversely the EU is anti-democratic and nothing is changing I would suggest Joanne researches Margaret Thatcher and the EEC/EU. This was my introduction to politics as a young teenager in 1990 . I remember Margaret Thatcher being stabbed in the back and destroyed by a treacherous cabinet for speaking the truth about Europe. She was a true leader who wouldn’t have just made nice sounding speeches about EU reform and then having empty bland renegotiations. She would have delivered reform OR she would have left the EU. She was no fool . She prophesied exactly where the EEC was going with the Maastricht treaty and a federal Europe (EU). Before she was destroyed she famously said ‘No No No’ in response to Jacques Dolors . He was the European Commission president who called for the European Parliament to be the democratic body of the European Community, the commission to be the executive and the Council of Ministers to be the senate. And she predicted the eroding of the nation state by the EU by signing Maastricht. Well guess what – that’s exactly what’s occurred before our very eyes. Try reseaching that !
- Richard

Dear Sarah I watched Scotland 2016 on the 7th June and a MSP from Sweden said the EU is planning to introduce EU national insurance number for all EU citizens and in time all income tax will go straight to Brussels. If this is the case as I believe it is as I have read about the EU wanting to take over all welfare can you give assurance they will support the NHS I would also like to say the true cost of being in the EU is far greater than is talked about when you take in --- The cost to UK is set to go up that is why they have not yet put forward this years figures and they are going to try and force UK to take on the euro. 2.4 billion in vat paid direct to EU 1.7 billion" punishment for success " because we had a higher growth than expected 642 million fine for poor accounting on farm subsides ( from our own money ). 1 billion towards bail out of Greece. 150 million for not flying EU flag on projects partly funded by EU with our own money. 300 million fine per year till we meet pollution targets set by EU. 900 million per year to treat EU tourists on NHS. 22 billion to France to help boost French economy. 40 million in lost revenue in EU student loans which are unpaid and the students have disappeared back to EU. 5% vat higher costs than any other EU country for our energy bills. You could also add in 300 million costs to businesses for EU red tape. With EU water directive, which makes it virtually impossible to dredge rivers, means flooding and this has cost people and insurance companies millions. The EU has also forced the UK government to pay back tax taken from big companies when they have went to EU . The TTIP deal listening to a reporter talking to the EU trade commissioner about TTIP and all the protesting about the deal would this not lead to the deal being dropped as it stood she was told by the commissioner that she did not take her remit from the European people. I have looked into this a lot as I have two disabled sons and I worry what will be added from the EU if we remain I know they are holding back on a lot of new legislation and the fact the deal our PM has is still to go before the EU but the new legislation may well supersede his deal. I hope if the result is to remain we do not regret this in a big way. I hope to that the NHS will be safe but I think some of the money mentioned above would be better of spent at home rather than the EU. I was very angry the other night when a ex forces man staying in Spain had to come back to the UK as they were not going to pay for his meds anymore HOW MUCH DOES THE UK PAY TO OTHER EU COUNTRIES TOWARDS HEALTH CARE ?????????.
- D Owen

I find your reasons for defecting from Leave to Remain confusing. You don't want to campaign for Leave because of the £350m figure 'simply isn't true' - this is gross amount ring fenced for EU so it is an accurate figure, but you don't have absolutely no problem with the £4,300 figure used by Remain which has been proven to be an outright lie...
- Mark Williams

Dear Sarah, Sorry to hear about your change of heart. There has been very little new hard information recently, except perhaps immigration figures from ONS, just more and more outlandish claims, based on the spun statistics, by both sides. I will be voting for Leave and nothing will change my mind, however I will also be doing a proxy vote by post for a respected relation who wishes us to Remain. Thus both our votes will be negated. I don't have to, but it is to me, the decent British thing to do. We must all follow our inner feelings whilst also respecting the views of others. Good Luck in the future whichever path we choose.
- Spa

Whilst I admire Sarah's stance regarding the lying statistics, I do ask her to consider why she supports the greater lie by her silence.That lie of course is the fact that all the UK treaties since the first treaty of Rome were signed contrary to our laws. This was made clear to Prime minister Edward Heath in a letter to him by the top law officer at the time Lord Kilmuir. Because of the explosive content of this letter it was kept hidden for over 30 years and even today very few know of it;s existence because all goverments since 1972 have given notices to the medias stopping them discussing the subject or even memtioning it's existence.Fortunately this secrecy was so all pervasive that the parliament petitions committee did not realise the significance of the petition it accepted, "We require parliament to debate Lord Kilmuir's letter to prime minister Edward Heath", Now Sarah . are you honest enough to call a media conference and insist it goes out live, otherwise it will be censored, and tell the public about the Kilmuir letter. Alternatively you could make a point of order and ask the speaker to rule on the legal points made in the letter. The letter can be read here by following the link, https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/122770
- John Timbrell

Are you up for the okey cokey? Think you would be great at it.
- john

hello, I can respect someones decision to change their mind but find it curious that you are keen for correct data & transparency in the figures when the remain side are constantly quoting that migrants contribute more than in tax than they take out! These figures also are seriously questionable. A huge number of those migrants will be unskilled
- Ruth

Vote leave never,ever said that the 350mill would go back to the NHS
- Colonel blimp

I am old enough to have been part of the original referendum regarding entry into a much smaller EU. With all its undoubted faults I still believe w are safer, more prosperous etc.etc. within the EU than outside it. Your bravery in sharing your decision to leave an organisation which you feel unable to support has restored some of my faith in MPs. I have felt disillusioned, disenfranchised and powerless to change a system which I feel is run by those who seek self aggrandisement rather than an opportunity to serve the community and electorate as a whole. One swallow does not make a summer and your gesture may not have a great effect on the debate as a whole. There are many comments in this blog which I find cynical and unworthy. Good luck to us all.
- Yvonne

Well what a turncoat and a disgrace to the medical profession to boot. What ever the exact amount we give to the EU are you happy that in many areas of the UK individuals are waiting several weeks for an appointment with a GP. Personally I have just had to wait 3 weeks just for a telephone appointment with my GP. At a Patient Participation Group meeting I attended this week it was stated that 20% of GP vacancies countrywide remain unfilled. I would suggest that being in the EU and throwing millions of pounds at it daily is not particularly contributing to that problem. Do you condone the fact that the EU operates at great cost from both Brussels and Strasbourg. This includes the fact that MEPs and staff decant from Brussels to Strasbourg for 4 days a month at a yearly cost of £93 million a year? How about the EU visitors center that cost 21 million euros are you ok with that? These are just 2 examples of gross waste of funds and all you give as an excuse for jumping ship is the possible inaccuracy of how much the NHS may gain when we vote to leave. Basically you are happy to "jump in bed" with scaremongering Cameron and his fat cats from both sides of the Atlantic to enable the EU "gravy train" to continue to grow at our expense!!!
- Ivor Williams

you are a disgrace, I do hope the position /job offers you have been bribed with are enough to get over your disregard of the British people and Democracy.. shame shame shame on you...
- wayne andrews

I thought you were amongst the few politicians to command respect, who had showed some integrity, and I very much regret that you have decided to join Project Fear in such a contrived and dishonest manner. Were you leaned on or worse? Both my late father and my great aunt have had to rely on the NHS in recent times. Our family's experience is manifestly clear; the NHS is under enormous pressure. Whilst there was much to praise, we were also appalled by the shocking communication, poor language skills and inept leadership. Any amount of additional spend to the NHS from money saved by leaving the EU/Brussels bureaucratic waste machine would be most welcome; why wouldn't such an opportunity be taken, not least by a Conservative government happy to lean on Simon Stevens to accept £8Bn rather than the £15Bn he considered was necessary in the next five years or to allow Big Pharma to continue to take vast profits with over-inflated pricing? There are so many untruths and unknowns from the Remain camp that I'm amazed that anyone can be so gullible or naive as to believe their cant. The EU has proven to be dysfunctional (look at the Eurozone and immigration), economically protectionist and inefficient and profligate beyond accountability and reform. So what happens to the NHS with unfettered immigration? Will you still be holding the Government to account in the select committee?
- John Langley

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17 APR 2016

Community Hospitals; a precious community resource

Our community hospitals are immensely valued and so any changes, especially those that could lead to bed closures are a serious concern. Community hospitals are about far more than their bricks and mortar, they are at the heart of delivering a service to local communities that allows people to be cared for closer to home, sometimes to be able to be cared for near loved ones at the end of their lives or to avoid having to be admitted to a larger hospital too far away for friends and family to be able to visit. Community hospitals provide personal, high quality and supportive care and are extraordinarily important to all the communities and individuals they serve.

To be clear, I do not want Paignton or Dartmouth hospitals to close. But our ageing population and the rising demand for services especially as a result of the growing number of people living with long term conditions mean that those planning services have to look at how we can care for as many people as possible close to home within the resources available. That means looking at the whole system of primary care, community nursing, social care, mental health services and voluntary services alongside community hospitals and Torbay hospital. We cannot look at them in isolation.

Across South Devon our primary care and community services are under great pressure with difficulty recruiting staff and in some cases working from totally inadequate premises. The closure of the minor injuries service at Dartmouth happened because they could not recruit or retain the highly skilled staff to maintain a safe level of service. Local health and social care is also under great financial pressure and our Clinical Commissioning Group is on course for a £15million shortfall in 2016/17.

Torbay and South Devon Foundation Trust and the CCG will be publishing their final plans on April 22nd but it is worth looking now at the links from the CCG website for Paignton and Brixham as well as Moor to Sea. These set out the challenges around age, deprivation and health inequality as well as the financial pressures facing our local area alongside the draft proposals.

If the plans just involve cuts to services and beds I will not support them. If a strong case can be presented for how money would be invested in genuinely improving services for patients then I think there must be a clear promise about how that will be guaranteed and greater detail on what it will look like.

The beds that are so valued by communities, close to home, can sometimes be provided as beds with extra support within a nursing home or residential care but there must be complete honesty about what the money saved, estimated at £3.9m would be invested in to make the overall service better at allowing people to be supported in their own homes without needing hospital admission in the first place.

Our community hospitals were gifted to local communities and supported over many years by generous donations and bequests. If any are sold, and it remains a big if, that resource must stay for the benefit of the local communities to which they were gifted and be used to build primary and community care facilities that are fit for the needs of today's patients. Those changes must have the support of communities and that will only come if the case can be clearly made for why the service could be better if provided in a different way. We know for example that NHS community bridge workers working alongside voluntary services can make a great difference in supporting people as they leave hospital and in reducing the risk of unnecessary admission. Community teams can include physiotherapists, occupational therapists and community mental health professionals as well as community nursing and social care but they need a base. Multidisciplinary teams can work even better if located alongside primary care so the consultation needs to set out a vision for the whole service and clear evidence for why that would be better than our highly valued local network of existing community hospitals. There is a strong case for community hospitals to do more, not less but that may mean using them in a different way focusing on prevention and care for people living with long term conditions.

There is not enough detail in the draft proposals on how the new arrangements would improve or work alongside GP services and far more detail is needed about where nursing home or residential 'intermediate care' beds would be provided if not at the local community hospital. The proposed closure of 28 beds at Paignton and 16 at Dartmouth would be a great loss and local people will need a clear explanation of how the money saved from closures would be invested both to improve services for local people and allow care to provided more efficiently rather than it just being sucked into plugging a financial gap.Whilst some admissions can be avoided with better community care, that is not always going to be the case. Torbay hospital is already under pressure and, without a clear plan for community beds, there is a danger that we could see people being admitted to even more costly hospital beds further from home as well as greater difficulty discharging patients at the end of their stay, one of the main causes of delays in casualty departments. It is very important that the beds from St Kildas are also taken into account.

The proposed closure of minor injuries units also means more people turning up in A&E from where they are more likely to be admitted unless there are really effective measures in place to avoid this. Anyone who has tried getting from Brixham to Torbay at peak times in the summer will know how difficult this can be and a Brixham hub should include access to a MIU in my view.

Amongst the many principles set out for the proposed reorganisation, there is a specific reference to improving life expectancy especially in the most deprived areas. There is a serious question therefore about the impact of closures on our most deprived communities in Townstal and Paignton and what services would be put in their place to reduce inequality and improve health and wellbeing.

I will be closely studying the final plans once these are published and attending as many of the community consultation meetings as possible. As Paignton hospital is in the Torbay Parliamentary constituency, Kevin Foster MP will be leading the discussions on the proposals there whilst I will be doing so for Brixham and Dartmouth hospitals. We will be working together as people from across the Bay use and value all our community hospitals.


Dartmouth Hospital is seen as prime real estate. It'll be sold to the highest bidder and turned into luxury waterside penthouses.
- Anon

as both Sarah and Kevin Know that in truth the deal has already been done all this rubbish about public consultation is a smoke screen the true Conservative policy is to CUT and promise to invest in better alternatives ,which will not happen this is yet another move to eventually have the N H S dismantled and private profiteer organizations to take over I fear for the younger generations that will be at the total mercy of corporations profit margins
- victor freeman

The problems with staffing have a lot to do with the gross lack of affordable housing. The problem with housing is that too many houses are being built to be sold on the open market to the highest bidders. The solution to the housing problem could well be the solution to the staffing problem - build more decent affordable housing.
- Victoria Trow

If there is closure of some community hospitals it is my understanding that staff that work in these hospitals are expected to offer an intermediate care service that would prevent hospital addmisions and allow people to remain in their own homes. Whilst this is a good idea and no doubt many people would prefer to remain and be nursed at home ,it would prove extremely difficult in practice. Many staff do not have their own transport and rely on public transport or lifts to work. How are these staff going to deliver a service in an area that has many rural and outlying villages . Its a logistical nightmare and if two staff are required to attend a patient that may have mobility problems and need the assistance'of two staff ,then the problem becomes even greater. Has anyone actually worked out how much more time and effort in delivering this service is likely to cost?
- valerie Husband

The loss of the MIU at Dartmouth is a very regrettable event. With the population of Dartmouth and Kingswear, as well as Kingsbridge/Salcombe and surrounding holiday sites swelling to capacity in the summer months, it puts lives at risk--especially children's--during these periods. If people are meant to travel to Totnes or Torbay for help it could mean people fail to get needed attention. A minor injury (if not addressed in a timely way) can become more serious and perhaps disfiguring if help is not prompt and effective. Dartmouth hospital needs to be saved not only because of the community element of care to local people, but also to reinstate, as soon as is practical, the MIU. The lifeblood of the area is tourism, and if the South Hams cannot take care of its own communities, it won't be able to care for visitors either. One would think that with all the private money pumped into the area for real estate and tourism, that a decent emergency and urgent care facility would be a basic priority of the local commissioning groups and councils.
- Prana Simon

I really do not want any small hospital to close. As we do not have Convalescence homes any more we need feeder hospitals to allow beds to become free in the main hospitals. . It also allows patients with less serious complaints to be nursed nearer home even though nursing patients in their home can be valuable at times. The cost of care homes is extortionate. For example, my mother needs an urgent cardiac procedure. The waiting time for an urgent procedure is 6-8 weeks. My mother is desperate for a replacement hip and at present is immobile. On her surprise on the time the Consultant commented that he had to cancel all his operations that day as there were no beds and that the NHS was "falling to pieces" . We need more beds, consultants, nurses etc and more local facilities. Travelling from Bude to Plymouth each day for a visit? Just think of that toll on families.
- Anon

Is the NHS safe, or soon to be franchised out ? Apparently a young man at Totnes Station yesterday had to wait 3 hours for an ambulance after hurting his back.
- worried devonian

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04 APR 2016

In this junior doctors row, both sides have lost sight of the patient

I wrote the following article for the Guardian

I have great respect for junior doctors; it has always been a demanding role. Alongside my clinical practice, I spent over a decade teaching them before changing my initials from GP to MP. I should also declare a personal interest as my daughter is one of them, albeit currently working in Australia.

There is a long tradition of juniors spending a year or two abroad early in their careers before settling down to specialist training back in the UK, but now there is a genuine concern about the balance between leavers and returners. Many of my daughter's colleagues are not planning to join her on the journey home next year and there has been a marked increase in the numbers applying for certificates to work overseas.

The toxic dispute between the government and our core medical workforce risks driving an exodus of skills that we cannot afford to lose.

The contract sits like a festering boil with neither side ready to agree a way forward, and the dispute looks set to erupt into a dangerous full walkout by junior doctors. The British Medical Association (BMA) claims that the contract will harm patients by stretching doctors too thinly across seven days while reducing their take-home pay. The government insists that patients are being put at risk by understaffing at the weekends and that the contract reduces doctors' maximum hours and consecutive shifts while increasing basic pay by 13.5%.

The Department of Health and the BMA have spent so long shouting at cross purposes that they have forgotten their common purpose. In using them as pawns, both sides have lost sight of patients, the very people both claim to want to protect.

It was perfectly reasonable for the government to try to tackle the higher mortality at 30 days for those admitted to hospital at weekends, but entirely unreasonable to blunder on asserting that the new contract is the answer. Ministers are undermining their case and inflaming tensions by misquoting the evidence, which points more to the need to improve senior decision-making, nursing cover and rapid access to investigations at the weekends than to increase junior doctor cover. If the objective is to tackle excess weekend mortality at 30 days, the government should have followed the evidence and focused elsewhere.

It seems to me that the contract is more about the manifesto commitment to a seven-day NHS and the perceived barrier of premium Saturday pay rates. There needs to be a far clearer and more consistent definition of what the government means by a seven-day NHS and how it will be staffed and funded. Is it about convenient seven-day access to routine services and surgery, or about making sure that urgent and emergency care is available to the same standard every day of the week?

The Department of Health should have been more robust with No 10 that a routine seven-day NHS is unachievable within the current workforce and financial pressures and refused to accept underfunded new commitments.

Mine was the last generation of doctors to endure crushingly unsafe 120-hour working weeks and I have no romantic nostalgia for the 72-hour shifts commonplace in the late 1980s. Tired doctors can be dangerous doctors. What struck me, however, from the juniors I taught before coming to parliament, was that they felt every bit as exhausted and demoralised, not through lack of sleep but because while on duty they too often felt stretched to the limit. Medicine has also lost the supportive team structures and flexibility to work near partners and accommodation that once compensated for the stresses of the job. Today's juniors, feeling powerless and undervalued, are now prepared to walk out on their patients – but that will have lasting consequences.

A failure to recognise this until too late in the negotiations, alongside a disastrously timed and clumsy announcement, risks scuppering an important opportunity for change. The appointment of Professor Sue Bailey, chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, to examine how to improve juniors' working lives, should have been unequivocally welcomed by the BMA. Anyone who knows her will know that Prof Bailey is no mouthpiece for government and would be a powerful advocate for change.

Pressing ahead with a full walkout however, will serve only to harden attitudes and solves nothing. Most importantly, it will be disastrous for patients. The BMA has no doubt calculated that people will blame the government, but a strike that leaves patients without junior cover even for emergencies puts lives at risk. It cannot justify such drastic action by claiming to protect patients.

Given the agreement to pay the premium rate all day to any doctor working one Saturday or more every month, how can it be argued that patients will be safer only if all Saturdays are paid at the premium rate, however infrequently worked? Given the scale of concessions and protections on maximum hours and consecutive shifts, the BMA could have declared victory and moved on to focus on the deeper and longstanding causes of discontent.

Junior doctors are understandably concerned about being pressured into working unsafe hours despite the proposed safeguards, but this was all the more reason to work with Prof Bailey and new provisions in the contract to make sure that whistle-blowers are confident to come forward and fully protected when they do.

Both sides now need to put patients first and step back from this dispute. The government should do as it promised under the Health and Social Care Act and to stop trying to micromanage the NHS. If there was a clearer definition of their purpose behind a seven-day NHS, the service could better design the solutions and set out the costs.

It would also help for the government to make a clear statement of the obvious: that come August, junior doctors will see little change to their shift patterns. The simple reason is that there are not yet enough of them to achieve a truly seven-day service. That ambition requires a change in the workforce and a commitment to supporting and working alongside it rather than in an atmosphere of conflict.

NHS England, Health Education England and the BMA should work with Prof Bailey to undertake a fundamental review of junior doctors' training programmes, responsibilities and working lives, including facilitating them to coordinate placements with partners. Many more of their duties could be shared with others such as pharmacists, physician associates and admin staff. Patients are already benefiting from the greater use of the professional skills of specialist nurses and far more could be achieved.

In some hospitals, such as Salford Royal in Manchester, electronic patient records are finally reducing the scandalous waste of time and resources that come with duplication and paper trails. More could be done to make sure that best practice benefits patients everywhere.

A constructive relationship between doctors and government will take time to rebuild; it cannot be imposed and it will not happen unless both sides put patients first and start listening. Saving lives must take priority over saving face.


I agree fully with you when you say: "The Department of Health should have been more robust with No 10 that a routine seven-day NHS is unachievable within the current workforce and financial pressures and refused to accept underfunded new commitments." The problem is that government has pressed ahead with the plan without the additional funding required. This is the crux of the dispute - although the genuine concerns of doctors have since been magnified ten-fold into utter anger and frustration by the way in which Jeremy Hunt has treated them. The BMA have asked for talks to resume - but received the response that 'the matter is closed'. The most important thing now is for the threat of imposition to be removed so talking can start again. Without talks nothing can move forward and the situation can only worsen.
- Jonathan

What a shame that you are not our Health Minister. Our daughter is a new GP. Having seen her experience in training and now as a salaried GP I can only say that there is a significant void in the planning and delivery of the NHS' staffing requirements and a profoundly callous approach to the employment and development of valuable and dedicated young professionals. We desperately need a Health Minister who understands the issues and who commands the respect of staff and patients alike, able to go beyond sloganeering into long-term planning.
- David H

Took the liberty of writing you in as my choice for Leader in the latest Con Home survey. Cons need to be seen to be safe with public services. I greatly valued this article, but I'm still not clear about the money. How much is the "premium rate", and how much might be lost with the new contract please?
- John Bald

Dear Dr Wollaston, I read your "in a personal capacity" article in the Guardian pointing out that available evidence suggests that increased weekend-admission-mortality is due, not to the lack of junior doctors on duty but to poor senior decision-making, inadequate nursing cover and insufficiently rapid access to investigations at the weekend. As a Conservative MP, a doctor and the Chair of the health select comittee, are you not able/allowed to convey this simple piece of information to Mr Hunt and Mr Cameron? Is it that you are ignored? Your puzzled colleague, Miriam Wohl, MB ChB, JCCCCert, MSTAT
- Dr M Wohl

Can anyone explain to me why it is that in a country like ours where we have thousands of highly qualified young people lining up to study medicine and dentistry we only have half the amount of doctors and a third the amount of dentists per capita compared to a country like Greece ,which is relatively poorer. On top of that many of our doctors come from countries much poorer than ourselves. This is a problem that has dogged the NHS since its inception, and this artificial shortage has a knock on effect throughout the service??????
- michael dillon

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18 MAR 2016

Taxing sugary drinks companies helps to boost funding for children's sport

George Osborne's announcement in the Budget that he wants to help fight childhood obesity through a tax on sugary drinks has provoked the usual grumbles. But this is not a 'pious, regressive absurdity', as some claim. It is practical action that will help to tackle an avoidable health disaster for the nation's children, a quarter of whom from the most disadvantaged families are leaving primary school not just overweight but obese. This is double the rate for the most advantaged children and the inequality gap is rising every year. If that had no consequences for them, there would be no case for action, but obesity blights their future health and life chances. It also adds to the rising and unsustainable bill for the NHS of at least £5bn per year.

