YP Comment: Conservative leadership battle would add to Brexit complications

David Davis has said a challenge to Theresa May would be "catastrophic" for Brexit negotiations
David Davis has said a challenge to Theresa May would be "catastrophic" for Brexit negotiations
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Brexit Secretary David Davis has offered a blunt description of the apparent backroom machinations taking place within the Conservative party over the potential removal of Theresa May as Prime Minister, calling it “self-indulgent nonsense”.

The Haltemprice and Howden MP, himself one of the front-runners to replace Mrs May, made the pertinent point that a Tory leadership contest at this time would be catastrophic for the EU withdrawal negotiations he is tasked with leading.

It follows reports of a plot to make Chancellor Philip Hammond caretaker Prime Minister for two years, supported by Mr Davis as his deputy. It is suggested fellow leadership contender Boris Johnson would fight such a coronation plan “tooth and nail”.

The extent of open dissent against Mrs May’s leadership is not in doubt; Mr Davis has accepted a Tory MP told him he should be PM at a party meeting, claiming that his response was to say, “Our job is to support the Prime Minister and make Brexit work, not anything else”.

Taken on face value, this is an entirely sensible outlook. The huge complexity of the negotiations is shown in the ongoing Cabinet row about the potential length of any “transition period” for temporary trade arrangements with the EU after March 2019. While Mr Davis suggests that such an interim measure will be needed for less than two years, Mr Hammond has previously claimed it may be required for over four years.

Mr Davis admits he is far from blameless for his party’s current predicament, accepting he was among those who urged Mrs May to call the ill-fated election that has so weakened her position.

That decision has cast greater uncertainty on the vital Brexit negotiations that will shape the country’s future. But further upheaval now puts the prospect of success in even greater danger.

Bleak diagnosis for NHS

Another day, another bleak diagnosis for the future of the NHS. In what is becoming an all-too-familiar refrain, the health service is once again said to be at “breaking point” due to a lack of funding.

The figures presented by the British Medical Association today tell a stark story; one in which hundreds of doctors say it is becoming more difficult for patients to access NHS care, while patients themselves are increasingly dissatisfied with services.

The BMA claims the Government is providing a “third-class” financial settlement to the NHS while demanding it operates at a world-class standard. Whatever the truth of this statement, the pressures on the NHS are becoming increasingly apparent in Yorkshire. A lack of specialist staff has led to proposals to stop some overnight and weekend operations for children at Barnsley and Rotherham hospitals, while in North Yorkshire it is reported bosses have been told to “think the unthinkable” in coming up with radical plans to save £40m.

There is growing worry about the future of the NHS, with three in five of those polled by the BMA saying they expect the health service to get worse. Dr Mark Porter, BMA chairman of council, suggests ministers need to increase health spending so that it matches that of other leading EU economies. This would apparently result in an extra £15bn investment for the English NHS over the next five years.

The Government may claim the BMA overstates its case when it says the NHS is “running on fumes” but it is clear there are growing legitimate concerns about its future from both professionals and patients.

Support needed for apprentices

The challenges of running a successful apprenticeship programme in North Yorkshire are great, but the rewards even greater.

The North York Moors National Park Authority says it is struggling to attract apprentices, because of issues including how apprenticeships are portrayed in schools, its inability to offer the same wages as the private sector, and the lack of reliable public transport links for young people.

However, the authority is clear about the benefits its apprentices provide. In a two-year period, a team of conservation apprentices typically enrich 20 hectares of habitats, improve 24 miles of recreational routes and build or repair three miles of dry stone wall, hedge or fence boundaries - work that would otherwise have to be done by well-paid contractors.

It is heartening that officials are now working on improving apprentice pay and travel arrangements; society benefits from such schemes succeeding.