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We as a Parliament and a democracy have not done that well by the people who elected us. We took the country into a referendum that had nothing to do with the best interests of Britain and everything to do with attempting to heal deep divisions in the Conservative party.
Labour Members did not oppose the referendum, because we did not wish to appear not to trust the voters, and I have to admit that we had some divisions of our own. However, all of us failed to set the rules for the referendum. We did not impose a super-majority, and we did not have a requirement for a road map showing the implications of a leave or a remain vote and the cost implications of the two alternatives. Then came the shockingly irresponsible referendum campaign, which was full of lies, misinformation, dog-whistle politics, fear and xenophobia.
When the people of Bridgend voted by a majority to leave the EU, they did so for a variety of reasons. They wanted the money back that the battle bus told them was going to Europe while, apparently, nothing came back to the UK, and they wanted it spent on the NHS. They are not going to get it. They wanted control of immigration and spending. They wanted an end to austerity, and they wanted to wipe the smug look off the faces of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor—well, they achieved that one.
On the doorstep, people did not tell me they would be happy to lose their workers’ rights, to lose their jobs, to have lower standards of living or goods, or to have reduced opportunities for their children and grandchildren. Nor did they talk about wanting to leave the single market or the customs union, or to pursue a bold and ambitious free trade agreement. Somehow, we as politicians were to square the circle: stop immigration, get our money back, get control back and become more affluent. I cannot keep on voting for a process that gives the people of Bridgend no assurance of a secure future for them and their children. I will not be voting to trigger article 50.