Parliament is coming to the end of its summer break – we’re due to return to Westminster next week. But the Prime Minister’s shocking decision to prorogue (suspend) parliament for 5 weeks until 14 October in a bid to force through Brexit without parliamentary scrutiny means we’ll hardly spend any time there at all. As I’ve been out and about talking to constituents over the summer, one message has come through to me loud and clear: whether you voted to leave or voted to remain, you expect me to be doing my job representing you in parliament, scrutinising and holding the government to account on Brexit. I can’t do that if parliament’s been gagged, and that’s why this week I travelled to London to join over 200 MPs from across the different parties in signing the Church House Declaration, pledging to work together and cross-nation to oppose the prorogation of parliament by a Prime Minister who seems prepared to drive through a ‘no deal’ Brexit despite the damage it would do.
We are now five weeks into a Boris Johnson government, with the most right-wing cabinet in decades. All of the key roles in Government have been awarded to hard Brexiteers, and the Director of the Vote Leave campaign, Dominic Cummings, is leading operations in Downing Street, despite being found in contempt of parliament. The PM’s appointments reflect the true ambitions of the Brexit project – a bonfire of employment and consumer rights, and the scrapping of regulations and standards that protect our environment, our living standards and our public services, not to mention the Good Friday Agreement that has delivered two decades of peace in Northern Ireland.
This is not what people voted for. A no–deal option wasn’t on the ballot paper and suspending Parliament to prevent MPs influencing the biggest decision in our post-war history is treating our democracy with contempt. It makes a mockery of the Brexiteers’ claim to champion parliamentary sovereignty. Bringing MPs back to Westminster just two weeks before Brexit day won’t give us enough time to pass the vital legislation needed to protect environmental standards, to guarantee essential medicines and foodstuff supplies can continue to enter the country, and to ensure people can continue to travel to the EU without visa restrictions after 31 October.
It’s clear from the visits I’ve been making around the constituency over the summer break how important all this is to us locally. Two major companies I visited, Freightliner on Trafford Park, and Saica Paper in Carrington, pointed out a No deal Brexit would make it more difficult for them to obtain the supplies and staff they need, or to ship goods to customers overseas. Staff I met at the Greater Manchester Law Centre told me of their concern that EU nationals in the UK could be left without clarity about their legal status, and without access to legal advice. When I visited the local Boots pharmacy in Davyhulme, I heard that wholesalers worried about the supply of medicines we import from the EU are already beginning to stockpile in case of No deal. I met young people participating in the amazing National Citizen Service, who described the social action activities they’d been undertaking in my constituency and how much they’d learnt – and how some hoped they’d be able to work, travel or study in the EU in the future. They hadn’t had a vote in 2016, and they totally opposed leaving the EU without a deal.
I’ll do everything I can to thwart attempts to stop me speaking up in parliament on behalf of my constituents about these concerns, as you elected me to do. More than a million people have already signed a petition against the prorogation of parliament, including thousands in Stretford and Urmston. Please add your signature if you share my deep concern that our democracy is being hijacked by an utterly unscrupulous Prime Minister. You can do so here.
Finally, on a happier note, I’d like to pass on my congratulations to Remembering Srebrenica, who’ve won a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, which was presented to them in Gorton Monastery this week. I travelled to Bosnia with the charity in 2016, and learnt so much about the terrible genocide that took place there in 1995, when 8000 Muslim men and boys were murdered. And last month I was honoured to present Manchester Museum and the University of Manchester with their Museum of Sanctuary and University of Sanctuary awards, for their work with asylum seekers and refugees. As we stare into the abyss of a No deal rupture from the EU, the work of these three organisations reminded me powerfully of our common humanity, and that nations and communities coming together is the best way to protect our security and peace.