I received a large number of emails on both sides of the Brexit debate following the High Court ruling on Article 50. The Court case was to decide if the Government could trigger Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union using its ‘prerogative power’ i.e without parliamentary consent. The decision reached by the High Court reflected my view, and that of many constituents, that the Prime Minister was wrong to sideline Parliamentary and indeed public scrutiny on the Brexit process and it is disgraceful that the Government intends to appeal the decision at the Supreme Court.

 

However, it is clear that there are some serious misconceptions about the ruling and what it means for the Brexit process.

 

The Court’s decision does not override the result of the referendum – it only rules on the process which the Government must follow to give effect to the result. The UK is leaving the European Union but the role of Parliament in deciding how we exit is vital as there is a clear national interest in getting the terms of our exit right and building a national consensus. That requires proper democratic grip and accountability of the entire process to ensure we get the best possible deal that protects our economy and workers’ rights, that delivers jobs and protects our environment, and secures the rights of EU citizens living and working in the UK, and indeed UK citizens living and working in the EU.

The legal interpretation of the judgement as it stands requires Parliament to pass a new bill that gives Government the authority to trigger Article 50. For the Prime Minister to stick to her deadline of triggering Article 50 by March 17, this new bill will have to be introduced as soon as possible. The Government has a majority of just 13 in the House of Commons and no majority at all in the House of Lords, so the time it will take for the bill to pass is uncertain as MPs and Peers from all parties will seek to amend the Bill to ensure adequate scrutiny of the Government’s negotiating priorities once Article 50 has been triggered.

The 27 countries of the EU, fearing that British diplomacy may sow divisions among them, have refused any ‘pre-negotiation’ on potential terms of Brexit, and to date, David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, has refused to disclose anything more than his ‘overarching aims: bringing back control of laws to parliament, bringing back control over decisions of immigration to the UK, maintaining the strong security cooperation that we have with the European Union and establishing the freest possible market in goods and services with the European Union and the rest of the world’. This statement doesn’t even begin to address the fundamental questions of whether the Government will fight to stay in the single market and whether free movement of people will be restricted – questions which will underpin all other negotiations.

 

The Secretary of State has said that the Government will introduce a Great Repeal Bill, to repeal the 1972 EU Communities Act and to incorporate existing EU law into domestic law, but this will not be introduced until after Article 50 has been triggered so may only take into account rights and laws that survive the negotiating process. There are real fears that the Government could use the Great Repeal Bill to weaken employment rights, equalities and environmental and consumer protections and Grant Shapps, the Conservative Party Chair has called for there to be a five-year sunset clause in the Great Repeal Bill so that any EU-derived rights would automatically expire in five years, potentially allowing key protections to be swept away by future Parliaments. I can assure you that I will support demands on the Government to ensure that the protections provided under EU regulations are retained or even strengthened as EU laws are rewritten into domestic policy.

 

Once Article 50 is triggered, the UK will have just two years to negotiate bilateral deals with the 53 countries with which the EU has Free Trade Agreements, which will cease to apply to Britain on the day of Brexit (technically, the two-year period may be extended, but only if the 27 agree to do so unanimously, and they will not). If these talks break down or Britain leaves the EU without having completed these agreements, the UK will become a regular member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and the British economy would take a very big hit as WTO rules on tariffs will impact hard on industries such as manufacturing and agriculture, and increase costs for business and consumers.

 

Almost half of our trade is with the rest of the EU and I have already had a number of conversations with businesses in Stretford and Urmston who import from or export to EU countries about their priorities and concerns. Avoiding a destructive Brexit, preventing Britain from falling back on WTO rules, must be the government’s priority and I will be pressing for continued membership of the single market to be at the heart of the UK’s negotiating position.

However, access to the single market goes hand in glove with the principle of free movement and 75% of Leave voters said immigration was their sole reason for voting this way. The economy wasn’t even a concern. Furthermore, 44% of remain voters consider it essential to reduce immigration with only 20% disagreeing and by 48% to 10%, Black and Minority Ethnic voters feel the same. Polling has shown that voters from across the political spectrum and from all ethnic groups believe successive governments have failed on immigration and this has led to a huge sense of mistrust and disconnect from the political process.

 

Immigration has been a defining issue for more than a decade, but there has been no real debate and the salience of immigration concern has closely correlated with the rate of change in communities. Indeed, areas where immigration has increased rapidly had the higher numbers of leave voters, but it is the rate of change in communities that is at issue, as most voters acknowledge that immigrants work hard and contribute, most favour a tolerant and diverse country and most think EU migrants already settled should have the right to stay.

 

Getting the balance right between the demands of UK voters for fair and managed migration, and what the EU 27 states will accept will be difficult and I will be taking a very close interest in developments with this, not only in my role as a member of the European Scrutiny Committee, but in my other new role as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration. Informing the Brexit debate on issues relating to migration will be the key priority for the APPG over the next six months, along with looking to define a long term, future-proofed, vision of a ‘good’ immigration system. It is clear that a better plan for some form of migration control will be imperative to address people’s concerns about job insecurity, falling living standards and the decline of our public services.

