A number of constituents have contacted me recently regarding the triggering of Article 50.
As you will be aware, the Government lost a court case that would have allowed them to trigger Article 50 without consulting Parliament; and has introduced the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, also known as the ‘Article 50 Bill’, in order for it to receive the approval to start formal proceedings on leaving the EU.
I campaigned to remain in the European Union because I think it is our best hope for jobs, security and peace in Luton South, but I accept the result of the referendum. Parliament explicitly gave its approval to an Act last Summer that set up the legal framework for the referendum vote, and it would be wrong to pretend it is only ‘advisory’.
The Article 50 Bill will pass through a number of parliamentary stages (the opportunity for Members to vote will be at Second Reading, Committee Stages, and Third Reading). It would be wrong for me to pretend that I feel leaving the EU is a wise course of action, and had we not passed legislation in 2015 that allowed for a referendum, I would certainly be voting to remain.
But for the reasons I’ve already outlined, I feel it would be wrong to try and block its passage. As such I will not be voting against at the Bill. I will instead abstain at second and third reading.
It is vital that the UK secures the best exit deal from the EU in the negotiations that will follow the triggering of Article 50 – one that protects jobs, living standards and workers’ rights – and I do not believe the Government should be given a blank cheque for the high risk approach it has chosen to take.
For that reason, I will vote to support amendments to the Bill designed to ensure that the Government sticks to a number of principles throughout the exit negotiations, as the legislation goes through its committee stages next week. These will include securing full tariff-free and impediment-free access to the Single Market, protecting workers’ rights and confirming the legal status of EU citizens currently in the UK.
I will also support amendments to ensure robust and regular parliamentary scrutiny of the progress being made on negotiations, and to provide a meaningful vote on the final deal before the Government agrees it with the EU.
These amendments are intended to improve the process, ensure Parliament is able to hold the Government to account throughout the negotiation, and seek to ensure the Prime Minister secures the best deal for the whole country.
Parliament rarely chooses to give its judgment to all voters on a single issue through a referendum. But when it does, we have a responsibility to protect the reputation of our democratic institutions and uphold the will of the people, even when we disagree.