Dear John,

Once again, we’re looking back at a very busy week in politics. And what a week it has been. We’ve had the Chancellor trying to come out all fairy godmother and ending up looking rather more like the Wicked Witch of the West. We’ve had more shocking revelations about the P&O scandal (and just how much did the Government know?) and we’ve seen yet more drama unfolding across all the various parliamentary debates that we’ve been keeping an eye on. 

So, without further ado, here’s our update for this week. Stay tuned and stay in the know!

Cost of living crisis won’t budge(t)

Sunak came up rather short this week (sorry, that’s not intended as a dig about his height), announcing a set of measures that barely scratch the surface of the cost of living crisis. Cost of living affects everyone, regardless of whether they have taxable income - it’s causing a 10% increase in daily living costs but those receiving benefits got nothing from Sunak and when you account for the £20 UC uplift being scrapped, those who simply cannot work due to disability are being left much poorer.

We can’t forget that though every country is facing rising living costs, only British consumers and businesses are having to bear the extra pain of a self-inflicted hard Brexit on top.

Our CEO Naomi Smith and journalist, author and podcaster Ian Dunt shared their thoughts on the budget in this
Twitter Spaces (the usual Dunt expletives warning applies). 

It’s officially awful

The latest stats from the OBR show the terrible impact Brexit has had on the UK economy. Not only has our economy experienced a slow decline, but it has also become far less resilient to economic shocks. Trade as a share of GDP has fallen 12% since 2019 - TWO AND A HALF TIMES MORE than in any other G7 country. That’s Brexit Britain for you. 

EU've got to be joking

While the headline measures Sunak chose to tout were a 5p cut in fuel duty and a £3,000 rise in the National Insurance threshold, one of the stranger moments of the budget was when he announced how, as a result of "Brexit", he was able to remove VAT on solar panels and heat pumps. It was quickly pointed out that you can already cut VAT on solar panels within the EU - something that some member states have actually already done. 

Still no joy for Johnson in Washington

While the EU is weaning itself off fossil fuels from despots by signing a deal with the US, Britain has just deepened its links with despotic oil-producers. In fact, Britain has again been told by the USA that threats over the Northern Ireland Protocol will mean no trade deal for the foreseeable. 

Trade Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan might be celebrating getting a deal on reducing US tariffs on UK steel - but it's 5 months after the EU got an
even better deal with the US to remove tariffs entirely.

Signs of the tension were visible at this week’s NATO meeting of world leaders where Biden seemed very keen to
speak to anyone but Boris Johnson. 

Populism gone potty

The Nationality and Borders Bill was passed in the Commons without much Tory rebellion. Which means we’re on the way to ‘offshoring’ asylum seekers for processing outside the UK. This has been trialed by Australia where the policy has resulted in a number of abuses of those caught up in it, shocking conditions in the processing camps and extraordinary costs to taxpayers of offshoring. One MP this week observed it would be cheaper to house every single asylum seeker in the Ritz and send all the children to Eton than to actually send them to offshore camps for processing. Seems like a terrible policy to us.

Keep on campaigning

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe gave her first press conference after her release from Iran wearing the colours of Ukraine.

Not only do we absolutely rate that, we also rate her candour in refusing to let the British Government off the hook for failing to get her home for so long. Why did it take six years and five foreign secretaries? 

We also loved
this interview with Anoosheh Ashoori, another dual citizen who was detained in Iran. His case never received quite so much coverage but we think his story should be heard.

Bills, Bills, Bills

The Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill received Royal Assent this week. And we wave goodbye to the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, it seems like just a short time ago you were supposed to put an end to snap elections once and for all. Your replacement more or less guarantees that all future elections will be snap ones timed to suit the poll ratings of the government of the day.

The Policing Bill was back in the Lords, with some victories for peaceful protestors as the House of Lords once again defeated Government proposals to criminalise ‘noisy’ protest. Expect to hear more from us about this next week. 

The Elections Bill completed its fifth day of Committee Stage in the Lords. Peers seem to have drawn out deliberations on the Bill to such an extent that they’ve had to add on another day of Committee Stage next week to tidy things up. The engagement from Peers across the House has been really encouraging. Report Stage comes next and we hope to see some big amendments going in.

Back again with the Backbench Business Debate

You’ll remember we told you last week that there was to be a Backbench Business Debate on Long Covid this week involving members of the APPG on Coronavirus. Because of the Budget, this debate has been pushed back to next week - so watch it next Thursday at 11 am here

The APPG on Coronavirus also
published its report on Long Covid this week, calling on the UK Government to double the £50 million pledged in the ‘Living with Covid’ plan each year to fund urgent new research into diagnostics and treatment, as well as providing financial support for key workers living with Long Covid.

Best for Britain provides secretariat for the APPG.

And finally…

The week just didn’t get any better for Sunak after he was widely mocked for a staged photoshoot in which he borrowed a Sainsbury’s worker’s Kia to get some pictures for the ‘gram. Sunak decided that to look more ‘normal’ he should fill up a car that wasn’t his own and have his picture taken while doing it - a totally ordinary thing to do, right? Also in the same photoshoot, Sunak was snapped trying to pay for some chocolate and coke by putting his contactless card against a barcode scanner. It’s an uphill struggle it seems. 

Keep up to date and keep checking our messages. All of us at Best for Britain thank you for being with us, and for supporting the work we do together.

Best wishes

Cary Mitchell

Director of Operations, Best for Britain

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