It has been quite some time since my last update, mainly because there has been little to report that isn’t speculation or hearsay, and regrettably I still cannot provide you with any reassurance that we are leaving the EU with a deal that safeguards the UK’s interests, be they in trade, security, research and development, environmental protection, or a range of other issues.
After two and half years, we’re now reaching the end of the road and we enter this week with conflicting reports that a deal is both imminent, and off, due to the Prime Minister’s inability to negotiate a deal that is acceptable to the 27 member states of the EU and her own backbench MPs, and that has a realistic prospect of commanding a majority vote in the House of Commons. The Tories’ chaotic and divisive approach is pushing the UK toward either no deal at all, or a deal that would harm jobs, rights, living standards and environmental and consumer protections.
With just weeks to go in the negotiations, the Government has still not put forward a viable solution to prevent a hard border in Ireland or a credible plan to deliver a strong future relationship with the EU. There’s certainly no majority among MPs for its cobbled together Chequers deal, which tries to maintain a half-baked customs arrangement with the EU after exit day, but the problem in parliament is that there’s no majority for any other sort of arrangement that’s been proposed so far either. Votes on different forms of customs arrangements which were proposed to try to soften the impact of Brexit were lost by a handful of votes in parliament in September, not least because the Prime Minister disgracefully caved in to the hard-line Brexiteers in her own party. This was a shameful display of political cowardice, more about her own survival and keeping her party together than what’s in the best interests of the country.
Labour has never accepted the choice between Theresa May’s deal and no deal at all. No government has the right to plunge the country into chaos as a result of their own failure. Nor will we agree to a deal that is bad for the country, or a ‘blind Brexit’, where we leave the EU without clarity about future arrangements. Keir Starmer, Labour’s Brexit spokesperson has set out 6 tests by which we will judge any deal the government brings forward (a note explaining them is attached); if these tests are not met, Labour will vote against the deal.
If a deal is voted down by Parliament, that cannot be a mandate for no deal. In those circumstances, Labour’s priority is for there to be a general election and the opportunity to sweep away this failed Tory government. But if general election is not possible, all options should be kept on the table to break the impasse and avoid a catastrophic no deal. That must include the possibility of a people’s vote, with an option to vote to remain in the EU.
You may be aware that I joined MPs from all parties in signing a letter to the Metropolitan Police and the National Crime Agency recently calling for an investigation into the Vote Leave and Leave.EU campaigns, and how they were funded. An investigation is now being undertaken by the National Crime Agency and, whilst the outcome will not impact on the Brexit process, I will be following developments very closely.
There was also a fair amount of media coverage last week of Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes’ car crash appearance before the Home Affairs select committee, of which I’m a member. We asked her about how EU citizens would prove their right to be here, or to work in the UK, if Brexit happens without a deal in March 2019. Her contradictory and confusing answers won’t have done anything to reassure EU citizens who may have lived in the UK for years, or the businesses that employ them. Later in the week, things became even more confused when the Home Secretary contradicted the Immigration Minister’s contradictions. I was therefore pleased to pledge my support for the #TheLastMile pledge, to support honouring the agreement already reached on citizens’ rights under Article 50, whatever the outcome on Brexit. This is the least we can offer the nearly 3 million EU citizens living in the United Kingdom and 1.5 million British citizens living in the EU who need a guarantee that their rights will be protected whatever happens come March 2019.
I campaigned for and voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum, and in parliament I voted against the triggering of Article 50 when it was clear the government had no plan for our relationship with the EU post-Brexit, voted in favour of our remaining in a customs union and in the single market, and voted to keep the option of our continued EEA membership on the table. I do think my record speaks pretty clearly for my position on Brexit, and for my determination to stand against any attempt to railroad through a deal that’s bad for my constituents, bad for the country, and bad for the rest of Europe, but if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.