Caroline Flint

Standing up for Don Valley.

What should Parliament do now? My piece for the Observer

Parliament faces straight forward choices. The Withdrawal Agreement Deal, No Deal; or a long extension which will mean taking part in EU elections whilst campaigners carry on agitating to stop Brexit.

For some, the third choice is the preferred outcome. An absolute majority of MPs are opposed to a second referendum or to revoking Article 50. But Labour’s priority in the 2017 General Election and in the 2018 Party Conference motion was to secure a deal.

The Withdrawal Agreement Deal agreed by the EU27 honours the referendum result; protects EU citizens’ rights; and now we have secured guarantees on workers’ rights to be enshrined in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill before we leave.

This Deal stops a cliff edge keeping us in the customs union and single market for two years, with no change – giving businesses certainty and protecting jobs.

There is nothing in this improved Deal which Labour MPs could not support.

For those who respect the referendum, but support a customs union, or a Norway option, all of those are still in play – but the EU determined that trade negotiations can only start after we have left. Their rules.

The EU has confirmed they will not re-open the legally binding Withdrawal Agreement. But the Political Declaration will evolve as soon as we get into the post leave trading and security discussions. So the idea of indicative votes is, at best, a displacement activity.

Parliament will have the opportunity to have all those debates and votes after we leave. Any MP who genuinely believes we should honour the referendum result and avoid a No Deal, but wants a particular type of trading relationship can vote for this Deal.

Ironically, hard line Leavers and Remainers have railed against this Deal for the very reason that it is not a hard Brexit. We should not brand it as such.

At the final hour, for Labour MPs to oppose a deal simply because we have a Tory Government could lead to the UK plunging out with No Deal.  A disorderly Brexit that would herald a flight of investment from the UK.  New factories on hold, jobs lost.

Parliament faces a choice. We can’t walk away. There is only one path to leaving the EU in good order. This Deal.

And every Labour MP will face voters who ask: “Did you vote to back Brexit or did you vote to stop it?”

Rt Hon Caroline Flint, Member of Parliament for Don Valley.

This article was first published in The Observer Sunday 24 March 2019

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