It is a pleasure to speak in this debate, and it is important to start by reminding us all that this whole process was secured only in the teeth of Government opposition, so I start by paying tribute to those MPs who voted with us for Parliament to have a full democratic role in the Brexit process, and especially to Mr Grieve for his work in the earlier debates.
Labour has been absolutely clear from the start that there must be a meaningful vote on any negotiated deal. That was raised by my right hon. and learned Friend Keir Starmer at the very beginning of this whole Brexit process. Should a deal be defeated in Parliament, as it was decisively, Parliament must have a say on how the Government proceed.
This is a vital issue that affects the future direction of our country and the future facing all of our constituents. It determines the jobs and living standards of our people, the rights of European Union citizens living in Britain who have been deeply stressed by this situation—as have British citizens living across the continent of Europe—our place in the world and our participation and co-operation in Europe-wide projects on issues as vital as security, counter-terrorism and climate change.
Our job must be to bring people together. No matter how anyone in this House campaigned in the referendum, we cannot wish away the votes of 17 million people who voted to leave, any more than we can ignore the concerns of the 16 million who voted to remain. We must have in our minds the views right across the country.
It is therefore right that Members represent their constituents in deciding the way forward on implementing the result of the referendum but, in delivering the result, we have to unite people so as not to create further divisions, stoke xenophobia or allow racism to rear its ugly head in our society. Many communities across this country have been neglected for far too long, lacking decent investment and with too few—