Debbie's statement on Brexit
Since the EU Referendum nearly 3 years ago, I have spoken to well over 10,000 constituents across Oldham, Saddleworth and Shaw. From these conversations and the correspondence I have received, it is clear to me that:
1. There were many reasons why people wanted to leave EU membership
2. There were equally many preferences of how people want to leave the EU
3. Many of the same people who say they want to leave also had concerns about the NHS or housing or council or other services
4. Many of the same people were also struggling to make ends meet; often they needed my help either with the DWP or accessing the foodbank
5. Many people feel disillusioned/disappointed/let down or even angry about where we are with negotiations to leave the EU
6. Many people are under the misapprehension that I am their delegate. I am not. I am their representative.
For me, being Oldham East and Saddleworth’s Parliamentary representative means making sure that I am in regular contact with my constituents to listen to and understand their views through my weekly doorknocks, surgeries and so on, and then using this information, together with independent, strong, verifiable evidence, to exercise my judgement in how I vote. My first consideration is always my constituents, and particularly for those people who I know are struggling. I have in the past voted against my Party for this reason and have suffered the consequences.
Given there are several different preferences of how people want to leave the EU, the decision-making process in deciding how I should vote is slightly more complex and includes:
- Does my position respect the outcome of the 2016 Referendum? Answer: yes it does.
- Does it protect my constituents? Answer: yes it does
- Has my position been informed by independent, strong, verifiable evidence? Answer: yes it has
You may be aware that I voted to trigger Article 50 in March 2017, because the majority of my constituents voted to leave the EU. But when I finally had sight of the draft Withdrawal Agreement in November last year, I was appalled at how limited it is (in spite of the 585 pages which I have read from cover to cover). It provides for little more than the back stop to avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, how the rights of EU and UK citizens will be protected, how much the UK has agreed to pay the EU for removing ourselves from our contractual obligations (the so-called ‘divorce settlement’), and transitional arrangements to 2021. We become a rule taker, not a rule maker. How is this taking back control? On so many levels, too numerous to mention, we lose out. The Political Declaration is nothing more than a non-binding, meaningless wish list, which will do absolutely nothing to bring the certainty that is needed to our businesses, our economy, and our people. Our future relationship with the EU beyond 2020 still has to be negotiated.
I had hoped that the Conservative Government would have done a better job at negotiating in the interests of the country and not just their Party. Clearly, healing the divisions between their different factions is their priority. But given that so many Conservative MPs voted against this disastrous deal not once but twice, I think this has backfired.
As such I voted against the draft Withdrawal Agreement on 15th January and 11th March, as did MPs from all parties. It simply isn’t good enough. The votes rejected the deal, not us leaving.
I have also voted to reject a ‘no deal’ Brexit which again had support from all parties because of the overwhelming and credible evidence of the catastrophic damage this would do to our country, including our NHS which I worked in for over 20 years before I became a MP. I urge everyone to familiarise themselves with this independent evidence (e.g., from the House of Commons Library and the World Trade Organisation) of what crashing out of the EU with no deal would mean to the country and to them.
I supported the Government’s motion to extend Article 50 as we were clearly running out of time and last week the EU agreed to this until 12th April (if Parliament fails to approve the deal) or 22nd May (if we approve the deal).
Last month, a number of amendments were also considered which have been trying to get Parliament to agree a process by which a positive consensus might be reached. We know what we don’t want (the current deal and no deal), so let’s try and identify what we do want. This week, Parliament finally agreed to this approach and we voted on a range of options on Wednesday, 27th March and will continue this process on Monday, 1st April.
On the indicative vote system, I voted to support the main business motion in support of indicative votes. I also supported motions for a ‘soft’ Brexit (all credible evidence indicates that the UK economy will take a hit from leaving the EU, so I will be voting for the least worst option for leaving the EU) and a confirmatory vote, the so-called Kyle-Wilson-Beckett amendment, which agrees whatever option Parliament decides subject to the people also confirming this choice.
I had previously voted against a People’s Vote amendment because I believed it failed to link it to a confirmatory vote.
Just a note on the petition to revoke Article 50 which would nullify Brexit. I have much sympathy with the nearly 5,000 or so constituents, and the nearly 6 million British people who are eligible to vote, who, to date, have signed this. However, I think it would be inappropriate for me to vote for this given the points I raise above.
As you can see, trying to please all my constituents by supporting their particular preference is impossible. Someone will always feel disappointed, even angry. But I urge everyone to show the tolerance and respect for other views that is the hallmark of our British identity, valued across the world. And please know that in my deliberations, I always have you, my constituents, at the heart of any decision I make.