Many local residents have contacted me about Brexit, and many have been asking for me to do four things; to vote against the government’s deal; to oppose leaving the EU without a deal; to extend Article 50; and to push for a public vote on Brexit. I agree with all these four approaches.
That’s why on Tuesday I voted against the Prime Minister’s deal (again) and helped ensure a heavy defeat. On Wednesday I voted against leaving the EU without a deal, and I hope the government will act quickly to ensure that the law is changed to stop that happening.
The main focus of yesterday’s debate was to ensure that Parliament agreed to ask for an extension to Article 50. In my view this is essential to ensure that we do not crash out of the EU with no deal on 29th March, and in order to give Parliament further time to find a way forward. This was agreed despite a large number of Conservative MPs voting against, and it should be noted that without the Labour opposition, this would not have been achieved.
There was a second important cross party amendment (i – proposed by Hilary Benn and others) which would have allowed Parliament to take control of Parliamentary business next week to find an alternative way forward. I am extremely disappointed that this was narrowly lost by 314 votes to 312.
Another amendment proposed a public vote. I have been a consistent supporter of another public vote on Brexit, but I firmly believe that the amendment proposed yesterday was ill advised and so did not support it for two main reasons;
Firstly; the People’s Vote campaign had said that yesterday was not the moment to test the will of Parliament on this issue, and stated publicly that they did not believe that the amendment should have been pushed to a vote. I believe there are a number of MPs who will support a public vote, but only as a last resort when other options have been exhausted. Without the support of these MPs there will not be a majority in Parliament for a public vote. I believe the best option for a public vote to be agreed by parliament is likely to be via the “Kyle/Wilson” option proposed by my Labour colleagues Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson, which would allow the prime minister’s deal through on the proviso that it is put to the public with “remain” as the other option. This is likely to be put to Parliament shortly.
Secondly; the public vote amendment was an expression of opinion, and not binding on the government. However, if it had passed in parliament, it would have meant that the much more important – and binding – Benn amendment would have fallen automatically, and not allowed MPs the opportunity to try and take control of the process. This approach was therefore a serious mistake in my view. Indeed, I believe that the MPs who pushed the public vote amendment yesterday were acting irresponsibly knowing as they did that it would mean that the Benn amendment fell automatically. They were in my view guilty of grandstanding and political point scoring, rather than taking a serious approach to trying to achieve a public vote.
I hope this is helpful in clarifying the reasons for my vote in parliament on this issue.