Finally, the manufacturers and importers of sugary drinks have an incentive to reduce the sugar content of their products so that they are below the 5 or 8g/100ml thresholds if they are to avoid paying increasing levels of levy.

'Why pick on sugary drinks?' bleat some of the manufacturers. Of course they are not the only cause, and this measure wouldn't work in isolation, but sugary drinks are the single biggest source of sugar intake in older children and teenagers' diets, making up around 29% of the total. These are wasted calories with no nutritional value whatsoever. Sugary drinks are also rotting children's teeth and, at a time when admission for dental extraction is also the leading cause for hospital admission for young children, isn't it time that manufacturers took some responsibility?

I hope they were listening to the Chancellor as he pointed out that passing the levy on in the form of a price differential at point of sale would have a further impact on consumption. In Mexico, there was a 17% fall in sales of sugary drinks amongst the heaviest users one year after a modest differential in the form of a sugary drinks tax. It is childhood obesity that is regressive, not a levy that will make a positive difference, especially because it will most benefit disadvantaged children through doubling the school sports premium and funding for breakfast clubs.

Manufacturers may choose to swallow the costs themselves, but the tax could still push them to get on with cutting down on the amount of sugar in their products, in the same way as we have successfully cut back on salt in food.

This is a victory for children's health and manufacturers and retailers should now step up to the plate, show that they understand the scale of the problem, embrace the change and prioritise the health of their customers.


Do you think there is a risk of diet drinks, with their proven to be carcinogenic sweeteners (eg aspartame) becoming even more prevalent, and there being significant unintended consequences in the long run?
- tim

Well done Sarah in supporting a sugar tax that is blighting disadvantaged families and the NHS with an obesity crisis. As you mention it does appear to be working in Mexico but Tim makes a very valid point in that any substitute should be safe and not lead to long term side effects of a different nature.I believe Sucralose has been deemed to be a safe alternative.
- John Roadknight

It is not safe at all John!, reinforcing Tim's and my own very valid point. We need to look very long term, fail safe, in fact! David
- David Cassell

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21 FEB 2016

Britain Will Be Stronger Out of a Federal EU

The European Union has missed an important opportunity for reforms that could have benefited all its member states and their citizens.

As a result, the prime minister has returned with a threadbare deal that has highlighted our powerlessness to effect institutional change. If this is the very best that can be grudgingly conceded when EU leaders express concern at the prospect of a British exit, what hope is there of any meaningful reform in the future?

Come the referendum in June, the deal will be a distant memory and unlikely to influence decision-making so much as gut reaction and weighing the balance of individual and national interest. I expect that those campaigning for us to remain in the EU will win the day if they can persuade people that doing so is the only way to guarantee security and prosperity. They will not win because people have any love for the institution itself.

Referendums have a tendency to deliver the status quo. The point needs to be made, however, that neither choice delivers the status quo because, like it or not, within a decade our relationship with the EU will look radically different, whatever the outcome. Last week's deal has underlined the reality that our Eurozone partners are continuing their separate journey towards full political and monetary union. We will inevitably be bound by and disadvantaged by the decisions they make in their own interest.

The time has come for us to frame a new independent relationship as good neighbours rather than remain a discontented junior partner picking up the bills but with no power to influence the rules of the club.

The costs go far beyond our considerable net financial contribution, annually variable but between £8.5bn and £10.5bn over the past three years. The Common Fisheries Policy has been disastrous both for fish stocks and for our once thriving industry. Nearly a quarter of our quota is now landed overseas by a single Dutch trawler and policy has been mishandled for decades with no accountability to parliament. There is a tendency to think of EU regulations and the European Court of Justice as benign, but interference with decisions like minimum unit pricing in Scotland show the power of big business interests to win out over important public health protections.

The concern about the level of migration is genuine and could have been addressed but the EU has failed to take the opportunity for measured and sensible reforms to benefits. The emergency brake is cosmetic, merely adding rafts of bureaucratic complexity with no meaningful impact on migration.

For all the dire warnings from Project Fear, I simply do not believe that co-operation on issues as important as trade, security, defence and science would collapse in the event of a vote to leave. No possible good would come for either the EU or Britain in an acrimonious separation.

We would set out on a new path as the world's fifth largest economy, confident, outward looking, keen to maintain close co-operation with our European allies and open for business. We would regain control over our own laws and borders and be free to negotiate our own trade deals with emerging markets.

There would undoubtedly be turbulence in the short term but we should balance that against the long-term risks of remaining bound to an institution that we will never learn to love.

I am always struck by the scale of our disengagement from the EU. When I ask at public meetings, few people can name a single one of the MEPs; fewer still have ever contacted one. It is hard to see why they would bother, given the democratic deficit at the heart of the institution.

In June, we face tying ourselves in for the long term to be increasingly governed by a body that few understand or trust and whose powerful commissioners we cannot vote from office. For anyone concerned about issues such as TTIP or the "tampon tax", the reality is that these are the domain of the unelected and unaccountable in Brussels and the list will only get longer.

In the run-up to the referendum, the most compelling request I hear is for more information and the opportunity to debate the issues without the shouting or sneering. People want clear, unbiased information from trusted independent sources.

Commentators should also set out their own voting intention so that their messages can be judged accordingly. We should not shy away from any aspect of this debate but the public do not want a campaign that is dominated either by immigration or by Project Fear.

My vote will count for no more than anyone else's but, for what it's worth, I am optimistic for our future, I believe the balance of our national interest now lies outside the EU and I will be voting to leave


Sorry Sarah, but this a sad read. Descending level of argument and persuasion, lowest common denominators, isolationist. 'Tampon tax', 'project fear' - who is shouting and sneering? Predominantly negative. Bleak. Scary. Unpersuasive, weakening position that seems increasingly shallow intellectually. Will have to consider Health Select committee work with a much more careful and critical eye I think. Really disappointed. Bad bad call.
- Richard Stanley

Great Post - let's hope common sense prevails and the electorate of the UK stops our money being spent on the EU gravy train! PS Have the European Commiissions accounts ever been signed off by Audit, yet?
- David D

Sorry Richard Stanley but I think its a great post. Clearly "out" with a positive view ahead but still wanting the arguments aired by as many independents as possible. What's not to like..?!
- Tim Page

As a Uk taxpayer for over 50 years I take exception to the millions being wasted on the EU which could be better spent at home. The UK is an island and not part of the European continent and our laws should not be overruled by Brussells. Well done Dr Woollaston for making your postion clear by wanting out.
- Peter Clinton

Mr Cameron has returned from negotiations with little more than a bag of smoke and a few mirrors. The so-called "deal" that he has secured is worthless. So an "in" vote means nothing changes, while an "out" vote means we might have some chance to regain power over our own destiny, rather than be dictated to by an unelected crowd of trough-snufflers in Brussels. I can't help but wonder what ripples a Brexit might cause in the rest of Europe. Anyway, well said Dr W!
- Mike

It is certainly causing quite a few ripples in Scotland if you heard Nicola Sturgeon on the Andew Marr show last Sunday! The only divorce that is likely to occur on Brexit is the disintegration of the UK when Scotland leaves and reapplies to rejoin the EU! If I were one of the Footsie 100 CEOs' signing the letter in the "Times" today I would already be looking to relocate my headquarters north of the border. If I were one of the hundreds of thousands of UK pensioners happily living in Spain, France,Portugal and Cyprus, I would be extremely concerned at the plummeting pound caused by the current uncertainty and whether, on our exit, our reliance on the European Health Insurance Card Scheme would be affected. The citizens of Gibraltar must also be very alarmed if we Brexit and their land border with Spain is once again sealed. The EU will be weakened by our exit but will survive and we will no longer be able to rely on 500 million people and the world's largest trading bloc to shelter us from heavily, state subsidised goods coming from authoritarian countries like China and Russia. Yes, Peter we are an Island but no longer an empire and I am all too aware of that fact when there is a dispute in Calais and the M20 is grid locked and hundreds of lorries are stacked up hindering our 43% trade with our nearest neighbours that 3 million UK jobs are dependent upon! When it comes to bureaucracy Sarah, huge advances have been made in Fisheries with Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall playing a prominent role in abolishing discards and the UK FINALLY setting up Marine Conservation Sites! Instead of continually, complaining about EU bureaucracy it may be an idea to look closer to home! Stuart Goodall, the chief executive of the Confederation of Forest Industries is extremely frustrated at the "too bureaucratic" Government woodland creation grant scheme. Only 10% of land in England is wooded against an EU average of 38%! I thought wooded areas reduced the risk of flooding that many households have suffered this year.
- John Roadknight

With regard to the EU Accounts, I was under the impression that the only reason why the European Court of Auditors was unable to sign off the accounts for regional and social funds for 10 years was because the treaties did not give them the power to force national governments to disclose how the money had been spent. This was not the case for farm and fishing grants that were signed off. I understand that the above problem was resolved 6 or 7 years ago and the accounts have been signed off every year since.
- John Roadknight

I agree we should rid ourselves of the unnecessary bureaucracy of Brussels and we should be free to create trade treaties that suit our needs. However, we should stay in the EU, the benefits considerably outweigh the negatives. Norway and Switzerland sit ostensibly outside the EU and continue to contribute to the EU but have next to no say in how it the EU is run and suffer even more than we currently do (with the exception of the banking sector) from the volatility of exchange rates, oil prices and raw material price changes that can make a regional manufacturing unit and jobs redundant over night. A huge amount of our GDP depends on trade with the EU, harmonisation has created secure revenues that allow businesses to plan for the future and create jobs.In the future it will be our tech savvy children working with companies all over the EU that will in part create the wealth and tax flows that will support us our communities. We should be making it easier for them to compete not harder.
- Ged Yardy

Sorry Sarah; you have got this one wrong. Wrong strategically and wrong in relation to loyalty to the Conservative party.
- Malcolm Mackley

Dr Wollston is wise to carefully consider the implications of the federalization of the EU. We did not sign up for this in the EEC and neither did we imagine that it would become a club of 28 disparate nations dominated by the stifling maw of a massive bureaucratic administrative machine that hides its calamitous spending behind poorly drafted policies on auditing in earlier treaties. The economy. In my business I traded for over 30 years with companies in most of the present Member States and beyond. We gave our customers the products they needed, of the right quality and price and also delivered on time – result, a growing repeat order business. Our success owed absolutely nothing to the UK being a Member of the EEC nor the EU. The UK imports more from Member States than it exports to them, not simply because those suppliers are EU Members but because we get the goods and services we prefer, against offers from other sources. So people who scaremonger about the potential damage to our economy have little confidence in themselves, their companies nor the grit and determination of the people in our Nation. Laws Taxes and Sovereignty As a nation we need to demand the right to live under the laws and regulations agreed by our Parliament of MPs who can only remain in power by the will of the people they govern. The Federated EU will reduce our ability to do so, to an infinitesimal shadow of that right. Security The Politico/Administrative fiasco of the handling of the present immigrant Diaspora illustrates to me the abject failure of security offered by the politicians and administration of a combined 28 Member State organization (the EU). Scotland During the run up to the Referendum on Scotland “In or Out” of the UK, Nicola Sturgeon made much of demanding Scotland must have much more autonomy. Our Government listened and understood this demand and acted to give Scotland a great deal more “home control”. Now, Nicola Sturgeon is saying that if UK leaves the EU, she would fight to get Scotland in to the EU – what an extra ordinary volte-face in wanting to plunge the people of Scotland into a much much less responsive quagmire !!! In my travels, I have talked to hundreds of ordinary folk across Scandinavia, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain and recently Portugal. I can honestly say that I met some “on the fence ditherers” but the vast majority of ordinary folk I talked to right across the heartland of Europe are fed up with and distrustful of the present EU machine as it is now constituted and run. MEPs and Administrators beware the turning worm !!
- Bob Hattersley

I agree with your statement about the reasons for brexit. Those who want to stay in Europe do not explain the lack of democracy at the top of the EU. It has been an eye opener as to how long it has taken David Cameron to gain any kind of reform. If the prime minister himself believes further reform is needed - how does he think that can be achieved?
- Roger Whitehead

I think that the only quagmire that will result from a Brexit is an isolationist "Little England" that will be much diminished both economically and politically. When Scotland exits and the UK fractures will we still hold onto our seat as a permanent member in the UN Security Council? With English being the world's international language and many foreign CEOs being able to speak it,many overseas companies such as Nissan, Honda and Jaguar Landrover choose to set up their subsidiaries over here in order to access the world's largest single market. I certainly do not want to endanger our next generation's economy and security by a leap into the dark that no-one can determine.
- John Roadknight

I am afraid that I have much more confidence in our Prime Minister and Chancellor and the G20 finance ministers than I do with the Brexit campaigners who wish to play Russian Roulette with our economy and security and cannot guarantee a safe,prosperous, secure outcome to their gambling.The status quo may not be perfect but at least we know where we stand and David Cameron has fought very hard to win concessions and safeguards. Below is a recent BBC statement from our Chancellor. I note that he states "Britain" as opposed to "Great Britain" comprising all the countries that make up the UK. Presumably he has taken account of Scotland's exit from the UK! What will we call our fragmented nation after Scotland leaves? The chancellor told the BBC: "The financial leaders of the world's biggest countries have given their unanimous verdict and they say that a British exit from the EU would be a shock to the world economy - and if it's a shock to the world economy imagine what it would do to Britain." He added: "This isn't some adventurous journey into the unknown, with all the humour attached to it, this is deadly serious."
- John Roadknight

Pull up the drawbridge, put up a wall, it is an unfortunate and dangerous trend. It is damaging to the economy, national security and the future for our next generation. Better fix the shortcomings from within than no doubt be exposed to them outside.
- Paul Churcb

Sarah, if, as Ian Duncan Smith told Andrew Marr this morning the Le Touquet Agreement is such a "benefit" to the French, can you tell me why, when the Eurostar Terminal in Calais was being breached by migrants last year, the UK Government poured millions of pounds of taxpayers money into shoring up its defences? If it is such a "benefit" to the French to police and secure the "Calais Jungle" on their territory and prevent thousands of mainly English speaking migrants from being processed in Dover and Folkestone why were they not prepared to pay the cost in full? Could it be that David Cameron and Theresa May knew full well from speaking to Sir Peter Ricketts, until recently our French Ambassador, how fragile the agreement is and did not want a "Dover and Folkestone Jungle" whereby it would be up to UK Border Agency staff located in the UK to process thousands of migrant applications many of whom had destroyed their identities? As well as Ian Duncan Smith's pie in the sky belief that we would be able to secure a better deal than Norway and Switzerland (Most divorces to not end amicably!) he obviously did not hear his fellow Scot, Nicola Sturgeon on the same programme last Sunday say that if Scotland was forced against its will to leave the EU it would spark another referendum that would likely lead to the disintegration of the UK.
- John Roadknight

We both had a long, hard think about all the "for and against" arguments and reflected back on our vote to stay in the Common Market last time. My wife and I decided without any doubts that we want OUT. Having just heard that our MP is voting the same, I came to look at her arguments in this Blog. We couldn't have put it better! Just get the "Outs" together with a good strong leader and show the UK the way. Well done Sarah!
- Gordon

Out to what Gordon? That is the problem! No-one in the "out" campaign can DEFINITELY tell us what our future will be! It will pretty certainly be without Scotland!
- John Roadknight

So now we have the UK French Ambassador on this evening's Channel 4 news as well as our previous British French Ambassador telling us that on Brexit they have no idea whether the Le Touquet Agreement will be maintained that could well lead to thousands of English speaking migrants without identities in France being processed in the UK (probably minus Scotland!) as opposed to Calais. If I were a UK citizen living in Dover or Folkestone I personally would want to learn from Sarah and her Brexit followers what contingency plans she has in place to deal with the influx but unfortunately all we get when we ask pertinent questions is that we are contributing to "Project Fear"! If I were one of Sarah's constituents with family or friends living in Spain, Cyprus,France or Portugal and heard Matthew Hancock report that he did not know what the status of The European Health Insurance Card, that so many of us rely on when we holiday in the EU, would be if we Brexit I feel that I would have every right to be concerned. There are hundreds of thousands of UK citizens,many elderly,living out there that rely on this EU insurance and many would be forced back to the UK because they would either be denied private health cover or could not afford it. Is this "Project Fear"? Those of us who like the protection of the EU in connection with health care or protecting us against unfair competition from China and Russia are just asking questions Sarah and unfortunately all we get from you is "Project Fear" and no answers or contingency plans.
- John Roadknight

You don't always get what you want! Even Norway's Prime Minister would like to be part of the EU! Speaking to the BBC, Norway's prime minister, Erna Solberg, said she would like her country to be part of the EU because it lacked influence over important decision making and had "basically... left part of our democracy to Europe". Asked if she thought Britain could retain access to the single market without being subject to free movement of people, she said: "To believe you'll get everything you want without giving something back does not happen in any political body."
- John Roadknight

John R, whose blog is this? You've already written more than the MP, far less coherently, and most of it other people's opinion. You appear to have an excessive respect for those you consider "experts" (the chancellor, the Norwegian prime minister, FTSE 100 companies) and you are unable to assess their potential for conflict of interest, or for being just plain fallible in their predictions. For one thing, a person's position or seniority does not make their argument right, and for another, there are plenty of eminences, ex chancellors, business-people etc on the other side. To address but one of your arguments, no-one is saying we will get exactly what we want by leaving - but we are clearly not getting what we want by staying either. Leavers have made a judgement that by continuing as 1/28th of the current unwieldy, unresponsive, undemocratic hegemony we have little or no influence over anything in Europe. On leaving, we might get some influence, as well as the obvious benefit of sovereignty. This argument was beautifully illustrated when Cameron used his veto back around 2011; the Liberals wailed that this was "just not done", and that to be so rude would remove all influence we could have. So, by their logic and that of the remainers, we should go along with something we completely disagree with - not attempting to exert any influence - in order to retain influence! Also, don't insult our intelligence by talking about draw bridges, little England (neither is proposed by any serious leave campaigner), or the idea that the EU invented free trade or peace. We have had and can have both without the EU, nor does the EU look like having any positive impact on disasters like Putin, Middle East instability or the rise of extremists of all colours. Quite the opposite in fact. No doubt we need Europe-wide and world-wide cooperation; but let's dare to think a better structure than the EU could exist, and help bring it about. The EU is the FIFA of world politics.
- Tom Ball

Tom,as Sarah I am sure will endorse, I raised my concerns over our exit from the EU 5 years ago soon after she was elected. They were similar, apart from the very possible influx of English speaking migrants into this country, to all the ones I have raised on her two blogs so I am afraid it is a little demeaning of you to suggest that I am just taking "other people's opinion"! In relation to" unwieldy,unresponsive,undemocratic, hegemony perhaps it would be sensible to look a little closer to home before we once again start blaming all our woes on the EU! If you watched "Spotlight" last night you will have seen a scathing attack by our farmers on late subsidy payments due to Whitehall, DEFRA bureaucracy. There was then the case of patient medical notes being filed in a laundry bag so whenever we cast aspersions at our EU neighbours it would be a good idea to reflect on our own bureaucratic, inefficiencies.Philip Hammond very clearly set out the alternatives to our continuing EU membership yesterday and none of them remotely compares to the one negotiated by David Cameron recently that maintains our economic and political status in the world. I am afraid that all your arguments are drawn on hypotheses because you just do not know and have to rely on "project fear" and "dodgy dossiers" when you are presented with facts! I am sorry that you have little or no regard for CEOs of FTSE companies that employ millions of people and on which many of us depend upon for our pensions. I would much prefer to rely on their judgement as well as our Prime Minister and Chancellor than people promising us a land of milk and honey without any certainty as to how it will be achieved.I have not actually raised, as you pertain, the case of the EU and peace but being a post war child I remember how pleased my father and his close sailing friends were when we joined the EU. They all served and included Stanford Tuck, a Battle of Britain hero, my godfather with an MC from the desert campaign and Bill Dean a GP who volunteered to stay behind at Dunkirk,escaped 3 times and came back a skeleton after being put in solitary confinement after his third escape. My father several times took me back to his Oxford college to show me the memorial plaque with so many of his close friends on. The EU has a tremendous role to play in maintaining peace on our continent and that should never be forgotten. What will you do next time Spain seals its land border with Gibraltar and cannot rely on the EU for protection?
- John Roadknight

