Today I decided to abstain on the EU (Future Relationship) Bill. This was a decision I took after a period of personal reflection, and many conversations with colleagues, local members and communities.
I wanted to set out my reasons for this clearly today. Lewisham East has always been a strongly pro-European constituency, with a vibrant, internationalist outlook. Throughout my time as an MP, I have marched shoulder to shoulder with many of you in favour of a confirmatory public vote on any Brexit deal reached, and have used my vote and voice in Parliament to represent your views – preventing a no deal Brexit, protecting workers’ rights, environmental standards and our NHS in trade deals, and arguing for a strong and collaborative relationship with our European neighbours and friends. I remain a committed European, steadfast in my belief that the UK is at its best when it is outward-looking.
Unfortunately, the deal reached by the Prime Minister and his negotiating team does not deliver the relationship that we were promised. Boris Johnson’s ‘oven-ready deal’, which he promised at the 2019 General Election would deliver tariff-free, barrier-free trade, a comprehensive and deep security partnership and protections for workers’ rights and environmental standards, has not been achieved.
What he delivered was the bare minimum that we could expect – which leaves huge gaps, without Erasmus+, without permits for cultural workers and performers to work in Europe, with increased red tape for businesses, no mutual recognition of qualifications or mutual recognition of assessments for goods. It was delivered at the last possible minute, with months of dither and delay which have caused unnecessary damage to businesses, jobs and communities already dealing with a global pandemic.
The vote in Parliament today was not a straight motion of endorsement of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, the Brexit deal agreed by the UK and EU. It was to implement the legislation needed to underpin the deal, and give it a solid legal framework, which is why some colleagues felt that they should lend this Bill their vote.
Whilst many of my Labour colleagues have come to a different decision on this issue, we have all given it significant consideration. We are united in condemning the damage the Tories will do with this Brexit agreement. As a Party we will hold the Government to account every step of the way, and we will ensure that the Tories own the terrible mess they have created.
From David Cameron calling the Referendum in the first place to settle a score in his Party, to Boris Johnson arguing the virtues of No Deal, it’s clear this Government does not have the best interests of the majority of our country at heart. Under the leadership of Keir Starmer, Labour will work relentlessly to fight for the needs of Britain’s EU citizens, our workers, our under-privileged and our environment as the process goes forward.
Labour, for me, and for our constituency, is about working for a better future, which is more cooperative and internationalist, with progressive values underpinning policies that fight for equality, justice and fairness. I was pleased that in his closing remarks in the debate, Keir Starmer referred to the deal as “a floor from which we can build a strong future relationship with the EU”. I look forward to working with the Party to do just that in the interests of Lewisham East Labour Party members and our community.
With best wishes,