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Let us make no mistake: we are leaving the EU. The referendum seven months ago settled that issue. Today’s vote is not about whether Members have a leave or remain constituency. This Bill is about green-lighting the Prime Minister in her approach to Brexit and to parliamentary scrutiny: a fast-tracked process devoid of any detail for triggering article 50 in March when key European allies will have elections distracting them; and the grudging promise of a White Paper tomorrow for a vote today to replace the blank paper we currently have. Those of us who campaigned for remain know that Brexit is to happen, but how we green-light it is a different matter. All of us have to ask ourselves whether we are confident that, as things stand, this Government are going to get the best deal, or even a good deal, for our country. I cannot answer yes to that question. This Bill is our only opportunity to send the Prime Minister back to the drawing board, both on the process and on the purpose of her negotiation.
In the short time available to me, I wish to deal with three points that Walthamstow residents whom I met on Sunday, both leave and remain voters, wanted to make clear. They understand that there are many different ways in which Brexit could happen, but they get the importance of the single market being part of the negotiations. They understand that when 50% of goods cross borders at least twice before they hit the shop floor, we are now talking about more red tape for British businesses. They understand that a Government who abandon the customs union and the common commercial policy for a form of associate membership that does not even exist put thousands of jobs at risk from the beginning. The Secretary of State himself said that businesses would ensure that trade with Britain continues uninterrupted and under similar circumstances. That is clearly not the case, and the British public deserve better.
Walthamstow wants rights for EU citizens to be confirmed, not to be used as bargaining chips or to upset the new company that we keep, in the shape of President Trump. Finally, Walthamstow wants employment rights to be protected. I just attended a statutory instrument Committee in which the Government were already talking about extending the erosion of employment rights, so it is clear that it is not a done deal.
Yesterday, my constituency neighbour, Mr Duncan Smith, who sadly is not present, said that he would vote to trigger article 50 simply because of all the mistakes of the past. Well, I cannot green-light article 50 tonight because of all the opportunities for the future that it puts at stake. I am a proud patriot: I am proud of my country and I want the best for my country. We can and should be doing better. We cannot trigger this process now. We must rethink and go back to the drawing board, for the sake of everybody we represent, whether they were for leave or remain.