Leaving the European Union — [James Gray in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:39 pm on 1st April 2019.

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Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport) 5:39 pm, 1st April 2019

No, I will continue. I met a manufacturing employer just over a week ago. We are also due to lose 300 jobs in one of the agencies as a result of leaving Europe. We are in real need of high-skilled jobs in our city. There will also be a real impact on the university, not to mention our public services and our hospital, which is 500 staff short. The hospital recruited a cohort of 43 nurses from Spain. Only a handful remain today, because of what is happening over leaving the European Union. It is putting my local city at risk, so I will stand up for how people in my city voted back in 2016 to ensure that we do not end up in a disastrous Brexit mess.

The reality is that we are not seeing clear, cool, calm heads progressing the debate. We saw that clearly when the Prime Minister came to the podium and started pitching MPs against the people. We have seen it with her decisions, such as her catastrophic miscalculation on Friday. She thought that separating the political declaration from the withdrawal agreement would help to progress her deal, but we could all see that it would be a blind Brexit, with no leadership or certainty. People did not know what future they were voting for or who would be leading the negotiations.

It is absolutely clear that we need to move forward in a calmer way, and that will not be achieved over the next few days. It is clear that the country divided in 2016, but that has not yet been addressed by the Government. In fact, we have seen greater polarisation of our country with the austerity measures that have been brought forward. That has had a real impact. When people call for a different process to be exercised, and when people say, “Do not press this through,” it is Parliament’s duty to listen. It is unprecedented to see more than 6 million people take time out to sign a petition. As a result, it is so important that Parliament listens to the public.

I have questioned the Prime Minister, and I am confused. Why does she think it is okay for MPs to change their mind and vote time and again, yet it is not okay for the people of our country to do that? After all, every five years we expect the country to change its mind in voting in general elections. In fact, the Prime Minister wanted the country to change its mind so that the Government had a stronger majority. Clearly that did not go well for her, but that was after just two years. We are now nearly three years out from the 2016 referendum. My constituents are absolutely right to call for a public vote with the second petition.

Short of real political fixes, it seems inevitable that we will move to a longer extension. That would be the right move, giving us time to put our country back together and to decipher the relationship that we need with Europe as we move forward. Brexit will have a serious impact on our country. In the early stages, an amendment came forward for citizens’ assemblies. That would be a helpful way of proceeding, before then moving to a further public vote to decide how to take things forward. I thank my constituents for signing the petitions, and I trust that Parliament will hear them.