This week, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Government cannot trigger Article 50 without seeking Parliamentary approval.
I am pleased that the Supreme Court upheld the judgement of the High Court as I believe that it is necessary for Parliamentarians to scrutinise the Government’s actions and have their say on one of the most significant political changes in recent times. The Supreme Court has upheld the principle of Parliamentary sovereignty, and confirmed that the views of our Parliamentarians, who are in turn representing the views of their constituents, cannot be ignored during this period of uncertainty and change.
For months, I have received many emails from constituents asking what I would do if Parliament were to vote on Article 50. I have also received many more from constituents pleading for me to vote in a particular way. Now that we can be certain that Parliament will vote on this issue, and because it is an issue of national importance, I think it is vital that I clarify my current position to my constituents.
This will not be an easy decision for me to make as the vote has been so divisive that however I choose to vote on Article 50 will be disappointing for some of my constituents.
I want to make it clear that I respect the result of the referendum in which more than 17 million people nationwide voted to leave the European Union and the Labour Party have agreed that we will not frustrate the process, therefore I will not vote against triggering Article 50.
However, as I have said before on this blog, I believe that leaving the EU will be damaging to our country in a variety of ways, unless certain conditions are met. If I were to vote in favour of triggering Article 50, I would need to know that it would be in the best interests of my constituents and the North East. Therefore, I cannot actively vote to trigger it unless the Government prove that they are committed to protecting and prioritising jobs, workers’ rights and the economy and that they can ensure that we will continue to have a strong, amicable relationship with the EU in the future.
Furthermore, although County Durham voted to leave the EU, my experience at the count, as well as discussions and correspondence that I have had with my constituents since June, have all indicated that the City of Durham constituency voted strongly to remain a member of the EU.
Therefore, I have not yet decided how I will vote but it is likely that I will abstain from voting to trigger Article 50. Do be aware that my stance on this may change, depending on the Bill itself, the debate that takes place and any amendments that are made to the Bill by Labour, or another other Party, during the Parliamentary process. I am planning to hold some constituency meetings to take soundings from my constituents on their concerns surrounding Brexit and will inform you when these have been arranged.
Following the Supreme Court ruling, I hope that there will be more transparency and accountability of the Government’s actions regarding Brexit. We need greater clarity from the Government on what their plans are for the future of our country and for the new relationship with the EU, and we need reassurances that Parliament will be consulted and able to scrutinise the Government’s actions during the period of negotiations.
However, for now, there continues to be ambiguity surrounding the whole exit process. The Government still seem to be attempting to avoid full Parliamentary scrutiny by refusing calls to publish a White Paper ahead of the Bill. We will have to wait and see if the forthcoming Bill on Article 50 sheds any more light on the Government’s plans for Brexit, and if the Labour Party is able to make amendments to the Bill to ensure that we get the best outcome for the UK.
Throughout the whole exit process, I can assure you that I will do what is best for my constituents in the City of Durham, the North East and the UK as a whole, but please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further comments or questions regarding this issue.