This is a difficult time for our country. The referendum of 2016 caused a great deal of hurt, and the negotiation process that we have been engaged in ever since Article 50 was invoked has been painful. Now those negotiations have concluded, and Theresa May has not delivered a good deal for Britain. It is clearer now than ever before that there was never a deal possible that would improve on the one we have already within the EU. Many people said at the time that withdrawing from the biggest market in the world could only bring dis-benefits. Doing so via the deal Mrs May is offering in this way would be disastrous, as would withdrawing with no deal at all.
We should not be fooled by the Prime Minister’s attempts to sell her deal to the British people as a good compromise – this is a tactic designed only to keep her Government in power. Leavers and remainers alike are at least united in their dislike of the outcome of the negotiations. The deal on the table could very well chain us to Brussels in perpetuity without any say in how we are governed and would leave us with a hefty divorce bill to settle – all without any of the promised assurances of frictionless trade, or the huge benefits of security cooperation and a strong political alliance across Europe. It is a poor offering indeed. It stands to reason therefore that I will not support it when it is brought before Parliament on the 11th December.
The question then is what should happen after Parliament have considered the deal in the ‘Meaningful Vote’ – a vote that Labour colleagues and campaigners fought so hard to secure, and which this Government did not want MPs to have. It is highly likely that Theresa May’s deal will be rejected by MPs – and rightly so because we shouldn’t accept a bad deal because it’s the only deal on offer or because we’re worn down with the process. But we do need a plan for what happens next.
Many people have written to me urging me to support a people’s vote. A second referendum with an option to remain is one possible future option and is something I would support if the conditions were right. But I believe we need to have a very clear idea about exactly what we would ask in the event that this were possible, and we need a far greater degree of certainty than we currently have about the possible outcome of such a vote. Even the Tory Chancellor admits that Britain’s economy would shrink under any Brexit scenario. I am wary of offering my full support to any course of action that could result in a more decisive ‘leave’ mandate, because there is no leave option available at this time that would not make Britain poorer.
So while a people’s vote should not be dismissed, we should first work to safeguard Britain against a catastrophic no deal Brexit.
Alongside colleagues, I will support Labour’s Amendment to the Meaningful Vote. I shall reject Theresa May’s Brexit deal because it fails to protect jobs and living standards, workers’ rights and environmental standards and because it does not provide sufficient guarantees on national security. The amendment strongly opposes crashing out of the UK without a deal, and that must be the first priority.
Labour believe that Theresa May’s government have failed on Brexit, and that the British people should have the opportunity now to make a choice. A choice between a Tory Government who have pursued a pointless austerity agenda to devastating effect – an agenda that has decimated public services, starved our NHS, police, local government and schools of cash, and impoverished families, and now promises to shrink our economy and make us even poorer – Or a Labour Government who would begin work immediately to repair that damage and crucially would reject any Brexit scenario that would leave the UK worse off. I understand my Party’s position on this. Not to aspire to be a party in government at this time of national crisis would be to shirk responsibility. However, the Fixed Term Parliament’s Act does present big obstacle. A General Election might not happen and if it is decisively rejected, then other democratic routes to testing the better informed will of the people should be the next step.
This is a very uncertain time and there are no ideal solutions that I can see. I can assure you that I will do all I can to ensure that I represent the views of all of my constituents in the coming weeks – not an easy task in a constituency where opinion on this issue is so divided.
I hope to eventually be able to support an outcome that will secure jobs, growth and trade, keep us safe and guarantee prosperous futures for our families, our children and our grandchildren.