Ahead of key votes on the European Union Withdrawal Bill expected today in Parliament, the Labour MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, Luke Pollard has published ‘10 Plymouth Brexit Principles’ that will help to guide his votes in the House of Commons.
Since the election last June, Luke Pollard MP has consulted with groups across the city – hosting the Plymouth Brexit Summit last August as well the Plymouth Youth and People’s Brexit Summits last November. The 10 principles are a result of the ideas from those summits as well as yearlong discussions he has had with groups and people across Plymouth since the referendum result.
Luke Pollard MP’s key voting principles for Plymouth range from protecting jobs and businesses in the city, to securing a fair deal for Plymouth’s fisheries. His principles will now be shared by Plymouth City Council’s new Brexit scrutiny committee that aims to scrutinise the impact of Brexit on the city. Luke has previously voted against the Government to ensure that Parliament had the opportunity to formally scrutinise the Withdrawal Bill before leaving the EU.
Luke Pollard MP said:
“Today is a crucial day for the future of our country and for Plymouth. Brexit is one of the top issues that people from Plymouth contact me on all sides of the argument and I understand the responsibility I have in representing our city in these important votes.”
“It is vital that our city gets a good Brexit deal. To do that we need the detail, not just the soundbites. For Plymouth it is essential our jobs, education and health services must be protected. Plymouth voted to leave the EU but no one voted to give the Prime Minister and Brexit extremists in her party a blank cheque and no one voted to be poorer.”
“So far in the Brexit process I have voted for amendments that protect workers’ rights, safeguard environmental and animal welfare standards, legislate for strong transitional arrangements, bring the Charter of Fundamental Rights into UK law, and protect the devolution settlements. I will continue to challenge the government and push for more accountability over the Brexit process as well as staying in a customs union.”
“Brexit is the single most important political event in our lifetimes and getting it right is essential if Plymouth is to be helped not harmed by Brexit. I have been carefully monitoring what people in Plymouth have to say about Brexit, and will continue to fight for the best deal for the South West.”
Luke Pollard MP’s 10 Brexit principles are:
- A Brexit deal must ensure that Plymouth stays an open and welcoming city, able to attract and retain world-class talent.
- A good deal for jobs must protect Plymouth’s businesses, funding, and rights at work, while modernising and up-skilling Plymouth’s workforce.
- A good deal for education will protect higher education funding and participation in Horizon 2020 and allow Plymouth students to continue to study abroad in the EU as part of Erasmus+.
- A good deal for marine must deliver a fairer deal for Plymouth’s fisheries, especially the under ten fleet, maintain the funding of Plymouth’s world-class marine science institutions and the ability to collaborate with EU universities to draw down on lucrative EU funding programmes.
- A good Brexit deal must protect Plymouth’s local environment by retaining European environmental protections, establishing a new environmental regulator and ensure the UK’s ongoing participation in European efforts to tackle climate change.
- A good Brexit deal for food and farming must maintain high regulatory standards and ensure frictionless and tariff-free access for the South West’s agricultural goods to EU markets.
- A good Brexit deal for investment and funding will ensure that the UK Government matches every penny of EU funding the far south west stands to lose as result of leaving the EU.
- A good deal for Plymouth’s manufacturers, exporters and importers will have no new tariff barriers and will include a sufficient transition period so that there is no cliff edge that will hurt local businesses.
- A good defence and security deal will ensure Plymouth is no less safe than we were in the EU, and will properly review and fund the UK’s defences and continued access to the successful EU arrest warrant, Europol and security co-operation systems.
- A good Brexit deal for Plymouth will be resilient and prevent a cliff edge no-deal scenario. Plymouth’s port at Millbay must be kept open and planes must be able to fly in and out of the United Kingdom without new hinderances.
Today MPs will vote on a number of Lords’ amendments including number 19, which hopes to guarantee a meaningful final vote on the Brexit deal by allowing the Commons to decide the course of action if parliament rejects the Brexit deal. There will also be votes on a customs union.
You may remember the EU Withdrawal Bill was in the Commons back in December. At that point, we made a significant gain on the right to have a vote in Parliament on the government’s exit deal for the UK with the EU (the so-called ‘Grieve amendment’, also known as the ‘meaningful vote’).
