Apologies to the schools and to residents of St Clement Court, whom I was due to visit today. I’m incredibly disappointed not to be able to be with you. Perhaps no one will be surprised that I have to be in London, as parliament is holding an emergency debate as we reach what should have been Brexit day, without the government having agreed an exit deal.
In fact, the whole week has been frenzied in parliament, as MPs try to find a way through the mess we’re in, and avoid a so-called ‘hard Brexit’ which would leave our businesses, our security and safety arrangements, and our international relationships utterly unclear. I know that not all my constituents share the same view of what should happen, nor does the country as a whole, and nor do all MPs. But many of us are determined to find a sensible compromise that can protect us from the disastrous Brexit which otherwise will hit us in the next few weeks.
There are ways out of the situation we’re in. I’m aware that thousands of my constituents have signed the parliamentary petition calling for us to revoke article 50 and halt the withdrawal process now. I also know that others think we should leave without a deal – but the damage I believe that would do to our economy and security means that is something I will never support. But whatever parliament decides, I’ve been saying for some time that given the range of opinions, and all the unfolding developments since the 2016 referendum, any deal needs to go back to the people for ratification in a confirmatory vote. I joined hundreds of thousands of people marching through London last Saturday to call for that.
In the meantime, we’ve been working through the options here in parliament to find a deal that a majority of MPs can accept. This resulted in a highly novel series of votes on Wednesday for different possibilities for a Brexit deal. In the event, none of the options secured a majority, but Wednesday was just the start of a process that will continue through next week, as we each consider the concessions and trade-offs that we’re prepared to make – and then we’ll hold more votes. As a result of the votes on Wednesday, we already now have a much better idea of where we may be able to negotiate a consensus, and also what a majority of MPs will rule out.
The government however doesn’t like this process at all. Instead, it’s trying to force through a vote today that would see us leave the EU on the terms the Prime Minister has already agreed – and which parliament has twice resoundingly voted against. Worse still, in what many MPs believe may actually be an illegal move, the government are also trying to get us to vote only for a short-term withdrawal agreement now that would take us through to the end of next year, but leave our long-term relationship with the EU to be negotiated at a separate, later date.
Theresa May thinks she can do this now because, with only hours to go, we’ll be forced to agree her deal. In a desperate bid to bring more Tories onside, she’s said she’ll resign once the deal is agreed by parliament. But voting for her deal now, with no certainty about the long-term relationship, would be even more dangerous than when we voted it down before. It would lead us into a totally blindfold Brexit, leaving it up to a new Prime Minister (Boris Johnson?? Michael Gove?? – that’s a big ‘no thanks’ from me) who’d love to have the chance to strip away our environmental protections, health and safety standards, and workers’ rights. Labour MPs are absolutely determined to vote that down this afternoon.
In between all the Brexit chaos, I’ve been following up on a couple of issues that are a big issue back in the constituency. Many constituents in Old Trafford have been in touch about the appalling treatment they’ve received from ES Parking, which manages the car park outside the old Aldi on Seymour Grove. I met the umbrella body of which they are a member last week to complain – at length – on behalf of my constituents, and I’ve posted full details of my meeting here. And I also met the Head of Housing Development at Lloyds Bank to hear about the work that mortgage lenders are doing to agree a code of conduct with housebuilders and their warranty companies to give better protection for new homebuyers – something I’ve been campaigning on for many months, following the appalling experiences of constituents in Woodsend who moved into new Persimmon homes. I’ll be paying very careful attention to see if the assurances I received on behalf of both the housebuilding and the parking sectors actually come about.