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Like many others, I hoped that this debate would never take place. I campaigned to remain in the firm belief that it is the best way to protect jobs and stability for my constituents. However, my constituency voted by a clear margin to leave. I respect the democratic process, and I respect the views of all my colleagues and my constituents.
I will vote for the Bill tonight but, now that we are having this debate, it is my duty to speak up and fight for the people I was elected to serve. For decades the benefits of the EU were not sold to people. The European Parliament was shrouded in mystery, leaving a vacuum for UKIP to sell an alternative narrative of what the EU did and does for us. At times during the referendum campaign it felt like I was trying to share with people in a few months things that we should all have been sharing with them for years.
I campaigned in the referendum against the backdrop of an increasingly dark and globalised world in which things are constantly shifting at an alarming and dramatic pace and in which intolerable cruelty is inflicted on people simply because of their race or religion. People are being displaced and humanitarian crises are happening right across the globe. Disasters, poverty and disadvantage are becoming the norm for so many, and the old answers to our country’s and the world’s problems are just not coming from our politicians any more. The vacuum left in British politics as MPs and parties struggle with how to respond to this pace and veracity of change has been filled with racist, misogynistic and divisive rhetoric, which is creating an inward, nationalist, isolationist environment.
When experiences like those of my dad are thrown into the mix, we see that it was no surprise that people voted out. My dad, Davey Lewell, is a retired welder. He is a kind, considerate, hard-working man. He used to work in the shipyards with economic migrants from Europe, who came to work alongside him. He hated seeing them being exploited. He wanted them to have rights, and the same terms, conditions and pay that he had, but instead they continued to be exploited, to such a degree that the yard owners could pay them so little that it was no longer a good business model to have people like my Dad employed there. In short, he lost his job. When people see Governments not fighting for them and allowing people to be exploited, they lose faith and they become angry. No Government should ever underestimate what unemployment can do to an individual, to their family and to their community, because these scars last. This referendum was a chance for people like my Dad to vent his hurt. In areas like mine this referendum was lost a very long time ago.