Brexit update – 29 January 2019

Thank you for writing to me about our withdrawal from the European Union and the amendments to the ‘Meaningful Vote’.

I continue to receive a huge number of emails about this and people have a lot of different views on the way forward.  If you have written an individual email to me, please excuse the generality of reply, but with several thousands of emails received on the subject it is not possible to respond individually.

I have reviewed all of the correspondence received, especially individual emails, and have tried to incorporate all the major issues raised in this response.

Now that the Prime Minister’s proposed deal has been rejected by Parliament so emphatically, we need to move on and seek to negotiate a deal that will work better for British businesses and protect as many jobs as possible.

I have always opposed leaving the EU without a deal and no trading agreements.  The key problems with having no trade deals or customs union are undisputed:

  1. Tariffs on our imports and exports with the EU at the same level as with the rest of the world. This will raise prices, especially of food, and make UK exports less competitive.  Many companies, including some local firms, have said they would have to move to the EU, reducing UK jobs.
  2. Border checks on goods travelling between the UK and EU will mean delays at ports, less efficient trade, and increased costs and prices.
  3. Disruption to the supplies of medicines produced in the EU whilst a new UK-only medicines licensing regime is established. The NHS is stock-piling but we do not know how long it will take to establish normal supplies.
  4. We would lose access to the EU’s crime databases and cross-border security agencies used thousands of times a day to help police track criminals and terror suspects. Whilst lower level access can be re-negotiated, this will take time.
  5. Our isolated position and need for trade deals as quickly as possible would put us in a particularly vulnerable negotiating position, which other countries will take advantage of. President Trump has said he would demand access for American private health companies to the NHS and for the UK to mirror the USA’s lower food standards.  Other large economies such as India and China will demand immigration rights to the UK.

Keeping the option of No Deal open is costing businesses, our public services and government billions of pounds in preparations.  For many businesses, this means transferring jobs abroad.

That is why I believe we need to rule out leaving without a deal and I have signed the cross-party amendments from Caroline Spelman and Yvette Cooper that aim to prevent No Deal.

We will therefore need to negotiate a deal that Parliament and the country could support.

Labour’s key amendment “requires ministers to secure sufficient time for the UK Parliament to consider and vote on options to prevent the UK leaving the EU without a ratified Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration, and that those options should include:

(i) Negotiating changes to the draft Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration so as to secure a permanent customs union with the EU, a strong relationship with the single market underpinned by shared institutions and obligations, and dynamic alignment on rights and standards, in order to command a majority in the House of Commons.”

These are the requirements that businesses in High Peak have said would work best for them and economic predictions say would best support the UK economy so that we can seek to end austerity by proper investment in our hard-pressed public services, in our infrastructure and in preventing poverty.

It will take time to negotiate a new deal, and we have little time left due to the Prime Minister deliberately running down the clock to try to force Parliament to agree to her stop-gap deal.

I have therefore signed amendments from Dominic Grieve and Rachel Reeves, as well as that from Yvette Cooper which all seek to give Parliament longer to negotiate a more constructive deal with the EU.

Given that so much has changed since 2016, and now we have much more information on the practicalities of leaving the EU, many people both locally and nationally say they have changed their mind, whatever deal is negotiated we need to be sure it is what most people want by holding a referendum on the terms of the deal to enable us to then move forward immediately and with certainty.

I am therefore pleased that Labour’s amendment includes for Parliament to be given the option of

“Legislating to hold a public vote on a deal or a proposition that has commanded the support of the majority of the House of Commons.”

I did not support the statement of the People’s Vote campaign because that stated the time for renegotiation with the EU was over.  I believe we should always be prepared to negotiate in the interests of the UK, and the EU have indicated that they would be willing to enter constructive negotiations about a Customs Union.

I hope that today’s votes will enable us to move forward in a constructive way with Brexit.  I want us to be able to sort out our relationship with the EU so that we can all move forward and concentrate on the very pressing issues we face as a country – the decline of our public services, rising poverty and the need to tackle climate change.

I may be required to spend more time in Parliament in the next few weeks, as we seek to sort out the mess this government has created in the very little time left.

As ever, I will continue to spend as much time as I’m able to in High Peak, and when I’m in Parliament, I’m working on local issues or national ones that affect High Peak.

Last week in a typical couple of days in London I met Marks & Spencer about the proposed Buxton store closure, Highways England about the Mottram bypass, Trevor Osborne about progress on the Crescent, and the Nature Friendly Farming Network about support for local farmers.  I spoke in Parliament on the proposal for a national Town of Culture scheme that would help generate more Arts Funding for towns rather than cities and I hosted two High Peak students to help them learn more about Parliament.

I was fighting for High Peak and for local people for years before I was elected, and I’ll continue to do so, as well as trying to find a sensible way forward on Brexit.

Do keep in touch and let me know your views on local issues as well as national ones.

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