John you have successfully defeated a series of straw man arguments, none of which I made! I did not mention bureaucracy (this is a nebulous concept, hard to argue for or against, and by no means the preserve of the EU). Sure, let's improve DEFRA. I accept your point 100%. The fact that someone's medical notes got lost once is deplorable but entirely irrelevant to our discussion; I am sure you wouldn't use a one off UK-based mistake to argue for a Brussels take-over: I thought that sort of non sequitur was supposed to belong to the more irrational, anecdote-based out-ers. The other non sequitur is to say that only remainers know the future; you and the FTSE chaps (not all of them by the way) don't know what will happen for sure any more than I will, so to call their grim predictions "facts" is a misrepresentation - they are well informed opinion, educated guesses; I am sure in the short term there would indeed be some instability, but I trust and hope for medium and long term gains, but surely you can see that the CEOs' interest is themselves, not their employees or your pension. Leaving might create some administrative headaches for multi-nationals; I can live with that, and I am not sure that companies larger than many countries' GDP are an unmitigated good anyway. The remainers are gradually being forced to admit that trade would not halt overnight, they can't afford to make us a pariah, nor would 3 million jobs evaporate, a figure Nick Clegg used to bandy about. Threatening 3 million job losses is scare mongering, no other way to name it. Hundreds of small business owners wrote to the Telegraph this week advocating leaving - is their voice not important? I admire the 5 year longevity of your concerns - I myself am rarely so sure, and constantly question and reassess my opinions - but as with the appeal to arbitrary authority, the longevity of an opinion does not equate to infallibility - in fact it is more a marker that someone is not responding the the ever changing evidence. People thought the Earth was flat for centuries, they were still wrong. I am moved by your family's connection to WW2; they were truly heroes. But I humbly submit that the story doesn't support the conclusion you draw. The alternative to EU membership is not WW3. Don't allow the fear of a WW3 to justify all the wrongs of the EU. The EU did not bring about peace, nor can it claim to have preserved it, and were it to do so, it would be remarkably (but characteristically) arrogant. After WW2 it was the USA / UK / France (or more accurately the well-balanced antagonism between USA and USSR) which kept the "peace" of sorts, succeeded by NATO. The EU had nothing to do with it. It had the luxury of a largely pacifist outlook through the cold war, with very few arms, only because America protected it via its European bases.The EU then sat by while the Balkans reignited, and it was Clinton et al who finally ended that war; some say Germany helped start it by recognising Croatia but I wouldn't go so far myself. I am slightly contradicting myself here because as I say, the EU, despite its aspirations, is largely irrelevant when it comes to world peace. Its response to Putin over Georgia and Ukraine was pathetic, and merely emphasised the West's weakness (a wider issue, I'll admit). Or, more sympathetically to Russia, the EU provoked Putin by its aggressive economic imperialism in the old USSR, without then backing it up militarily; either way, an incompetent intervention which the UK and probably most other Euopean governments would never have countenanced. It wants political union between peoples who are so different in outlook and needs that they couldn't possibly want union. The only gain from political union is more power to a few unelected people. It is unresponsive in that we have no say in who governs it (unlike our own admittedly imperfect democracy) - even our PM couldn't influence appointments to the Commission - and when Ireland said "no" to the Lisbon treaty the EU merely threatened her and repeated the vote in order to get a different answer. Its monumental failure of Greece, Spain etc through the financial crisis - who would have been far better off outside the Euro - and its failure to recognise the mistakes made, is a sure sign that it is past its sell-by date. Its lunatic Schengen agreement, coupled with poor policing of borders, is another example. Of course we need peace, trade, treaties, migration etc but let's tear up the Brussels-based oligarchy and start again. It clearly has no desire or ability to change. Fair point about Spain and Gibraltar, but I am not sure the EU prevented that or dealt with it brilliantly; there is still clear enmity and non-cooperation, despite our apparent alliance, as there is with our French friends and their threats this week over Calais; I suppose one would have to appeal to international law or other conventions, which the Spanish were anyway breaking, alliance or not. Many conflicts have, after all, been resolved outside the EU paradigm. As for our political and economic status in the world, the former is largely historical and waning, but is partially maintained by our occasional clear leadership (Sierra Leone) or misguided first-in mentality (Libya), our still-active military, our UN-based diplomacy, and Trident; and our economic status is due to, er, our being the 5th largest world economy, not our EU membership. The more economically literate leavers point out that the EU in fact hampers our ability to trade with countries like China, India, Canada, Brazil... pie in the sky maybe, nostalgia, or just a longer memory for the centuries when we thrived as an independent nation... but there's only one way to find out. Respectfully,
- Tom Ball

Tom, you are quite right that the remainers do not know the future but we do know the status quo in that the UK is the 5th largest economy in the world, a member of the largest single market in the world with 500 million people on which 3 million jobs and 42% of our trade relies upon, is a NATO member,has a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and Scotland is still part of the UK. I am also still old enough to remember when the UK was the "sick" man of Europe with our economy lagging behind Italy and our plumbers,electricians and carpenters going over to Germany to find work on which the series "Auf Wiedersehen Pet" was based on. It is this scenario that I do not want to be repeated on a speculative leap into the dark.Instead of trying to refute Philip Hammond's analysis of the alternatives point by point I am afraid all that you can do is come up with "Prospect Fear" and "Dodgy Dossiers" because the reality is that as opposed to the status quo you just do not know what will come about on Brexit with most analysts believing it will be no better than Norway's, whose Prime Minister would like to join the EU! In relation to hundreds of small business owners writing to the "Telegraph" I would question why they are not trying harder to export their goods to our neighbours across the Channel. I believe that 45% of German small and medium sized businesses export their products as opposed to 19% of ours. This is probably due to our appalling linguistic skills. It can be quite disconcerting negotiating contracts when the other party suddenly reverts back to their native language with their colleagues and you cannot understand a word!Many of the countries you list like China, India,Canada and Brazil would like us to remain within the EU in order to access the world's largest single market as does the US both economically and strategically. I hugely value the number of foreign companies outside the EU who have set up their subsidiaries here in order to access the EU, and would hate to see companies like Nissan,Honda and Jaguar Rover possibly curtail their operations here and set up plants across the Channel. German companies like Siemens with their hospital scanner and wind turbine factories and BMW are also extremely concerned at the prospect of our exit.It makes perfect economic and business sense to first of all concentrate on the world's largest single market that is, at the most, a few hours or a couple of days away as opposed to weeks or months away or alternatively a costly and environmentally damaging flight away. I would also prefer to trade with a market that we hold so much more in common with such as freedom and culture rather than China who is able to restrict the movements of the Dalai Lama through their economic clout and has an abysmal human rights record. The Balkans was a terrible conflict as Paddy Ashdown knows all too well but all the countries there are, or want to be, part of the EU. On Ukraine I believe that most world leaders think that it would have generated into a much worse conflict without Angela Merkel's intervention.In respect to your comments regarding"bureaucracy" I did feel that bureaucracy was somewhere hidden in your "unwieldy,unresponsive,undemocratic hegemony" and felt that we should also sometimes look closer to home! I certainly do not want to gamble our future generations' prosperity and security with a huge, hypothetical leap into the dark and I am pleased that our Prime Minister and Chancellor, as well as most of his cabinet colleagues, are doing everything to prevent this from happening.
- John Roadknight

Does anyone in their right mind think that the UK will be able to negotiate a better trading deal with Europe then it has now, if the UK chooses to leave? If this was the case then every EU member would leave. The EU would not allow this to happen. As the German finance minister said on the Andrew Mar show, if the UK wanted access to the single market, it would have to accept free movement of people and pay into the pot but would not be able to shape rules or policy, so what is the benefit here? Finally, when negotiating these incredible free trade agreements with India and China that the BREXIT politicians say we will be free to do on leaving, who will get the better free trade deal, the UK or a massive trading block like the EU? India and China don't need the UK (hence weak negotiating position) but they do need the EU, the world's largest free trading block (very strong negotiating position).
- P. Morley

Quick take this post down! Seriously do you think you are kidding anyone? This figure has been out there for months and no one is saying it would go to the NHS. Clearly you are part of a really puerile ploy to try to dupe the British people. Stop taking people for fools. Your party is going to be destroyed if we vote Remain. But the EU is more important to all of you politicians than the NHS (soon to be destroyed by TTIP) than your own party and certainly the people of this country. Shame on you.
- Unimpressed.

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09 FEB 2016

Why, as a Europhile, I'm heading towards the Brexit Door

I have always been a Europhile and before becoming an MP would not have imagined voting to leave the European Union. So why am I heading towards the door? I am in love with the possibilities of the EU but can no longer ignore the grinding reality of the institution.

The Prime Minister has set out the terms of his provisional deal with the leaders of our EU partners and it is a threadbare offering. What use are 'emergency brakes' when the driver has no control or 'red cards' that have no credible chance of being deployed? Apart from a small concession on sham marriages, the truth is that the proposals will have no significant impact on our ability to limit inward migration from the EU. They will however, usher in rafts of bureaucratic cost and complexity with sliding scales for length of residency and nationality for child benefit.

David Cameron was right that the EU will need further reform but if this is the best that can be grudgingly conceded when there is a serious risk of a British exit, what chance of any meaningful further reform if and when we are tied-in long term by the referendum? The proposed red card system to halt unwanted EU diktats will need a majority of other leaders in support...so it is vanishingly unlikely to be of use if future policies are imposed against our national interest.

I am glad there has been recognition that we will never join the Euro and that non-Eurozone countries are on a different course rather than ever closer union but the safeguards remain too weak. It is inevitable that the Eurozone bloc will make decisions in their best interests. We have in effect already opted for life on an outside track, tolerated largely for our considerable net financial contribution but the renegotiation has made clear that we are powerless to change the rules of the club.

Those who wish for us to remain in the EU, are ramping up the rhetoric, warning about a risk to our national security in the event of Brexit due to a collapse in cooperation. It will clearly be in everyone's best interests for such cooperation to continue and to foster positive relationships on both security and trade. We are warned that we will become like Norway, subject to all the rules and fees but with no hand on the levers of power but arguably that sounds pretty much like the current situation, except of course that Norway control their own fishing grounds. In the event of Brexit there would be every incentive for Norway and others to join Britain in a different and more positive relationship with the EU based on trade and cooperation.

The case is often made that we should vote to remain in order to prevent internal conflict in Europe, but the anti-democratic nature of the EU is already fomenting the rise of extremism across the continent. When it comes to external threats, our national security has long depended on our membership of NATO rather than the EU.

When I ask at public meetings, few can name a single one of their six MEPs, fewer still have ever contacted one. Why would they bother when their representatives are powerless in comparison to the elite corps of unelected, remote and unaccountable commissioners?

Referendums have a habit of delivering the status quo, especially as project fear gets into gear. If they are to have any hope of persuading the undecideds, the leave campaigns must settle their differences and inspire. We need a clear blueprint for Britain working alongside the EU in a constructive new partnership. We would join as the world's fifth largest economy, not isolated but confident, outward looking and open for business.


A very defeatist and sad post utterly introspective and frankly ignorant. I could ask you a hundred questions which would reveal the poverty of your arguments. But I'll confine myself to just one. Why are 27 members of the European Union content to work with each other to further both Europe and themselves? And why should we be the odd man out picking up our ball and running away? Running away to God knows where and ensuring isolation not just from our erstwhile partners but from credibility and respect. Grotesque.
- Paddy Briggs

This is a catastrophic failure of judgement by a very intelligent person who I much respect. I am incredulous that you arrived at this conclusion.
- Stephen Perry

I am pleased to see you are leaning towards supporting Brexit, but rather disappointed by the apparently superficial nature of your understanding of Norway's influence. In addition to owning their fishing grounds, they are also solely responsible for their own trade policy and can form trade agreements on mutually acceptable terms. The UK does not have this power. The EU tells us what agreements we must honour and the tariffs and non tariff barriers we must implement. Norway also has its own seat on the global bodies where regulations and standards are shaped before being handed down to implement. Norway helps shape the rules, while not one EU member state can directly influence them. If the UK leaves the EU, the safest course of action would be to rejoin the EEA, aided by membership of EFTA. In that, we would be joining Norway, rather than Norway joining us. If you haven't already, I recommend you read 'Flexcit' which is the only Brexit plan in existence and is backed by Helena Morrissey as the best work in this area. We can have a bright future outside the EU, cooperating with its member states in areas of common interest, but without having our laws determined by unelected and unaccountable people from 27 other countries, and without being subject to the decisions of the European Court of Justice. Brexit will be a big step towards a more democratic UK.
- Mr Brexit

One point about the perceived lack of democracy in the EU structures. I believe it is that way because the nation states (not least the UK) would not allow a more powerful directly elected pan-EU leader or parliament precisely because it would diminish the status of the elected leaders and parliaments in the member states.
- James

Full credit...
- tom

Because, Paddy Briggs, we ARE the "odd man out". That's why so many Britons are profoundly uncomfortable with "ever closer union" and it's why Euroscepticism is much more common here. We are an island with a completely different political and legal heritage from our Continental neighbours. We, unlike them, are also not in retreat from a horrendous 20th-century experience scarred in almost all cases by exposure to totalitarian regimes, either imposed by invasion or cooked up domestically. Being dictated to by a bunch of jumped-up bureaucrats in Brussels or Berlin is understandably better in those people's eyes than what they've previously suffered. But that isn't the case for the UK, which has enjoyed freedom from foreign occupation and a representative system of government for many centuries. Frankly if you're so ignorant that you don't know any of this about Britain's and Europe's very different histories and about the obvious reasons why many of them favour trying to create a powerful Europe-wide statehood to replace national decision-making and we overwhelmingly do not, then you really shouldn't be daring to criticise Dr Wollaston's understanding of this topic.
- John Jones

Very sad to say I am afraid that I am inclined to agree with you. I was so excited when Ted Heath took us into the common market. But it has got worse and worse.
- Robert

Great post and great to have you on board Sarah. Sounds like sour grapes from Paddy Briggs. Out of the hundred questions he claims to have, I can't understand why he chose such a silly one, exposing his own ignorance. The U.K. Will be "content" to work with EU member states post Brexit but the EU are doing nothing to "further Europe". Unless of course you're referring to expansionism?
- Lee

If the UK has the good sense to leave I think others would be inclined to take our lead and follow. Paddy, there are none so blind as those that can't see.
- Peter

Wonderful to see that Sarah, a respected and decent MP, has seen the reality of the sham negotiation and the awful prospect of staying on the EU juggernaut. As for Paddy Briggs, there are so many answers as to why the 27 wish to remain members (at least for now), the most obvious being that in most years 25 or 26 of those members are net recipients of EU largesse, often with only Germany and the UK being net contributors. P.S. Sarah, you have a typo: 'breaks' should be 'brakes', though both work in different contexts :-)
- Andrew

A lot of people agree with what you say. In your position as an MP, please envision the alternative and propose it clearly. Without a good understanding of that, people will likely vote for the status quo and we will miss the opportunity to re-position ourselves, for the better, for the next 50 years. This matters.
- VB

It was refreshing to read your well argued piece which made the key points with clarity and commonsense. You will be rewarded for your courage in speaking out rather than being silenced by Whips. We need more MP's like yourself who have built a successful career outside Politics before being elected which gives you the self-confidence to speak up. The UK has a large (and growing) trade deficit with the EU which means that the EU needs to trade with us more than we need to trade with them. This means that it's in the EU's self-interest to give us an advantageous trade deal after Brexit. The bungled EU policies of the single currency, Schengen and CAP, etc, have created misery and economic hardship for many millions of European citizens. The EU is a failing declining political entity dragging us further behind the US and Asia in relative prosperity. We can either decide to exit now on our own terms or be stuck in the inside when the EU finally breaks under the weight of its own failed and inefficient policies. Everyone thanks you for your bold stand in putting the long-term prosperity of the British people first and making the argument to help persuade the undecided's that Brexit is the best way to secure the UK's future freedom and prosperity.
- Richard

"If they are to have any hope of persuading the undecideds, the leave campaigns must settle their differences and inspire." I don't think they need to. The lack of a united Leave campaign with a single leader means that the Remain campaign must attack the ball rather than the man. They must win the political, economic and social arguments rather than running a smear campaign against a particular personality. After all, what better postion could the Leave campaign be in other than to have a bunch of widely-distrusted politicians and corporate leaders telling us that remaining within the EU is a Good Idea.
- Steve

It's clear that Paddy & Stephen need to re-read what Sarah wrote and spend a while thinking it through to be sure they've understood it accurately. It's interesting that neither Paddy nor Stephen put forward any arguments in favour of being in the European Union. Paddy asked two questions: 'Why are 27 members of the European Union content to work with each other to further both Europe and themselves?' 'work with each other' is one thing, subordinate themselves to a supranational government and eradicate themselves as Nation States is something else. Sarah outlined a future in which the UK would always work together with its allies not just on the continent of Europe but in the whole world. That's what the UK has always done. What sort of weird ideas are in your head that cause you to think that anyone is advocating stopping that inter-national cooperation?? Please do try to think clearly and stop accusing other people of advocating things they haven't advocated. Secondly, in every country in the EU you will find people who aren't happy about being in the EU. Why would you hold such a strange idea that the UK is the only country containing people who aren't happy about it??? Bizarre. Thirdly, you're getting mixed up about Europe and the EU. They're two completely different things. We work with European countries that aren't in the EU. We work with non-European countries that aren't in the EU. We work with countries that are in the EU and in Europe. We always have. We always will. 'And why should we be the odd man out picking up our ball and running away?' That's a straw man argument, Paddy. See above.
- Jim

Excellent blog. You are a brave lady. I admire you.
- Onnalee Cubitt

I congratulate sarah on a well argued and thought out position. It is one i have much sympathy with. I am not a reflexive Outer, and genuinely felt there was a real chance at this point that Cameron could come back with a real change and progressively redefined way for states (not just the UK) to relate to the EU. It was a golden opportunity to reconfigure the EU into an organisation fit for the 21st century and not just a 1950's statist answer to 1930's questions about nationalism (questions which, in any case, have far less relevance to the UK). But it was;t to be - and as Sarah points out, if such derisory concessions are made with the looming possibility of Brexit then that just goes to show how little actually influence we have with the EU.
- Patrick

This gives me some faith in our elected MPs. Ms Wollaston has reviewed the extensive evidence that membership of the EU is not in our national interest; Cameron's "deal" is worthless and the EU will not implement the major reforms it so badly needs. On the basis of the evidence - not the scaremongering being issued by the Remain campaign - she has changed her mind. Co-operation with our continental neighbours doesn't need us to be under their political control. Trade with other countries doesn't require an anti-democratic political union. Our security will be enhanced when we can control our own borders. Our economy will be strengthened when we are not transferring £350 million a week to Brussels. I hope Ms Wollaston will join the cross-party Grassroots Out campaign.
- Donna

Well done Sarah, for having courage and conviction to speak out from under the Cameron ban on his party to speak against support of Brexit. A measured and non emotive account of your position. Alongside the excellent speech from David Davis, we are seeing facts based arguments that provide the public with a balanced view without the scaremongering and rhetoric from both sides of the argument
- IMcW

The rest of the EU has different ways of doing things from us based on their individual national histories. Our history is over a thousand years old, the foundation of our legal system, Common Law, was established in the villages of England in Saxon times, before the Norman invasion. The principle of Habeas Corpus was set down in Magna Carta in 1215 and all Britons are free under the law. None of these apply in the rest of the EU. We can trade perfectly well with any other country we don't have to be ruled by them. People need to seperate trade and co-operation from political union. Lord Tebbit sets out the case for leaving the EU very well. http://getbritainout.org/lord-tebbit-britain-must-rescued-eu/
- Roger

Congratulations to Dr Wollaston on reaching her conclusions. To Paddy Briggs: I would suggest that most of the other 27 EU members are happy in their membership of the EU because they get out of it a lot more than they pay into it. And that's not just in terms of money, just think what a boon it is to countries like Romania, Bulgaria and Poland to send most of their unemployed to richer countries like the UK and benefit from salaries and much higher child benefit being sent back to those countries. Why would your average Pole want to leave such a beneficial arrangement?
- Ian G

Bravo Dr W! And a brave Sarah you are, standing up for evidence based policy rather than fear based policy. I too am surprised to find myself supporting Brexit, having been a Europhile all my life. Ever since the 'expansion' of the EU decided largely by German interests seeking cheap well educated workers sitting just across the border....the place have become ungovernable. The shenanigans of the Greek debt crisis culminating in uncontrolling flows of refugees is proof enough that current structures do govern, they do no manage and they do not deserve support.
- Penny

One of the reasons why the rest of Europe joined the Euro, and the European Union is because they were; in the the majority of cases, all poorer countries. They all benefited from; in some cases massive financial boosts. We were never in that situation, and by staying part of the European would loose more than we gain. Migrants coming to this country are doing it for that very reason, otherwise; why come here. There are not many Brits that would consider going to the poorer parts of Europe to start new jobs, because the money simply isn't there, and there are no benefits to back up the lack of wages, so it's an unfair system. And why on earth would a country put itself up to be dictated to by an unelected regime, and have to ask permission if it can do certain things. What is the point in having an elected government! You may as well just elect a head boy/girl to run to the headmaster, and save a fortune on running a government.
- Sean

Very well argued piece. Quite annoyed by the scaremongering and the fact that the so-called pro-European politicians have not, as far I can see, laid out how staying within the EU benefits British citizens in the UK. The EU arguments on human rights are decent, but on the flipside I think it's inappropriate that the EU dictates to the UK on some areas of its legislation.
- Sandy

Unfortunately we will see many posts across the web similar to those of Paddy and Stephen. Whether one agrees with it or not you make and substantiate your case Sarah, life; and it's been longer than most; has taught me that such responses are invariably used by those who do not have a tangible, coherent counter argument. Like you I probably agree with the concept of a cooperative Europe however as I see the for and against arguments and place them into a lifetimes context I'll be looking to leave 'the project'.
- Kevin

A good decision and a well argued rationale, the EU no longer works for the people of Europe but for the Corporate masters and well provided for unelected minions.
- Roy

We hear so much of the failed rhetoric regarding safety within the EU and how THEY the EU have maintained the peace for over 70 years...Poppycock...it was NATO of which I've served many times as a soldier....I have been uplifted that a convinced europhile can see a failure of this elitist club for what it is. Well done Miss Sarah Here’s a brilliant quote from the book about the EU: Written Dr David Owen in the 80s.....GET's RIGHT TO THE NUB OF THE EU.......30 YEARS AGO....AND VERY TRUE TO THIS DAY........ “It is the weak nerve centre of a flabby semi-state, with almost defenceless frontiers, where humanitarian rhetoric masks spinelessness.”....For me it say all that is required....before this disgraceful project we were self reliant and most surely self-assured..
- Bill L

Well done Sarah. Eloquently put. The logic of Brexit is unarguable. David Cameron's pathetic attempts to gain the concessions he thinks he needs to persuade us to remain in the EU emphasises just how little influence we have in this undemocratic monster. None. The EU is trying to build a single country to rival the USA and it simply isn't going to work in the same way. There is no way Britain will ever stop cooperating with other nations politically and economically outside the EU. But it will be by choice and not because it we are forced to against our will. And that huge financial burden running at £55 million/day will be lifted. We really will be better off out.
- Alan

Britain never signed up to cede sovereignty and it is to me neither morally right nor in our gift, considering those who'll come after, to allow this country to be governed from abroad. That's the way the EU is goiong and it's part-way there. To say sovereignty is 'pooled' as was once said fails to recognise the inevitable reality of this arrangement. The cannot work for the UK either politically or economically, not least because it's an anti-democratic construct. It's impolitic to say so but people fight and die every day and since time immemorial for national independence. I am an Australian, with a British family, who runs a small business and has lived more than half my life here, all of which I feel qualifies me to say - the British have the best legal system, the best mode of government, some of the best institutions and arguably the best, most secure national culture of any nation. Vote to keep these priceless things or you're bound to lose them.
- peter

Would like to have heard more about what happens to our economy while the years of negotiations take place with the EU and others. We can be certain the the UK will not get all it wants. EU without UK will also probably become more protectionist. We also need to be prepared for a UK without Scotland. Agreed though that the EU is not working as it is.
- Martin

Brilliant article. Sums up the need for Brexit. As Alan above says you can't argue against the logic for Brexit. I expect the result will be 60:40 in favour of Brexit as the more people know about the EU the ore they will vote to leave. What I want to know is, why so many MPs are campaigning for in?
- Bob A

I think you call out the limited effect of Cameron's renegotiations very well. And I think you were right to call out Cameron for his overegging security. But you've fallen into the political trap that Cameron dug for himself- ie he's made the Referendum about his renegotiations rather than membership in broader sense. The UK's actually been very influential in creating the Single Market, and if influence has waned that's down to Cameron being hopeless. If you don't think that the EU could make things very awkward for Britain when it left, you are being very naive. See how the EU is strangling Swiss banking, and ask yourself if you want it doing the same to the City. I urge you to reconsider.
- Tubby Isaacs

