When Parliament returns tomorrow, we face some of the most critical decisions for our country since the Second World War. And it has been made even more dramatic by the decision of Boris Johnson to close down Parliament from next Monday until 14th October, to avoid defeat over his irresponsible and damaging plan to crash out of the EU without a deal on 31st October.
Johnson’s actions show a contempt for our democracy which underline why he is unfit to be Prime Minister. The issue is no longer simply about the damage that a ‘no deal’ Brexit will do to our country, but about protecting our democracy. It comes at a time when right-wing populists are challenging democratic values across the world and it’s no surprise that Donald Trump was quick to back Johnson.
Last week Labour brought the leaders of all the opposition parties together and we agreed to everything in our power to resist the closure of Parliament to force through a no deal Brexit. On Saturday, with Labour colleagues, I helped to organise a rally in Sheffield to give local people the chance to express their views, inviting other political parties and community groups to join us. Barker’s Pool was packed in one of the largest demonstrations I can remember in Sheffield.
A ‘no deal’ departure is what the Tory Brexit extremists have always wanted; it gives them the hardest possible break with the economic and social model that we built with our European partners over forty-six years. Brexit is just the first step in their project. Ditching the protections for workers, consumers and the environment enables them to let the market rip without the regulations they believe hold back business.
It’s not what they said in the referendum. To win support to leave the EU, they promised a close relationship with the EU and a deal within months. As recently as March, Vote Leave campaign leader Michael Gove made it clear that “We didn’t vote to leave without a deal. That wasn’t the message of the campaign I helped lead.” And they have no mandate for it now.
Theresa May fought the 2017 election on the mantra of ‘no deal better than a bad deal’, seeking support for a hard Brexit. And she lost her Parliamentary majority. Parties opposing ‘no deal’ secured more votes, as they did in the more recent European elections, and current polling shows a clear majority opposed to no deal. Speaking for that majority, Parliament has rejected a no deal Brexit three times.
The Government’s Operation Yellowhammer has confirmed the risks of a ‘no deal’ Brexit. It won’t necessarily mean overnight collapse, but there will be deep damage which will worsen over time. It’s why the Government is putting aside billions of pounds to compensate farmers and big business – using money desperately needed by our schools and hospitals.
The Treasury’s own analysis suggests the economy would shrink by 10% and a report by the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership found that a ‘no deal’ Brexit would result in the loss of 5,000 local jobs within months, with South Yorkshire’s economy 11% smaller by 2030 (read more in my recent article in the Sheffield Telegraph).
There couldn’t be more at stake; people’s jobs and livelihoods, the funding of our public services, co-operation over security, joint action on the climate emergency and our place in the world. Johnson’s threat to our democracy was heightened yesterday by Michael Gove’s suggestion that the Government might ignore a law that required them to avoid ‘no deal’.
The situation could not be more serious and, in the days ahead, I will do all that I can as a Shadow Brexit Minister, working with colleagues across parties, to stop this outrage and secure a further referendum so that the people of our country can decide on their future.