Last night, I voted again against leaving the EU. My short comments below were designed to flesh out some of the reasons why (in the limited time MPs get to speak – which could be just 3 minutes).
Over summer I spent a lot of time discussing the Bill and Brexit with people across Bermondsey, Walworth, Rotherhithe, Borough and the Elephant, especially those who voted to Leave. I remind them I made a promise in both 2015 and 2017 to all constituents: I will never support anything in Parliament that could harm our community. It is a simple promise made in replacing a Lib Dem who voted for policies that did severe damage to local people left paying the Bedroom Tax, denied access to justice under legal aid cuts, or paying extortionate tuition fees. But it equally covers Brexit: the biggest issue facing our country and which would leave the whole UK worse off.
- I also met further constituency employers about the Bill. Businesses like ABTA (the Association of British Travel Agents) who highlight that it is EU not WTO rules that cover transatlantic flights and fear the Bill may not keep UK-US flights airborne.
- I met organisations like the British Toys and Hobbies Association who fear the UK could: lose trade we currently do within the EU; lose our place as global leader in this sector; and be flooded with counterfeit toys from new deals outside the EU.
- And met employers who worry the Bill does not answer fears about future workforce issues. The Bill and leaked Home Office proposals pose new concerns for employers and taxpayers. The Government wants a new expensive registration and visa system. The NHS alone would have to foot the bill for 54,000 new visas for existing staff. The taxpayer would pay for this, but loses doubly: also funding extra civil servants to administer the new system. And businesses would lose out by paying for employees’ visas and being less competitive with rivals within the EU and facing lengthy delays to get visas for new recruits. It often takes over 6 months for my constituents to get visas currently.
These are all issues which the advocates of Brexit should have had the answers to before the Government irresponsibly triggered Article 50. Big Ben might not be bonging but the clock is now ticking on leaving the EU and Ministers still don’t have a clue.
In June voters may have shorn the Government of its majority, but didn’t dent its arrogance, as we see from Henry VIII clauses and attempts to dominate Bill committees. But we shouldn’t be surprised at this authoritarian streak from a Government that tried to:
- rig electoral registers;
- inflate the number of unelected Lords whilst reducing elected MPs;
- cut funding for opposition political parties;
- gagged charities from speaking up about the impact of Coalition and Tory policies;
- and had to be dragged through courts to allow MPs to even debate Brexit, let alone scrutinise any detail.
And look at the people who try to justify this shoddy approach. They’re the same people who told us this would be easy. The same people who said we needed to ‘take back control’ but now say Parliament should adopt 40 years of legislation without scrutiny. And the same people who said they wanted the UK ‘Parliament to be sovereign’ who now try to impose a tinpot Maybot dictatorship over the Commons having ignored voters’ rejection of a hard Brexit in June.
It wasn’t just hard Brexit rejected though, it was ‘neglexit’ – the Government’s complete neglect of a positive domestic agenda, instead offering:
- More foodbanks for working people;
- Less chance to own your own home;
- Cuts to schools and social care;
- Longer NHS waiting times.
- A Government bereft of ideas, dominated by men with 1950s mindsets.
In failing to respect June’s result, in continuing to fail to have positive policies for British people, and in banging the drum for the hardest of possible Brexits and all the damage it would cause, Ministers and their backbenchers appear to be fighting amongst themselves on how best to lose the next general election.