If Sarah's view prevails it will trigger a second Scottish referendum and the break up of the United Kingdom Then Scotland will close the Faslane Trident submarine base which will be transferred probably to Falmouth at the cost of many billions And the army and RAF bases in Scotland will close too Devon farmers will lose their EU subsidies and the NFU will expect the UK government to pick up the tab And manufacturers like Nissan will close their UK factories and move them into Europe The immigration camp in Calais will close and all those migrants will end up in Dover for screening There are up and down sides to staying in or exiting Europe and since this will affect the lives of the next generation, young people must be given a vote on this Brian
- brian

One more point, Sarah. There's already an alternative body to the EU- EFTA. Why do you think this is better than being in the EU? Why do you think Norway, Iceland and Switzerland (which is outside EFTA) will want to reshape the way they relate to the EU to fit in with Britain? In every case, it's the relationship with the EU that matters for them, not the one with the UK. I think it's hard to make any case that Britain will have a better trading arrangement than now.
- Tubby Isaacs

Welcome aboard Sarah! Great to see momentum (and i don't mean the labour group) building for Brexit. Democracy is the key point for me. I liken the current UK situation to that of a dementia patient who has signed over their decision making powers to a friend. The problem is in the UK's case, Brussels is not our friend. Lets get our democracy back!
- Tim Jenkins

It is certainly high time that we had a "clear blueprint" from the Brexit side, whose rhetoric thus far (yes there is rhetoric on both sides -- see above for some examples) boils down to the claim that we will be able to magically keep all the good bits of EU membership and slough off the bad bits. A similar approach was, incidentally, used by the Independence campaign in Scotland. We now need to address specifics. A couple of examples: - It seems pretty much certain that from the EU side, post Brexit, one of the main conditions of a trade deal would be the retention of the free movement of people (as is the case for the deal with Norway and Switzerland). Do you think we could get a satisfactory deal without this? Would we want to continue to allow the free movement of people? If not, what arrangements will be made for the British citizens currently living in the EU? - When it comes to sovereignty, and "being dictated to by Europe", which laws would you change and what would you replace them with? Frankly, I worry far less about where laws are made and more about whether they are good laws or not. British governments (of all political stripes) have shown themselves to be perfectly capable of enacting bad laws, and stubborn in their refusal to remove or improve them once they are in place. It is no longer enough to claim, blithely, that Brexit will remove all ills and produce nothing but good. The case is not unarguable, as has been claimed above. As Sarah's original post recognises, it relies on a judgement of the balance of benefits and harms of staying in or leaving. To make that judgement, we need a far clearer picture of how a post-Brexit future would look. Lastly, I would welcome a commtiment from Sarah, as my MP, that should the referendum turn out to support our continued membership she will support the will of the people and back a policy of constructive engagement with the EU. A substantial part of the difficulties in Britain's relationship with Europe has been self-inflicted by a wilful "semi-detached" approach, motivated most often by the decades-old schism in the Conservative party. If the British people vote to stay in then this government, and its successors of whatever party, should reflect that in a new, more constructive and cooperative approach to membership.
- Simon

So you too wanted a European Community but have been disappioned to have been foisted with a European Union. The difference is that I realised this in 1973.
- John S Churchill

Good for you Sarah ,I have yet to see one truthful,intelligent and worthwhile comment for staying in.Too many people are scaremongering,saying we cannot be on our own and the rest of Europe will not trade with us if we leave but I am sure our country will be fine and it will be the rest of Europe who will be the losers.
- Grahame Powell

As a member of the LABOUR PARTY I am glad & proud to be at one with you on this issue. Great post. Democracy transcends party boundaries every day for me. If the British public think there is a Westminster bubble and its out of touch then they have not seen anything yet when it comes to the undemocratic and out of touch Eurocrats. To stay gives them a green light. Yes, we are tolerated for the net £8-10B they get from us each year. There really is a better world wide view. Just got to convince the rest of my party now....
- Tim Page

I was just about old enough to vote in the 1975 referendum and voted to come out of the common market, as it was then called. I have seen nothing since then to change my mind that we would be better off out of the EU. We simply do not get value for money from an outrageously bureaucratic and non democratic organisation. Well done Sarah.
- Steve Tucker

Great post. Good to see that politicians can think through the pros and cons, and come to a reasoned conclusion that's not borne out of panic or blindly following party-line.
- Jacqueline

So sorry that our fine MP has chosen the Brexit route whose only near certain outcome will be the break up of the UK after Scotland holds another referendum, quite possibly followed by Wales and Northern Ireland after they feel the impact of our economic downturn. The UK is a magnet for Far Eastern and other national companies to set up subsidiaries in order to trade with the largest single market in the world..Look at Nissan, Honda and Jaguar Landrover. Because of our colonial past and more recently U.S. influence and UK/US cultural popularity, especially in music, English is most peoples' second language. It must be far easier for English speaking foreign CEO's to communicate with their work forces here without the need for interpreters. Do we want many of these to relocate north of the boarder? On migration, Sarah would do well to listen to Sir Peter Ricketts, until recently our French Ambassador and David Cameron's national security adviser who has warned us, and should know more than anyone else,of the fragility of the Le Touquet agreement where UK immigration checks are carried out in Calais. What possible advantage would it be to the French to continue to police the Calais"Jungle" on our exit? It would be far easier for EU countries to play pass the parcel with their migration problems and send them to our island to be processed where they have nowhere else to move on to. Heaven help our Boarder Agency staff processing thousands of applicants who have destroyed their identities! Many migrants quite naturally want to settle here because many speak a smattering of English as their second language,essential for getting a job, and we do not have identity cards. Being part of the EU gives us much more influence politically and economically and the US certainly wants us to remain a partner. Where does our Foreign Secretary go when there is a problem? Brussels to garner EU support. At present Germany, France and the UK are drawing up plans to impose a tariff on China and Russia dumping heavily subsidised steel on our shores as the EU did with heavily subsidised Chinese solar panels. We are far stronger negotiating as a member of 500 million people as opposed to 60,less after Scotland leaves the UK! Do we really want to be subservient to larger economies like China who use their power to control the movements of the Dalai Lama? What will be the status of the 2 million UK citizens happily living in the EU? Will they, as well as us, continue to enjoy our European Health Insurance cards? Could many elderly residents unable to afford private medical insurance be forced back to the UK.? How about the residents of Gibraltar who have sheltered behind EU protection for many years against Spanish hostility? The EU, like many of the UK Government policies is not perfect but I feel that David Cameron deserves the support of his MPs' in his negotiations. I really dread the prospect of an isolationist little England that many Brexit supporters feel is still an empire. We are far stronger in than out.
- John Roadknight

Well put, Dr W. I love Europe but detest the EU. I will vote OUT. Project Fear is dark. If we shine light upon it by rational analysis, it will disappear.
- Stewart Brown

Dr Wollaston like you I was a Europhile who supported the ideal of a Europe at peace with itself. However the European Community has morphed into a European (political) Union ruled undemocratically from Brussels by unelected bureaucrats who disregard the sovereignty and the elected parliaments of its member states. Cameron's negotiations with the EU are a disaster. He has failed to gain even a fig leaf from the EU to cover his own embarrassment. And most significantly he has failed to get protection for the City of London from the predations of the EU to vest financial services from the City. Cameron's Brexit scaremongering is very likely to backfire on him. Winston Churchill rallied the British people and stirred up their spirit of defiance and determination to see off the threat from Europe. A British vote for exit from the EU would be the signal for the beginning of the end for the EU and would soon cause the whole of the EU to implode economically, socially and financially. A financial crisis is looming in the global economy. This is a crisis that is very likely to blow the European Union away.
- John Collins

One can feel only a sense of betrayal now that Sarah Wollaston, my M.P., has made her statement on Europe. Clearly, she was flying under false colours when she made her pre election statements to get approval in South Hams. Her reasons are quite paltry for joining the Leave group. I thought it was rather shabby that the first thing we heard was through the Sun newspaper quoting her stating that "Tory MP Sarah Wollaston also weighed into the tow saying Mr Cameron's claim was "simply not credible" and complained pro-EU campaigners were taking voters "for fools". The Sun, that progressive and pro equality newspaper. Much better informed sources, such as Sir Peter Ricketts, the British Ambassador in Paris stated that same day that there was every possibility that France would indeed end the British border in Calais if we vote to leave. Folkestone folk will no doubt be pleased with Sarah Wollaston if they get the Calais Jungle in their midst, but Sarah Wollaston will be safe in South Hams, where it is indeed rare to see anything other than a white face. Not much of a threat here of a diverse society, Mrs Wollaston? The statement which was broadcast on the TV this evening which showed an interview with Mrs Wollaston was insulting to my intelligence and was "simply not credible". According to Mrs Wollaston, she will vote to leave as the other EU countries have not offered enough to David Cameron given that we have threatened to leave the EU. So Mrs Wollaston favours the blackmail approach. If you don't give us what we want, we shall walk out. There's principle for you and a person of integrity. No substantive reasons given, no reference to the three million jobs that will be lost, the massive farm subsidies that will go at a stroke, the huge development money that has poured into Cornwall for the last 10 years of more (over one billion pounds), no mention of the estimated £3000 a year benefit to every household in the UK, no mention of the fact that the EU accounts for half of our trade and is the biggest market in the world, no mention of the fact that if we leave we shall have to pay into the EU but have no say in its decision making, no mention of the estimated £66 million a day that EU countries invest in the UK, no mention of the employee and work benefits that the EU has brought to British workers, a stark contrast to the Conservatives' plans to further decimate workers' trade union rights...finally, no mention of the progressive force that the EU represents for all the peoples of Europe and indeed in the world. Sarah Wollaston has retreated in a world of Little Englanders, xenophobes and people like Liam Fox who are embittered Tories.She is welcome to them and will never receive my vote. This country is founded on a huge mixture of races and cultures. What percentage of non whites do we have in your constituency, Mrs Wollaston? Most of the immigrants are from the Midlands and the North West. I am one of them. Another politician whose manifesto promises have evaporated once elected. A shameful performance by someone who once showed signs of a positive vision for British people.
- Tom Jolliffe

To the scaremongers who say that leaving the EU will lead to the break up of the UK, don't worry, it won't. Britain leaving the EU will not change how the majority of people in Scotland feel about being British, which was clearly demonstrated in the recent referendum with a 90% turnout. The SNP would have another referendum tomorrow if they thought they could win it, but they wouldn't, so they won't. Their la-la-land economic policy didn't fly in 2014 with oil over $100 per barrel and it certainly won't fly now at $30-$40.
- Andrew

For those scaremongers who claim that leaving the EU will lead to the 5,000 migrants (economic migrants, as they are already in a safe country, France) and those who follow after them being waved through France to turn up at Dover and claim asylum, don't worry, they won't. Even IF the French were to resile on the existing Le Toquet agreement, return the UK border to Dover and wave through their unwanted guests, our government would simply impose more stringent obligations on the ferry companies and the tunnel operators - just as we already do with airlines and their passengers, which is why we don't have Calais style camps around Heathrow (which we would if Cameron and other scaremonger claims about Calais were true!).
- Andrew

I don't believe our 19 or so frigates with engine breakdowns are going to be much of a solution to policing the channel! Have you not observed the chaos that ensues when there is a dispute in Calais? Nearly 50% of our trade and over 3 million jobs is dependent on our EU membership. You would do well to listen to Sir Peter Ricketts our previous French Ambassador who knows more than anyone else how fragile our border is.
- John Roadknight

Scotland has very close historical links with France and is far more pro EU than Little England. The last thing this proud nation will want is to be dictated by Little England as to their relations with the EU.
- John Roadknight

I am sad to see that you have joined the exit camp. It seems shortsighted in the long term. Russia is breathing down our necks on the border of Europe - how will we respond as an island race? The days of empire are long gone - yet many in the Tory party still vote and operate from that perspective. I want a Conservative party rooted in the 21st century with politicians who can see beyond their own limited career objectives and take this country forward not backwards. So David Cameron did not manage to force the EU to change, it doesn't matter - what matters is that we continue with what we started when we joined the Common market back in the 1970's. We fought two world wars to bring peace and stability to Europe. It is time for us to unite get behind the EU and make it work for us. Turning back now will be catastrophic in every way.
- Cathy Koo

Sarah, it's important to distinguish between (dis)approval for the Tories, David Cameron, the renegotiation terms and the EU itself. You are giving too much emphasis to the new terms, rather that the benefits of continued membership. You say you've always been a Europhile - think again about why. You are in favour of evidence-based medicine; how about some evidence-based policy making on this subject? Colin P
- Colin P

I am old enough both to remember post war austerity and the vote to join the EEC. At that time we were lied to by the politicians as history has now proven. The EU is intent on forming a European State, it has been stated by many European leaders over the years, part of which we will be a minor player if we allow that to play out. We are being lied to now by the IN politicians and scaremongering is not the way to conduct an adult reasoned debate bout the merits of staying or leaving. The EU has shown its true colours on many many occasions but to describe a Brexit as like a game that we don't like so are taking our ball home, is idiotic and childish in the extreme. This is a serious issue and requires a serious debate, not petty point scoring. Our relationship with the EU is a business that has a contract with benefits and defecits on both sides. The British people, through their MP's, have indicated our contract needs re-negotiating. In business, if either party fails to agree terms that is in their interests, then they go their separate ways. If the EU is not prepared to change or meet the terms that the UK requires to continue its partnership, then that speaks volumes of what the EU thinks of the U.K., so it is time to go our separate ways. Before the EU we managed quite well, but the politicians KNEW back then that the EEC would morph into the EU and that political union was the ultimate goal. Had they told the truth at the time then the result of the vote back then may have been very different. In my view the result was illegitimate. As a result of their deceipt I believe we are being lied to now by politicians who have been proven to be dishonest and will NOT tell the truth. Dr. Wollaston has put forward a cogent argument and I for one believe she is being honest in her change of mind. It would be so easy for her to 'go along with' party lines, but this issue is more important than party politics but is an issue of conscience. I admire her courage and I hope she remains true to herself, whatever way she chooses to vote in the end.
- Gary

Heading for BREXIT? I feel the same pain. Having worked more than 4 decades to achieve realistic and sensible requirements in a highly regulated industry both at EU and ECE in an industry that cannot afford the R&D needed just for the UK market, this decision we soon face is highly concerning, whichever conclusion we as a nation come to. Even if a majority of those voting south of a line slightly north of Hadrian’s Wall want to remain in, our friends, colleagues, relatives north of that line might be sufficient in numbers to vote the UK OUT, so that they can then take a vote to stay IN as an independent nation – provided of course Spain will accept that, risking Catalonia and Basque applying for independence as well! However we are where we are, mostly because Member States such as ourselves allowed EU too much power in past EU treaty changes, that we could have vetoed. Having shown we were OK with those decisions, was the EU so wrong to think the UK Government wanted closer integration? We should have stood our ground more firmly then! Much of where we are is due to unprofessional 5 second sound bite politics that we have in the UK and a lowering of the professionalism of the political and official decisions of state. One example - The UK Ministry of Transport having sought a change in EU regulations which was agreed and enacted in 2012, have in 2016 still not yet implemented that change in UK national regulations, resulting in a nonsense of anal administrative burden to continue, costing consumers more for absolutely no safety of environmental benefit whatsoever. Should BREXIT occur, national regulations will need a total overhaul to bring them up to date to the standards that society has today with the EU requirements. On the basis that the DfT does not have enough manpower now, that is the reason given for 4 years of delay above, will it be able to cope in the event of BREXIT? The civil service will certainly need more staff to match the very few knowledgeable ones that are there now who still have enough skill and experience to provide a professional service for society as a whole that can be delivered in a timely sustainable manner. Unfortunately we are only most likely to get even more 5 second sound bite political decisions which will need reviewing almost as soon as they are passed to clear up the mistakes made. The EU did at least look at a longer term perspective rather than the max 5 year – often 6 month between budget statements – policy positions we lurch from in UK politics today. Industry and service sectors cannot work with such short lead-times and even the financial services sector has shown that it cannot deliver what society needs – only looking to satisfy its own greed.
- Ray

A well presented view. We can only gain by leaving the decrepit and corrupt EU. The Mafia would be proud of the EU.
- J Karna

In complete agreement. My impressions from campaigning in The general election last year is that 90% of Brixham would vote for a Brexit and 70% in the remainder of the South Hams. Sarah can rest assured that these views would be overwhelmingly supported in her own constituency.
- Dr Katy Bowen

I agree with Paddy Briggs. With politicians having such a poor understanding of major policy issues and/or engaging in populism, it is no wonder why citizens do not trust them. The leavers are the real EU scaremongers. We pay only 1% of our tax money on the EU (which returns 9 times as much to us in terms of jobs and foreign investment). The EU is directly accountable to UK citizens through the participation of our elected Ministers who make decisions in the European Council and our directly elected European Parliamentarians. The problem is less to do with Europe and more to do with Westminster.
- Nick Hopkinson

having voted originally to go into the EEC I am now totally against the whole current EU stet up. Why have I changed my mind? 15 YEARS BEING IN BUSINESS IN FRANCE
- simon

Well done Sarah. One of the few politicians who has had a proper job in the real world and has realised the billions of pounds we pay into corrupt European bureaucrats can be better spent for the benefit of the people of this country. Roads repaired, a better health service, protection of our own boarders, better schools and the ability to reject the immigrant scroungers taking advantage of crass EU laws and gaining access to our housing and welfare benefits. Charity begins at home.
- Graham

Sarah when were you a Europhile? Remember having conversations with you on the EU soon after you were elected and you were a complete Europhobe then with nothing complimentary to say about our important relationship with the EU and the largest single market in the world that gives us so much more influence politically and economically in the world when negotiating with countries like China and Russia. May soon be the case of "Little England", after the fragmentation of the UK on Scotland's exit and quite possibly the remainder of the UK apart from England, negotiating how many Burberry coats equate to us accepting 1000 tons of their heavily subsidised steel! Heaven knows how many years it will take "Little England" to negotiate, at a much lower advantage, the number of trade deals that are currently in existence with us being a member of the EU?If you get your way you could be one of the last UK members of Parliament and David Cameron,against his will, our last UK Prime Minister! After Scotland's exit from the UK we will certainly not be able to call ourselves a "United" Kingdom! Will we, in our diminished status, still have a seat as a permanent member on the UN Security Council?
- John Roadknight

Do not forget The European Free Trade Association
- simon

I have the utmost admiration for Sarah and am delighted that she has decided on BREXIT. When I read through some of the comments about her post, I can't help but feel that the honest way for this debate to be framed is between joining a federalist club and rescuing our democracy by reclaiming our independence. Ultimately it is as simple as that and people should remember that the only way we are able to contemplate BREXIT is because we wisely avoided being sucked into the Euro. The relentless drive towards centralisation by countries that are not at all homogeneous has busted Europe's flush and exposed that members like Germany and Greece have about as much in common as a fish and a dog. The sooner we reverse ourselves out of this dead end the better. BREXIT now, you know it makes sense!
- David Craggs

Reverse us where? No one knows! George Osborne has been cosying up to China whose economy is plummeting and who executes more criminals than the whole of the rest of the world put together. It also has an extremely corrupt judicial system and is currently using its power to expand its military presence in the South China Sea. Economically and politically we are FAR stronger negotiating with China and Russia as part of the EU and not as a "Little England". I believe the vast majority of the UK share the same values,culture and liberties as our EU neighbours and do not want to be dominated by authoritarian regimes.The only near certain outcome of a Brexit is the disintegration of the UK. I am sure Nicola Sturgeon is licking her lips at the prospect!
- John Roadknight

I do wonder what level of real understanding people, like you Sarah, have of the day to day workings of trade within and between EU countries? I have worked as a Senior Executive in a FTSE 100 company on some of the biggest, and most profitable, multi-national projects, with partners from other EU member states. These projects have brought many billions of pounds into the UK. One of the reasons why these projects were, and continue to be, successful is because of political will and the ease of trade between EU member states. Frankly, whilst I appreciate your loyalty, David Cameron has failed to set out clearly, the pros and cons of the various arguments in commercial terms. If, and this has not been made clear, the cost of trading with EU member states rises post Brexit, then UK Plc will be seriously damaged, possibly fatally. Neither you Sarah, or anyone in government has addressed this in clear, commercial terms. From what I have read thus far, Cameron's position is founded upon immigrant access to the Welfare State. I am not condoning this. However, this would amount to an estimated saving of some £30 million pounds. That is small fry compared to the potential long-term loss of billions. Finally, can I say that many of the arguments above are, with respect, akin to closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. Most former British companies are now owned by other EU companies. We no longer have any control over them. Today, in 2016, the profits go out of this country. That was clearly not the case when Britain joined the, then, EEC. We no longer have a British owned industry, coal industry, steel industry or electronics industry. Regardless of who is to blame, Britain has record levels of debt and is a poor collector of corporate taxes. If Britain is left to paddle its own canoe, people might care to ponder upon what I have said before taking a potentially irreversible decision. Like it or not, commerce has changed. If Britain leaves, it cannot flip the calendar back to the 1970s and pretend that global integration hasn't happened.
- Gary

Leave one, leave all. Germany will be left alone to welcome the Turks.
- Brexit

Bet you feel more comfortable now George Galloways on board! Can't believe you"re really in the same boat as him and Farage? Don't think that will go down too well with your supporters who voted for you.
- Peter

We have one chance to get out of this increasingly undemocratic failure known as the EU. We can again be a world leader in the new technologies if we regain control. My vote was never in as we never got a vote. It is definitely out now we have one.
- Sam Seal

Really very sad to see such a big mistake from a usually clear thinking, thoughtful fellow GP, who has often commanded my respect. Sarah, I urge you to carefully reflect on your position. Consider its basis on short term, small-picture analysis. Consider your focus, almost entirely on our differences, ignoring the far greater scope of our shared problems and shared interests. Consider the huge potential for leadership the UK has to offer as the EU evolves. If only we were to engage without reluctance, on these new terms, particularly with this significant shift in emphasis in accommodating diversity, which is very likely to strengthen. We are a far stronger country now than when we entered the EC, in no small part because of it. Has it really, in totality, served us so badly? Who knows their MEP, indeed. But how many more people actually know their MP? Their county counsellor? Their district counsellor? Their Police Commissioner? Yes, we do have a big problem with broken democracy. This is a big worry at local and national level, but your focus is solely on this problem at a European level, ignoring the rest. Again. Your position on European democracy follows through that we either abolish or withdraw from local and parliamentary democracy as the answer... non sequitur, surely. Your position runs high risk of breaking up the UK, resulting in increasing division at many levels, and greatly diminishing our influence at every level. Far better to remain a United Kingdom, being British and European, and maintain our position in the world on the back of the strength of all these partnerships, surely? Your choice appears bleak and defeatist - misplaced nationalism leading to a much diminished, very little England. My choice is Great Britain, showing leadership and sharing ties amongst friends in a diverse Europe. Give it some thought - seriously. With best wishes.
- Richard Stanley

Get out to what? No-one knows! Into a fictitious land of "milk and honey" as David Cameron put it? Scotland looks very likely to leave so it will be goodbye to the UK as we will no longer be United.You would do well to read Gary's excellent resume above who knows much more than me about the dangers that lie ahead in the event of Brexit. Are we going to send gun boats to Gibraltar next time Spain seals its land links after we exit?We have much more power and influence staying a member in the largest single market in the world.
- John Roadknight

Richard Stanley: I think you will find we all need counselling if we stay in the EU superstate. And thanks - I do know my councillors and MEP.
- Boris the Blonde

What will happen to UK farmers if we leave EU? I can immediately see EU farmers, ie French, immediately saying UK farm produce should have tariffs imposed, to protect the EU farmers. The French farmers could see this as a great opportunity for themselves at great cost to UK farmers. Currently London is the financial capital of Europe much to the German's -in particular Frankfurt's- annoyance. If the UK leaves EU, then a lot of city institutions will relocate to Frankfurt.This might seem irrelevant to us in South Devon, but the fact is, the City of London subsidises much of the UK. The BREXIT politicians constantly state, that is is in everyone's best interest for the UK and the EU to continue to trade freely and, therefore, this is what will obviously happen. But since when, have governments and politicians ever taken the sensible path? There is no guarantee that the EU and the UK will come to a mutually beneficial agreement. The EU governments will have to answer to their populace, which can easily be swayed by populist politicians. The end result may be very self destructive to both parties. The UK will soon become the largest economy in the EU, overtaking Germany. The UK's interests are best served by being the big fish in a big pond and using its might to make the EU more democratic and accountable.
- P. Morley

What a short sighted position, we should be leading Europe and not abandoning it. No-one knows what life outside the EU will look like and the leave campaign will not, or cannot, give any details about whether we will be better off materially or socially. This makes me think that things are going to be difficult and painful for the majority of people as we adjust to this new order which includes a large swathe of Sarah's constituents whom she is supposed to represent. Whilst the independently wealthy, retired or well employed can afford to insulate themselves from this turmoil the rest of us will suffer so that they can wallow in their ideological mire. Hardly the 'One Nation Conservatism' we were sold.
- Nick

Excellent post, Sarah. I am a Europhile too, and want a free trade area BUT not at the price of the loss of democracy. The EU was powerless to act decisively on Bosnia or the Greek, migrant and banking crises. Loss of democracy is too high a price to pay for its membership. 'Ordinary' people that their vote no longer matters.Ultimately European instability and the rise of extremism will be the consequence. This may not do your political career much good in the short term but it is better to stand on the side of what is right. so thank you for having the courage to stand by your beliefs.
- Maureen

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21 JAN 2016

It's time for a bold and brave strategy on childhood obesity

I wrote the following article for PoliticsHome

On the morning of the 2012 track cycling Olympics, the architect of Team GB's victory, Sir David Brailsford, attributed their success to the relentless pursuit of 'marginal gains'. He looked at absolutely everything that goes into riding a bike, from the rider and their bike to the environment around them. It was by improving every aspect, even if that was by a small margin, that the sum total struck gold.

