Valerie’s blog for Walsall Advertiser – 16 March 2017

We live in a free, democratic society which is something we take for granted. Yet the events of last Wednesday remind us sharply that we sometimes have to defend these values against attack. The cost can be high – PC Keith Palmer losing his life in the act of protecting Parliament and all of us who represent you there, and all the staff who work there. We mourn too Aysha Frade, Kurt Cochran and Leslie Rhodes who were killed whilst crossing Westminster Bridge.

I was struck by the words of Brendan Cox, the bereaved husband of our murdered colleague Jo Cox, whose experience made him wish that our media should focus on the victims of these acts of terror and not the perpetrators. Let’s make our memories those of the welcoming face of PC Palmer at the gates of Parliament, of the loving mother of two young children, of the tourist celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary, of the well-respected retired Londoner.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who sent messages of support and condolences. It was a tense and disturbing time for everyone in Parliament and in the vicinity of this terrorist attack. We are grateful for the way the emergency services reacted with such speed and professionalism. We pray for the continued recovery of many who are injured.

Our last week at Westminster before the Easter recess was dominated by the Government formally notifying the EU that we are leaving which begins the two year period of negotiation on the terms of the UK’s exit. We are no longer a member of the EU.

The question now is what sort of relationship we end up having with the EU, by far our biggest trading partner and our geographical neighbour.

Labour is clear that our Government must achieve: a strong and collaborative relationship with the EU; the “exact same benefits” we currently have as members of the Single Market and Customs Union; fair management of migration in the interests of the economy and communities; protection of personal, employment and environmental rights and prevent a race to the bottom; protection of national security and our capacity to tackle cross-border crime; a deal that delivers for all regions and nations of the UK.

Labour will continue to uphold the sovereignty of Parliament to ensure this government does not abuse its powers during this period of change.

I wish you a Happy and peaceful Easter.