Today was one of the most important days in Parliament since the Government triggered Article 50 -which I voted against – more than a year ago. Today we voted for an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill which would have given Parliament a ‘meaningful vote’ on any final deal the Government strikes with the EU. If successful, Parliament would have had the power to instruct the Government to go back to the negotiating table.
Unfortunately, the amendment was rejected by 26 votes. However, this is not the end of the story – the Bill will go back to the Lords, and then come back to the Commons.
There are reports that the Prime Minister only avoided a humiliating defeat by buying off Tory rebels with a promise: when the Bill goes back to the House of Lords, the Tories will back an amendment to give Parliament a vote. In contrast to the Labour-backed amendment, this vote is unlikely to be legally binding. But the fact that we may have forced compromise on this point gives me some hope. In any case, we will have more opportunities to challenge the Government when this Bill, the Trade Bill and the Customs Bill all return to the Commons.
For anyone watching the Government’s inept Brexit negotiations, the need for Parliamentary scrutiny of a final deal becomes clearer every day, as their promises (and the promises of the referendum campaign) drop away one by one. So it is very important that we can hold them to account, on behalf of our constituents.
This is the real will of the people. Indeed, although only a small majority voted to leave the EU, there was no majority for irreparably damaging our economy. It is worth stating that the will of the people in my constituency was overwhelmingly to remain in the EU. I reluctantly accept that we may now be leaving – but I cannot accept a disastrous deal. I still firmly believe that full membership of the EU is the best possible deal, but failing that, our relationship should be as close as possible.
I will keep fighting to give Parliament an opportunity to make a judgement when the time comes, ensuring we get the best possible outcome.
During this afternoon’s first batch of voting on the EU Withdrawal Bill, there were 15 other votes. All these amendments were voted down by the Tories.
Most were technical amendments that would have improved the Bill. Several aimed to prevent the Government from grabbing additional legal powers through this legislation. Without Tory rebels we did not have the number of MPs to keep these amendments on the Bill.
There will be further debate and many more votes on the EU Withdrawal Bill tomorrow, before it goes back to the House of Lords. Tomorrow’s votes include key amendments which aim to maintain hard-won environmental protections and workers’ rights after we leave the EU. Keep an eye on my Twitter feed, Facebook and website for updates.
A note on voting
Please note that I was a ‘teller’ in these votes – counting the number of votes and reporting them to the Speaker. Tellers are listed separately, but our votes still count.
Another confusing aspect is that I voted NO when I support the Lord’s amendments. This is because I voted against the Government’s motions to remove the Lords’ amendments.