There is no single easy solution to the crisis of obesity which is blighting the lives of our nation's children and I hope that David Cameron will look at the success of team GB and apply the same principle of marginal gains.

Some firmly believe that tackling obesity is all about education and information, others that exercise is the answer. Some will focus on the role of marketing and promotions, tackling super-sizing and reducing the levels of sugar in food or the role of taxation.

The fact is that we need all of the above, and far more. We need a bold and brave obesity strategy because of the sheer scale of the problem and the implications both for individual children, their families and wider society.

A third of children are now moving on to secondary education obese or overweight. Independent data also highlights the stark and widening health inequality associated with obesity. A quarter of children from the most disadvantaged families are leaving primary school obese, more than twice the rate for children from the most advantaged families.

The consequences for the physical and mental health of the individual children who are falling down that gap are serious: they face a significantly increased risk of type two diabetes, heart disease and cancer and they are more prone to bullying and marginalisation.

There are costs too to wider society and the NHS because of our failure to take effective action - diabetes care already consumes around 9% of the NHS budget and the total cost of obesity is estimated to exceed £5bn per year.

It makes sense to prioritise the measures that will produce the greatest gains and especially where they can produce those changes quickly.

The greatest gains lie in tackling our food environment because, whilst exercise is important whatever a child's weight, no strategy can succeed without tackling the prime culprit; too many calories. That is why we must tackle promotions, advertising and marketing, portion sizes and reformulation. The government must also take into account the potential of a sugary drinks tax.

Price helps to determine choices and relatively small changes can have an enormous impact.

The 5p plastic bag levy has driven a 78% reduction in the use of plastic bags at Tesco. It changed behaviour in part because most of us just needed that final nudge to change the way we shop and its acceptability was increased because all the money raised goes to good causes. One paper suggested that apparently outraged customers could defy the imposition of the tax... by taking their own bag... which was of course the whole point of it in the first place.

The same applies to a sugary drinks tax. No one would need to pay it at all because its primary purpose is to nudge consumers to low calorie alternatives. It should be included because we know that it works and that it works quickly. It particularly helps the heaviest consumers as demonstrated by the 17% fall within this group in Mexico one year after the introduction of a 10% levy on sugary drinks. If every penny raised went to funding programmes to benefit children and young people, it could provide financial backing for additional school sports, education and to teach cooking and nutrition skills.

The Prime Minister is right to focus on a childhood obesity strategy and his action list will need to be far longer than space in this article allows, including clearer information for consumers and giving local authorities and schools greater powers to tackle obesity. My plea would be to follow the lead of British Cycling on marginal gains and make a lasting and positive difference to our children's future.


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30 NOV 2015

It is time for bold and brave action to tackle childhood obesity

There is a single fact which demonstrates the compelling case for bold and brave action on childhood obesity. A quarter of the most disadvantaged children in England are now obese by the time they leave primary school. This is double the rate among the most advantaged children, setting out in stark terms the scale of the health inequality from obesity – and that has profound implications for children's health and wellbeing both now and in the future.

Obese children are at greater risk of bullying and of developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer and joint problems later in life. The cost to the NHS of obesity is estimated to be £5.1bn annually, and treating diabetes accounts for about 10% of its entire budget. Prevention is a central theme of the NHS's own long-term plan, yet there has been a further cut in the resources for public health under the November spending review. This places an even greater responsibility on the prime minister to make sure the policies in his obesity strategy can make a lasting difference to children's wellbeing and life chances. This cannot be stuck in the "too difficult" box just because effective action requires politically difficult decisions.

There is no individual course of action that will solve this epidemic; the scale and consequences of childhood obesity demand bold and brave action in as many areas as possible.

In our report published today, the Common's health committee urges David Cameron to include a 20% tax on sugary drinks. We do not believe that this is an attack on low-income families as industry lobbyists will no doubt claim, but rather an essential part of trying to reverse the harm caused by these products. That harm is not confined to obesity; we know for example that dental decay is the commonest reason for hospital admission in children between the ages of five and nine.

While not the only source of dietary sugar, sugar-sweetened drinks account for around a third of intake in four to 18 year olds. A levy on these products need not hit the pockets of low-income families as there would always be an alternative, untaxed and cheaper equivalent. One of the main purposes of a sugary drinks tax would be to encourage healthier choices, and that has clearly been the effect in countries such as Mexico.

There is also a compelling case for any revenue raised to be used entirely to support children's health, and to be especially directed to the most disadvantaged schools and communities. A sugary drinks tax would also have the advantage that it could be introduced quickly – and given the scale of the problem, there is no time to lose.

A successful strategy must include education and increasing physical activity but it would be a huge mistake to imagine that obesity can be tackled wholly by this approach. There needs to be an unequivocal message that exercise is enormously beneficial for children and adults alike, whatever their weight. When it comes to preventing obesity, however, no policy will be effective without tackling our food environment.

To be effective, the strategy has to get to grips with the saturation marketing and promotion of junk food and drink. Price promotions have reached record level, with some 40% of our spending on products consumed at home now coming from these apparent deals. The evidence is that they do not save us money, just encourage us to spend more on unhealthy food and drink, where the bulk of promotions are targeted. Who benefits from junk food promotions at the point of sale alongside non-food items or the chicanes of junk alongside checkout queues?

Reformulation has reduced the amount of salt in processed foods, and its time to ask industry to do the same for sugar – and to go further in "downsizing" rather than "supersizing" standard portions. While voluntary agreements have some advantages, industry will need a level playing field with regulation if that does not succeed.

Education messages are dwarfed by the power and persuasion of junk food and drink advertising. Our children are not protected by regulations as they stand, and these must be extended to include internet advertising, especially through so-called "advergames". It is also time to end the TV advertising of unhealthy food and drink before the 9pmwatershed and the use of celebrities and cartoon characters to peddle junk food.

No one would add 14 teaspoons of sugar to a cup of tea, so why not make it clear when that is what is hidden in a small bottle of sweetened drink? Information is powerful when it comes to making choices. Finally, our report recommends giving our local authorities the power to put health at the heart of their planning decisions, be that the design of active communities and safer travel, or the density of fast food outlets near schools. Its time too for a consistent policy for the latter with food standards applying wherever our children are educated.

There are no single or simple answers, but an obesity strategy that is thin on action will condemn another generation of children to a lifetime of obesity.


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27 NOV 2015

I opposed Syria bombing in 2013, but now David Cameron has my support

I wrote this article that appeared in the Telegraph today

Two years ago, I voted to oppose military action against the Assad regime in Syria. If David Cameron returns to the Commons next week, I will be voting to stand with our allies in extending air strikes against Isil, wherever they hide. It has not been an easy decision because, whatever the accuracy of our weaponry, the innocent are likely to be among the victims of future bombing. Right now, however, countless thousands across Syria and the wider region living under Isil barbarity are subject to systematic enslavement, rape, torture, murder and genocide. Isil cannot be reasoned with and it shows no shred of humanity or mercy to those under its barbarous control.

The first duty of any government is to protect its people and, unlike Assad, Isil also poses a direct threat to all of us here in the UK. Far from making it more likely, the threat of mass casualty attacks remains irrespective of any decision to extend our operations. Seven terrorist plots against the UK have been disrupted in just 12 months and 30 of our citizens were murdered on the beaches of Tunisia. The same carnage we witnessed on the streets of Paris is being actively planned against us here at home. We need to do everything we can to disrupt Isil at the nerve centres of their operations in Syria as well as Iraq.

There are those who claim that our action will be meaningless tokenism. I do not agree. We have an important contribution to make through our precision Brimstone missile systems and the capabilities of our Tornado aircraft. Our Reaper drones are providing a significant amount of intelligence from the skies above Syria but cannot currently deploy their missiles against targets which have been identified. Our action in Iraq has already helped to prevent ISIL taking control of a far wider territory and pushed them back from key strongholds. We have learned the lesson that Western forces should not intervene on the ground but we can play a crucial role in supporting local forces from the air.

The cloud of the Iraq war has long hung over decision-making but at long last the UN has woken up to the horror of the humanitarian crisis. Resolution 2249 states unequivocally that "Isil constitutes a global and unprecedented threat to our international peace and security" and it calls on all member States to take "all necessary measures" to prevent and suppress their terrorism and to "eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria."

Military force alone cannot defeat Isil and we have to step up international efforts to disrupt the flow of Isil's finances and their internet poisoning of young people. There is also a pressing need for regional States and religious leaders to acknowledge and address the vicious sectarian divide and bigotry which ultimately fuels the bloodshed.

International efforts must be redoubled to work towards a just peace if the millions of refugees are ever to be able to safely return to their homeland. But however desirable it would be to see a change of Assad's leadership in Syria, we cannot wait for that to happen before we act because Isil is too great and present a threat to us here, right now, in the UK.

It is time in my view to stand with our allies and the countless thousands living in fear, and to play our full part in a just war against an unspeakable evil.


Hi Sarah I strongly disagree with your stance on military action in Syria and I urge you to vote against David Cameron on this issue. Recent military intervention in Iraq and Libya has demonstrated that similar action has not discouraged terrorism or civil war. I believe that military intervention by western countries in this case will not solve the civil war in Syria and will make the refugee crisis worse. I also believe that ISIL will not be deterred. I believe instead we should be concentrating on home security to protect ourselves from terrorism and that we should be working with the UN on non military means to tackle Syria
- Celia Minoughan

Dear Sarah, UK AIR STRIKES IN SYRIA Whilst I agree with your assessment of the nature and severity of the threat posed by ISIL, and that negotiation with genocidal fanatics is not an option, I am not convinced that the solution proposed by the UK Government is effective or appropriate. An effective and appropriate solution would need to target ISIL militants without causing mass civilian casualties, it would need to improve the long-term prospects for residents, the remedy must not be worse than the problem being treated and there needs to be a clear exit strategy. Our intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya has failed on most or all of these points and I see no evidence in the latest proposals that we have learned from our mistakes. The biggest unlearned lesson is that is counter-productive for intervention in the Middle East to be “western led”. America and Britain, in particular, seem incapable of learning this lesson. Whilst most people in the Middle East are wary of Islamist fundamentalists, they are also generally hostile to western intervention in Moslem nations without their consent – a view that can be traced back past the Iraq war to colonial times and even to the time of the Crusades. If every ISIL militant killed by western forces results in the radicalisation of two moderate Moslems, which appears to be the situation, then western-led intervention can only exacerbate the problem. Tactless and arrogant intervention doesn’t just radicalise more people in the Middle East, it can also radicalise people in the minority communities in the UK. If western forces are involved they must, in the interests of diplomacy, be seen to be clearly acting under the command of a coalition of Middle Eastern nations such as Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, Kuwait or the UAE – which at present they are not. Western forces dropping bombs from the air have failed to prevent the spread of Islamist militancy in any nation where they have intervened. ISIL, the Taliban, Boko Haram and other Islamist forces have only ever been defeated by local troops on the ground. One of the unforeseen consequences of removing Saddam and Gadaffi and Assad and Mubarak from power, though our Ambassadors to the Middle East did repeatedly warn us, was that it was Islamists rather than democrats that took advantage of the resultant power vacuum. Those dictators, when they were in power, were infinitely more effective at preventing the spread of religious fundamentalism than any western air force. The proposed air strikes would not be carried out in partnership with any organised army on the ground – unlike the air strikes currently being carried out by Russia. Russia, like the West and most Middle East nations, wants stability in the area and a defeat of Islamist forces. The failure to find common ground with this obvious potential partner, and the resultant dangers of escalating conflict between Russia and the West, should increase our caution. Finally, it is the lack of a coherent exit strategy that remains my most serious concern. If we have no idea what type of government should replace Assad or how it could be established then should we really be getting involved at all? Assad is undoubtedly a brutal dictator, but if he has the ground forces to defeat ISIL, which we don’t have, then – having already seen what happened following our intervention in Iraq and Libya – should we be acting to destabilise his government when we have no coherent strategy of our own? Whilst the people of Syria desperately need our help, this is not the way to help them. Kind regards, Robert.
- Cllr Robert Vint

Dear Dr. Wollaston, I am disappointed to read your post and to see that in spite of your courageous, and very right, stance in 2013 you are backtracking and supporting air strikes this time round. Of course ISIS/daesh poses a threat. But will air strikes really lessen this threat and make us (in Europe) any safer? The 2003 war in Iraq, opposed by a majority of UK citizens whose views were blatantly ignored by politicians who thought they knew better, has not made us any safer. Quite the contrary. There is nothing to suggest bombinf ISIS will make us any safer either. The most shocking, in my opinion, of your comments is your acknowlegement that innocent people will die in these airstrikes - in order to protect innocent people in Europe from dying! How can that be right? are you saying a life in the UK is worth more than one in Syria? It is a sad state of affairs if those are the values of our society. I agree with the comments posted above too, and urge you to change your mind and VOTE AGAINST airstrikes.
- Philippa Candler

I also feel that I have to state my disagreement. As someone who has just turned 18 and therefore hasn't yet had the chance to vote it can often feel like I have very little power with regard to politics in my country and a part of that extends to an idea that there are very rarely things in politics that I feel this strongly about. I feel that this decision would be a huge mistake, not only for the innocent victims in the areas directly affected by the attacks but also for the victims of senseless racism that may be caused by this in the UK. The decision to agree with the attacks may have huge repercussions to both civilians in Syria and Europe. This becomes an attack on the general Muslim population and extends much further than defending our country. Your acknowledgement of the innocent civilians who will be affected by these attacks shocks me but also suggests that there may be a hope in you deciding to vote against this decision. Please, please don't make this decision in the name of our town. If it is decided to be carried forward it will be the end of any chance of me voting for your party in the future and I am aware of many, many other young people who also strongly disagree.
- Ella Watkins

I do not believe that David Cameron has made a compelling case to bomb Syria. I do not believe the way to support "countless thousands across Syria and the wider region living under ISIL barbarity ... subject to systematic enslavement, rape, torture, murder and genocide" is to drop bombs on those very people. You said yourself that those people are being used like human shields and there will be 'collateral damage'. I'm deeply disturbed by the images of French and American bombing campaigns, children being lifted from rubble. If this doesn't prove to ISIL that the West does not care about the people of Syria, I don't know what does. See this article from the Guardian 'Voices from Raqqa, We can't hide from your bombs, tell your MPs to say no'. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/29/raqqa-exiles-bashar-al-assad-isis-bombing Two years ago David Cameron asked for a vote to support a bombing campaign AGAINST Assad. Now the French and Americans have asked for support in bombing Assads enemies... this is a multi-sided war that western nations have intervened in enough already; western nations funding different factions depending on their political interests. It is extraordinary that David Cameron wishes to go to war when we don't know who are allies are. Indeed the western nations currently bombing Syria aren't in agreement as to the extent of regime change required. So, what happens next.. when we've bombed the life out of Raqqa, maybe defeating a few targets underneath the remains of those human shields? The failures of the American Government and Islamist rebels to topple authoritarian regimes—in Iraq, Libya, and now Syria—created power vacuums that will be filled with extremists without persistent local forces to suppress them. (ref http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/10/how-isis-started-syria-iraq/412042/) I am unconvinced that there are 70,000 moderate fighters in Syria to do this. Julian Lewis, chairman of the Defence Committee was surprised at this 'revelation': "Where are these magical 70,000 people and if they are there fighting, how come they haven't been able to roll back Isil/Daesh? Is it that they're in the wrong place? Is it that they're fighting each other? Or is it that in reality they're not all that moderate and that there are a lot of jihadists among them?" as quoted from Sky News. The UK may be at risk of terrorist threats. I am grateful to our Intelligence Forces in protecting us from those recent threats in the UK, identified and thwarted.... but I feel compelled to tell you as my representative in Westminster that I refuse to allow your party to use 'fear' as the evidence to create untold suffering and fear in another land. This is simple to my 7 year old daughter, to looked at me wide eyed when I asked her whether the British should bomb another country and she said 'of course not! Why would we do that to them when we wouldn't want them to do it to us? They tell us about that kind of thing in school every day.' I hope that your invitation to respond to your letter is taken up by the people of the Totnes constituency and that you get a clear mandate for your vote from your constituency as I do not see my voice nor the voice of anyone I know represented in the media to date. I hope that you get sufficient responses to change your vote to 'no'.
- Cat Radford

Dr. Sarah, I can understand that this has been a difficult decision, but as a constituent you have my support in taking it. ISIS represents a truly barbaric medieval force that stands against everything that the liberal-minded folk of Totnes stand for. Politics often comes down to 51-49 decisions, but in this case if we cannot take action against this vile cancer, it is pretty damned hard to envision when we would ever use our armed forces.
- Mark Marshall

Dear Dr Wollaston, Lest we forget I saw you at Brixham War Memorial on Memorial Day so I was surprised that you support the bombing of targets in Syria in order to combat terrorism in the UK “even though the innocent are likely to be among the victims of future bombing.” Here are some points that should be considered 1. In your lifetime the majority of terrorist atrocities in the UK were committed by the IRA. In the 40 odd years since the 1971 bombing of the Post Office Tower over 3500 people have been killed. Even last year Europol recorded 109 shooting and bombing incidents in Northern Ireland. Would you have supported bombing the IRA homelands of the Falls Road and Bogside? Would that have made the UK a safer place? The Bloody Sunday massacre didn’t . 2. DAESH is only one group amongst many such as Al Quaeda, Al Shabaab, and Boko Haram that have a similar ideology. Bombing Raqqa will be like beheading the Lernaean Hydra which caused the monster to grow two more. There are already reports that DAESH is establishing another headquarters in Sirte in Libya to control the oil and gas trade with Europe. How will we know when to stop the bombing? 3. Given that the crusades instigated by Pope Urban II in 1096 led to 200 years of Holy War by Roman Catholic Europeans on Muslims, other Christians, Jews and Pagans throughout the Middle East and Europe, there is a strong possibility that we will run out of money before we bomb DAESH and its affiliates into oblivion. How long do you think we can last financially in a war situation? 4. The 13th century Franciscan friar Roger Bacon said of the crusades "Those who survive, together with their children, are more and more embittered against the Christian faith". Do you think that is not happening already? My experience of muslim friends and colleagues in the UK, Saudi and Indonesia is that many assume that a European is, de facto Christian. 5. In about 2006 King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia visited China starting the “Look East Policy” in which there will be financial and technical cooperation in oil extraction and refining. I have seen a construction crane with Chinese writing along its boom in Saudi Arabia. The Chinese navy have built or are pursuing agreements to build ports at Darwin in Australia, Hambantota in Sri Lanka and Djibuoti in Africa. This will give them bunkering facilities for their warships to protect their trade from the Gulf to China. In April this year a Chinese naval frigate evacuated 225 foreign citizens from strife-torn Yemen. The Chinese are not judgemental in their dealings with foreigners and have no colonial baggage. Do you think that bombing Sunni Muslims will help the security of the oil supplies that our society is based on? I wish you well in coming to the best decision for us all. Edward Stone
- Edward Stone

Dr Dr Wollaston You state a good case but like all but one of the comments above I can't see the point in more British military action over Syria. Serious sanctions need to be put in place against those that fund these groups. We can't just pretend we are going to destroy them from the air. They will just move further into Libya and the other areas laid lawless by decades of Civil war and corrupt governance to which, in some cases, the West has turned a blind eye. As your constituent I beg you to desist on voting for Military action in Syria and urge you to consider bringing all our troops in the region home. Alastair Prichard
- Alastair Prichard

Dear Dr Wollaston. I am most concerned that we are likely to use air strikes in Syria. First we need to consider the people of Syria and then look at our involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, these countries are not considered safe since our military action, Please no air strikes, this is extremely complicated and we need to act with great care. June Wood
- June Wood

