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A week is a long time in politics. The past two weeks have been a tumultuous time in British politics and I am deeply concerned by the direction in which the Government seem to want to take the country.
We have witnessed the events since Theresa May presented her draft EU deal to Parliament and the resulting chaos. The Prime Minister has since faced a series of ministerial resignations, including the Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab.
The number of resignations from the Government and the lack of support across all parties for Theresa May’s deal means a meaningful vote is likely to fail. We need to extend Article 50 and hold either a General Election or a second vote. Extending Article 50 is the only pragmatic and prudent action to take at this crucial juncture.
I am not a natural supporter of referenda as a method for deciding major constitutional changes, especially where there are not clear thresholds and definitions about each option. Consequently, I was against holding the first EU referendum. However, I believe a further referendum may now be the only way to get us out of this political stalemate.
The country is in crisis and, as in the two elections of 1974, a second vote seems to be the only way to break the deadlock. The Government cannot agree amongst itself what it wants and I am deeply concerned that we are drifting towards a ‘No Deal’ Brexit, which would be disastrous for our economy and for peace in Northern Ireland. A clear mandate is now needed to break the impasse.
I am committed to judging any Brexit deal against six tests that were set out by the Shadow Brexit Secretary in March last year. These tests are based on promises made by the Government about the kind of Brexit deal it would deliver.
The six tests include judging whether the deal ensures a strong and collaborative future relationship with the EU, whether it delivers the “exact same benefits” as we currently have as members of the Single Market and Customs Union, the fair management of migration, the defence of rights and protections, the protection of national security and whether the deals delivers for all regions and nations of the UK.
The Government’s proposed deal clearly fails to meet these tests, especially in ensuring that we continue to receive the exact same benefits from the Single Market and the Customs Union. I have long called for the UK to remain in a Customs Union with the EU and remain in some form of Single Market to safeguard truly frictionless free trade. Many businesses have spoken out about the need for avoid tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade and have warned about the risks to future investment, especially in the automotive industry.
In a ‘No Deal’ scenario, under World Trade Organisation rules, we would see the introduction a 10% tariff on finished vehicles and a 2.5 – 4.5% tariff on components. These tariffs would cost the automotive sector at least £2.7 billion on imports and £1.8 billion on exports. Jaguar Land Rover has warned a no-deal scenario would see its costs rise by £1.2 billion because of tariffs. It would need to reconsider £80 billion of planned investment, putting at risk 40,000 jobs. The automotive industry has repeatedly asked for clarity and certainty – and urgently.
When Parliament does come to vote on the proposed deal, I do not accept that it should be a ‘take it or leave it’ choice between the Government’s deal or crashing out of the EU without a deal. I believe a no-deal Brexit would be catastrophic and the Government does not have the right to plunge our country into chaos because of its own failure to get a good deal.
This is why, if any deal is voted down by Parliament, my preference is for there to be a general election – to try to get a Government that can negotiate the best deal for our country. However, if a general election is not possible, all other options for breaking the impasse must be kept open including a public vote.
I cannot vote for the deal Theresa May has proposed. This a template for a blind Brexit – and a deal that won’t protect jobs, rights or the economy. Whether you voted leave or remain – nobody voted for this.