The following is a copy of my EU Update sent to constituents on 22nd Jan 2019:
What a couple of weeks it’s been in Parliament.
The Government’s flagship EU Withdrawal Bill (that contains the legal divorce agreement and the non-binding political declaration on the future relationship) was defeated by 432 to 202 votes in the House of Commons last week, in what was the biggest defeat for any Government in history.
You can watch my speech in the debate before the vote, here.
The Government had initially postponed this vote in December because they feared a huge defeat. There was then an exchange of letters between the UK Government and the EU Commission and President with “assurances” about the Northern Irish backstop. However, these letters are legally meaningless and in reality the Prime Minister has simply kicked the can down the road and wasted a month of precious time.
I raised the Government’s time wasting during an Emergency Question to the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU. You can watch this here.
Indeed, the Prime Minister promised that the future relationship with the EU would be in place before we even left on 29 March and businesses could use the two year transition period to implement any changes. In reality the Prime Minister is nowhere near even starting the future relationship negotiations and businesses and citizens are left in perpetual uncertainty. Yet another broken promise.
I raised this with her this month. You can watch my question here.
Motion of No-confidence
Immediately following the Government’s defeat the Leader of the Opposition tabled a motion of no-confidence in the Prime Minister. I fully supported this motion and welcomed the opportunity. However, given the parliamentary arithmetic this vote was never likely to be successful. After a 9 hour debate the Government won the confidence motion 325 to 306.
Now that the Labour Party has tried and failed to get a general election I believe we must get fully behind the campaign for a People’s Vote, as per Labour Party policy agreed at conference.
I was on BBC Radio Scotland shortly before the vote to discuss my thoughts on what should happen next.
You can listen to my full interview here.
The Government were then required to come before the House of Commons within three day of their defeat in the meaningful vote to outline what the next steps are. This is thanks to Dominic Grieve, Conservative MP for Beaconsfield, who tabled an amendment to the Government’s business motion. Previously the Government would have only been required to update the House after 21 days – an unacceptable amount of time given how close we are to the 29 March (leaving day).
You may remember that the Speaker accepting Grieve’s motion caused a furore amongst Brexiteers who accused him of breaking precedent.
The statement the Prime Minister gave to Parliament yesterday offered nothing new in terms of her deal. The Prime Minister’s red lines on membership of the Customs Union, the Single Market and a no-deal Brexit – which she boxed herself into a corner with – remain intact. All the Prime Minister promised was to try to renegotiate the backstop, which we all know is a no-starter with the Republic of Ireland and therefore the EU.
Her door may be open but her mind is closed.
There was some good news from the PMs speech, the £65 which EU nationals had to pay to register for settled status has been scrapped.
What happens next?
The Government, as per the Grieve amendment, will now bring forward a motion on the Prime Minister’s so called Plan B before Parliament on 29 January. Crucially, that motion will be amendable therefore MPs will be able to table motions that bind the Government. My colleague Yvette Cooper is planning an amendment which aims to prevent a no-deal Brexit. You can read more about the amendment here.
I spoke with Gordon Brewer on BBC Sunday Politics to discuss the parliamentary process over the coming weeks. You can watch the interview here.
The Government’s defeat and Parliament’s paralysis shows us there is no majority in the House of Commons for any kind of Brexit. Indeed, that is no surprise. All analysis shows us that Brexit – in all its varieties – will damage our economy, diminish our role in the world and undermine EU citizens who have made their lives in this country.
The Government has no plan, no time and no Parliamentary majority.
This process must now be handed back to the people in a People’s Vote with the option of the best deal available – the one we currently have with EU.
Finally, a huge thank you to everyone who attended our Brexit Public Meeting this week. Daniel Johnson and I were joined by Professor Nicola McEwan, Catherine Stihler MEP, Alex Cole Hamilton MSP and former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. Gordon gave a passionate speech about letting the people back into the process via citizen’s assemblies and then possibly a People’s Vote to ratify any conclusion.
You can watch the first hour of the debate including speeches made by all the panellists, here. I will be uploading the question and answer session shortly.
There were well over 350 people in attendance and we had an overflow list of almost 200 people waiting for a space. There is clearly a huge appetite in the community to debate and discuss these issues. I can assure you I will continue to make an effort to engage with you through these updates, public meetings as well as representing you in the House of Commons.