Will we never learn! Having created and trained ISIL in order to help overthrow Assad because he wouldn't allow the gas pipeline we wanted built across Syria what we actually created was an inhumane mess. This is an extraordinary and dangerous situation. The Russians are backing Assad because of course they do not want an alternative supply of gas to theirs in Europe whilst the USA want the pipeline to reduce Russian influence Neither Russia nor NATO wish the pipeline that Assad is backing built by Iran so increasing Iranian power and influence. Is it any wonder that the Wests cavalier attitude to the lives of people in the Middle East has resulted in the increase in terrorism? This is a war of smoke and mirrors. Have you really been given intelligence from David Cameron which makes you as a doctor believe that our killing more civilians in the Middle East is actually going to have a positive affect? Surely there are still too many lies and deceptions to make the decision to increase bombing.
- Timothy Kendall

Dear Dr. Wollaston, I cannot equal the excellent and eloquent arguments posted here in opposition to bombing, but alike, and for all those informed reasons, I urge you to use your conscience and agency to vote against the barbarous and presumptive act of bombing a people based on the rationale you have listed in your argument. It can only be disastrous to add to the present chaos. I sympathize with the difficulty of your position, but I hear unmistakably in your and the Party's statements the monotone of rhetoric that allows us to slide words over the possible death of civilians as implicitly justified under the guise of protecting our own. In the smallest matters of life, and all the more at this scale, the deepest wisdom at times is inaction, waiting, and listening, until we know what is the right thing to do, to have the ethical courage of non-action until we know what part to play, rather than forge ahead with the bombast of our collective ego. Is this not the ultimate opportunity for all politicians trapped within their party identities to test their own truths, act on them, and change the foundations on which we govern? Please consider carefully the concerns that your constituents and many members of the public are expressing, Regards, Vaughn Barclay
- Vaughn Barclay

This article for the Telegraph is merely a propaganda puff for which Dr Wollaston will I am sure be amply rewarded by Mr Cameron in the future. ( gong or peerage ? ) Most of the funds for ISIL comes from Qatar and Saudi and ISIL taking root in Syria and Iraq is a consequence of the US policy of regime change. As for the Paris bombers , most of them lived in Brussels not in Raqqa and has more to do with modern France's attempt to absorb and integrate millions of its former colonial subjects from north Africa. Today we see the first bombs falling on Syria from the RAF which are not " precision " British Brimstone missiles but in fact Paveway bombs manufactured in the United States. End result ; more money for arms manufacturers at the same time as increasing refugee flows in Syria and adding to the toxic mix in the Middle East.
- Peter Thompson

What eloquent letters above. I cannot attempt to match with understanding and knowledge of the complexity of the matter but I liked the phrase by the last writer; 'propoganda puff'...... One evening I watched ITV, BBC and C4 news one after the other. Each carried exactly the same news reports and video clips. Surely there is more than 4 news stories on the immense beautiful and diverse planet that we live on. (Yet we don't hear much about corporate pollution, the struggles of the amazon rainforest people, the fires in Indonesia etc. etc.) Years ago, when my sister lived in South Africa we were really concerned about the riots we heard about on the news over there, so called her. She barely knew of what we were talking about. Then she called us when she heard on her news about riots over here: Again, life was carrying on as normal to us. I read George Monbiot's bio. a little while ago (he writes for the Guardian) and he said he had been so excited about working for the BBC but when Thatcher became prime minister she got rid of the chairman in the 80's and the new ruling was 'no more investigative journalism'!! Replaced by propaganda puff? (So, after all this austerity by the Conservatives, suddenly there is millions and billions for killing people again.) Where DID Cameron get his emotive speel from? (Same place as Blair?) Can we believe what we hear on the news? Is it only countries 'we don't like' that have propaganda? Do politicians really question what is going on? Who is behind everything? What are the motives? Who will benefit....... Follow the money. I was struck watching the film 'Amazing Grace' that the slave trade continued for 500 years. Not least because politicians were making money out of it. 100 years ago over a million men were killed and traumatised in the trenches fighting over a metre of mud. Why? What lies were they told? (Apart from the shaming if they didn't do it) Oh where are the wise elders that make decisions led by their heart, not media, propaganda and profit?
- Karen Evans

Disappointed. If a foreign government ordered the bombing of Totnes due to a possible radical/ terrorist cell would you let that happen? D

Why did it take you so long to decide to go against vote leave if you knew the figure of £350 million a week to be wrong?
- Rob

The figure of £350 million is not wrong - that is our gross contribution out of which the EU dolls out money back to us on any project they see fit. Even if we continued to spend our own money on such questionable projects we would still have approximately half that amount left over out of which we could spend £100 million on the NHS. Sarah's latest stunt is purely political manipulation of the situation probably orchestrated by Slippery David Cameron.
- Brian - Brixham

Quote " I have neither sought or been offered promotion." You insult the intelligence of the public and perpetuate the low regard in which politicians are held. I trust your constituents will reward your 'moral' decision accordingly.
- John Gosport

I think your disgusting about turn to remain has more to do with you 1 being a remain all along. 2 you like all the political class have much much more for your own benefit to remain so you can keep the money rolling in, I hope you sleep well in later years when we the general public suffer your selfish decisision.... VERY VERY but not surprised TRAITOR desssision. . x
- wayne andrews

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25 NOV 2015

Social Care and Public Health are Essential for Individuals and the Future of our NHS

I wrote this article which appears in today's Telegraph

Britain spends 8.5% of GDP on health care, just below average among the OECD group of rich nations. But while our spending on health has been virtually static in real terms since 2009, the same is not true of demand, which has risen inexorably. Anyone listening to those on front line will hear the unequivocal message that our NHS is under unprecedented strain from the increase in the number of patients with complex long-term conditions, and the shortage in staff and funding to cope. Hospital trusts are heading for a record end of year deficit of around £2bn.

George Osborne faces enormous pressures as he tries to balance the books but he is right to commit an additional £3.8bn to the NHS next year, bringing forward a significant down payment on the £8bn promised by 2020. No one should be under any illusion, however, that this £3.8bn will solve the financial challenges facing our health service.

The fate of the NHS will also depend on the settlement for social care funding outlined in today's spending review. Any Accident & Emergency department will tell the Chancellor that winter pressures are mainly the result of so-called "exit block". Staff time is taken up caring for patients with complex problems who cannot be admitted to wards because those already in beds cannot be discharged due to the lack of social care packages. Social care cannot be divorced from health care and if you combine budgets for both, overall heath and social care spending has seen a worrying decline.

The widening gap in social care funding is set to become wider still as councils fund the living wage. Any further squeeze on their already thin payments to care providers risks prompting a mass exit from the sector. The NHS would then, even more regularly, become the default backup, incurring wasteful and disproportionate costs when people would far rather be at home.

Can more money be set aside for social care provision? There are suggestions that the Chancellor may allow councils flexibility to raise revenue themselves to do just that. But doing so will be most challenging in the very areas with greatest deprivation and need.

Without the ability to manage these extra costs, hospitals will have to make tough choices about priorities.

This is not the time to push for routine seven-day NHS services without the realistic funds to match. The extra costs of routine services on a Sunday were not included in the NHS's own long term plan, the "Five Year Forward View". So any promise that the service can operate at the same level of convenience on a Sunday as on a Tuesday is simply unrealistic. We must prioritise safety and follow the evidence about the measures which will genuinely make a difference. With staffing stretched, there is a danger of unintended consequences and we have to make sure that improving weekend services does not simply result in worse outcomes for patients treated on a weekday.

Today we will see the small print of the spending review. Boosting funding for NHSEngland should be transparently achieved with "new money", not at the expense of bodies like Public Health England or Health Education England, which is responsible for workforce training.

Public Health is the front line of the NHS. Further cuts would hit already stretched services like mental health, drug and alcohol addiction services and sexual health. Action on prevention and early intervention was central to achieving the savings set out in the "5 Year Forward View" as these are key to stemming the rise in demand from preventable disease. Obesity, for example, is estimated to cost the NHS over £5bn per year and the wider economy £27bn, yet we spend a tiny fraction of that on prevention.

Public Health England is not some dry outpost of the NHS, it is both core clinical business and crucial to future savings. Driving it onto the rocks could sink the ship.

Meanwhile it hardly needs saying that it would be unwise to scupper our ability to train the future workforce by cuts to Health Education England.

I really welcome the Chancellor's boost to NHS funding but the time has come to look at how much more we could do to reduce the future costs to individuals and society through preventing illness. We must also follow the evidence when it comes to getting the best out of a tight budget and that requires a serious plan for social care and a review of the key priorities for a seven day NHS.


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28 OCT 2015

Tampon Tax

Many people have contacted me about VAT on sanitary products. Of course I am opposed to VAT being placed on these essential items but I did not support Paula Sherriff MP's amendment on this topic to the Finance Bill as this matter is entirely devolved to the EU and it would have been entirely misleading to pretend otherwise.

Unfortunately, we are in this situation as VAT replaced the UK scheme when we joined the then European Economic Community. Anything we already had as zero rated tax was allowed to remain that way but the EU have not allowed the UK to add new categories for zero rating since then. I am pleased that the European Commission has now stated that a review of VAT rules will take place next year, which is the realistic opportunity we have to tackle this issue and I would urge those who have concerns to contact our MEPs to ask them to lobby for sanitary products to be zero rated for VAT and you can do so via the following link.

1 comment

Stop blaming the EU for this non issue! The fact of the matter is that VAT on tampons is only 5%. It's 20% on toothpaste, razors, pain killers and glasses (and of course many other products). I can't function without my prescription lenses so why should I have to pay VAT on them?
- Marc Cornelius

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16 OCT 2015

Half-Baked and Reheated; the Medical Anecdote Bill Returns to the Commons Today

This article appeared first on Huffington Post

We all want to be able to access effective treatments as quickly and safely as possible. Why then do the overwhelming majority of research and medical bodies alongside the Patients Association and Action against Medical Accidents so firmly oppose the Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill?

In a nutshell because it will do nothing for genuine innovation or to improve access to treatments but it will confuse the legislation, remove important protections for patients from reckless practitioners and undermine research.

This bill is a reheated version of the half-baked Medical Innovation Bill which was thrown out in the last Parliament. If it was a turkey pie, you wouldn't touch it.

It starts from the false premise that fear of litigation is the key impediment to innovation. The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, The Academy of Medical Sciences, Cancer Research UK, The Wellcome Trust and a very long list of other research charities have all made it clear that they disagree...that they do not see the need for this legislation and that they do not believe the bill will achieve it stated aims. They all speak of the unintended consequences for patients and for medical research alike.

It is hard to see why the government is not firmly opposing this bill.

Existing legal and professional ethics arrangements already allow responsible innovation. Action against Medical Accidents set out the risk of creating a 'Heaton Harris' legal defence which would make it easier for rogue doctors to carry out risky but 'innovative' procedures or 'have a go' treatments. Under the proposals, these doctors would only be required to obtain the views of at least one other doctor with experience of patients with the condition in question. There is nothing to protect patients from doctors who selectively seek the views of peers who are themselves profiting from newly permissive experimentation.

Faced with a dreadful diagnosis, people are at their most vulnerable to the siren call of innovation. Why take part in a clinical trial if seeing a private clinic would guarantee something innovative? The problem of course is that innovative treatments may turn out to be more harmful than existing treatment or none but a series of anecdotal treatments means that neither we nor patients will ever know.

The bill seeks to address this by tagging on powers for the government to set up a database of these anecdotal treatments. If publicly searchable it would make for wonderful free advertising for private clinics but a vast sprawling register of treatments is no substitute for a proper evaluation of evidence and simply fails to understand the science.

There is no need for legislation to create a database that would be of genuine value to patients and the research community alike, it does however, require funding.

Clinical trials already struggle to find enough participants without this undermining legislation; far better for government to build on improving access and information about clinical trials for those who would like to take part and to focus on their 'Accelerated Access Review' which is examining how to speed up access to new drugs, devices and diagnostics for NHS patients.

When I worked on a children's ward as a junior doctor in the late 1980s, the outlook for childhood leukaemia was grim. That so many of those diagnosed with the same conditions today will survive and thrive is not thanks to a series of anecdotal treatments but because of the meticulous research which allowed us to discover the best treatments. Patients today benefit thanks to the thousands who took part in clinical trials before them and very many go on themselves to take part in the studies that will help others in the future.

None of us will benefit from undermining clinical research with unwanted and ill-judged legislation. MPs should send it to the sluice.


Having some past knowledge of the "alternative" health market and having been somewhat naive in their anecdotal testimonials, any legislation should only aim to encourage the efficacy and funding of clinically based trials. As someone with cancer I appreciate all the research that has and continues to take place and which is helping me to improve my treatment outcomes. I was unaware of this legislation and will call upon my MP to vote against it. Oh but I suspect he won't because he is a colleague of yours who blindly toes your party's line. You have my greatest respect for attempting to educate your colleagues on this and other health matters.
- David Westwood

The expression, "Don't confuse me with facts [and logic]", comes to mind! Sadly, successive governments have demonstrated the ability to ignore expert advice for the sake of perceived political advantage. But don't be discouraged, you put the case so well. Keep up the excellent work. Good luck...
- Chris Bulleid

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12 OCT 2015

Sugar Tax Report

I wrote the following article for the Telegraph that appeared this morning.

Sitting on the desk of Jeremy Hunt is a detailed and impartial review of the international evidence on measures which could reduce our consumption of sugar.

But the Secretary of State for Health is refusing to publish this study - compiled by Public Health England (PHE) - despite repeated requests to make it available to the public.

This matters because the public health community and campaign groups need to be able to access unbiased evidence to fully contribute to the Government's forthcoming childhood obesity strategy before the ink is dry on the paper.

It also matters because an important principle is at stake around the transparency of evidence and data.

The Secretary of State regularly speaks of the need for timely publication of data by NHS staff, even if that is inconvenient or embarrassing for the organisations concerned - and we rightly no longer accept that pharmaceutical firms delay or conceal evidence from their clinical trials.

Leadership on transparency however, has to come from the top.

It sends a dangerous message when NHS staff see delayed publication of data on NHS finances and now an unreasonable refusal to share key evidence on reducing sugar.

This week the Commons health committee begins its inquiry into what should be included in the childhood obesity strategy. This will also be Parliament's response to the e-petition signed by 147,000 people, initiated by Jamie Oliver and Sustain, which calls for a tax on sugar sweetened drinks.

Why should campaigners be denied access to an important evidence base paid for by the public purse for the benefit of the nation's children? Given the refusal of Mr Hunt to publish, the health committee has formally requested Duncan Selbie, the chief executive of PHE, to use his powers to do so. At the time PHE was set up as an executive agency of government, there were concerns about the possibility that ministers might lean on officials.

For this reason it was made explicit that its credibility would be based on its "expertise, underpinned by its freedom to set out the evidence, science, and professional public health advice it presents without fear or favour".

Mr Selbie has, however, agreed with Mr Hunt it is inappropriate to publish in advance of the obesity strategy.

He should re-read the framework agreement which sets out PHE's operational autonomy and which requires him to operate "transparently and proactively and provide government, the NHS, Parliament, public health professionals and the public with expert, evidence-based information and advice".

The wider public health community will not understand a refusal to use his powers to publish this evidence.

Mr Hunt must practise what he preaches on timely transparency of data and evidence.

If he will not do so, the chief executive of PHE needs to act in the public interest and do so in his place.


Whilst i live in Bingley, West Yorkshire, i fully support your campaign, it is crazy to keep the costs low for such a harmful product to peoples health. As a prominent MP on health issues will you support the continued provision of free school lunches for primary school children. This may increasingly become the main meal of the day for children from low income house holds.
- John Burns

Thank you for taking such a firm position. It is scandalous that this report is so delayed. It seems that the leadership of the Conservative Party are in thrall to the global companies that pedal sugar to children.
- Andy Christian

Keep up the good work Sarah. I can't believe that Mr Hunt and the Prime Minister refuse to support you and the committee on introducing a sugar tax. It's like a repeat of the failed attempt for many years to ban smoking by sweeping the bad news under the carpet. The voices of the sugar lobby are bordering on the immoral. Please continue your sane battle for the health of the nation and especially our youngsters.
- David Westwood

Hi Sarah, Well done and thank you for all that you are doing to promote this issue, despite getting no support at all it seems from the rest of your party. I am so angry about the delay in making public , and now the negative response from the Government to the sugar tax report. I have sent the link to Jamie Oliver's petition to everyone I know. I work in the level 3 Obesity team for TSDFT. is there anything more that we can do to support you keep up the good work , and best wishes from Emma Stubbs
- Emma Stubbs

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04 SEP 2015

We can and should do more to help the humanitarian disaster at our door

Aylan Kurdi is not the first child to drown in the Mediterranean Sea or to suffocate in an airless lorry at the hands of people traffickers but his image burns into our humanity. As we witness the scenes of refugees desperate to reach the sanctuary of our shores the question is whether Britain could and should do more to help and if so in what way?

A mass movement of people is underway, not only of those fleeing conflict in the Middle East and North Africa but of others trying to escape from conditions of grinding poverty. Children just like Aylan die every day from malnutrition and disease but we cannot provide a home for everyone.

In the year ending March 2015 we received 25,020 applications for asylum but just 2,222 of these were from Syrian nationals. Those accepted make up a tiny fraction of the 330,000 annual net migration into the UK and yet, in a democratic country, there is a need to listen to the expressly articulated concern about our ability to cope with the scale and pace of change. I do not believe there is support for us to match the 800,000 refugees welcomed by Germany in addition to our existing migration from other sources and we simply could not provide housing on that scale. Neither is there support for delegating compulsory decisions about quotas to the EU without the leadership to look at all the options. At a time of such humanitarian disaster however, we can and I believe that we should accept more refugees There is also a case for the EU suspending the rules on free movement to seek work to allow greater flexibility to offer those opportunities instead to refugees in desperate need.

International leadership is paralysed despite the scale of the unfolding disaster and there are so many factors beyond our control. Britain cannot force an end to the vicious regional religious sectarian struggles; that will take their own religious and political leaders to actually show true leadership. In the meantime Russia's shameful ongoing support for Assad blocks a negotiated transition of power in Syria. The UN has been entirely impotent in effecting an international military response to the situation and the hard reality is that ground intervention by Western nations acting alone would become a recruiting sergeant for the likes of ISIS and Al-Qaeda. In short, the exodus of desperate refugees is set to continue.

There are clear dangers if a perilous journey with traffickers becomes the surest way for those escaping the conflict to gain asylum and, even if they cannot agree a means to end the war, it is time for the international community to review the way that we assist and prioritise help for the civilian victims. Recognised refugee assessment centres in countries jointly funded to host them should be established in addition to the existing mechanism from refugee camps as the only routes to gaining asylum from conflict zones but that would take a change in international law. If nothing changes then we will continue to play into the hands of the criminal gangs profiting from their trade in human misery. There is also a question about who is in greatest need, the (mostly) young men trying to break through the fences at Calais or the unaccompanied children out of sight in refugee camps? We should in my view prioritise those in the refugee camps.

Unless there is a clear message that arriving by sea will not result in direct entry to the EU, we will simply condemn more people to attempt these treacherous journeys. Fast track assessment centres would also need powers to repatriate those who are are not granted asylum. The current situation is placing intolerable and growing pressure on countries at the front line and countries like Greece cannot possibly cope especially in the midst of their own financial crisis.

We can all be proud that Britain is one of the few countries to commit 0.7% of our income to international development and that we are the second highest financial contributor to the relief effort for Syrian refugees. Yet there are loud and growing calls for overseas aid to be slashed in favour of spending at home. In a democracy consent matters and my sense is that there would be greater support for our aid if the rules for spending the budget could allow it to include humanitarian relief and operations like Mare Nostrum by our armed forces. There is also a case for it to fund onward support in their countries of origin for those denied asylum alongside continuing efforts to prevent the need to leave in the first place.

Britain has a long tradition of welcoming people fleeing persecution. Our anxiety about net migration and especially about EU economic migration has hardened attitudes but this is hitting the most vulnerable. We cannot help every child in need but we could play our part by accepting an increase to 10,000 refugees. In particular I hope that David Cameron will consider the call for a modern day equivalent of the Kindertransport, which was a beacon of hope in Europe's darkest hour.


I have not voted for you .. Please do not speak for me ... From a very old Brixham family. Thank you ..
- G.Bedford..

- One of the best blogs I have read on he issue. Agree entirely that help for women and children should be the priority not young able bodied men and that setting up safe havens in contiguous countries is safest, most sensible answer. However, I am not sure you are right about Putin. Much as I disl

I agree with these views. We need to help not only the refugees but also those countries that border Syria and are struggling to cope with the influx of refugees. Greeks, suffering from severe austerity, have shown more compassion than we have. They have sheltered those flooding into their country and of course they encourage them to move elsewhere - how could they cope it all the refugees stayed? To stop the refugees drowning in the Med we need to help improve conditions in the camps near Syria and take refugees direct from those camps. This is not only a moral obligation but also a political one - we need to aid the neighbouring countries, help them remain stable and reduce the pressure on their own infrastructure.
- J Sanders

You cannot separate the massive net immigration numbers from the debate about asylum seekers. All MP's are responsible for the failure to provide leadership and to vote on sensible controls to limit the numbers to ease the social and financial pressures we now face. The health and social services face pressures, yet the proposal by Dr Wollaston is for even higher numbers of refugees. If we did not have the mistakes made by successive governments the situation may be different. No, it is time for other countries to play their part now.
- Phil

This is worrying. I've never voted Tory and probably never will, but I find that Dr Sarah seems sensible, well-informed and intelligent on a range of topics and I find myself agreeing, even modifying my views.. I agree with most of this blog although I am a bit worried about our government's role in the disintegration of Syria. I'd like to ask the refugees how their current situation compares with how things were 5 years ago before the Arab spring, and our ill-thought out response to it.
- TW

I agree with these views, but feel that we are not doing enough and cannot turn our backs on these people when we contributed to the problems in the region. I am part of a CUK initiative to help Syran Refugees who are coming to this country following David Cameron 's pledge to take 1000 before Christmas. Anyone interested in helping the Syrian Refugees or finding out about what is going on in the South Hams should look at the Beyond Borders website which is a hub for various initiatives taking place. Furthermore, in mid December there will be a register of interest for private sponsors featured in the Sunday Times, this ill involve a number of high profile, faith, civil society and celebrity figures. Will you Sarah Wollaston be one of the 50 -100 MP's to add your name to the Refugee Commitment ( RC) ? Items being considered for the RC: Private sponsorship creating safe migratory routes , letting in up to 50,000 vulnerable refugees humanitarian visas Cathy Koo
- Cathy koo

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03 AUG 2015

Care Cost Lottery

For anyone hit with a debilitating illness, it comes as a huge shock to find that there is no entitlement whatever to receive help with the costs of social care if their assets are worth more than £23,250.

