Another week of utter Brexit chaos and desperation. I would not have believed two years ago that we would find ourselves with one week to go before exit day and still have absolutely no idea if we will be crashing out of the EU without a deal. This week, the EU offered a short extension to next Friday’s alarming deadline, to 22 May if parliament agrees to the Prime Minister’s deal. And if we don’t, we will have to indicate by 11 April how we intend to proceed.
I haven’t made any secret of my view that leaving with no deal at all would be bad for the UK, bad for the rest of the EU, and disastrous for my constituents. After all, I represent a constituency with a long-established manufacturing tradition, and I know from conversations with businesses in the constituency of the scale of chaos that ‘no deal’ would cause. Rules on tariffs, product regulations, and safety standards would all be thrown up into the air. Haulage companies bringing in raw materials or transporting finished products could face long delays at the ports. ‘Just in time’ models of manufacturing (used by many businesses in my constituency) would grind to a halt.
So I’m just shocked that the Prime Minister is still trying to hold a gun to MPs’ heads with the threat of no deal. Her performance on television on Wednesday night, blaming us for rejecting the poor deal that she has negotiated, when she has flatly refused to compromise, and questioning our integrity and determination to do our best for our constituents, is an utter disgrace. She has one approach only to dealing with Brexit, and that’s to beat us over the head with her deal and refuse to consider any other choice.
Time is really running out, however. European parliamentary elections are looming, and we have to know by 11 April if we’ll still be in the EU after June and will need to elect MEPs. There are a number of potential ways through this mess, and the really important thing for those of us determined to do all we can to prevent a hard Brexit is to find the common ground. To that end, I’m supporting a motion that parliamentary business next Wednesday should be given over to allowing MPs to debate and determine the way ahead, not just to be faced with only the PM’s choice. I know people are desperate for a public vote, or to revoke article 50, or support Common Market 2.0. but we need to work our way systematically through the options to find where the greatest consensus lies.
And if the upshot of that is that we participate in the European parliamentary elections in May, well, I’d rather have UK representatives in the EU parliament than not while our relations with our European neighbours hang in the balance in this way. Meanwhile, tomorrow thousands are expected to march through London to demand a people’s vote. I was a reluctant convert to the idea of a public vote initially, but now I feel very strongly that the only way to heal our country will be to give the people the final say.
As you can imagine, Brexit is taking nearly all my time in parliament now. But it was good to attend two really important events this week which reminded me of the truly horrific persecution that others face around the world. On Monday, I joined Christian TV channel SAT7 at an event to discuss the relationship between freedom of religion and belief and women’s rights. A very brave Iranian woman described the appalling pressures she had faced as a Christian and a woman in Iran. And on Tuesday, researchers from Glasgow University came to present their research into the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the UK. I’m proud of the welcome we are giving to Syrian refugee families in Stretford and Urmston, and there was much to learn from this research. Following the appalling atrocity in Christchurch last Friday, I was also in the chamber for an important statement about tackling Islamophobia in the UK, and I am pleased the government will allocate additional funding so that our mosques and other places of worship are kept secure and safe.
Finally, a big thank you to the Friends of Carrington Moss who invited me to join them on a walk around the Moss last weekend. It was good to get out in the open air, to chat informally with local people, and to hear about the environmental importance of the Moss. I welcome plans for housing and employment space at Carrington, and I’m glad the Labour council in Trafford have already been able to reduce the use of green space, but I’ll be staying in touch with campaigners so that I can continue to reinforce the environmental message to planners and developers as the plans progress.