I wrote to my MP yesterday in the wake of the parliamentary no confidence vote in the government. I was keen to impress upon him that I was grateful for his vote of no confidence in the government. Nonetheless, I would like him to represent the wishes of his constituency – who overwhelmingly voted to leave the EU – and support measures that would disentangle us from it.
I noted that his predecessor stood in the same political tradition as I and supported a withdrawal from the EU too. Given the historic position of his party, the overwhelming and clear views of his constituency and the wider referendum result, I asked whether he would – given that Theresa May’s failed deal is now dead – vote and support measures that would actively remove us from the EU.
Below is the response I received. I shall let you judge for yourself, does that in any way answer my questions? I shall also let you judge for yourself, when people ask direct and specific questions and are met with a pre-prepared policy statements, whether this plays at least some part in disenfranchisement of the electorate.
It feels like Brexit is finally close to breaking the government, and its little wonder as the Prime Minister set out to deliver Brexit that could not be delivered with the ease Leave campaigners claimed, and certainly not without catastrophic consequences for the economy of the UK.
Labour voted to trigger Article 50 in response to the EU Referendum because we respected the result. But the handling of the negotiations has been painful with David Cameron walking off the pitch and by Theresa Mays own admission leaving absolutely no plan for her to take forward. On top of this we lose vital time with an General Election.
The Government’s final offer on a Brexit deal is a template for a blind Brexit. It is a miserable failure after two years of negotiations. Whether you voted leave or remain – nobody voted for this and it has been enough to send the government into a spin and threaten the future of the Prime Minister herself.
The declaration made in support of the agreement is extraordinarily vague – even more flimsy than we had feared. It is miles away from the “detailed” “precise” and “substantive” document that Theresa May promised. The weakness of the deal is highlighted by the fact that neither of the two Brexit Secretary’s, who have served under Theresa May, have both resigned due to lack of support for it. Her own Cabinet is currently divided over the deal.
The detailed document, consisting of 585 pages covers a fair amount of ground but in many ways say very little and it stands almost no chance of getting through parliament.
Labour have long proposed six tests for a Brexit deal. The Government’s deal fails to come anywhere near meeting these six tests:
1. Does it ensure a strong and collaborative future relationship with the EU?
2. Does it deliver the “exact same benefits” as we currently have as members of the Single Market and Customs Union?
3. Does it ensure the fair management of migration in the interests of the economy and communities?
4. Does it defend rights and protections and prevent a race to the bottom?
5. Does it protect national security and our capacity to tackle cross-border crime?
6. Does it deliver for all regions and nations of the UK?
I wrote recently about the real challenges in balancing the needs of Northern Ireland. It remains a significant omission that the official government booklet sent to every home in the country failed to mention the special and fragile nature of Northern Ireland in meeting the commitments of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, which itself was the subject of referendums in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. But even without that mention it was in the minds of many with a vote in favour of Remain in Northern Ireland.
The matter of where a customs border will be placed became even more of a problem when the Prime Ministers failed gamble on a General Election in 2017 put the Tories at the will of the DUP, who will not settle for anything which moves NI closer to Ireland and further from Great Britain. Even £1bn won’t smooth over those differences.
Anyone who says they know what will follow either has superhuman powers, of they are making it up. The government is in crisis, the deal has little support and Labour will not support a deal which is bad for the UK and its people.
Finally the language which is used to attack anyone daring to highlight the chaos, or blatant lies told in the referendum to convince voters Leave was an empowering, almost consequence free liberation, is hugely damaging.
Worrying too is the failure of the government to actually address the underlying issues which led to the EU referendum result. People in this country are sick of being told that declining living standards, change to local communities and their economies are simply inevitable and a price worth paying, frankly is not good enough. People deserve decent work that pays well and offers a good standard of living, public services as a the foundation for a thriving society, and investment in those who contributed so much in the lives when they are older and need care most. They also want to see real investment in young people to give them a better chance in life and the ability to make a decent life; a secure home and enough left over to enjoy life.
The failure to invest in our regional economies, new manufacturing and engineering and really capitalising on new technology has been missed. As a result we are more vulnerable to economic shock and less likely to build a new Britain. That Britain is too far away for too many people and the answers coming from government don’t even touch the sides.
Does that in any way answer my question as to whether my representative will vote on measures to leave the EU? Does that in any way address the question of representing how his constituents voted? People in Oldham already feel disenfranchised, as though they have been passed by, and voted in such a way to make the politicians sit up and listen. Does this, really, address that strength of feeling?
You don’t have to agree with me on the issue or like my views to see that this is not exactly a plain answer to a simple question. I am minded to presume my representative does not want to represent his people because he is unwilling to say, categorically, that is what he intends to do. How can anybody vote for someone who won’t represent them and, harder still, who can they vote for that will?