Through no fault of their own, around one in 10 people aged over 65, many of whom have saved all their lives, face catastrophic costs especially if they need long-term residential care. This was not an issue at the general election in May because, during the last Parliament, the Government responded to the Dilnot Commission and passed ground-breaking legislation through the Care Act to place a cap on the total amount that anyone would have to pay, alongside a major increase in the asset threshold.

The Government has now kicked that promise into the long grass. The announcement was silently delivered via a written statement, snuck out in the Lords on a Friday afternoon, two working days before the Commons went into its long summer recess. Despite affecting thousands of families, the timing effectively prevented this major shift in policy being properly debated in Parliament.

There were many unanswered questions, and the Health Committee, which I chair – wrote to Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, to ask them.

In his response, Mr Hunt noted that it was important to announce the decision as soon as possible after it was taken. This was, he explained, because many organisations were continuing to work to deliver the reforms to the original timetable.

I believe these organisations, and all of us, deserve to know when and by whom these decisions were taken.

The Local Government Association (LGA) requested the delay – but this was because of the financial reality of implementing the policy, rather than an argument against the principle of protecting people against overwhelming care costs.

The resulting delay is unacceptable, but it is not the fault of local government. Throughout the passage of the Care Bill, the need to fully fund the proposals, which would have greatly increased the number of people entitled to free care, could not have been made clearer. Reassurances were given at the time that the government understood and had allowed for those costs. Since then, however, the LGA received no indication that new funding would cover both mainstream adult social care and the cap reforms. In the absence of funding for both, they therefore made it clear that existing care, which is already at breaking point, must be the priority.

The LGA estimate that the already yawning funding gap for social care is growing by a minimum of £700 million a year, chiefly as a result of rising demand. Implementing the National Living Wage may add an extra £1 billion to their costs by 2020 to pay the wages for residential and homecare staff. This may have been the straw that broke the camel's back.

Thousands of eldery men and women could still be forced to sell their homes

In a further blow, Mr Hunt's response to the Health Committee confirms that the asset threshold limits will remain at their current levels of £23,250 for the upper limit and £14,250 for the lower limit. This has long been a bitter pill for anyone who has done the right thing and saved for retirement, only to face what amounts to unlimited care costs.

The care costs lottery looks set to continue until at least 2020 but there can be no excuse for any delay in clamping down on the absolute disgrace of cross subsidies. Those who fund their own residential care are too often being charged extra to top up shamefully unrealistic fees paid by local authorities for those who do not. In his response on that point, Mr Hunt maintains that there may be "good reasons why councils can often pay less than self-funders for care: they often buy in bulk and have responsibilities to drive the best deal possible to ensure value for taxpayers' money." This grossly underplays the appalling scale of the practice.

There is now statutory guidance setting out how local authorities must consider the actual costs of care and support when negotiating fee levels. The Health Secretary says he will be taking action in partnership with local authorities and providers to make sure this happens. I hope that care homes and affected individuals alike will send him the evidence, wherever and whenever that continues not to be the case.

The government promised fairness for those who have saved for decades only to see their assets decimated because they need to rely on social care. The delay may have been a reflection of the financial reality that councils would have been bankrupted by the costs of the National Living Wage alongside the bill for fully implementing the Care Act. The government claims that the delay is in response to a direct plea from the LGA. A better answer would have been to address the gross underfunding of social care. Instead they have used the LGA's request as covering fire to ditch a cornerstone of legislation and a clear promise to older people and their families.

The Care Act should not have been shelved and certainly not in this manner.

My article first appeared in the Telegraph today.

1 comment

Thank you for taking up this cause. I do not own a home and have little savings having spent my money on eye operations to save my sight. Sick of the run around of clinics and long journeys. I am 76 and more disabled as my years of heavy lifting have taken their toll. We are told we are living too long and the health service can't cope. Care homes are mostly in private hands with wealthy owners who pay their staff a pittance, or employ foreigners who do not speak proper English the elderly cannot understand.--The reason the home in Chillington was closed. I dread old age as do my friends. In their late 70s and 80s. One is 95 and luckily quite wealthy but terrified of going in a care home. We have worked all our lives and feel we are being used as a scapegoat, using scarce recorces, whilst foreign aid seems to have been guaranteed to every tin pot dictator, as funding to Zimbabwe to help to bring about democracy!! I lived there and assisted my friend to run a hospital and clinics. At the sharp end. Anybody can come here and get free medical treatment. I know from experience. Our people are being short changed while money is scattered like confetti to all and sundry. We have to care for our own first! Part of the N.H.S. cradle to grave. Thank you.
- Margaret Newton.

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30 JUL 2015

Coerced Consent is no Consent

There is a dark question at the heart of Professor Black's call for evidence on the work challenges facing benefit claimants who are struggling with addiction and obesity and it should worry us all. She asks, 'What are the legal, ethical and other implications of linking benefit entitlements to take up of appropriate treatment or support?

The inclusion of this question calls into doubt the independence of her review as Professor Black cannot be in any doubt about the fundamental principles of medical consent; that it must be freely given and informed. There are only a few strictly limited circumstances, covered by the Mental Health Act, when people may receive medical treatment against their wishes. It would be abhorrent for the State to extend that to others in order to tackle a perceived reluctance to accept help for conditions of which society disapproves.

A threat to remove benefits unless a claimant accepts treatment, would represent coerced consent to that treatment and that is no consent at all because it would not be freely given. Treating a patient without valid consent would put any clinician in breach of their duty as a doctor let alone in breach of the law.

Any proposal to change the law to allow such coerced consent would be a seismic change and threaten us all. Where would it stop?

It would also be completely pointless. The roots of addiction are complex and treatment is far more likely to be successful when the person affected is actively seeking help. We would also end up depriving or delaying access to the people who want to benefit in favour of those who are not yet ready or willing to change. It would be a criminal waste of time and resources to fill NHS clinics with addicts reluctantly gaming the system or issuing prescriptions for discarded medicines.

Professor Black's call for evidence also misses an important opportunity to comment on the clear evidence base for prevention of alcohol harm. There is still time to follow Scotland's lead in implementing a minimum price for alcohol. It would be perverse indeed for government to be coercing people into treatments from which they are unlikely to benefit at the same time as failing to act on the saturation access to and promotion of ultra cheap booze which fuels their addiction.


Well said Sarah. It's clear too that those who ask for help are often unable to source it; funding is limited.
- Lynne Roper

It also raises the question of what is 'appropriate treatment and support' and where are the resourses to provide it? What training will staff in local jobcentre's have that will enable them to address this question before referring a claimant for such treatment or support and considering whether to sanction them for a failure to comply? Bearing in mind that 60% of referrals to a decision maker to consider a sanction under the current provisions are found to be inappropraite (and the number of actual sanctions imposed that are overturned at the revision or appeal stage is significant). This is another example of the governement pandering to the predudices of the public about claimants (whipped up by politicians and the media over recent years) in return for cheap sound bites (which then obscures any informed debate on how to tackle the complex health & social issues that undurly addiction).
- Peter

Well said! I wonder as well why an outsider was brought in. The DWP has a team of about 50 medics and support staff who consider this question regularly - they must be miffed!
- Greg Wood

10 years on full duties with the Ambulance service, gave a huge insight into drug and alcohol addiction amongst other types as with gambling and eating disorders. Most had social or mental problems but others used their addiction as a way of life and the benefits it gave, without working for a living. One arrived here from South Africa with his family. Always worked but after coming to U.K. has become obese deliberately, his wife is his carer and they have all the benefits including being housed, car and scooter etc. Classed as disabled are now on easy street. Just one example. And not even British!
- Margaret Newton.

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13 JUL 2015

Time to consign hunting to history

Rural voters deserve better than to be typecast as pro blood sports by the hunting lobby. It is clear to me that most people, living in both rural and urban areas of the Totnes Constituency, would prefer to see the hunting of foxes by packs of hounds consigned to the history books. There is no clamour from the countryside to relax the ban, rather a plea for government to focus on the issues which would really make a difference to their lives, like improving infrastructure and addressing the inequality of rural funding for schools and healthcare. This week's vote on relaxing the ban will, if passed by the Commons, cast a shadow over the reputation of the Conservative Party. MPs voting in favour will have failed to listen to the majority on an ethical issue about which public opinion could not be clearer. Few people go to the polls with hunting uppermost in their minds but reputation matters. I hope my colleagues will reject the shallow narrative from the hunting lobby that the proposals are a necessary measure for the countryside; they are not.

A free vote was promised in our manifesto. I hope that Conservative MPs will use it to send a clear message that the Party has moved on from hunting and instead signal our intention to focus on the real issues facing rural Britain.


Sarah As a proud Devonian, and someone who has worked in London -- the centre of the political sphere and where everything now appears focused -- I can't see this Government, or the next, focusing on the issues that matter most to the people that live here or want to move here. If they did, then we wouldn't be having the same conversation as we did 30 years ago. In my view, if there was an appetite to 'fix' the infrastructure etc, then by now it would have been sorted. Perhaps the system itself is at fault -- let's face it if we had a 50 or 100-year strategy for the region then we wouldn't need to argue about different policies from different parties. Julian
- Julian Summerhayes

Thank you for this Sarah, I hope the ban is upheld and you are in the majority, and blood sports are consigned to the history books.
- Charlotte Davis

So pleased to see this, Sarah. Thank you.
- Ann Collyer

So glad to hear your comments. And yes the real issues are what MP's should be looking at, not a minority bloodsport that 80% oft this country don't want back. I have had many holidays in the South West for many years but the badger cull and now hunting could put me off from returning. I love the area and want to support our own holiday businesses but not at the cost of our wildlife.
- Simon Clarke

Also thank you. Riding out with other people on a drag hunt is a lovely day out but there should never be more than two hounds with the riders it is far too easy for the hounds to get involved in chasing a fox as they are definitely not the brightest dogs which is why the huntsmen can't always call them off.
- Lin Lobb

Thank you Sarah for being one of the enlightened MPs in this government. I am a rural landowner who suffers the same frustration as the rest of the country does on this issue. Fox hunting and other barbaric blood sports need to be assigned to the history books forever.
- Mary Dowson

Thank you for representing the views of many country folk. I graduated from agricultural college and worked in the agricultural industry for many years. I have also kept and ridden horses all my life. I am 100% opposed to foxhunting and I very much hope that the ban is retained - and made tougher and easier to enforce. I voted Conservative in the election and I hope that the MPs will give the country what the majority wants rather than bowing to the very loud and rather arrogant demands of the hunting fraternity.
- Hilary Boughton

Well said Sarah.
- Chris Libby

Thank you Sarah for presenting both a rational and democratic argument for retaining the ban. As you say, this issue is a moral one not a matter of freedom or choice, or even national boundaries. Fox hunting is neither necessary nor effective as the recent case of a hunt breeding foxes to kill proves. Killing animals for 'sport' is an act of gross depravity, which you rightly point out needs to be left in the past. Equally, this action by the pro-hunting element in Parliament is profoundly undemocratic as the Statutory Instrument cannot be amended by debate and is therefore a disingenuous attempt to subvert our normal legislative process. Hunting, whilst not the most pressing problem on the nation's mind is nevertheless a highly contentious matter that needs thorough examination before any amendments are made. I hope many other MPs will take note of this and vote down this measure on that basis alone if not on animal welfare grounds. I am concerned also that the elements of this amendment referring to terriers and underground working are aimed at further weakening the protection offered to badgers under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 against interference by the hunts. The current situation regarding sett blocking and digging out by hunt members is already very bad and much of it goes on undetected let alone prosecuted by the authorities. As a previous poster has said, the reputation of the West Country in general and the Conservative party in particular has been severely damaged by the badger cull and now this. All power to your elbow in trying to bring it to an end.
- Peter Martin

Thank you Sarah for your opinions on what most consider a barbaric practice. I might even vote Conservative if there were more like you in the Party. Unfortunately I'm in the Tiverton and Honiton constituency - enough said!
- Jenny Keen

Fantastic news, thank you so much x
- Jenny Rogers

Thank you for representing our views so well. I am much relieved - you are so right that the torture of animals as a form of entertainment should be consigned to history. We support you in your stand.
- Lynn Alderson

Sarah, I would have hoped that you would have been better informed !. Without some control of the fox population (Hunting may in fact be the most humane method, culling the deceased/injured foxes). How do you think they will be controlled ?.... The Farmers, Keepers will have no choice but to shoot them, resulting inevitably in wounded foxes. Foxes as natural predators of other wildlife have to me managed.
- Charles Eyston

This isn't about 'relaxing the ban'; instead about making for more effective and humane control and management of the fox population. We know that farmers, including those in your constituency, would welcome these changes- please listen to them.
- Tom

Thanks. DEFRA doesn't even publish figures for fox predation on livestock because it's so minuscule yet it does for other causes. Farmers don't call in the hunt to control predators. Why would they when you see hunts like the Middleton Hunt raising cubs in outbuildings that can be hunted later in the season. You've restored my faith in the Tory party.
- David Thompson

I think it a great shame that there are still people that cling to the now comprehensively discredited notion that foxes 'need controlling' by humans. As a lifelong country dweller and keeper of free range chickens I fend these argument not only false but mendacious. The vast majority of foxes die of cold and starvation in the countryside because modern farming has stripped the rural landscape of much that foxes can eat (which is why so many end up in urban areas). The idea that ripping a fox apart is 'humane' would be laughable if it wasn't so cruel. Even if foxes did need controlling then hunting is the least humane method of all. However, no form of 'pest control' needs 40 people dressed up in 19t century costumes, riding horses over other people's land, damaging crops, fences and walls chased by forty out-of-control dogs. What other form of pest control begins with a glass of sherry? The public has rightly become tired of the dissembling, the lame excused and the outright lies put forward by the hunting lobby. MPs like Sarah Woolaston and Tracy Crouch are right to stand up to the bullying and patronising blandishments of those who claim to know about the countryside and the ecology of it's wildlife, but who clearly don't. Dr Woolaston and Ms. Crouch's attempts to bring the regressive rump of Conservative party into the 21st century are to be applauded. Their views not only represent those of the majority of the British people but also the true nature of the anachronistic horrors of hunting.
- Peter Martin

Thank you for respecting the views of the vast majority. Tom, hunts actually breed foxes for hunting...it isn't humane to tear foxes to pieces alive!
- Dave c

1. There is no evidence hunting is cruel: the Burns Inquiry rejected that suggestion. 2. Foxes are predators and require control - farmers (including us) DO call in the hunt to deal with foxes. 3. The Hunting Act was admitted by its proponents after the event to be class warfare ignoring the social mix of the hunting populace - it was a pure sop by Blair to his backbenchers (and he has consistently expressed his regret about it since). 4. The Hunting Act is bad law - unenforceable, illogical and wasteful of police and court time and limited resources. It is legal to use a dog below ground to flush a fox killing game birds, but not one killing lambs or chickens - that is about as illogical as one can imagine. 5. These amendments bring the law in England into line with that in Scotland. 6. All aspects of countryside management are a balance - lose the balance in respect of wildlife and disease soars - TB and mange being classic examples. 7. Evidence, not sentiment, is the proper basis for decision making in public office. 8.Laws are there to protect minorities rather than to persecute them. 9. A wrong, based on ill-conceived spite, was perpetrated on the hunting community in 2004 - the passage of time does not render that wrong any more justifiable - the Nazi theft of pure property of the Jews is only now being rectified 70 years later. 10. These amendments do NOT make hunting legal (more's the pity) but at least they make the ban logical and enforceable. 11. Your constituents deserve proper responses rather than a round-robin "Dear All" brush-off. 12. Try donning a pair of willies and leave the brown rice and sandals of Totnes alone for a few days - education is a worthwhile continuing process.
- Mark Treneer

Obviously my comment has not met with the approval required to actually appear on this page - censorship of a constituent's views is contrary to the fundamentals of democracy. Its rather unsurprising you claim a majority supports your view if you only read and post the one's you agree with and the most gentile of the others.
- Mark

The fox population does need controlling, I have given up keeping sheep because of the loss of twin lambs to foxes, adding insult to injury this morning I discovered all 19 of my lovely hens dead in their pen, a fox has scaled a 6 foot fence and killed the lot, eaten 3 heads and left the rest as it couldnt get the bodies out of the run. Terrible shame, but hunting with hounds still the best and most humane way to control their numbers. Predation much worse since the ban JANE
- jane

Sarah, The harsh reality is that foxes need controlling and this amendment provides for a sensible way ahead.
- David Larmour

What a pleasure to listen to sense being spoken by a politician! Well said Sarah, I wish you were my MP not Mel Stride. How is it that people think it perfectly acceptable to tear a fox to pieces but if it were their pet cat they would find it unacceptable - A fox kills to live, a cat kills for fun, neither deserve to be torn to pieces alive. PLUS I thought that the fox was supposed to be shot not killed by the hounds? I have yet to see a huntsman able to control the bloodlust in hounds that they have taught to kill!
- Diana D

Dr. Wollaston you are quite right: the desperate need for better rural housing, faster broadband, better bus services etc are all more important than fox hunting. It's a pity the Coalition didn't address these vital issues during the last parliament and of course the Labour government devoted 700 hours of Parliamentery time to banning fox hunting that could and should have been spent improving rural services. So you should therefore support your government's suggested changes to the Hunting Act to bring clarity to a defective law and to finally take fox hunting off the rural agenda so it can be replaced by issues that more directly affect the future and prosperity of the countryside. To that extent you are right, fox hunting should be consigned to history, but leaving the law ion the muddled state of the 2004 Act will only perpetuate its prominence on the rural agenda. By supporting your government's proposals you and your colleagues will create the space you need to concentrate to the more important issues affecting the country and the countryside.
- Henry Harington

Sarah, please consider your social conscience. Whatever opinions in and around Totnes may be, this great country of ours is underpinned by social and cultural diversity. Relative values vary regionally, for good and understandable reasons. Mutual respect for those differences is essential. I question your logic in assuming that local opinion is either relevant or appropriate on a national scale. More people hunt to hounds now than ever did before the ban. As such, your headline, “Time to consign hunting to history” appears as an attempt to impose, and possibly to curry local favour, rather than a considered appreciation of the many synergistic interrelations that comprise our national interest.
- Tony Hawkins

Sarah, you said you would listen to your constituents' views, that must include the hill farmers of Dartmoor that are in your constituency. So please respect their position and support this Bill.
- Margaret

Again, some quite astonishing intellectual vacuity on display here. Cruelty is not a matter of 'diversity' or 'opinion', or worse still 'tradition'?! What kind of thinking is that? We don't allow dog fighting on the grounds of 'diversity' or 'choice' and thankfully it's a 'tradition' that has long been illegal. That is because it is both cruel and immoral. The same applies to fox hunting; it is cruel and immoral and should be consigned to history. The fact that people actually enjoy it is a matter of grave concern. It is well established that people who are cruel to animals are also cruel to people. Equally, the fact that a law is badly drawn up is not an excuse for relaxing it but tightening it up. The law on hunting as it stands was a compromise designed to allow the tradition and socio-cultural aspects of it to continue but without the cruelty. It relied on those who continued with it to uphold their side of the bargain by being honest about what they were doing and to keep to the trail. The fact that the law has become 'unenforceable' is because the hunts have deliberately made it so. They have done everything in their power to subvert it, to lie and cheat and to go on killing. To then claim it should be repealed on these grounds is mendacious in the extreme. Shame on all of you. You bring shame on our nation, on our values and on our democracy.
- Peter Martin

Am very relieved to hear that you will be voting against. Thank you.
- Sarah Matthews

So many misinformed opinions regarding fox population control. Foxes are self regulating predators. They control their own population. This is governed by availability of habitat and food. Removing foxes only encourages more to enter the now vacant territory. This nothing more than basic ecology and backed up by hard scientific evidence. Those who believe foxes need to be controlled are either driven by a pro hunt agenda or are simply ignorant of the facts and blinded by pro hunt propaganda. The simple fact is hunts encourage and breed foxes to hunt. A somewhat strange situation when they cry "pest control" to justify their passion for cruelty. Lets hope these are the first steps to a total ban on all hunting with dogs, including the Beagling for Hares and Stag hunts.
- Accidental

This proposed amendment does not legalise fox hunting but merely brings the law into line with that in Scotland. I don't hear anyone suggesting that the Scots are more cruel as a result of their laws on hunting!! Indeed there is evidence to show that animal welfare is better supported by their law. The rumour that the SNP now intend to vote against this amendment is the sort of hypocrisy that brings politics into disrepute. Clearly this is an issue that still stirs strong emotions on both sides but this limited amendment would possibly lay it to rest for a generation and I therefore urge you to support the amendment.
- Graham Grose

Thank you for speaking for the majority unlike my MP charlie elthick who did not even have the courtesy to reply to my e mails !!
- Paula baker

There is no EVIDENCE that foxhunting is cruel. The Burns Inquiry established that, on the EVIDENCE. Fact. To assert that foxhunters are cruel to people is ridiculous - they do not go about in balaclavas and with staves in hand as the antis do. There is no EVIDENCE that foxhunters are baby-bashers or otherwise cruel to people. Fact. Evidence is the foundation of reason. Absence of reason is bigotry. A law based on bigotry rather than evidence has no place in a civilised society. Law based on evidence is the opposite of being mendacious - rather it is the illiterate in pursuit of the illogical.
- Deborah

You are very welcome to your new best friend Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP. They seem to want to vote on English domestic matters when it suits them. Where do you stand on that Dr W? It is pretty hypocritical of the SNP to want to vote against the amendments which bring the law in England into line with that in Scotland - which the SNP advocated.
- Barney

Killing foxes with a pack of hounds cannot be compared to pitching dogs bred for fighting against each other as a spectacle. That pack of fox hounds work together to kill efficiently and quickly. Hence the conclusions of Burns Enquiry; that there is no evidence for associated cruelty. There is no spectacle, other than of horses, hounds and people working together in the countryside, the kill itself very rarely being witnessed by any other than hunt staff. Working together, that is, because the fox population needs controlling. Hunts operate by invitation and permission of the landowner. If that landowner did not need foxes controlling, the hunt would not be there. In turn, the hunt needs financial support from its members, both landowners and others, who take pleasure and pride interacting within their community both to enable and help their huntsman effect such control. That huntsman trains his hounds to kill foxes more humanely than any known alternative. Whether in a majority or nearly so, the huge numbers of people that understand and support the control of foxes with hounds would not do so if, for a moment, they thought the practice either unnecessary or cruel. Anybody is welcome to support that practice and community. Those that prefer not to participate, perhaps because they have no immediate personal reason to see foxes controlled, should maintain respect for those that do, recognising that the patchwork comprising our diverse landscape and society will inevitably lead to different needs and priorities in space and time.
- Tony

Sarah, Put very simply to ease some troubled minds....In the real world, foxes need controlling - fact- and this proposed legislation therefore is a modification ONLY. The Hunting Ban was extremely bad legislation making a mockery of English Law and this will slightly improve things. Please listen to the countryside and vote with your party and not the SNP.
- Gavin Dollard

