I HAVE been busy with all things Christmas both here in the constituency and in Parliament. With carol services, community Christmas events and parties it is a wonderful time of the year to celebrate and remember the fantastic communities to we belong to and can so easily take for granted.

One of the biggest contributors to our local communities are our fantastic local businesses, which is why it was a real pleasure to use Small Business Saturday to meet and greet small businesses here in the constituency.

This year the overall comment from business was the need to drive up footfall in our High Streets. We cannot keep doing the same things and expecting a different result and we must be bold in our approach to our High Streets and fight to bring business back into our communities.

Nationally changes to business rates and changes to shop usage planning processes have helped but the real changes need to come from local councils and they need to be innovative with businesses involved from the outset.

We need to fight to keep our High Streets vibrant and I will continue to work with local businesses to ensure that we bring pressure to councils to deliver what is needed to preserve this vital local resource.

Businesses made a number of suggestions they would like to see implemented and I will be taking these forward with Wiltshire Council to ensure that our businesses continue to grow.

Keeping with the theme of business, I was delighted to hear the Prime Minister announce that an agreement in principle has been reached with the European Union on our terms of withdrawal and talks will be proceeding to matters of trade and security.

The Prime Minister should be applauded for her handling of these negotiations and, whilst I am sure it will not satisfy everyone, it is a fair and hard-fought deal which allows us to protect citizens’ rights, peace in Ireland and move on to much-needed discussions about our future relationship with our closest trading partner.

There will be many more difficult days of negotiations ahead, but if there is one nation which can stand up to the challenge of leaving the EU, it is Britain and we as MPs must fight hard to ensure that every benefit which our leaving will bring is grabbed and delivered in full and the risks mitigated against.

We of course cannot know what the future holds but Britain has for centuries punched above its weight and size and will do again if we all pull together and believe in the principles of free trade and fairness and work hard to deliver a country and economy which works for everyone.

I am running an increased number of surgeries across the constituency in the run-up to Christmas and afterwards so please do get in touch with me on 01249 704465 or via michelle.donelan.mp@parliament.uk if I can support you with anything at all.