I voted in favour of triggering article 50, so that negotiations could begin on Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, but having read the result of the Prime Minister’s negotiations—the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration—I will vote against what has been negotiated. The majority of my constituents voted to leave the EU, but I do not believe that they voted to make themselves poorer or to jeopardise their safety. I am not taking this decision lightly. I believe that it would be enormously damaging for the people of this country, and in particular my constituents, if Britain were to leave the EU on the basis of what the Prime Minister has negotiated.
Fundamental to my concern is the fact that the withdrawal agreement deals only with the process of Britain’s departure from the European Union. After December 2020, the only thing that has been agreed is a political declaration of a mere 26 pages that is extremely vague. In other words, if Parliament accepts the Prime Minister’s package, we have no real idea of what this country’s relationship with the EU will be like in the long term. It will be a blind exit and a step into the dark. We will be leaving the European Union on a wing and a prayer. The real negotiations on our long-term relationship will only begin in earnest once we have left the EU, during the transition process, and Britain will be in a weak bargaining position as a consequence. I am passionately concerned about that.
I am very concerned about the number of young people in my constituency who have expressed concern about the situation in which this country finds itself. They are concerned about their inability to travel around the EU and the reduction of opportunities if travel is restricted. They are concerned about the creation of a constantly inward-looking country, while their instincts teach them that they must be looking outwards to Europe and the world.
There is also concern in my constituency about the employment consequences of this deal. That is extremely important, because much of my constituency’s prosperity and the employment prospects of a large number of people depend on Britain having a positive relationship with our largest and nearest trading market—the European Union. This deal does not offer the prospect of such a positive relationship.
There are huge problems with the short-term withdrawal agreement, not least the weak commitments to workers’ rights, which have been highlighted by the TUC, and the prospect of weak environmental standards. There is also concern, as has been highlighted in the debate, about the security implications of the transitional agreement and beyond. Let us not forget that last year, the European arrest warrant resulted in 183 individuals being brought back from other European countries to face justice in this country. Because of the European arrest warrant, we have seen an increase in security and justice internationally.
My concern is that once we leave the EU and go beyond the transition period after December 2020, we are by no means certain what arrangements will be in place and what will be negotiated. It is quite possible that we will have to fall back on the kind of extradition agreements that we had in the past. Let us not forget the problem we have there, which is that France and Germany’s constitutions prevent them from entering into such extradition agreements. There is real concern about security and the rule of law, which have huge implications for our future.
In essence, that is why I will vote against the Prime Minister’s deal on
It is small wonder I have been approached by a constituent who is diabetic and insulin-dependent, and who is genuinely concerned about what will happen to his health if we leave the European Union without a deal and he cannot get his insulin. That concern can be replicated throughout the country time and again, and it is completely wrong that the Prime Minister is holding this sword of Damocles above the House of Commons.
This is an important decision that we will face next Tuesday. We should not underestimate the significance of the meaningful vote, but I honestly believe that this agreement is against the best interests of the people of this country and against the best interests of the people in my constituency. Therefore, I have no doubt in my mind that the best, correct and proper thing to do is to vote against the agreement.