There is a great liberal tradition of tolerance here in the West Country and as a result your blog made sad reading. I urge you not only to read the Burns Report for a thorough science-based assessment (and endorsement) of hunting with hounds, but also to consider whether your own personal prejudices are not finding a convenient echo among a strident and illiberal few. Perhaps the greatest irony is that by voting against the amendment which will bring the English law in line with that currently operating in Scotland you will be handing a gift to the SNP. In your blog on Sept 20th 2014 you say "In my view that should mean that MPs representing English constituencies for Laws only affecting England should be considering devolved issues without interference from MPs representing other Nations within the UK".
- Gill L

So sorry that you appear so entrenched in your views Sarah and that you appear to have misunderstood the Amendment being presented. The vote tomorrow is NOT about repealing the Hunting Act, merely and at the request of hill farmers who suffer the most fox predation, to bring the Act into line with the law in Scotland. It is not about so called toffs on horseback, not about tearing apart a sentient animal, not about popularist blood lust. What is IS about is improving the ability of farmers, and hill farmers in particular, to control a pest species when necessary. I urge you to listen to your farming constituents and vote in favour of the Amendment. Not to support the Amendment will be to merely support the SNP and Labour in their attempt to give our PM a bloody nose. Do you want to be responsible for that? I had thought better of you.
- Suzy

Those stating fox hunting isn't cruel and there is no evidence to prove it is are very ignorant to the plethora of photographic and video evidence that exists already. What planet are you on? In addition, the hunters breed foxes for the purpose of hunting them, (again, proven) which immediately negates the argument that it is for control. The only animal that needs controlling are the hunters themselves.
- Sarah

As someone from a hill farming family (hundreds of sheep, 250 cattle) I couldn't disagree more with Suzy, if the farmer has a problem, he/she deals with it them self, or brings in a local marksman to dispatch of the animal quickly and humanely, not invite a bunch of want to be countrymen on horseback to tear up the land and knock down walls all in the pursuit of pleasure, what a ridiculous argument, you should be ashamed of yourself for being an apologist for this barbaric practice.
- Adrian

The fox hunting supporters disgust me to no end. I would welcome the opportunity to hunt you with horses and a pack of dogs and see how enjoyable you find it. Once we've cornered you and you're exhausted and terrified, then I will make a feeble attempt to call off the dogs as they rip into your flesh...but rest assured your agony will be short as I will then shoot you if you haven't been devoured. Then I will smear your blood on a child's face...indeed what a civilised way to spend a day. Time to end your archaic, bloodthirsty and psychotic views and step into the 21st century...are you surprised you're viewed as backward by city folk?
- Sabateur

Sarah, I was disappointed to read your comments, and receive your letter which I considered to be biased. Foxes do kill livestock! Predominantly hens and lambs. When they get into a hen coup it is not a case of taking one bird away for food, but a massacre of all the birds they can catch. This is not a pretty sight, and is most distressing for the owner. We need to control fox numbers as they have no natural predators, and flushing out foxes to a gun is more efficient and humane than ordinary shooting. When fox numbers become excessive they become diseased and often get mange, which they then pass on to domestic dogs and cats. Any dog walked in the country is in danger of catching mange which is a very unpleasant for both the pet and the owner. When we had a mangy fox locally it infected 9 pet dogs, and finally came into my barn to die where a friend put it out of its misery. It was in a terrible state, raw and skin and bones. The Amendment to the Act merely seeks to allow the hunts to go about their business in a more efficient manner and to help the farmers by controlling fox numbers. I am not asking you to agree with ‘hunting’, merely to point out that you blog is rather emotive and biased with the use for example of ‘blood sports’. You represent a constituency which has a large farming population and you are totally failing to give any consideration to their opinions and needs. I would urge that you re consider your stance. It is so important that our MPs are even handed and fair to all. Margaret
- Margaret

This amendment was not about hunting with hounds, it was about allowing the use of more then two hounds to flush a fox to guns, a change that would have animal welfare benefit, that is wanted by farmers and would have brought the rest of the UK into line with Scotland. You have shown understanding of this case; which makes your blog all the more disappointing. A 'shallow narrative' indeed.
- Jonathan

Adrian, no matter how many sheep and cattle your “family” may run, you cannot really believe that landowners “invite a bunch of want to be countrymen on horseback to tear up the land and knock down walls all in the pursuit of pleasure”. Landowners and farmers already find making ends meet quite difficult enough. Instead, hunts do all they can not to damage pasture etc, followers on horseback riding the margins or taking another route as may be appropriate, returning to repair any remaining accidental damage to walls and gates. Otherwise, the 190 fox hunting packs that thrive throughout the UK would not be invited back, and could not continue. Further to which, call me old fashioned if you like, but getting outside to help achieve something worthwhile in a broad social context deserves to be applauded, rather that sneered at.
- Hazel

The decision by Nicola Sturgeon on behalf of her Scottish Nationalist MPs in the English Parliament to vote against this amendment which would have only brought the law in line with that in Scotland which was supported by both the SNP and Labour party, proves without doubt the hypocritical and unprincipled manoeuvring of the SNP to give a bloody nose to the PM. The Westminster Parliament does not legislate on matters devolved to Scotland without the consent of the Scottish Parliament, and it is proposed that this be formally enshrined in legislation rather than existing as a parliamentary convention. Why should Scotland have the right to vote on matters affecting only England and Wales? Please Sarah can I ask you to join those asking for a strengthening of the proposals on English votes for English laws otherwise the rest of this Parliament is going to be dominated by a party led by a person who does not even represent a constituency in Parliament. A sad state of affairs whatever your view on the Hunting Act amendments.
- Suzy

Re. Peter Martin. Is it the hunting or the age old bitterness of those who seem obsessed by "gentry" ( nothing is further from the truth) out hunting .Hunts only traverse land over which they have permission ( more than some ramblers!!), hunt members are responsible to follow up any hunt and replace any broken fence etc( would members of the public were as good when traipsing happily through fields of growing corn, lambing fields or carefully managed coppices).By the way, can YOU recall your pet dog as well as the master's control over 20 couple of hounds? Try it !Go out with your friends with all their dogs ...20 will do for a start. Let 'em go in the local park and see how long it takes you to get them all back. By the way being a landowner is not the same as making your living from the land .Last but not least why is there no outcry over poisoning rats, which is not a kind death,or killing them with terriers? Or do you only care about "pretty" animals? Wind in the Willows mentality but real life is not like that..sorry.
- Ann

As a owner of land (who banned the hunt) in your constituency but living in an adjoining area, I can only wish you were my MP. Have a word with that woman Ann-Marie Morris will you? I understand she thinks this barbaric form of 'entertainment' should continue, no doubt believing she'll get some 'brownie points' from Dave for towing the party line. Well done you though, having intelligence, compassion and the balls to stand up for your principles.
- Tony

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29 JUN 2015

Tunisian Tragedy

18 of our citizens are amongst those confirmed dead in Tunisia and we can only imagine the grief of their families. Once again, ISIL has waged its cowardly war against the softest of targets. In times of war we should stop helping their propaganda machine to act as a gruesome recruiting sergeant.

Instead of publicising the names and smirking faces of terrorists or their sympathisers, let's see and hear the personal stories of the courageous Tunisians who formed a human shield on the beach; theirs is the true face of Islam. As David Cameron announces his resolve to end the online grooming through social media, isn't it time for the print and broadcast media to question their own editorial policies? The killers crave publicity for their crimes not just for their own vanity but because they know that this draws others to follow their example. We rightly criminalise child pornography but must now also stop the pictures and links to horrific snuff videos which enable ISIL to deploy the oldest weapon in history; to terrorise and undermine the enemy.

Whilst we grieve with the families of all the dead we should also keep countering ISIL's message of twisted grievance against the West by being clear that overwhelmingly it is Muslims who are being slaughtered by ISIL.


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23 FEB 2015

Why I will not be voting to undermine the Abortion Act

There is no doubt that female foeticide, notably in China, India and Korea, is distorting the gender balance of their societies and devaluing women and girls. That has consequences for all women reinforcing disempowerment and a lesser status.

There is no room for complacency in the UK and we need to remain vigilant.

The Department of Health has updated their analysis of male to female birth rates with data from 2008-2012 and this now includes ethnicity. Without exception, birth ratios were within the expected range for all UK communities, including analysis by ethnicity and birth order.

There may be individual cases but it would be entirely wrong to stigmatise entire communities in Britain by suggesting that this is in any way a common or systematic practice here ...it is not.

For those individual women who do feel under pressure not to continue with a pregnancy purely on the grounds of gender, Fiona Bruce's proposed amendment to the Serious Crimes Bill, will have unintended consequences. Far from protecting them, fear of criminalisation means that these women will not attend their doctor's surgery or clinic prepared to discuss the pressures they face but will present with an entirely different reason for requesting a termination of pregnancy. The opportunity will be lost to talk about any threats or actual domestic violence an individual may face for giving birth to female children.

The amendment is also unnecessary because doctors already know that it is against the law to carry out an abortion solely because of the gender of the foetus unless there are other grounds, for example the risk of a sex-linked inherited medical condition. The updated guidance from the Department of Health and the Chief Medical Officer clearly allows the Director of Public Prosecutions to prosecute should any cases arise. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives have made it clear that they consider the amendment unnecessary as sex selection is already unlawful. Their members know this.

If passed there is a grave danger however, that it will create uncertainty in the law for those families affected by serious sex-linked medical conditions for example X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency syndrome and X-linked spinal muscular atrophy. There are a number of these conditions and it is not always possible to detect them by genetic testing. The proposed amendment may make it impossible for these families to retain the choice not to proceed with pregnancies where there is a risk of one of these terrible diseases.

There is another reason to oppose the amendment and that is because it is a veneer, its underlying effect will be to erode the Abortion Act. The term 'unborn child' within this amendment completely changes the framework of abortion law. Across our legislation and common law, children are afforded a wide range of protections and rights that are not afforded to the foetus.

It would be entirely wrong to effect such a major change on the basis of a short debate on an amendment sneaked onto the coat tails of wording which appears at first sight to have the intention of protecting women.

This is a Trojan horse. The underlying agenda of many of those behind this amendment is to erode women's access to safe and legal abortion altogether and I will be voting against it.


Thank you for voting against this, and for speaking out.
- Cicely

Thank you. I agree with everything you had said. I do wish people would also be brave enough to stand by the pro-choice principle completely though. That sex-selective abortions happen is horrible for what it indicates - that some value women and girls less than men and boys. We absolutely should work on tackling gender discrimination. But abortion rights shouldn't even be up for discussion. Women shouldn't be forced to continue with a pregnancy. At all. What their reasons are for not wanting to do so is irrelevant.
- Nic

Thank you for taking this seriously and thank you for your decision to vote against this amendment.
- Claire

I have recently been made aware of your comments about stigmatising communities. I am incredulous at the logic - where something is wrong, it is important that we say so. Sex selective abortion is wrong and whoever is guilty of it, from whichever community should be brought to justice.
- Paul

Paul is right. The argument about "stigmatising communities" is disingenuous. Perhaps FGM should be allowed?
- David

Doctors are going around the law - as the Telegraph investigation proved. A private prosecution, as the CPS disregarded their duty, was started. It has now been taken over by the CPS and shut down. They must have waited until the vote was lost before doing this, knowing full well that had they shut it down before the vote it would have proven that the existing law is not being enforced. Whether you agree or not with the law as it currently stands, it's highly deceitful to claim that it is being enforced when it's plain as day that it isn't. This is an attempt to pretend it's being enforced so as to prevent the new amendment going ahead, which would make sure we protected female babies. And if the existing law isn't being enforced, and you are opposed to the amendment that clarifies it, then ipso facto you are saying that you agree that the current position of allowing female foeticide in practice but not in name is acceptable. The numbers are also secondary, would we allow the murder of born female children as long the numbers were low and it was done by nice people and mostly ignored so as not to trouble us when we read the newspaper at breakfast? Of course not.
- EK

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23 FEB 2015

Remember The Real Victims of IS

Several press reports describe the latest trio of teenagers as 'jihadi brides' fleeing the country for Syria. In what sense can their actions be described as 'fleeing' when that is defined as running away from a place or situation of danger? There are risks in glamourising these girls by describing them as 'A-grade' students yet in the same paragraph portraying them as if they are merely passive victims of social media grooming. That is an insult to the countless thousands of women and girls who are the real victims of IS. Even the most cursory of Internet searches starkly sets out the consequences for brave women human rights defenders like Samira Saleh Al-Nuaimi, tortured and publicly murdered last year in Mosul. Do those who actively choose to join IS bother to consider, let alone care about the mass murder, enslavement and rape of Yazidi girls, Shia, Christians, atheists, members of the LGBT community or in fact anyone not following the same bigoted world view as IS? Do bright teenagers with capacity share any responsibility for doing their homework on the horrors that lie ahead or the lives they may endanger in any attempted rescue?

Girls sometimes join ultra-violent gangs because they are forced to do so as a result of extreme coercive control and abuse; they desperately need help and support rather than punishment. Ultimately it is for the courts to decide the capacity these teenage gang members have to make decisions for themselves and the degree to which they are victims of grooming or culpable for colluding with terrorism.

In the meantime it only helps to fuel the pipeline if they or their actions are glamourised as 'jihadi brides'. Try replacing that term with 'ultra-violent gang member' to tell it how it is.

Time too to ask why it is so easy for unaccompanied minors to fly to countries that have become the known supply routes for the murderous ranks of IS.


I am in complete agreement with your blog post. It is ridiculous to victimise, or pathologise these girls. If they return, they should be assumed to represent a danger to our security, and lives. In that cicumstance, they should be held in a secure environment until such time that it is proven that this is no longer the case. In my opinion, the fact that they were prepared to with hold their plans from their parents, whilst making, and acting upon, their plans, proves that they were fully aware.
- Mark

Very well said, these girls are not victims but young women who despite being well educated have chosen to leave their families and turn their backs on this country to join a vile band of thugs. They have read the stories and seen the videos of the atrocious acts that these people commit and yet have chosen to leave the UK to join them. I hope they find what they are looking for and do not try to return to this country.
- Jan Cadle

Exactly - keep saying this out loud.
- Claire

Extremely well put
- Susan Morrison-Jones

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21 JAN 2015

Health Select Committee Complaints and Concerns Inquiry

Most people experience really great care in the NHS but sometimes things can go wrong. Most of those who complain about NHS services do not seek financial redress. They do so because they wish to have their concerns and experiences understood and for any failings to be acknowledged and put right so that others do not suffer the same avoidable harm.

Where such errors occur, patients and their families deserve to be met with a system which is open to complaints, supports them through the process and which delivers a timely apology, explanation and a determination to learn from mistakes.

The current system for complaints handling however, remains variable. Too many complaints are mishandled with people encountering poor communication or at worst, a defensive and complicated system which results in a complete breakdown in trust and a failure to improve patient safety.

The Committee welcomes the progress made since our last report but in this, our final report on complaints and concerns in this Parliament, we set out an overview of the developments and recommendations to date as well as those expected in 2015. We also make a number of recommendations where we feel further action is required.

As we aim to move to a culture which welcomes complaints as a way of improving NHS services, the number of complaints about a provider, rather than being an indicator of failure, may highlight a service which has developed a positive culture of complaints handling and it will be important for system and professional regulators alike to be able to identify the difference.

Complaint handling remains overly complex and we recommend a single gateway for raising complaints and concerns with clearer, adequately resourced arrangements for advocacy and support.

The removal of primary care complaints handling from local areas has resulted in a disconnection from local knowledge and learning and led to unacceptable delays. We recommend that this is rectified.

There is also a strong case for integrating complaints about health and social care under the same umbrella and this should start with a single rather than separate ombudsmen. There is now no excuse for any health or care organisations not to implement the recommendations of the 'My Expectations' report on first tier complaints as this has clearly set out a user led guide to best practice.

Just as we expect the NHS to respond in a timely, honest and open manner to patients or families raising complaints or concerns, we should expect the same for staff. The treatment of whistleblowers remains a stain on the reputation of the NHS and has led to unwarranted and inexcusable pain for a number of individuals. The treatment of those whistleblowers has not only caused them direct harm but has also undermined the willingness of others to come forward and this has ongoing implications for patient safety. Whilst this committee is clear that professionals have a duty to put patients first and to come forward with their concerns we recommend that those who have suffered harm as a result of doing so and whose actions are proven to have been vindicated, should be identified and receive an apology and practical redress.


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12 JAN 2015

Cartoonists have protected us for centuries, long may they continue

How should we respond to the murderous attack in Paris at the offices of Charlie Hebdo? Their editor, Stephane Charbonnier, wrote that he would 'rather die standing than live on his knees'. He was murdered defending for all of us the right to free speech, which includes the right to mock and deride. Cartoonists have been holding the powerful up to ridicule on our behalf for centuries, especially those who exert power through religious oppression.

Across Europe, but not in the UK, a number of papers responded to the murders by covering their front pages with Charlie Hebdo cartoons. Good for them. Who had the greater courage, the masked murderers armed with assault rifles or the cartoonists armed only with their pens? It will be a tough decision for editors as printing cartoons poking fun at Islam now means weighing up the risks not only to themselves and their families but to their staff.

If that means we all pay to increase their protection if they decide to do so, that is a price we should be prepared to pay.

Around the world fundamentalism seeks to crush freedom, be that the right to an education for girls or even the right for women to express an opinion or show their faces in public. The West must respond to this chilling advance of barbarism and be prepared to stand up for our values, including the right to lampoon religion, or we too will live on our knees.

Muslims were among the victims in Paris and worldwide the fanatics have especially targeted their vicious hatred against those not following their own warped version of the faith. Of all the responses to the massacre, the most cowardly would be to stigmatise or attack the vast majority who reject violence. It is time for the media to give a louder voice to the outrage of the many Muslims who are saying loud and clear; not in my name.

Earlier this week, before the long shadow from events in Paris, the news was focused on waiting times in A&E. They matter because are a barometer of pressures across the whole NHS. The underlying causes are often complex and vary from hospital to hospital. Delayed discharges leading to difficulties admitting to the wards may be the principle cause in one area or a surge in demand and complexity at the front door in another. Across England the NHS is coping with around 2500 more people every day in casualty alone compared with 2010 and they are arriving with more complicated conditions. Anyone who has spent a Friday night in A&E will also know the unwelcome and avoidable strain caused by those arriving drunk and insensible. In some areas, staffing levels are a contributing factor as there is a national shortfall in doctors training to become A&E specialists and GPs. NHS 111 also needs to go further in reviewing how and where it signposts callers needing further face to face advice.

Politicians must not pretend there are simple causes or solutions, in fact A&E waiting times are far worse in Labour run Wales despite higher spending power per head and across Europe. It is an insult for Ed Milliband to have spoken of 'weaponising' the NHS for political gain. There has been no extension of charging for health services in England and neither are we moving towards a 'US style' health system because both Coalition Parties are absolutely committed to healthcare remaining free at the point of use, based on need and not ability to pay.

Instead of the mud slinging, it's time for all Parties to back the independent NHS Five Year Forward View and to set out in their manifestos whether and how they will commit to funding it in the long term.

To those talking down the NHS a reminder from the international Commonwealth Fund, it remains the best in the world.

1 comment

I agree entirely with the above and I feel Sarah Wollaston is in tune with the majority of UK citizens.
- Jeff Clarke

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02 JAN 2015

We owe a debt of gratitude to returning aid workers, subjecting them all to compulsory quarantine would be counterproductive and unnecessary

As the nurse Pauline Cafferkey fights her own battle with Ebola at an isolation unit in London, questions have been raised not only about why she was allowed to board a flight from Heathrow to Glasgow, but also about whether all returning aid workers should be placed in quarantine.

In fact, the greatest risk to the UK from Ebola would undoubtedly come if the disease raged further out of control across west Africa. Aid workers, our Armed Forces and NHS volunteers are putting their lives on the line to help to stop this happening. They deserve our thanks and huge respect, not to be treated as pariahs on their return as a result of alarmist reporting.

Some of the commentary on social media about returning humanitarians – from the likes of Katie Hopkins – has also been ugly. There will be serious consequences to whipping up a panic that appears to blame aid workers for exposing us to an avoidable risk, when the truth is that we are all far safer as a result of their courage.

Ebola continues to take a terrible toll across west Africa, having caused more than 7,000 deaths, so no one doubts the need for extreme caution. Thankfully, the efforts of our aid workers are already making a difference: the R0, the number of new cases passed on by someone who is infected, has fallen from 1.6 to 1.2 as a result of our involvement in Sierra Leone.

Education about the risks from body fluids and traditional burials, alongside measures such as early identification, isolation and treatment of those affected, are helping to turn the corner where fragile local health systems had collapsed. Other measures – such as the mass treatment for malaria – have reduced the number of people with near-identical symptoms but who do not have Ebola turning up for avoidable isolation and testing.

In the UK, any outbreak would be rapidly contained as our isolation and treatment facilities are ideally placed to cope with the very small numbers of expected cases in exposed aid workers.

It's worth remembering that brave nurses like Pauline Cafferkey are at risk because they are treating patients at their most infectious – in the later stages of the disease, when diarrhoea and vomiting have set in. They are also doing so in extremely difficult conditions.

The call for mandatory quarantine on their return to the UK may at first sight look reasonable but Public Health England (PHE) is right to weigh up the potential unintended consequences of such a policy, which could encourage those returning from high-risk areas not to report their travel history for fear of being placed under virtual house arrest.

It's surely far better to have a system where returning aid workers and high-risk travellers can remain under active surveillance with regular contact from the NHS and clear pathways to immediately report the earliest onset of any symptoms. The risk to others in the first stages of Ebola is negligible as it is spread by direct contact with infected body fluids. Sitting next to someone incubating Ebola does not carry a risk because the virus isn't airborne.

The disgraceful hounding of the aid worker Kaci Hickox in Maine exemplified the dangers of a panicked response to returning humanitarians. Her quarantine order was eventually overturned by a judge in favour of our own evidence-based active surveillance and reporting approach.

Of course, PHE will urgently need to review their criteria for transferring at-risk returning aid workers for formal testing, given that Pauline Cafferkey reportedly raised concerns about early symptoms but was checked several times at Heathrow and found not to have a fever. It must also issue clear, consistent advice on social contact for those returning from Sierra Leone and share that with the public.

If, however, we deter future aid workers by ostracising them or submitting them to draconian confinement, even if they have no signs or symptoms, we will risk fuelling the humanitarian disaster in west Africa. If we lose the fight there, we would soon be fighting it on multiple fronts here in Britain. The real danger would then be from an influx of returning travellers and those trying to escape the risk of infection who had already been exposed. It's all the more depressing, therefore, to read the mean-spirited and alarmist comments about returning aid workers. If risking your life to help strangers and to protect us at home in the UK doesn't make you a hero, what does? The very least we owe them is a decent welcome at the airport and an individual journey home. Would I be happy to share a cab with one of them? It would be an honour.


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