In the final House of Commons votes on Monday 13 March, I voted in favour of two Labour amendments to the Bill. These began as Labour amendments in the House of Commons back in February, and Labour tabled and voted for them previously in the House of Lords.
These amendments would have given much needed certainty for the three million EU nationals living in the UK, and ensured a meaningful vote on the final Article 50 deal – including, crucially, if Theresa May fails to reach an agreement.
Importantly, neither of Labour’s amendments would have delayed the triggering of Article 50.
I found it very disappointing that the Prime Minister ignored Labour’s amendments in the final Commons vote and that so few Conservative MPs were willing to support us. However, the Conservatives have a majority in the Commons and this was used to push through the Bill, without amendment, in line with the Prime Minister’s wishes.
It seems clear that the Prime Minister is more concerned with getting a ‘clean’ Bill rather than considering the merits of the amendments on these important issues. In my view this sets a worrying precedent for the negotiations.
Turning to what happens next, the Prime Minister will soon be able to invoke Article 50. Labour will continue to argue for the best possible Brexit deal – one that prioritises jobs and the economy and leads to no changes to all EU-derived rights, including workplace rights and environmental protections.
With my colleagues I will continue to insist that all EU-derived laws are introduced into UK law without qualification or limitation. Labour will also argue for a close, cooperative future relationship with the EU and make the case for continued engagement, not isolation from our most important trading partner and closest neighbours.
I believe the Prime Minister’s approach is taking huge risks with the economy of Bristol, the West Country and Britain as a whole, and with our future place in the world. This is increasing the threat of no deal being reached, which would be disastrous for trade and businesses.
In closing let me assure you that along with my Labour colleagues I will use every means possible to continue raising these issues in Parliament and to put pressure on the Government to change course.