Yesterday on 1st February 2017 I voted against the second reading of the Bill to give the government the power to trigger Article 50 and start the process of the UK leaving the EU. I did this because I cannot support the Tory Brexit we are being presented with, when there are other viable alternatives which have been rejected at the start.
I took an oath to do what I believe to be best for my country and I was elected by the people of Bristol West to use my judgement to do that. I thought long and hard, consulted colleagues and constituents and did a great deal of research before coming to this conclusion.
I stated publicly last year after the referendum that I wanted the Prime Minister to state her aims for the UK’s future relationship with the EU. I said that if those aims were inadequate or not public I would vote against triggering Article 50. Thanks to Labour’s spokesperson on Brexit, Keir Starmer, the Prime Minister was forced to publish those aims, after some resistance. I believe that they are inadequate and that she has rejected alternatives which should be considered before rejecting them.
In Bristol West the university, the health services, the aerospace and engineering industries, the tech, digital and creative sectors and many other small and medium sized businesses accounting for thousands of jobs have told me of the benefits they currently have from full membership of the EU. In order to protect those high quality jobs, I wanted the Prime Minister to give proper consideration to alternatives which could protect the jobs in my constituency, such as full membership of the Single European Market or a close variation on that. She has ruled that out.
In Bristol West 4 out of 5 people voted to remain but 1 in 5 voted to leave. I aim to represent the interests of everyone in Bristol West in Westminster.
Whether you voted remain or leave, you did not vote to lose your job or to have your rights at work downgraded.
You did not vote for the environmental protections for clean air and water, seas and rivers which we currently have from EU rules to be ditched. The Prime Minister and the Brexit Secretary of State do not appear to understand this, and have not mentioned environmental protections.
You did not vote for our universities to have their ability to do high quality scientific and medical research, which benefits us all, compromised by being shut out of the collaborative research programmes currently operating throughout the EU.
You did not vote to lose practical things which benefit Brits on holiday or working in the EU, like the European Health Insurance scheme or even something as simple as caps on mobile phone roaming charges. All benefits that we stand to lose as a result of Theresa May’s recklessness.
I will support ALL of Labour’s amendments next week at the Committee stage of the Bill. I will also apply to speak during the debates. If chosen, I will speak about the need for an informed debate about immigration and the impact of current public rhetoric about migration on refugees and asylum-seekers, who are a high priority for me, as they are for my constituents.
Amongst other things, Labour is asking for Parliament to have a debate and vote on the final outcome of the Brexit negotiations – and I completely support that. I salute the way Keir Starmer has gone about trying to create a consensus within the Labour Party on this, at a time when all parties are divided, when the country is divided.
This is a Tory Brexit. It hurts the things I care about most – workers’ rights, environment and jobs.
Alternatives were available and the government has rejected them.
I will vote against the Bill again at the next stage if the government does not accept Labour’s amendments and I reserve the right to vote against any final settlement if I do not think it is in the best interests of the country and of the people of Bristol West.
Thank you for your support.