As many are already aware, I am a founding member of the People’s Vote campaign through my senior role within Open Britain and Best for Britain. I have been championing for the public to have the final say since I helped launch the campaign back in April 2018. I still think this is going to be the only viable option given the circumstances.
At every stage of the Brexit votes in Parliament, I have consistently voted against the Prime Minister’s disastrous deal – which will make my constituents and the whole country poorer – and voted for a public vote with the option to remain at every opportunity. I was pleased that the entirety of the Opposition parties backed the option of a public vote at the two indicative vote processes.
Details of how I have voted, and the events that have happened in Parliament can all be seen in my EU updates which many may have already received. They can also be found on my website here.
This week Theresa May announced that she planned to bring a vote on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill on the week beginning 3rd June. We do not yet know the exact date for the vote, and the Bill itself is yet to be published. However, there is no prospect of the PM’s deal being passed, nor of a different deal being negotiated with the EU. This has been shown in countless votes in the House of Commons, which are all detailed in my EU updates. It will give parliament another opportunity to test the will of MPs on a confirmatory vote and we shall work on getting a majority for that in the coming days and weeks.
The Institute for Government have published a handy explainer on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill here.
Labour has been taking part in Brexit talks with the Government over several weeks. It was right for those talks to happen but it was always the case that even if any deal could have been cobbled together it would not have got a majority in the House of Commons without a confirmatory vote attached (indeed it should be attached to any deal) and there was no way that any deal could have been locked down with a new Conservative PM. I suspect the candidates to replace Theresa May will campaign very hard to rip up any deal. The Leader of the Opposition has now written to the Prime Minister stating that these talks have come to an end as no progress had been made. You can see his letter here. This is the right decision.
In my view, despite speculation (that has generated a huge amount of correspondence from constituents) there was never going to be a deal between Labour and the Conservatives on Brexit. Further, any ‘concessions’ that could have been agreed would be temporary and not legally binding as they would only be attached to the political declaration. As we know, Theresa May has said she will stand down if she manages to get her deal through Parliament. Therefore, whatever was agreed relating to the political declaration could be ripped up by whoever the next Conservative PM is.
As we go into the European Elections it is projected that Nigel Farage will win with his new Brexit Party. This is a disaster for our politics and country as both the UK and the EU lurch to the right. It is hugely damaging but a consequence of allowing a simplistic message to penetrate the public as a solution to hugely complicated problems. For me, I am delighted that the Labour EU Manifesto contains a confirmatory public vote and given a General Election is not going to happen and the talks have collapsed, it leaves this as the only option left. It is the case that despite the differing views on Brexit within my own party that Labour supporters that voted Leave are more Labour than Leave but Labour Remainers are more Remain than Labour. It seems obvious but my colleagues and I have to keep making these very strong representations to ensure the Leadership do the right thing. Keir Starmer MP, our Shadow Brexit Spokesperson has been clear time and time again – ANY deal passed by parliament requires to go back to the public for a final say. That is the policy and that is what I will continue to champion.
As I have said, the only way to break this current impasse is to put any deal back to the people. A public vote on the deal would show a comparison with what we have now and people could make the choice if that is what they thought would happen when they voted to leave and express their preference. Only the people can sort this out.
I was also on BBC News this week to discuss the Brexit talks and why a confirmatory referendum is the only way out of the current impasse. You can see my interview here.
Throughout the Brexit process, I have been working colleagues closely on a way to achieve a confirmatory referendum. In recent votes, this took the form of a compromise position that was developed under my Labour colleagues, MPs Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson. They have proposed that we allow the PMs deal to pass in return for the deal going to a legally binding affirmation referendum with the option to remain in the EU, if the deal is rejected at that affirmation referendum. The decision would become law as soon as the final result is announced. This was a similar process as used to ratify the Good Friday Agreement in the north and south of Ireland back in 1999. It could bring the majority of parliament together.
I know a lot of constituents have been saying we should just revoke Article 50. Whilst I agree with this, it will, at this stage, not get a majority in Parliament which is why our efforts are towards trying to get a public vote with the option to remain as the mechanism for revocation. However, as the clock ticks down this may be the only option remaining to prevent a no deal from happening.
We are also taking part in European Union election on 23rd May. I signed an open letter with David Martin MEP, which said that remaining in the EU is non-negotiable and that we will help deliver that through a public confirmatory vote on any deal agreed by parliament, to give the public the final say. That is putting the national interest first and foremost. The letter was also signed by my Scottish Labour colleagues Martin Whitfield MP, Ged Killen MP and shadow Scotland minister Paul Sweeney MP, as well as Scottish Labour European election candidate Callum O’Dwyer. You can read this article here. The principle is that if you want a progressive and successful Europe we need MEPs that want the EU to be successful and the only way to deliver that is to have a public vote in order to have the opportunity to revoke, remain and reform.
As elected politicians we firmly believe that it is in the UK and Scotland’s best interest to continue to play an integral role at the heart of the European union.
As ever, I will continue to keep constituents up to date through my EU updates. Please also keep up to date at https://www.peoples-vote.uk/ and register your support.
I will do all I can with like-minded colleagues to deliver a People’s Vote before it is too late and prevent this single biggest act of self-harm the country has ever inflicted upon itself. That has always been my commitment.