(Newspaper column as seen in the July 2019 edition of the South Bristol Voice)
People regularly stop me to say what an interesting time it is to be in politics. As a Labour activist for over 30 years, I agree; but sometimes I wish it was a little less ‘interesting’!
The years of uncertainty since the referendum have been made much worse by the resignation of Theresa May and the next few months will undoubtedly be difficult. It is making people very anxious. The country is divided and people are worried about the future. We must find a way through this impasse.
The conversations I had with people ahead of May’s European election revealed a significant desire from many to remain in the European Union. But I’ve also been contacted by people in Bristol South who want Brexit delivered immediately – deal or no deal.
I’ve heard a lot of inaccurate figures shared. People have told me that 80+ per cent of Bristol South voted leave and I’m misrepresenting my constituency by not delivering Brexit; others have told me that over 70 per cent of Bristol South wants to remain and I should be representing those views and voting to revoke Article 50. Neither of these figures are correct. Like the country, Bristol South was divided in how it voted in the 2016 referendum – 53% voted to stay and 47% voted to leave the European Union. People continue to be divided on the best route forward.
Like many of you, this increasingly polarised nature of politics at the moment concerns me, in particular the threat from the far right. Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party believe that the answer is simple: we leave the EU with no deal. Some of the smaller parties believe it’s also simple: we revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU. It is not simple. The last few years have damaged the UK’s reputation both politically and as a destination for investment. We need the debate to be much more honest.
Back in 2017, the Labour Party said it could not accept a ‘no deal’ Brexit as an option as part of our commitment to protect jobs, rights and living standards and our position remains the same today. The government has presented a deal which does not protect this, which is why I voted against it
As it stands, there is no ‘good’ Brexit for people in Bristol South.
I believe that, in order to get through this and heal the division, any deal needs a confirmatory vote; and that any confirmatory vote must have the option to remain in the European Union.