All other Labour amendments were voted down by the government and their backbench MPs. There were hardly any rebellions by Tory MPs on anything other than the meaningful vote – indicating that this is likely to again be the most contentious area.
The Lords’ amendments
In the Lords, our Labour colleagues were able to convince more peers from other parties to vote with them so they successfully got 14 significant amendments to the Bill through.
This week we will be trying to keep these amendments in the Bill by voting against the Government, which will be proposing motions to remove them. That means we will be voting ‘no’ in most cases, in order to keep these amendments.
Key amendments we will be defending
Whilst we expect Tory MPs to try to vote to get rid of these amendments, we will be trying to keep them on the Bill, by voting against the Government’s motions to remove them. These amendments include various technical measures and the following:
- Refugee Family Reunion Rights. Labour peer Lord Alf Dubs, championed retaining this EU provision when the Bill was in the Lords. It makes it easier for refugees to be reunited with their families.
- Protecting employment, consumer and environmental protections from EU law. Without this amendment, the Government will find it easier to strip out these laws in a ‘race to the bottom’, slashing protections for short-term gain.
- Enshrining EU Environmental principles into UK law and establishing an enforcement body. Most UK environmental legislation, governing everything from farming practices to air quality to chemicals, has come from the EU. And it is enforced by the European Commission. As we leave the EU, there is a risk that this gap leads to a decline in standards.
- Northern Ireland. Labour has ensured the Bill requires Ministers to adhere to the principles of the 1998 Belfast agreement and Northern Ireland Act, to protect the peace the island of Ireland now enjoys.
- Limiting the powers of government ministers. The Government wrote sweeping powers into the Bill to change laws with little or no Parliamentary scrutiny. The Labour amendment aims to restrict these powers.
Our future relationship with the EU
There are various options for our future relationship with the EU. None of them are perfect, so we will need to find a compromise.
- Remaining in a customs union. Labour peers secured an amendment on this. I’ll be voting to keep this as it will resolve many of these problems of the Irish border.
- Access to the single market. I will also be voting for a more recent amendment tabled by Jeremy Corbyn, Keir Starmer and others. This aims to amend the Lords’ Amendment on the European Economic Area (EEA), described below. The new amendment would compel the Government to negotiate full access to the internal market of the EU, with shared institutions and regulations. I support this amendment as it presents an opportunity for a more ambitious and effective relationship with the EU. It also holds the government to account, reflecting Labour’s six tests, which are based on the Government’s earlier promises.
- Remaining in the EEA. The Tories are yet to come up with a plan, almost two full years after the referendum vote. The Lords amendment on membership of the EEA aims to resolve this, instructing the Government to negotiate a relationship with the EU similar to that of Norway or Lichtenstein. This is generally a good option for the UK, but as it stands, we can’t be in both the EEA and a customs union, meaning that EEA membership does not solve the Irish border question, critical to maintaining peace. For example, there is currently a hard border between Sweden (in the EU) and Norway (in the EEA). A bespoke trade agreement would be a better solution, which is why I will be abstaining from voting on this amendment and voting for Labour’s amendment (see ‘Access to the single market’, above).
It is also important to point out here that there are currently two bills going through parliament that specifically deal with trade and customs. We will have further opportunities to shape our relationship with the EU, this is not he last chance we have.
A meaningful vote
The key vote this week is on whether to keep the Lords amendment giving Parliament a meaningful vote on the final exit deal.
Whether you voted to leave or remain, whatever your views on Europe, Parliament having a meaningful vote on the government’s exit deal is a powerful idea we can all unite behind. Leave voters voted to ‘take back control’ and return it from Brussels to Westminster – yet the Tory government wants to tie us in to a Brexit deal without any Parliamentary scrutiny or any right to vote down an inadequate deal. This is the most important vote this week and where we are most likely to win.
What chance of success?
We are likely to lose most of these votes, despite the hung Parliament, as the Democratic Unionist Party will vote with the Tories. Even Tory rebels will not rebel on most amendments.
As Labour Whips, we have been speaking to as many MPs as possible and regularly counting how many MPs are likely to vote for or against, or abstain, on each possible motion this week.
There are two amendments on which we may achieve success: The customs union and ‘meaningful vote’. These amendments are the two we calculate are most likely to secure enough Tory rebels and leave-supporting Labour MPs to pass. Let me state again: a meaningful Parliamentary vote is hugely important and this amendment is winnable.