[3rd Allotted Day]

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 5:15 pm on 6th December 2018.

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Photo of Ruth Smeeth Ruth Smeeth Labour, Stoke-on-Trent North 5:15 pm, 6th December 2018

It is a pleasure to follow Jeremy Lefroy.

Like my constituents, I am fed up. Too many Members have felt it appropriate to play political games with real people’s lives over the last three years. I voted remain, I campaigned for remain, and, like the minority in my constituency, I believed that staying in the EU was the best option for the country, but I lost. In fact, I represent the third most leave Labour seat in England. I did not lose because my constituents were thick or racist; they are not. They just disagreed with remain voters on what the future direction of the country should be, as is their right.

To be candid, I am fed up with people patronising my friends and neighbours because they do not agree with some of the voices that are currently shouting loudest. My constituents voted in overwhelming numbers to leave the European Union, and they had good reason. They feel no benefit from our membership in their day-to-day lives. In fact, given that for 40 years as politicians we have blamed Europe for decisions that we in the House could have challenged, why were we surprised that the majority of the country voted against remaining in the EU? We have a responsibility to deliver that for them, while seeking to ensure that we achieve a Brexit that works for them and the country, and, most important, protects the next generation.

I want to vote for a deal. Crashing out with no deal is simply not an option for the country or for the Potteries. I have waited patiently for the Prime Minister to deliver a deal that I could vote for. I have waited for her, or one of her team, to reach out to those of us on the Opposition Benches and ask what the world needs to look like in our communities after Brexit—to ask what we need to deliver for trade, for industry, for jobs and for people to make this work. I am still waiting; my constituents need to know.

We need detail, and we need it before we are asked to take a leap into the unknown. We need certainty on the economy; we need reassurance on our sovereignty; we need guarantees on our national security; we need to know what our immigration framework will look like; we need assurances on the immigration status of EU residents in the UK and UK residents in the EU; and we need protections for both the environment and workers’ rights—but what have we got? A withdrawal Bill that speaks of fishing more than of jobs, a future plan that is not binding, and a proposed deal that neither secures the Brexit for which my constituents thought they were voting, nor protects our long-term trading future. How offensive is it to this place that we have no guarantees on any of those issues less than a week before we will be asked to vote?

My constituents and I are left between a rock and a hard place. What is in front of us is a withdrawal deal that is, rightly, overwhelmingly about process, but the Prime Minister has failed to remember who she is negotiating for. For two and a half years we have been consumed by process. The Prime Minister has forgotten about the people who are struggling to pay the bills. She has forgotten that, fundamentally, we are here to make people’s lives better. So it is no surprise that my constituents do not think that this is a good deal: in fact, fewer than 20 of them have asked me to support it.

While I am far from comfortable with the uncertainty that will exist when the Bill falls next week, I cannot in all good conscience vote for a deal that leaves so many unknowns for my constituents. I beg the Government to try again and to give us more reassurances about the next steps for Brexit and our place in the world, so that we know where we are heading when we do leave the European Union on 29 March.