Another Brexit update from me today. I'm afraid there’s likely to be a lot of these over the next few years.
We had the Supreme Court judgement yesterday giving Parliament a say on when to trigger Article 50. It’s been fairly obvious for a while that the Government did not have the legal power to invoke Article 50 without Parliament, so in my view it would have been better to acknowledge that and get on with it. However, that's for the Government to account for.
I will be voting to invoke Article 50. We had a referendum to decide this and there was a result. Our constituency voted to Leave but even more important than that is respect for the democratic process. I've been to countries where the results of elections and referendums are not honoured – it is absolutely ruinous. To ignore this referendum would mean there would never be faith in an election or referendum ever again. If I had been on the winning side I would certainly have expected that outcome to occur. That has to work both ways.
It's important to remember Article 50 is the start of the negotiating process. The Government should now publish a White Paper on the way forward (i.e. it should follow the process we used for joining the EU, but in reverse) and it should not sideline Parliament. There are many different views on what the future should look like - let's listen to all of them.
The Prime Minister has now set out what she wants our future relationship with Europe to look like. She is promising us a U.K. more open to the rest of the world, full tariff-free access to the Single Market, no customs checks or inspections between us and the EU, U.K. companies freely doing business across the continent without impediment, no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, and full U.K. control of EU immigration. In other words, all of the benefits of the EU without the downsides. This is a tall order and she must set out clearly how exactly she plans to deliver it. That's why a White Paper is important.
I also want to see guarantees that there will be no reduction in worker’s rights, such as the minimum wage, parental leave and the right to annual leave, or environmental protections which have improved so much in recent years. Whilst I want to see the UK strike trade deals with other countries as soon as possible, I want assurances this will not mean opening the UK to hormone-treated beef or cheap dangerous toys. And no trade deal should ever countenance breaking up the NHS so that foreign providers can bid for bits of it.
First and foremost, we must take action to protect jobs. In Tameside, our economy is especially dependent on making sure manufacturing companies can thrive outside of the EU. For Greater Manchester as a whole to go from strength to strength we must also fight particularly to protect jobs in the Higher Education sector, financial services, and - on the back of Media City’s success- the creative industries. Jobs and the economy should always be our first priority.
There was one ominous thing in what the PM said, which is when she said if the EU doesn't agree to our demands she will ‘seek to change our economic model’. This is code for ripping up the social contract which has existed in the U.K. since 1945 – i.e. she is saying she will turn the UK into a Cayman Islands-style tax haven to lure businesses from Europe to here, with no NHS or social care or other public services that would have to go with that. That is as much a threat to the British people as it is to the EU, and there are no circumstances under which I would accept it.
Since the referendum the emails and letters I have received from constituents have largely got more divided, not less. We are a nation ill at ease with itself, with profound feelings of bitterness and anger on all sides. I hope, in the weeks and months ahead, we will start to overcome this and that common ground will be found.