An Update on Brexit

Following a vote on Monday and discussions earlier in the day, Parliament last night made a series of indicative votes on how the UK should proceed with Brexit.

Due to the volume of correspondence I have received I have tried to cover all of the votes in one place, so that I could explain my position as soon as possible. If there is something more specific that you would like to know more about then please get in touch.

Following months of the Prime Minister offering a binary choice between her bad deal and the catastrophic option of No Deal, both of which have been rejected by Parliament, it has taken extraordinary measures for Parliament to have a real choice and an opportunity to proceed in a positive manner.

Each MP was given a slip with 8 different options on it – chosen by the Speaker of the House, John Bercow, from 16 submissions. These varied from revoking Article 50 to accepting and managing a No Deal Brexit. They did not include the Prime Minister’s deal which has already been overwhelmingly rejected twice, but unfortunately, it seems we haven’t seen the last of that yet. More on that below.

Taking each option in turn, this is how I voted and why:

Option B: Leave the EU without a deal on April 12 – Voted AGAINST

A No Deal Brexit would be terrible for our economy – which is why business is so strongly against it – and for our security. In the 2016 Referendum campaign the official Leave campaign said we would not leave without a deal. When I stood in the 2017 election I said I would not support a No Deal situation. I have voted against it in the past and will continue to do so.

Option D: Common Market 2.0/Norway Plus – Voted FOR

This would mean that we leave the EU but had a close economic partnership through a customs union. This would be good for the economy and solves the Irish Border issue.

Option H: Norway Option but no Customs Union – ABSTAINED

This is the same as Option D without the Customs Union. Whilst I have some sympathy with this argument I think it is superseded by D.

Option J: Leave the EU with a Customs Union – Voted FOR

Similarly to above, this would ensure a close economic partnership after withdrawal from the EU.

Option K: Labour’s Brexit Plan – Voted FOR

This was to form a customs union and a close economic partnership. It would mean also that workers’ rights and environmental protections would keep pace with improvements in the EU.

Option L: Revoke Article 50 in the event of no deal – ABSTAINED

Whilst I strongly believe that No Deal is the worst possible outcome I don’t think unilaterally revoking Article 50 would properly respect the Referendum result.

Option M: Any withdrawal agreement must be put to a second referendum – Voted FOR

I have significant reservations about putting the final deal to another vote. Nevertheless, we are currently stuck in gridlock. If this is not resolved, then the public will need to resolve it. I therefore think it is important to keep this option on the table.

Option O: Malthouse Plan B – Voted AGAINST

This is effectively a ‘managed’ No Deal. I do not think No Deal could be ‘managed’ and that this option would cause significant harm.

Beyond this…

The Prime Minister’s deal

At the time of writing it is expected that the Prime Minister will bring back her deal for a third time. This has been rejected twice by two of the biggest margins in UK political history. This is because it is not a good deal. It is a ‘blind’ deal. It withdraws us from the EU but does not tell us what arrangements there will be in the future. It creates havoc at the Irish Border, also. It seems now that that some of the deal’s biggest critics will now support it, because the Prime Minister has promised to resign if it passes. Whilst I believe it is time for the PM to go, that does not make the deal any better. I believe this shows that to many in the Conservative Party, this is all about their own internal power struggles and not the good of our country.

To conclude, I believe that people believe that this process has dragged on for long enough and want resolution. Similarly, I think people are tired of political division and want to see their decision-makers come together to find consensus and resolution. This involves compromise and that is what I have done. I have supported proposals put by members of other parties when I think they are the best for our country.

No Deal Brexit

Last night I voted in the House of Commons to take No Deal off the table. Many people have contacted me to question this, given that Nottingham North voted to leave the EU in 2016.

In 2017, I campaigned to represent this constituency on a manifesto that very straight-forwardly pledged ‘to reject ‘no deal’ as a viable option’. That is what I am now doing.

