I voted against the Prime Minister’s deal, along with my Labour colleagues, as we believe it is flawed and inadequate and would represent a bad outcome for our country. I believe that the Prime Minister’s “red lines” in relation to a customs union and single market relationship were deeply flawed and have led to the government mishandling Brexit negotiations for nearly two years. The Labour frontbench has suggested a number of ways the deal could be amended. Understandably, there is now concern about what happens next, and about the short timescale to resolve the situation before we crash out of the EU without a deal at the end of March.
Parliament has expressed a view that “no deal” is not an acceptable outcome, because of the catastrophic consequences for our economy and society. I believe that the government’s immediate priorities should be firstly to rule out “no deal” scenario and amend the law to ensure this cannot happen, and secondly to request an extension to Article 50 in order to give time to time to come to a solution that is acceptable to Parliament and the British people. It would appear that the EU would be happy to grant this as long as there was a viable proposal for a way forward.
I agree with the view expressed in recent days by my colleagues the Shadow Brexit Secretary and Shadow Chancellor that there are two credible options left – a cross party negotiated “soft Brexit” agreement, or a public vote. I share their view that Parliament may have to take the process out of the hands of the Prime Minister in order to ensure that we do not leave without a deal.
I have been clear for some months that I believe the issue should go back to the nation for a “people’s vote”, with an option to remain in the EU on the ballot. I continue to believe that leaving the EU is a grave mistake for the UK, and would campaign strongly for a remain position in a public vote. I continue to make the case for this within the Labour Party and amongst colleagues in Parliament.
It is apparent, however, that there is not currently a majority for a “peoples vote” in parliament. Neither is there currently a majority for any other proposed way forward, including the Prime Minister’s deal as presented to – and rejected by – Parliament.
A plan suggested by my MP colleagues Phil Wilson and Peter Kyle proposes a compromise where Parliament allows the government’s deal (as revised) to pass in parliament with the proviso that it is then put forward to a public vote, in which “remain” would be the alternative proposal on the ballot. This may be the only viable way to get a public vote proposal through parliament, and I believe this may be a possible solution to the current impasse which should be explored further.
I continue to believe that the country should be given a proper further choice which includes the option to remain in the EU and I will be making the case for this with my Labour colleagues as the Brexit debate progresses.