- Plymouth MP to back amendment asking public to ratify PM’s deal or stay in the EU
- Luke Pollard has backed calls for a ratification referendum as the only option to take no-deal off the table
- “Not a decision I have made lightly” says Labour MP who has hosted more than eight open public meetings on Brexit
Today Luke Pollard MP has come out in support of an amendment that would allow the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal to pass without those who oppose it being forced to vote for it on the condition she puts it the British public to ratify it in a public vote.
In an open letter to constituents in Plymouth, Luke Pollard has explained his position as the only option available to avoid a disastrous crash-out Brexit. The Plymouth MP cites the turning point to this decision was that the Prime Minister has yet again delayed the vote on her deal – forcing MPs to approve it or watch the country crash out of the European Union without a deal.
The Labour MP said that there are no easy answers to Brexit and that it is more complicated, more expensive and more difficult than we were promised it would be. His letter criticised the way the 2016 referendum was run and says it cannot be a re-run and that it must be different.
The letter reaches out to Brexit voters, saying he deeply respects their decision to vote Leave but slams leaders of the Leave campaign who had no plan for how to deliver Brexit. It also criticises the way Brexit continues to dominate the political agenda crowding out big decisions needed on other issues such as the NHS and Universal Credit.
Luke Pollard MP said:
“Brexit is a mess. Parliament cannot agree a way forward and if we cannot break the deadlock we will crash out of the European Union in 32 days. The Prime Minister’s decision to delay the vote on her deal again and force MPs to approve it or vote for a no-deal is disgraceful and for me it is a step too far.
“The Prime Minister has crossed the line. I’ve just finished meeting with Jeremy Corbyn and I am writing to set out my view on what should happen next and why I think the only way to break this Brexit deadlock is to put Theresa May’s deal to the public via a ratification referendum.”
“Day in and day out in Parliament I can see that Brexit is dominating the political agenda so much that vital issues are being overlooked by this Government.”
(Text of the letter below)
BREAKING THE BREXIT DEADLOCK
Brexit is a mess, Parliament cannot agree a way forward and if we cannot find a way to break the deadlock we will crash out of the European Union in just over 30 days’ time. The Prime Minister’s decision to yet again delay the vote to force MPs to vote for her deal or no deal just a few weeks before the Brexit deadline is irresponsible and reckless. I am really worried about Brexit and I am writing to you all to set out my view on what should happen next and why I think the only way to break the Brexit deadlock is to put Theresa May’s deal to the people.
Since I was elected in June 2017 I have tried to speak to as many of you as I can about Brexit. I have held eight open public meetings on Brexit attended by thousands of people across Plymouth. From my weekly Facebook lives, monthly open public meetings and my post bag I know many of the people I represent are deeply worried about Brexit’s impact on our city and our country. So am I.
Roughly a third of people I represent voted to remain in the EU, roughly a third did not vote and just over a third voted to leave the European Union in 2016. Plymouth has different views on Brexit and many people’s views have changed. What is clear is that Brexit is proving to be more expensive than we were told it would be, more complicated than we were told and more difficult than we were told. I am worried that Brexit risks closing off opportunities for our young people.
In September last year Labour’s national conference passed unanimously our position on Brexit. It said that we accepted the result of the referendum. But we would not give the Prime Minister a blank cheque to deliver whatever Brexit she wanted. We also said Labour MPs would vote against Theresa May’s deal if it didn’t pass our six tests. These tests were promises made by Conservative Ministers in the referendum and since. The deal didn’t live up to the promises that had been made so I voted against the deal.
Our policy then said we would try to get a General Election to elect a new Government to get a better deal. I voted for that election, but Conservative MPs outnumbered us. After this, the policy stated that all options are on the table including a public vote where remain is an option. I support Labour’s conference motion, but it is even more important now given the mess the Government has made of Brexit.
As a party we have proposed changes to the Brexit deal to include a permanent customs union and a close single market partnership that would remove the need for the Northern Ireland backstop and address problems about queues and costly delays at the border. Sadly, the Prime Minister has refused to make any meaningful changes to her bad deal and is intent on running down the clock to force MPs to vote for her deal to avoid leaving the EU without a deal. This is deeply worrying as it doesn’t give British businesses the certainty they need nor, does it allow people to plan their futures whether inside or outside the EU.
Parliament is deadlocked. The only real majority in the Commons is now for taking no deal off the table but the Prime Minister keeps ignoring this option. At a time of national crisis, we need true national leadership and that is not what we are getting from the Prime Minister and that really disappoints me. I am not a fan of the PM, but I want her to get this right because Brexit is shaking the foundations of our economy and our politics. She is closing her ears and she has refused to build a Parliamentary consensus for any reasonable deal.
