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As someone who passionately campaigned for and voted to remain in the 2016 referendum, I have watched for two years with growing alarm at the Government’s shambolic, reckless and irresponsible approach to the Brexit negotiations. In those two years, we have seen the leave campaign promises denied. We have seen dozens of Ministers quit and two Brexit Secretaries come and go. We have seen a Government who have spent more time negotiating with themselves than they have with the European Union. We have seen them avoid scrutiny, evade transparency and duck responsibility, and just this week we have seen how the Government have treated Parliament with contempt. No one can deny that this Government’s handling of Brexit has been a mess, with a miserable, failed deal from a miserable, failing Government.
I have received literally thousands of emails, postcards, letters and surgery visits from constituents in Battersea who share this view. They are fearful that this Government are asking Parliament to vote for a withdrawal agreement and political declaration that will not protect jobs, rights or the economy. They are alarmed that the Government are asking this House to vote for a deal that their own analysis shows will make us poorer, with GDP falling by 3.9% and every region being made worse off. For our economy, it is clearly a bad deal, and a worse deal than what we already have.
My constituents know that the Government are asking us to vote for a political declaration, supposedly the product of a two-year negotiation, that offers empty promises and lacks legal standing. However, where the political declaration is clear, my constituents know that it will not work in their interests. The aim of frictionless trade has been abandoned, which will hurt our manufacturing industry. It fails to protect workers’ rights or environmental protections, and instead opens the door to the UK lagging behind as EU rights and standards develop. My constituents are concerned that it will allow a future Conservative Government to strip away hard-won EU rights and protections, such as TUPE, equal rights for agency workers and paid holidays.
Along with the rest of the constituency, the 12,000 EU citizens living in Battersea are concerned that we are being asked to vote for a withdrawal agreement that still leaves open important questions about citizens’ rights, particularly on the evidence required for residency rights to be guaranteed. That is particularly troubling when we are being asked to vote without the promised publication of the immigration White Paper, and when the Government have such a shameful record of protecting citizens’ rights, as demonstrated by the Windrush scandal. I know that small businesses in Battersea are deeply concerned. The Government’s shambolic negotiations have already caused damaging uncertainty. This deal, which leaves so many questions unresolved, only adds to it.
Disabled people, too, will be forced to bear the brunt of the Conservative’s botched Brexit. It will be another attack on our rights by the Government, a Government already found guilty of “grave and systematic” violations of disabled people’s rights according to the UN. The EU charter for fundamental rights, which includes protections against discrimination, was excluded from the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. We will lose the potential of the proposed European accessibility Act, which contains EU directives that have not been transposed into UK law. That means requirements on the accessibility of goods and services for disabled people will not be guaranteed. We will lose the European social fund, which is currently investing £4.3 billion across the UK until 2020. Whether that funding will be matched is still not guaranteed.