I campaigned relentlessly for the UK to remain part of the EU – for jobs and the economy, for the stability of our continent, for our standing in the world and to tackle the big issues of the day, from climate change to international terrorism, more effectively with our friends and neighbours. I made the case to hundreds of people at dozens of meetings and, with a great team of volunteers, spoke to over 9,000 people on their doorsteps - as well as delivering around 50,000 leaflets to homes across my constituency.
I campaigned on the understanding that the outcome mattered because the result would be respected – whichever way it went – and, although close, the decision was to leave. But the only question on the referendum ballot paper was whether to remain or leave the EU. There was no vote on the terms. I believe people voted to come out of the EU; they didn’t vote to lose out.
I’ve been one of Labour’s Shadow Brexit Ministers since October 2016. I took the job to make sure that we leave the EU on terms that protect people’s jobs and livelihoods, keep pace with the highest employment and environmental standards and enable us to cooperate closely with our European partners on crime and security, as well as maintaining our partnerships on crucial issues like university research collaboration and scientific advancement. I set out my views on our future relationship in this article in the Yorkshire Post.
Theresa May called the General Election in June seeking a mandate for an extreme hard Brexit, but didn’t get it. She made the false claim that opposition parties were frustrating her attempts to get on with Brexit. We weren’t. We voted for her to start the process via the Article 50 Bill; we just demanded more information about the Government’s plans for Brexit, which when they came looked very bad for the country. That’s why Labour pushed to secure a vote for Parliament on the final Brexit deal.
The Prime Minister’s gamble backfired, and she ended up losing her majority in the House of Commons. Now the Tory Government is in chaos. Their absolutist red lines for the negotiations are making it incredibly hard for us to get a good deal – and some of the Cabinet now recognise it. Refusing any jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, means for example that the Government is forcing us out of the nuclear treaty Euratom, which could see delays to cancer treatments. I’ve been leading for Labour on the issue – see my article with Keir Starmer here and my speech in the Parliamentary debate called by Labour MPs here.
I’ve also led for Labour’s front bench in debates on the rights of EU nationals, on which Labour have opposed making the EU nationals in the UK, and the 1.2 million Brits in the rest of the EU, ‘bargaining chips’ in the negotiations. I’ve also made Labour’s case for continued collaboration in science and research, which is so important to economic growth across the regions and nations of the UK.
Labour will not let the country lose out as the Tories, yet again, put party interests over the national interest. We will fight for a ‘jobs first’ Brexit and one which retains the rights and protections secured through EU membership - rejecting the absolutist red lines set out by the Government that threaten our economy, crime and justice cooperation, our health service and much more besides. We will keep options on the table, where the Government has ruled out the idea of any form of single market or customs union membership. Having secured a Parliamentary vote on the final Brexit deal, Labour has set six tests it must meet for us to agree to it, which you can read here.
In July, the Government introduced legislation in the House of Commons to repeal the European Communities Act 1972, which incorporates EU law into our domestic law. But Labour has serious concerns about how the Government plan to replace these 40 years’ worth of rules, and we will vote against the Repeal Bill if changes are not made to the Bill. Read more here.
I produce regular updates on my work on Brexit - read the latest one here.