I respect the outcome of the 2016 referendum, but I do not believe that No Deal is what the majority of the UK voted for when voting to leave the European Union. The Vote Leave campaign themselves explicitly said there would be a deal.

I believe No Deal would be the worst possible outcome to this process, with severe consequences across many areas.

No Deal would mean an end to the frictionless and tariff-free trade with the EU that our manufacturers rely on. Many businesses, such as the car industry, have supply chains and productions processes interwoven throughout Europe. According to Government analysis, customs checks could cost businesses £13 billion a year. The impact of non-tariff barriers under No Deal would be greatest felt by our services sector, which makes up 80% of the UK economy.

Amongst other issues, No Deal also currently means no reciprocal deal on citizens’ rights, including those British citizens living, working and studying in EU countries. No Deal would also mean no agreement on how to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

I also have serious concerns about the way the Government has handled Brexit. I believe the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal, which has now been overwhelmingly rejected by Parliament twice, is deeply flawed and a bad deal for our country. It does not protect jobs, workplace rights or environmental standards, and it provides no certainty on our future relationship with the EU.

I have never accepted that Parliament’s choice must be between a bad deal or No Deal. Parliament has already rejected No Deal and the Government does not have the right to plunge our country into chaos because of its own failure to get a good deal. I believe all necessary steps must be therefore be taken to avoid such an outcome.

We are now at a point where unfortunately, due to the Prime Minister running down the clock with this unnecessary binary choice between a rock and a hard place, extending Article 50 is the best option. I will be voting tonight to request that European Union is asked for such an extension.

This is not an attempt to thwart Brexit from happening, but the only way that we can continue protecting our economy, our jobs, our workplace rights, our security, our environmental standards, and much more, that we are at risk of losing.

If that vote is successful, I hope that Parliament will finally be given the opportunity to present its own Brexit deal – one that can provide that which the Prime Minister’s deal and No Deal don’t, while also respecting the referendum result. This is what I will continue fighting for.

Alex

The Domestic Abuse Bill Second Reading

Yesterday, the historic Domestic Abuse Bill came back to Parliament after far too much unecessary delay from the government.

Parliament now has an opportunity to deliver the crucial changes needed to improve the lives of both the victims and survivors of domestic abuse across our country. This is an issue I’ve been campaigning on for a long time now and I’m really pleased that we’re finally seeing progress on this.

One particular issue I raised was single benefit payments going to couples, which can make life even more difficult for vulnerable people who are victims of domestic abuse. Having a split-payment provision to safeguard against such financial control can help prevent domestic abuse worsening and even save lives.

Indicative Votes 2.0

On Monday night, Parliament undertook a second round of indicative votes in an attempt to carve out a solution to the Brexit deadlock that the Prime Minister has led us to, by refusing to shift from her bad and unpopular Brexit deal.

As last week, my votes were based on the simple principles of respecting the outcome of the 2016 referendum, while accepting any option that would prevent a No Deal Brexit. Unlike the Prime Minister and the majority of Conservatives, I am open to any deal that will deliver Brexit while offering maximum protection for jobs, workers’ rights, trade, environmental protections and security – all of which are threatened by both No Deal and the Prime Minister’s deal.

Here is how I voted:

Option C: Leave the EU with a Customs Union – Voted FOR

This would ensure a close economic partnership with the EU following withdrawal, which would be good for the EU.

Option D: Common Market 2.0 – Voted FOR

As above, this would mean that we leave the EU but had a close economic partnership through a customs union. This would be good for the economy and solves the Irish Border issue through continued participation in the Single Market.

Option E: Any withdrawal agreement must be put to a second referendum – Voted FOR

Like I said last week, I have significant reservations about putting the final deal to another vote. Nevertheless, we are currently stuck in gridlock. If this is not resolved, then the public will need to resolve it. I therefore think it is important to keep this option on the table.

Option G – MPs to vote between no deal or revoking Article 50 if a long extension is refused – ABSTAINED

Whilst I strongly believe that No Deal is the worst possible outcome I don’t think unilaterally revoking Article 50 would properly respect the Referendum result.

Unfortunately, no majority was reached. We now wait to see how the Prime Minister proceeds, given that her deal remains further from a majority than several alternative options. With time running out, she must now realise that the only way for her deal to pass is with compromise and adjust her red lines before it is too late. Last night, she indicated that she is now prepared to do just this, by entering discussions with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and abiding by the will of Parliament.

The MacPherson Report

On Monday evening, I led a debate to mark the 20th anniversary of the MacPherson Report. The report concluded that Stephen Lawrence’s brutal murder, on 22nd April 1993, was unequivocally motivated by racism and found the MET police to be institutionally racist.

The report highlighted necessary change in a number of related areas, making 70 recommendations for the Home Office, police forces and other public bodies.

After twenty years, we have seen a lot of change but there’s also been stagnation. One such area that I highlighted is the fact that across England and Wales, the proportion of officers from a BAME background, at 6.6%, remains significantly lower than the general population, which is 14% BAME.

It has been suggested that it will be 2052 before the police service represents the population it serves. There is also a dire lack of black female police officers. Indeed, 13 of 43 police forces in England and Wales have no black female officers. In fact, the total number of black female officers in the past ten years has only increased by 34. While there are efforts to recruit more BAME officers, these efforts are undermined by a culture that is still not embracing diversity.

Again, this is an exceptionally troubling picture. It fundamentally undermines the authority and legitimacy for police forces to fail to represent the communities they serve.

I also noted the important point that the Macpherson report criticised disproportionality in stop and search. Figures suggest that race this is actually worse now than it was twenty years ago. A black person is 9 ½ times more likely to be stopped and searched today than a white person.

Taken altogether, it points to a culture of institutional racism which must be tackled as a cross-party effort. It is an important challenge and I hope that colleagues on both sides of the House will join me in reflecting on the diversity of the communities we represent.

You can watch the full debate here, read a transcript here, or watch a few select clips here, here and here.

Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme

Yesterday I led a debate on the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme in Westminster Hall and the encroaching role of Modern Slavery within migrant agricultural work.

Since my election in 2017, I have been proud to play my part in combatting Modern Slavery. In the UK, the number of modern slavery cases rose by 35% from 2016-17, with agriculture as one of the worst sectors.

I called the debate on the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme to highlight the risks involved. The SAWS was announced last September by the Home Secretary and it offers fruit and vegetable farmers a route to alleviate labour shortages during peak production periods by employing migrant workers for up to 6 months. Whilst the scheme presents a major opportunity for a post-Brexit Britain to demonstrate its preservation of workers’ rights, it also carries the risk of exploitation.

The scheme risks labour abuse and exploitation, with a possible escalation to modern slavery and human trafficking. In particular, workers on this scheme are at risk of debt bondage, a form of modern slavery where an individual is forced to work to pay off an inflated or artificial debt. When seeking low paying jobs in the UK, such as agricultural work, migrants are often forced to seek loans from unreliable lenders at the risk of intimidation and violence.

Around half of victims of forced labour in the private economy are in debt bondage. Further, under the previous iteration of the SAWS which ended in 2013, workers were subject to abuse and reported utter deprivation – because of low hours, bad weather affecting work and instances of being paid less than minimum wage. Therefore, it is crucial to highlight the risks of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme in order to avoid the mistakes of the old scheme and to ensure that no system, plan or pilot perpetuates exploitation against migrant workers.

The Government needs to ensure that workers on the scheme will have access to public funds to ensure that workers are not charged for accommodation and fuel if their paid hours fall below an acceptable limit per week. Also, I argued that we need meaningful enforcement and that the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority must be properly resourced in order to ensure that this scheme does not lead to modern slavery.

As our country faces a major turning point, we must set ourselves to a high bar where we lead by example and close the gaps in the system that allow abuse to prevail.

You can watch a clip from this debate here or the whole debate here.

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