I was scheduled to speak in today’s EU Withdrawal Agreement but following the Prime Minister’s shambolic last-minute deferral of the vote, I will be unable to offer my view in parliament. Instead I have decided to make my speech publicly available. As the Prime Minister is too weak to pass her deal through parliament, it is clear that the sentiments expressed here are widely shared across the house.
After two years of negotiations, the Prime Minister has presented Parliament with a deal which would leave us less prosperous and less powerful in Europe.
I want to be very clear that voting against this botched deal is not voting against Brexit. I fully respect the 2016 result of the referendum.
But the vote to leave the European Union was not a vote to give this Prime Minister a blank cheque.
It is clear to members on both sides of the house that this deal is an act of reckless self-sabotage with severe consequences which this parliament has a responsibility to prevent.
It is evident that many supporters of the Leave campaign are also voting against this deal.
My Rt Hon Friend the member for Islington North was right last week to draw attention to the UN’s Report on extreme poverty and human rights in this country, published just last month.
Following the report’s scathing indictment of this government’s record, its author concluded that “the negotiations surrounding Brexit present an opportunity to take stock of the current situation and reimagine what this country should represent and how it protects its people”. This deal offers no such reimagination.
In fact, it would worsen the dire conditions so many in this country already face.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation reports that 14 million people, a fifth of the population, currently live in poverty.
Given that the Government’s own economic analysis has indicated that this deal will make the country poorer, predicting a fall in GDP of around 3.9%, its consequences for the poorest in our society would be grave indeed.
How can the Prime Minister expect me to knowingly vote for a deal that will make my constituents poorer?
In negotiating this deal, the Prime Minister has failed to stand up for British jobs, rights, protections and living standards.
Her political declaration makes clear that the future EU relationship will not deliver frictionless trade.
Nor does it include plans for a permanent customs union, something which is vital to protect British manufacturing jobs.
Britain would have no say in future market regulations, leaving us exposed to declining working conditions at home with no influence abroad.
Voting through this deal would risk indefinitely tying the UK to agreements over which we will have no say whatsoever, the precise opposite of ‘taking back control’.
The Prime Minister has made much of this deal’s commitment to ending freedom of movement. But for all her talk of ‘queue-jumpers’ and ‘citizens of nowhere’, the fact remains that we need an immigration system which meets the needs of our economy, not one which panders to prejudice.
Our NHS already faces a deepening staffing crisis. Hospitals report growing shortages of doctors, nurses, midwives and therapists.
I do not accept that the only choice facing parliament is a choice between this deal or no deal. We must work to ensure that neither of these disastrous outcomes are realised.
Leaving the EU without a deal would be catastrophic for jobs, living standards and would lead to a hard border in Northern Ireland.
Rejecting the Prime Minister’s deal does not give the Government licence to crash out of Europe in this way. What gives it the right to plunge the country into chaos as a result of its own failure?
In my own constituency of Warrington South, leaving the EU without a deal would be hugely damaging, impacting many of our local businesses reliant on European supply chains. Food prices would rise dramatically, hitting families struggling to get by the hardest.
This cannot be allowed to happen.
I will be supporting Labour’s frontbench amendment and the amendment made by my Rt Hon friend the member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) to ensure that this is the case.
I implore members on both sides of this House to vote down this deal and work to avoid a no-deal Brexit. If parliament fails to prevent either of these outcomes, the disastrous consequences could be felt for generations.