The EU Withdrawal Bill has now completed its passage through Parliament and will soon become law. This Bill is not about whether we leave the EU – that was settled by the referendum and Parliament’s decision to trigger Article 50 last year. The Bill is instead about how we leave the EU, Parliament’s role in the process and how we ensure that vital rights and protections are safeguarded.
I have shared many serious concerns about this Bill and sought to improve and remove its worst aspects at every opportunity throughout its consideration in Parliament. While improvements were made in a number of areas thanks to the hard work of my Labour colleagues across Parliament, I would have liked to have seen further changes.
Two years on from the referendum, it is clear the Government has no plan for how it will protect jobs and the economy and guarantee no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. I believe the best way to protect our economy – including our manufacturing and services sectors – and to avoid any need for a hard border in Northern Ireland is to negotiate a new UK-EU customs union and secure a strong single market arrangement.
I therefore voted for amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill that would have put the negotiation of a customs union with the EU back on the negotiating table and required the Government to secure full access to the single market. Unfortunately, these amendments were defeated. However, I intend to press the Government further on these issues at appropriate opportunities in Parliament.
I have long argued that Parliament should have a meaningful vote on the final terms of our exit from the EU. This is not about frustrating Brexit. It is about ensuring that Parliament can shape the Brexit process and protect jobs and the economy from the risk of a no deal Brexit.
I therefore supported an amendment which would have ensured that if any withdrawal agreement is rejected by MPs – or if no deal can be reached at all – it would be for Parliament, not the Prime Minister, to decide the next steps. Disappointingly, this amendment was defeated by the Government.
I will continue to press the Government at every opportunity to secure a Brexit deal that protects jobs and the economy and works for our area as well as the country as a whole.