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Brexit debate

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08 December 2016
Budget 2015 Yesterday the House of Commons debated Brexit and I made my first speech on the subject since the referendum. You can read my speech in full here

I have felt hugely conflicted on this issue over the last 5 months - not least because of my constituency's large vote to remain and the country's narrow vote to leave.  

I feel a responsibility to be open minded about how we might leave but I remain unconvinced that this will be in our national interest. 

I stand by my view that leaving the EU will be economically harmful, socially divisive and fundamentally detrimental to our country's relationships with our closest neighbours.  

The specific debate yesterday was on an Opposition Day Motion which called for a plan to be published in advance of triggering Article 50. The Government then tabled an amendment which added the proviso of a March deadline for invoking Article 50. 

I would have supported the original opposition motion as tabled (calling for the publication of a plan) but could not support an arbitrary timetable for starting the process to leave.  

I don't know what the plan will say and if it isn't in the national interest, I won't vote to trigger article 50. 

If the Government doesn't prioritise the economy and the single market over a desire to curb immigration, and if we don't have a commitment to a workable second referendum on the final exit package, then at the moment I can't see how I could vote to trigger article 50.  

I set this out in the speech I made during the debate but had no mechanism to vote for my position.  

I didn't vote against the Government amendment or the amended motion (there was no vote on the original motion) as such a vote would have simply been interpreted as a move to frustrate the process of leaving.  

The amendment was ultimately a parliamentary tactic deployed by the Government to deal with a feared rebellion on their own benches in support of a sensible motion from Keir Starmer, the Shadow Brexit Secretary. The Government amendment was tabled with less than 24 hours notice. It is my view that the question of invoking Article 50 should not be decided by these sorts of games. 

I do expect the House of Commons to be returning to this issue in the New Year. As more detail emerges, I will continue to consider my eventual vote on Article 50 (I am relatively confident that this will be coming back to the Commons as legislation) but I was not prepared to make any premature judgements yesterday.

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