Robert's Weekly Column - Wednesday 20th February

Following the recent surprising and deeply disappointing news that Honda intends to close its vehicle manufacturing plant in the town, I took part in the First Task Force Meeting last Wednesday, along with North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson.

More than 30 leaders from local and national government, including representatives from business groups, workers from Honda UK, trade unions, local MPs and local civic leaders came together for the first meeting, to discuss the future of Honda in the UK, and to support the workers at Honda’s Swindon plant along with those working in the supply chain and the wider community across Swindon and the whole of Wiltshire.

At the meeting, which was co-chaired by the Business Secretary Greg Clark, the Leader of Swindon Council, David Renard and the Chair of Swindon Local Enterprise Partnership John Mortimer, we agreed on the central importance of making the case for Swindon’s world-class production facility and its highly skilled workers and for Honda’s continued investment in the plant.

Our first priority is to make the case to Honda that investment in vehicles of the future is best done in Swindon. We are united in that mission. We have some of the best talent in the world and the government is already investing in future car manufacturing, batteries and electrification infrastructure to ensure the UK retains its world-leading edge.

As part of the Taskforce, I will also work closely with leaders from local and national government to ensure that Swindon continues its record of attracting investment from advanced manufacturers, maintaining and creating highly-skilled jobs that offer fulfilling careers for many years to come.

Over the past week, the Prime Minister, the Attorney General and the Brexit Secretary have continued to hold focussed discussions with the EU.  Following a number of positive meetings, the Prime Minister announced in her statement to the House of Commons yesterday that progress has been made and the EU and the UK have agreed to deliver a joint workstream in order to avoid a hard border in Ireland. The Prime Minister also told MPs that the UK would ensure that after we leave the EU, workers’ rights will be protected and there will be no lowering of standards in relation to environmental protections or health and safety.

A meaningful vote on the Brexit deal will take place by 12th March, if a deal is not reached there will be another vote on 13th March, on whether MPs support a no-deal Brexit - so that the UK would “only leave without a deal on 29th March if there is explicit consent in the House of Commons for that outcome”.  If MPs do not vote to leave without a deal,  a third vote will take place on the 14th March on requesting an extension to the two-year Article 50 negotiation process to briefly delay EU withdrawal beyond 29th March.

Finally, I enjoyed meeting with local residents at my surgery in Wanborough last Saturday, where a variety of both local and national issues were discussed.  This coming Friday, 1st March, I am holding an open surgery at the Buckhurst Community Centre in Walcot from 1 pm – 2.30pm. If you have a local or national issue you would like to discuss with me, please get in touch by emailing robert.buckland.mp@parliament.uk