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When I campaigned as one of a fairly beleaguered minority in the Labour party in the 1970s to join the EU, little did I think that many years hence I would be standing up today to vote in favour of triggering the negotiations for our exit, but I am. It is against all my historical instincts and my preference for an international way of delivering our business, and it is also against the economic logic that says that a large and uniformly regulated home market is a prerequisite for a fast-growing economy and the benefits that accrue from it.
I am going to vote this way for three reasons. The first is the democratic argument that has been articulated by many. There is a lack of faith in Parliament and our democratic institutions, and for Parliament and politicians to win an election on a promise of a referendum, to hold that referendum, and then to not implement the result of that referendum would have profound implications in terms of faith in our democratic system.
I also believe that, given the complexities and difficulties of the negotiations we are going to be confronted with, the public will expect this Parliament to do its very best to implement the will that they have expressed. I do not want conspiracists to be able to blame the very real problems that will arise from the negotiations on the reluctance of Parliament, rather than the difficult issues that will be confronting us.
I will also vote this way because it is in the interests of business. A decision has been made, and my discussions with businesses run along the lines of, “We’d prefer to remain in, but we recognise we are coming out, and what we want is certainty about our future trading relationships.” That will depend on investment decisions and recruitment decisions, and until we start to negotiate and try to shape the future that our business is going to be confronted with, that uncertainty will continue, and it will severely affect our economy.
I want to make it clear that in voting to trigger article 50, I am not committing myself to accepting the final outcome. I will work with others to ensure that we shape the negotiations in a way that will be beneficial, and I reserve the right to vote against the subsequent outcome if I do not feel that that has been achieved.