I believe the Brexit deal the Prime Minister has agreed with the EU is deeply flawed and represents a complete failure of her approach over the last two years.
The Prime Minister’s deal will not protect jobs, workplace rights or environmental standards. It will not ensure frictionless trade for UK businesses. The lack of a clear future relationship also means the Northern Ireland backstop is highly likely to come into place, which would have significant implications across the UK.
I have received many communications from my constituents, from those who voted Leave and from those who voted Remain; the vast majority of those that have contacted me do not support the Prime Minister’s deal. This deal falls far short of the tests I have long said I will judge it by, and which the Prime Minister said she was determined to meet. For these reasons I voted against the deal when it was finally put to a vote yesterday evening.
You can find the video of my speech in the debate by clicking this link and you can find the text of my speech in the debate below:
Over 57% of voters in Halton voted to leave the EU, and it is condescending and disrespectful to say that they did not know what they were doing. It was very clear: the overriding message I had from my constituents who voted to come out of the EU was that they wanted to end free movement of labour and take back control and have more control over our laws. Whether rightly or wrongly, people genuinely feel that is the right thing to do, and that to leave would lead to a better future for us out there. I also recognise that a large number of my constituents wanted to stay in, and like me, believe passionately that Brexit is not in the UK’s best interests, and we must also listen to their concerns. However, I made it clear at the 2017 general election that we must get on with Brexit and come up with the best possible deal.
It should surprise nobody to learn that this has proved difficult. The Prime Minister could have reached out to Parliament and the Opposition from an early stage but chose not to. She could also have reached out more to the country as a whole—to the public. She cannot command a majority but acts as if she has one, but she wanted to keep MPs at arm’s length. The Prime Minister must take a great deal of responsibility for the mess we are now in. I should add that I have had constituents, including those who voted to remain, complain to me about the arrogance and behaviour of the EU in the negotiations, so it is not just the Prime Minister who has the share of the blame. However, it is only now that the deal is in trouble that the Prime Minister has wanted to have discussions with a wider set of MPs, including Opposition MPs. The idea that we should just accept the first deal she puts to this House and not challenge it just smacks of the arrogance I referred to earlier. She expects that Parliament should just roll over and accept it, and then to try to use the threat of a no-deal Brexit just insults our intelligence, as we know there is not a majority for that in this House. I might add that the leave campaign said it wanted to see a negotiated settlement, so I do not believe there is a majority in this country for leaving the EU without an agreement.
With this deal we are neither fully in, nor fully out. We would have to abide by rules but with no say in what others will be making decisions on; while we look on, we would be rule takers. We would be a weaker position than we are now. There are too many unresolved issues of great importance to our national interest here; the Prime Minster is asking us to take a big leap into the dark. Some 90% of constituents who have written to me or whom I have spoken to in recent weeks believe this is a bad deal—that is coming from both leavers and remainers. If this deal is rejected, it will send a strong message back to Brussels that we must find a better way forward and a better agreement, and that this Parliament will not be deterred from demanding a better deal. I will be voting against this deal, because it is bad for my constituents in Halton and bad for the UK as a whole. We have got to find a way forward. We have got to co-operate and work together in the national interest to find a solution that the people want. The means talking more to people, and getting across the issues and difficulties that we envisage, but we must have that co-operation in order that we can move this forward. There may be a number of ways of doing that, and having indicative votes is one thing that has been talked about during this debate. The fact is that we have to listen, co-operate and find a better way of moving this forward, because it cannot continue the way it is.