The West Country Debate February: Ukraine, covid and farming

  • Watch February's edition of the West Country Debate

As the Prime Minister announces the end of forced Covid isolation, a Russian invasion of Ukraine has brought conflict to Europe.

On the home front falling covid cases mean more freedom for us - but in Ukraine freedom is under threat.

Also up for discussion is farming as MPs from Cornwall and Devon call on the Government to help one of the West Country's biggest industries reap the freedoms of Brexit.

On the panel this month:

  • Sir Robert Buckland - Conservative MP for South Swindon and former Justice Secretary

  • Kerry McCarthy - Labour MP for Bristol East

  • Andrew George - Liberal Democrat Cornwall councillor and former MP for St Ives


This morning we all woke to news that Russian President Putin had announced a military operation  in Ukraine to, as he put it,  protect civilians and aim for the 'de-Nazification' of the country. It comes despite sanctions imposed this week on Russia by the West.

In an address to the nation, Boris Johnson said of Ukraine that "our worst fears have now come true...A vast invasion is underway by land and by sea and by air".

It leaves worried members of the Ukrainian community in the West Country looking on helplessly. 

Panelists all condemned Russian actions and had a range of views on how the West should respond:


For two years, strict health laws have meant anyone with Covid 19, and some of their contacts, were forced to stay indoors to control the spread of the virus.

But now that is no more. Instead we are being urged to take personal responsibility if we have or think we have it. It all comes with a massive health warning from the PM that the pandemic is not over.

The panel disagreed on whether the Government has made the correct decision in removing the isolation laws:


MPs from Devon and Cornwall have joined those calling on the Government to provide more support for our region's farming industry. Since Brexit, farmers have seen a drop in exports and extra red tape, with staff shortages blamed on the lack of EU seasonal workers.

They also face competition from cheap, low-quality imports. Farmers in the region have told us they're worried about the future but are optimistic - MPs have called on the government to give the industry more certainty