If last week was mercifully Brexit-free, this week was anything but. I am writing this on the Thursday evening train home from London after a marathon three days of Brexit debates and votes.
Tonight, we voted to extend the so-called article 50 exit period. It doesn’t look like we will be leaving the EU in two weeks’ time. Just as well – we are nowhere near ready to do so. But frustratingly, by a margin of just two votes, parliament failed to take control of our future options, leaving us facing yet again a binary choice, in yet another vote next week, between the Prime Minister’s deeply unsatisfactory Brexit deal, or leaving the EU without any deal at all.
That’s despite the government now having lost two votes on its deal, and parliament having voted twice to rule out no deal. The problem is we haven’t managed to pass those decisions into law. Those of us fighting to protect our constituents from a disastrous Brexit are horrified at the intransigence of the Prime Minister. One proposal, to allow the Prime Minister’s deal to be voted through on condition it is confirmed in a public vote, may be the only way through now. For those wondering why MPs like myself who support a public vote didn’t vote for one this week, see our statement here.
More happily, the frustrations of Brexit have been balanced by some really good news from the constituency. I was hugely honoured to join parishioners of Our Lady and the English Martyrs in Davyhulme to welcome our second Syrian refugee family to the constituency under the community sponsorship scheme. Under this government initiative, local groups come together to welcome and support a refugee family as they settle into their new life in the UK – explaining how the buses work, helping them to register with a GP and schools for the children, taking them to the shops. I am very proud that the first family to come to the UK under the scheme were supported by the congregation of St Monica’s in Flixton when they arrived in 2016, and that a third family will arrive to a welcome from St Ann’s in Stretford soon. And I am absolutely thrilled that Samir, dad to our first Syrian family, opened his new restaurant in Stretford last Saturday night. It was just fabulous to be with so many of those who have become friends to this lovely family, and with the restaurant just round the corner from my office, I can promise I will be a very regular customer for his delicious Middle Eastern cooking.
It has also been a big few days for women in the constituency. Thank you to Anya, who spent a week carrying out work experience in my constituency office, and joined me at a careers event for young people held at Manchester United last week. Congratulations to Urmston resident Emma Long, who was one of the exhibitors in parliament this week at a prestigious event to showcase new research in engineering and science. I was fascinated to hear her describe her research at Durham University into a unique and exceptionally preserved embryo that is more than half a billion years old.
Last Friday marked International Women’s Day, and I attended a brilliantly lively and packed out event at Limelight in Old Trafford to celebrate the day. It was great to see so many wonderful local organisations from Young Asian Women Pulling Together to Trafford Rape Crisis to TDAS to the council with its Red Box of free sanitary products which they make available in schools. (The chancellor announced in his spring financial statement in parliament on Wednesday that he would fund free sanitary products in schools and colleges in future, but Trafford is ahead of the game).
So, while parliament is a frustrating place to be right now, there are some great things to celebrate in Stretford and Urmston. And on that note, congratulations to my councillor colleagues Jo Harding, Andy Western, Adele New, Kevin Procter and Graham Whitham on completing the Partington 10K in atrocious weather last Sunday to raise money for the Mayor of Trafford’s charities – and indeed congratulations to all the runners. Very well done to all.