As you will be aware, Brexit continues to dominate proceedings in Westminster, and the situation in Parliament remains very fast moving.
Since the Prime Minister’s deal was again rejected by MPs from all parties on Tuesday 12 March, the EU granted an extension to Article 50 until 22 May if the Prime Minister’s deal was approved by Friday 29 March, but only until 12 April to find an alternative way forward if it is not.
I of course voted against the deal on 12 March, as I believe that it is simply not in the interests of the UK. I also voted to reject a no-deal Brexit on Wednesday 13 March, as leaving the EU without a deal would disastrous, especially for the North East.
Following the extension to Article 50, Parliament voted to take control of the process in an effort to try and find some consensus on the way forward, and has now held a two stage, indicative vote process on a number of options.
The first stage, which did not produce an overall consensus took place on Wednesday 27 March, however a customs union and a public vote on any deal were the most popular options.
For those of you who want to know how I voted in the first stage, I voted in favour of a customs union; the requirement for a public vote on any deal; Labour’s plan; Common Market 2.0; and for the revocation of Article 50.
Following this, on Friday 29 March, the Prime Minister brought her deal to Parliament once again, however this time it was simply the Withdrawal Agreement that MPs were asked to vote on.
I voted against this, as it is vital that this agreement and the Political Declaration are voted on together as, if they are separated, the Government will be free to negotiate a future relationship with the EU under a new, hard Brexit leader, and this cannot be allowed to happen. Equally, the agreement has not changed since it was last brought before Parliament, and it remains a bad deal for the North East.
On Monday 1 April, MPs again took part in a series of indicative votes, this time voting on a customs union; Common Market 2.0; a confirmatory public vote on any deal and a longer extension to Article 50 to give Parliament the right to decide on the next steps. I voted for all of these motions, but unfortunately a clear route was not identified. Once again, a customs union and a confirmatory public vote were the most popular options, being defeated by only 3 votes and 12 votes respectively
I voted for all four options as I believe it is vital that we work together to deal with this impasse, and compromises must be made to ensure we don’t leave the EU with no deal.
As the UK was set to leave the EU without any deal in place on Friday 12 April, Parliament passed a Bill proposed by Yvette Cooper, which received royal assent just after 11pm on Monday 8 April 2019. This Bill, now an Act of Parliament, forces the Prime Minister to seek a further extension to Article 50 and to set out the length of this extension in Parliament.
I voted for this Bill, as it is vital that Parliament is given more time to seek a way through the Brexit impasse, and the Government tabled a motion on Monday night stating that the Prime Minister will meet EU Leaders on Wednesday 10 April to seek an extension until 30 June 2019. This motion was debated on Tuesday 9 April, and Parliament agreed that the Prime Minister should seek such an extension. I voted in favour of this, as it is vital that we seek more time to try and reach an agreement, and avoid leaving the EU with no deal in place.
As I am sure you appreciate, this situation continues to change every day, and it is important to remember that we are in this situation because the Prime Minister has allowed the clock to run down on Article 50, and left things to the very last minute instead of seeking cross-party agreement on a deal from the very beginning.
I will continue to do all I can to achieve a softer Brexit, and a better deal and bigger say for the people of Durham via a confirmatory referendum, and to revoke Article 50 should we be facing a no deal scenario at any point.
I will of course keep updating my website as soon as I have further information.
You might find The Trades Union Congress (TUC) briefing describes very clearly how we have arrived at the current situation, and what needs to happen now. Please see below: