So this afternoon (Tuesday 3 September) we go back into the Chamber for the first time after what seems like a longer than normal summer recess. Just about everyone I’ve met in recent weeks asks me what’s going to happen. As a back-bench opposition MP, I probably know little more about what will happen than any news junkie does from reading and watching the public utterances of lead politicians and the predictions of political correspondents. What I do know, is that for those at the sharp end of the implications of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal, the stress is unbearable; those whose jobs or work-place decisions depend on certainty for UK trade, those dependent on short shelf-life medicines, EU citizens living here and UK citizens living in other EU countries, and many, many others. And that is confirmed by my inbox this week, many hundreds of constituents who are terrified of what the Government are doing, and demanding I do what I can to stop them.
Crashing out of the EU with no deal is by far the worst of all the Brexit options. I continue to believe that the only deal that benefits the UK is keeping the deal we have, remaining and working within the EU for the UK’s best interests. That’s why I voted against triggering Article 50, and supported returning the question of EU membership to the public in a second referendum with the option to remain on the ballot paper (along with a clearly defined leave option). Over the summer I have worked with MPs from across Parliament to find ways to prevent the possibility of leaving the EU with no deal and to oppose any plan to curtail Parliamentary time, to ensure we have time to debate and vote on this appalling prospect.
Last week I joined other MPs writing to tell Boris Johnson that we will fight his attempt to muzzle Parliament, and I signed the Church House declaration pledging to work across parties and our nations to do whatever is necessary to ensure that the people’s voice is able to be heard. I also am a party to the legal action asking the Scottish Court of Session to rule that suspending parliament to deliver Brexit on October 31 is “unlawful & unconstitutional”.
However, the Government led by Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings appear to have no grand plan and deliver new twists and turns daily to this extraordinary political saga. From forcing the Queen to sign the order to suspend Parliament from the middle of next week until mid-October, to telling Conservative MPs (including many who have been consistently pro-Brexit) they will be sacked as Tories if they try to block No Deal, to government ministers refusing to rule out ignoring any law that is passed to stop No Deal. What we see is a chaotic panic from a Prime Minister who has no majority and who faces exactly the same contradictions about Brexit as his predecessor; that it was never possible to maintain the exact same benefits of EU membership whilst walking away from its institutions and rules. And that Brexit in any form apart from remaining in the Single Market, cannot be delivered without being in flat contradiction to the Good Friday Agreement.
So not surprisingly, MPs across the party groups are discussing options to stop us crashing out of the EU on October 31st without a deal. Of course, as a Labour MP, I want a general election to stop the Tories continuing destruction of our police, health, education and other public services; but stopping a catastrophic Brexit has to come first. I will not be goaded into a “Parliament vs the People” election as a way to stop proper Parliamentary process over the greatest challenge facing this country for many decades. The public ballot we need is a confirmatory ballot that solves the Brexit challenge. And we start today when a bill to stop a No Deal will be laid. If we need to sit over the weekend to ensure this gets adequate time to get through Parliament, I will be there, as I have been since the Referendum campaign in 2016, representing what I believe to be in the best interests of this constituency and of the country.