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Last summer I walked through the fields of the Somme and along the beaches of Normandy. Doing that, one cannot but ask oneself, “How did we get here?” History teaches us that it was the result of a failure of institutions, economics and relationships, and the rise of populism and nationalism. Because of that, I was, and still am, inspired by Europe and what it has achieved, for all its faults, many of which were rightly mentioned during the referendum. To the eastern European states during the cold war, it represented an alternative to the ethnic slaughter in the Balkans, and presented opportunities for hope.
I understand and respect the vast majority of those who voted to leave the European Union, many of whom were members of my own family and people in my own constituency. However, my constituents voted overwhelmingly to remain. Because of my constituents, because of my conscience and because of the facts that I see before me, I shall vote against the triggering of article 50, for the amendment, and also against the programme motion. The debate has been far too curtailed. No doubt the Bill will proceed to a Committee stage, and I shall also seek to amend it then. The result will reflect the referendum. I shall do that not out of disrespect, but out of duty: a duty to stand up for my constituents, to stand up for the 48%, and to stand up in this sovereign Parliament and challenge the Government and their approach.
The Government have no plan, unlike the First Minister of Wales, who has set out a cross-party plan. They have provided no guarantees that Wales will not be left worse off, and no guarantees of the unfettered access to the single market that is so crucial to businesses and jobs in my constituency. They have provided no assurances that powers will not be taken away from Wales, or that our rights will not be removed. They have given no reassurances to EU citizens living and working in our public services in my constituency.
We are told to be optimistic. I have no doubt that the British and Welsh people will find their way through, however difficult things become—we have done that so many times before—but I must be honest. I fear that the concerns that people rightly express about immigration are far from being resolved, and will not be resolved by our leaving the European Union. I fear that many who felt left behind will continue to feel left behind while we have a Government who are advocating a bargain basement, tax haven, race to the bottom economy, and are running across to the United States and throwing themselves before President Trump. I fear that the poorest will continue to suffer, and what then? Who will be blamed next?
The Prime Minister said today that she was a leader, but the truth is that she is a follower. She is following the siren calls of a select group on her own Benches to a hard, reckless Brexit. Instead of trying to bring the country together, she is now following the lead of a President whose values she does not share in a desperate scramble to make up for the gambles of her predecessor. We are at a turning point—that is certain—but whatever the result of the referendum, there is not only one route forward. We have a choice when it comes to where we head in the future, and we must think very hard about that choice.