I received a large number of emails on both sides of the Brexit debate following the High Court ruling on Article 50. The Court case was to decide if the Government could trigger Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union using its ‘prerogative power’ i.e without parliamentary consent. The decision reached by the High Court reflected my view, and that of many constituents, that the Prime Minister was wrong to sideline Parliamentary and indeed public scrutiny on the Brexit process and it is disgraceful that the Government intends to appeal the decision at the Supreme Court.

 

However, it is clear that there are some serious misconceptions about the ruling and what it means for the Brexit process.

 

The Court’s decision does not override the result of the referendum – it only rules on the process which the Government must follow to give effect to the result. The UK is leaving the European Union but the role of Parliament in deciding how we exit is vital as there is a clear national interest in getting the terms of our exit right and building a national consensus. That requires proper democratic grip and accountability of the entire process to ensure we get the best possible deal that protects our economy and workers’ rights, that delivers jobs and protects our environment, and secures the rights of EU citizens living and working in the UK, and indeed UK citizens living and working in the EU.

The legal interpretation of the judgement as it stands requires Parliament to pass a new bill that gives Government the authority to trigger Article 50. For the Prime Minister to stick to her deadline of triggering Article 50 by March 17, this new bill will have to be introduced as soon as possible. The Government has a majority of just 13 in the House of Commons and no majority at all in the House of Lords, so the time it will take for the bill to pass is uncertain as MPs and Peers from all parties will seek to amend the Bill to ensure adequate scrutiny of the Government’s negotiating priorities once Article 50 has been triggered.

The 27 countries of the EU, fearing that British diplomacy may sow divisions among them, have refused any ‘pre-negotiation’ on potential terms of Brexit, and to date, David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, has refused to disclose anything more than his ‘overarching aims: bringing back control of laws to parliament, bringing back control over decisions of immigration to the UK, maintaining the strong security cooperation that we have with the European Union and establishing the freest possible market in goods and services with the European Union and the rest of the world’. This statement doesn’t even begin to address the fundamental questions of whether the Government will fight to stay in the single market and whether free movement of people will be restricted – questions which will underpin all other negotiations.

 

The Secretary of State has said that the Government will introduce a Great Repeal Bill, to repeal the 1972 EU Communities Act and to incorporate existing EU law into domestic law, but this will not be introduced until after Article 50 has been triggered so may only take into account rights and laws that survive the negotiating process. There are real fears that the Government could use the Great Repeal Bill to weaken employment rights, equalities and environmental and consumer protections and Grant Shapps, the Conservative Party Chair has called for there to be a five-year sunset clause in the Great Repeal Bill so that any EU-derived rights would automatically expire in five years, potentially allowing key protections to be swept away by future Parliaments. I can assure you that I will support demands on the Government to ensure that the protections provided under EU regulations are retained or even strengthened as EU laws are rewritten into domestic policy.

 

Once Article 50 is triggered, the UK will have just two years to negotiate bilateral deals with the 53 countries with which the EU has Free Trade Agreements, which will cease to apply to Britain on the day of Brexit (technically, the two-year period may be extended, but only if the 27 agree to do so unanimously, and they will not). If these talks break down or Britain leaves the EU without having completed these agreements, the UK will become a regular member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and the British economy would take a very big hit as WTO rules on tariffs will impact hard on industries such as manufacturing and agriculture, and increase costs for business and consumers.

 

Almost half of our trade is with the rest of the EU and I have already had a number of conversations with businesses in Stretford and Urmston who import from or export to EU countries about their priorities and concerns. Avoiding a destructive Brexit, preventing Britain from falling back on WTO rules, must be the government’s priority and I will be pressing for continued membership of the single market to be at the heart of the UK’s negotiating position.

However, access to the single market goes hand in glove with the principle of free movement and 75% of Leave voters said immigration was their sole reason for voting this way. The economy wasn’t even a concern. Furthermore, 44% of remain voters consider it essential to reduce immigration with only 20% disagreeing and by 48% to 10%, Black and Minority Ethnic voters feel the same. Polling has shown that voters from across the political spectrum and from all ethnic groups believe successive governments have failed on immigration and this has led to a huge sense of mistrust and disconnect from the political process.

 

Immigration has been a defining issue for more than a decade, but there has been no real debate and the salience of immigration concern has closely correlated with the rate of change in communities. Indeed, areas where immigration has increased rapidly had the higher numbers of leave voters, but it is the rate of change in communities that is at issue, as most voters acknowledge that immigrants work hard and contribute, most favour a tolerant and diverse country and most think EU migrants already settled should have the right to stay.

 

Getting the balance right between the demands of UK voters for fair and managed migration, and what the EU 27 states will accept will be difficult and I will be taking a very close interest in developments with this, not only in my role as a member of the European Scrutiny Committee, but in my other new role as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration. Informing the Brexit debate on issues relating to migration will be the key priority for the APPG over the next six months, along with looking to define a long term, future-proofed, vision of a ‘good’ immigration system. It is clear that a better plan for some form of migration control will be imperative to address people’s concerns about job insecurity, falling living standards and the decline of our public services.

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