Since before the 2015 referendum I used every vote and every speech I could to oppose leaving the EU, the Single Market and the Customs Union, and for a confirmatory referendum. And I opposed No Deal. We left the EU at the end of last January, and Wednesday’s vote on the “Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the European Union Bill” was never going to change that.
The bill, now and Act following Royal assent, is about the deal which the UK Government have negotiated with the EU. It is about our future trading relationship which was going to be “the easiest in human history” according to the PM. Yet it’s taken the best part of four years to be finally agreed and put to parliament at the 11th hour. It wasn’t the deal I wanted nor what we were promised. It wasn’t the deal that will help my constituents nor the employers based here. It’s not a good deal, but it is the only deal the UK has with the EU and it is better than No Deal.
Alternative routes to our relationship with the EU were possible but were dashed in the general election just over a year ago.
So our choice on Wednesday was a straight one, between this – bad – deal, and no deal, which would be disastrous for my constituents and for the UK. Ending the transition period without a deal would have meant no protection for manufacturers, on security or trade or on farming. It would have meant tariffs and quotas which would have pushed up prices significantly, a free-for-all on workers’ rights and environmental protections, and instability in the Northern Ireland protocol. There would have been no foothold on which to build a future relationship with the EU, our biggest trading partner by far.
I was never going to vote against the TCA given that no deal would be a complete disaster. I took the view that abstaining would not be a credible position on an issue of such monumental importance to the future of the UK. To not vote for this would have ducked the question and left it to others to save me from the consequences of my decision.
I therefore voted for the deal, to avoid no deal, and to establish that we put in place a floor from which we can build a strong future relationship with the EU.
I accept it’s a poor deal and it’s been agreed far too late, leaving UK businesses no time to prepare for the new regulations and checks – more red tape. There is a gaping hole in the deal when it comes to services and there is no mutual recognition of professional qualifications.
It is Boris Johnson’s deal and we will hold him accountable for it. Labour won’t stand in the way of implementing the deal, but will also hold up the prospect of a better, more united future for our country. The EU member states are friends and allies with shared values and history. So we start now, to mitigate the damage and work for a new relationship that is positive and benefits our businesses, jobs, citizens, and the environment and strengthens our shared values on the global stage.
I’m deeply saddened that the UK is no longer a member, but I hope that one day, we will again be back as an integral part of the EU.