Exiting the European Union: Meaningful Vote

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:51 pm on 11th December 2018.

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Photo of Helen Goodman Helen Goodman Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 4:51 pm, 11th December 2018

After the referendum, I had several public meetings with my constituents and they told me that they thought we should have a cross-party negotiating team. The Prime Minister’s strategic process error has been the failure to build consensus across party, across the House and across the country, culminating yesterday in pulling the vote. It is simply wrong for her to threaten us with a catastrophic no-deal exit if we do not accept her approach. Constantly prioritising the unity of the Tory party and pandering to the European Research Group was doomed to fail; they are happy with no deal—they have already stashed their cash overseas.

So what should we do now? I am not going to say that everything in the Prime Minister’s deal is bad. Some colleagues say that it is too late for a renegotiation, but I am not sure about that. We should take a leaf out of Leo Varadkar’s book and change the red lines, most obviously the obsession with the ECJ. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said that those of who us who wanted to stay in the customs union, which is very popular with the public, needed to be honest that that would mean common regulation. Quite honestly, I am happy to stay in the social chapter, with the environmental standards, and the industrialists in my constituency tell me that they want the European Medicines Agency and the European customs agency. Furthermore, this would make a significant difference to our European partners, because they are worried about regulatory arbitrage: that we are going to compete with them unfairly by cutting regulations and red tape.

I must confess that I am nervous of the Norway option, because it means free movement without getting a seat at the table. We must avoid a catastrophic no deal. If that means we need to have a people’s vote in the end, so be it. I do not believe it is undemocratic to vote again. The truth of the matter is that we all know more than we did two and a half years ago. But I have a warning to the super-remainers as well: staying in the EU will not mean everything in the economic garden is lovely. We must do more for people on low pay. For example, we need to strengthen the trade unions.