Thousands of constituents have written to me in recent weeks about Brexit and the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal Bill). I have written a letter outlining my position, which you can read below.
Thank you for writing to me about the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill. Thousands of constituents have written to me about Brexit and this Bill in recent weeks. I hope that you will forgive me on this occasion for sending a template response but I wanted to ensure that I responded to all constituents as soon as possible setting out my position in full and telling you my reasons for voting against the Bill.
If of interest, you can watch my speech at Second Reading here, or read it here. I set out my position in full in my speech at Second Reading and if you have time I would encourage you to read it to get a sense of the reasons why I voted against triggering Article 50. In my speech I argued against the myth of the ‘will of the people’; argued against the myth that immigration is a bad thing and set out why I do not believe Brexit to be in the best interests of my constituents or indeed my country.
I spoke twice during the debate, once at Second Reading on 31st January and once at Committee Stage on 7th February.
Last June I was the first Member of Parliament to call for a vote in Parliament before the Prime Minister triggers Article 50, and I stated that I would vote against any move to trigger Article 50.
I stuck to my word and voted against the Brexit Bill at both Second Reading and Third Reading. I signed over 100 amendments and voted in favour of a range of amendments to the Bill, including amendments that would have:
Guaranteed the residence rights of EU citizens;
Retained the UK’s membership of the European Atomic Agency Community;
Called on the Government to publish a report on the effect of Brexit on the public finances, particularly our NHS, before triggering Article 50;
Committed the Government to maintaining all existing EU tax avoidance and evasion legislation;
Set in place a range of objectives for the Government to follow during negotiations (including tariff free trade with the EU and maintaining all social, economic consumer and workers’ rights);
Committed the Government to publishing impact assessments on different trading models before triggering Article 50;
Committed the Government to report back to Parliament on the progress of negotiations every 2 months and
Guaranteed Parliament a meaningful vote on any new deal or relationship with the European Union.
Unfortunately the Government majority ensured that none of these amendments were passed.
I also tabled two amendments to the Bill which were not selected for debate or vote. These amendments would have:
Ensured that the vote in Parliament on the ‘final deal’ that the Government negotiates with the EU27 must include the option to retain our membership and remain within the EU. This vote in March would therefore not be a choice between a bad deal or no deal (us leaving the EU and falling back on disastrous WTO trading rules).
Ensured that the Prime Minister must not offer up access to our NHS for foreign healthcare companies during the negotiation of any future trade deals.
I am sent to Parliament first and foremost to represent my constituents and their interests.
Put simply: in my view and according to my best judgement, Brexit is not in the interests of my constituents or the country so I voted against triggering Article 50. I did so with a clear conscience and I would do so again in a heartbeat.
I am proud to have stood up for both what I believe to be in my constituents’ best interests and also the overwhelming view of my constituents as reflected by their votes in the referendum. According to the official figures, between 75-80% of my constituents in Tottenham voted to Remain in the referendum last June. I could not betray my conscience and nor could I betray my constituents by voting in favour of the Government's Bill.
As I said immediately following the Third Reading vote on 8th February: “I just voted against triggering Article 50. History will be my judge and my constituents in Tottenham will have their say at the next election”.
Most of all, I want to tell my constituents that I will be standing firm and continuing to fight for what I believe in going forward. There will be many battles ahead – not least when the Government introduce their Great Repeal Bill and in 2019 when the nature of whatever deal Theresa May negotiates becomes clear.
I will continue to stand up for our economy, for the Single Market and for the importance of tariff-free trade in goods and services. I will stand up for the rights of EU citizens, for workers’ rights and for consumers’ rights. I will stand up for environmental protection and regulations.
I will stand up against the hate, abuse and racism that I have been on the receiving end of as a result of my stance on Brexit and I will always fight for what I believe to be right and for what I believe to be in the best interests of my constituents.
Once again, thank you so much for getting in touch with me about Brexit and the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal Bill) and I hope that this response is helpful in setting out my position.
Member of Parliament for Tottenham