Statement on Article 50 vote

Posted on February 15th, 2017

Having campaigned for a ‘Remain’ vote, I was saddened and frustrated by the outcome. For me and for many people the Article 50 vote presented a difficult choice.
 
Although I am fiercely pro-EU, I am also a democrat. The Labour Party voted in favour of the European Union Referendum Act 2015, which paved the way for the referendum to take place, and everyone who campaigned knew the outcome would be decisive.
 
That is why I have repeatedly said that although I wish the outcome of the referendum had been different, I accept the result. It follows that it would be wrong simply to frustrate the process and to block the Prime Minister from starting the Article 50 negotiations.
 
It is important to remember that this is all the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill does – it does not allow the Prime Minister to change domestic law, to rip up our tax legislation or to introduce a new immigration system. Any such changes would require primary legislation, and HM Opposition Labour Party will fight to protect our values and for the national interest. For the last three months we have been working to put in place proper scrutiny of the Brexit process. Although each step has been incremental, the Government has moved its from position from October – when they had no plan, were insisting there would be no running commentary and would not commit to a vote on the final Article 50 deal – to:
 
1. Publishing a 76 page White Paper on which Parliament can hold them to account. This was one of Labour’s planned amendments for Committee Stage, but this was withdrawn after the Government’s concession.
 
2. A commitment to match reporting back procedures that are in place in the European Parliament during the Article 50 process.
 
3. A vote in Parliament on the proposed draft Article 50 deal before it is considered by the EU Parliament or Council, as well as a second vote on the final EU-UK deal that will shape our future relationship with the EU.
 
Taken together these show progress can and has been made. The process would have been better if the Government had accepted some of the other amendments Labour tabled at Committee Stage – for example to guarantee the legal rights of EU citizens – but Labour will continue to campaign for these changes. Labour will hold the Government to account throughout and push for the best possible Brexit deal: one that prioritises jobs, the economy and living standards. I will fight against a damaging Tory Brexit and vigorously oppose any threat to rip up existing economic and social protections, including slashing corporate taxes and public spending.
 
Labour will also demand during the passage of the Great Repeal Bill that all EU-derived rights – including workers’ rights, human rights, consumer rights and environmental protections – are entrenched in full, unqualified and non-time limited form.
 
Although we are leaving the EU, I believe we must have a strong, close and collaborative future relationship with Europe that is based on shared values. In particular, that means a co-operative approach in fields such as security, research, science, education, medicine, technology, arts and culture. Future generations depend on this. Triggering Article 50 is just the start of the Brexit process, not the end.
 
These are the amendments that were tabled by HM Opposition Labour Party:
 
1. The House of Commons to have the first say (through a debate and vote) on the proposed Article 50 deal before the European Parliament and Council (NC1).
 
2. The Government to publish a report every two months on the progress of Brexit negotiations and make relevant documents available to Parliament (NC3)
 
3. Establish a number of broad principles the Government must seek to negotiate with regard to, including protecting workers’ rights and securing full tariff and impediment free access to the Single Market (NC2)
 
4. Guarantee legal rights for EU nationals living in the UK before Brexit negotiations begin (NC6 and NC8).
 
5. Seek continued membership of Euratom (the European Atomic Energy Community (NC192).
 
6. Ensure the Government must seek to retain all existing EU measures to prevent tax avoidance and evasion post-Brexit (an anti-tax haven amendment, NC7)
 
7. Require the Government to consult regularly with the governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (NC4).
 
8. Require the Government to publish any impact assessment that has been carried out on the impact of leaving the Single Market and Customs Union (NC5). A separate amendment (NC98) would ensure that any new relationship with the EU must be accompanied by an Equality Impact Assessment.