With Parliament in deadlock I believe the only option is to put the Prime Minister’s deal to the electorate via a public vote. As such I will be backing an amendment proposed by Peter Kyle MP and Phil Wilson MP that would allow the Prime Minister’s deal to pass the Commons subject to a ratification referendum of the people. This amendment would require the outcome of the referendum to be legally enforced rather than be advisory as the 2016 referendum was. This method has been used before most notably in the ratification of the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland.
In our Parliamentary system if Parliament cannot agree a way ahead then the decision is normally put back to the people via a General Election. It is clear to me the Prime Minister is clinging onto power at all costs and so an election is not available. In such circumstances, the only way to break the deadlock is a ratification referendum. This would allow those people who want to leave the EU to vote for the Prime Minister’s deal and those who want to stay in the EU the chance to vote for that too. It isn’t a second referendum, nor a people’s vote: it is a referendum asking the people whether they want to ratify the Prime Minister’s deal and leave the EU on her terms or oppose the deal and stay in the EU.
This is not a decision I have made lightly. In the 2017 election I said I would fight to secure a good Brexit deal for Plymouth and I am extremely disappointed the Prime Minister has not tried to find a consensus in Parliament that delivers a good Brexit deal for Plymouth. Because she is recklessly forcing MPs to either vote for her deal or crash out of the EU with no deal, I believe this is the only option available to protect Plymouth, our economy, our people and our place in the world.
I must admit that I am not a huge fan of referendums. The 2016 referendum was rubbish. Both sides ran poor campaigns. The Leave side won, but it was also found in breach of electoral law and told lies. We must not re-run the 2016 referendum which is why this ratification referendum must be different. It would put two options for a way forward to the British people because Parliament cannot agree a way ahead: the Prime Minister’s deal and the option to stay in the European Union.
Plymouth is divided on Brexit. I know many people have changed their mind and many more are worried that the path ahead of us is more expensive, complicated and difficult than was promised to us in 2016. Families and communities are divided and in this division those who peddle hate are growing. There is no place for hate in our city or our politics and so I take seriously the responsibility to challenge hate and propose a way out of the mess we are in.
If we all did more listening and less shouting, we would not be in this mess, but sadly polarisation of our politics is now firmly embedded. It saddens me that compromise, discussion and consensus now feel like dirty words in our political debate.
Since being elected I have tried to listen to all arguments. I am the only Plymouth MP to hold open public meetings on Brexit and I want to represent views right across the political spectrum. I cannot support a path that will force Britain to leave the EU without a deal. That would have huge consequences for our city and would make us all poorer. I will vote to avoid a no deal exit but I think the only way to break the impasse is to put the final deal to the people in a ratification referendum.
Although I campaigned for remain in 2016, I respect those people who voted to leave expressing their genuine concerns about the EU. Those who argued for us to leave did so without a plan and the lack of a clear way forward has created confusion, uncertainty and costs. There are plenty people who carry responsibility for this but we must deal with the task immediately in front of us.
I know there are people who will agree and those who will disagree with my view. That is what happens in a democracy, but I want you to know that this is not a decision I have rushed to make. I have listened carefully to the views of those people I represent, from all political traditions and perspectives. Britain faces huge challenges with our NHS in crisis, housing more unaffordable for many and poverty and suffering being caused by Universal Credit. I worry that Brexit is dominating the political agenda and issues that affect people every day are being overlooked by a Government that is divided and weak. We need a way out of this mess and if MPs can’t find one in the Commons then the people must decide.
If I’m honest there are no easy options, there are no get out of jail cards to be played, no way ahead that doesn’t’ cause disruption and distrust. Brexit is complicated and difficult. It doesn’t easily fit into a soundbite and its effects and consequences are wide ranging and already being experienced by British businesses. The only sector that stands to gain from our exit from the EU, fishing, look likes being betrayed with the next set of negotiations and the success of that industry rests just as much with access to markets to sell our fish as it does with how much fish we can catch. There are no easy answers.
With the Prime Minister refusing to amend her deal to build a Parliamentary majority and her decision to delay the meaningful vote to only a few weeks before the cliff edge of a no deal departure on 29 March 2019, I can see no other way forward but to put her deal to the public via a public ratification vote.
I will continue to hold open public meetings to answer questions, to listen to differing views and to try and shed some light on a complicated and difficult process. When I was elected I said I wanted to do politics differently and I stand by that promise. My next public meeting is on 8 March 2019 at the Plymouth Guildhall. I encourage people to attend whatever their views and political beliefs. Brexit is too important to leave up to the politicians alone.
Please let me know how you think we should break the Brexit deadlock. Your views are important to me.
Luke Pollard MP
Labour and Co-operative Member of Parliament for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport