Hundreds of my constituents have got in touch to express their dismay and disappointment at the result of the EU referendum. Most people who know me know I campaigned hard for us to stay in the EU. But unfortunately we lost the referendum. We can debate how the leave campaign handled themselves during the process of the referendum, but for now I want to touch on one area.
Following last week’s Supreme Court ruling, Parliament will have to take a decision as to whether to invoke Article 50 or not. Until very recently I have said that I am inclined to vote against triggering Article 50, but that I thought it important to hear from people post the referendum. I’ve received more than 1800 emails and letters to date, over 95% of which have been from constituents urging me to vote against triggering Article 50.
On Saturday afternoon Heidi Alexander MP (Lewisham East) and I met with several representatives of local groups concerned about Brexit, and hard Brexit in particular. At this meeting (which was scheduled by chance before we knew there would be a vote) I confirmed that I will be voting against triggering Article 50.
Almost 70% of Lewisham borough voted to stay in the EU. Whilst I thoroughly respect different views from across the country, I was voted in to represent my local area and that will always be my priority.
People came out in their masses to have their say. In Lewisham Deptford over 7000 new voters registered ahead of the referendum and the turnout was higher than it was for the general election. I know how strongly my constituents feel about this as I have received thousands of emails from local people voicing their concerns. I have considered this with reason and conscience and am listening to those who elected me.
Parliamentary debates on the Brexit bill (the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill to give it its correct title) will be held this week and next week. Labour will be tabling amendments to the bill.
The Conservatives have spent the last six years attempting to reduce employment protection. Last week Tory MP Chris Philp tried to put through a bill that would restrict worker’s rights to strike. The week before they talked out Labour MP Melanie Onn’s bill to protect workers’ rights after Brexit. Although Theresa May has promised to protect workers, it’s clear the Conservative Government has no real plan to do this.
From Europe we have the Working Time Directive, equal pay, maternity rights, parental leave and anti-discrimination laws. I will continue to fight to protect these.
Current EU nationals living in this country are concerned about what will happen to them. They are scared – we need answers and protections.
With regards to trade, what trade agreements will we have? Would we just have to trade with the WTO? If this is the case would we have to pay the tariffs? What’s the cost?
There are too many unanswered questions, which is why I can’t vote to trigger Article 50.