Statement on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill

On Wednesday, I voted for amendment 7 to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, which ensures that Parliament will get a say on the final deal that we achieve with our European partners.  I understand and appreciate the high level of interest that constituents have in the legislation and would like to set out my views.

Judging from some comments that I have received, this vote has been interpreted as a means of frustrating or stopping Brexit.  This is categorically not what the vote was about.  We are leaving the European Union and I will continue to support the Prime Minister in achieving that, on the best possible terms.  Rather, this vote was enshrining in law a promise that the Government has made, that Parliamentary scrutiny of the process will be maintained.  That is right constitutionally and in the interest of respecting our democracy. 

As Members of Parliament, we have a responsibility to provide checks and balances on the Government and the Bill as written originally would have weakened the ability of Parliament to strengthen legislation.  Amendment 7 ensures that wide and sweeping statutory instrument powers, also known as “Henry VIII” powers, could not be used in a way that would avoid parliamentary scrutiny in implementing the withdrawal agreement without first bringing a statute to Parliament.

This issue is fundamentally about process.  If we get the process right, then we have the best chance of achieving a deal that is right for post-Brexit Britain.  There was an overwhelming majority in Parliament to trigger Article 50, including my vote, and the intentions of those who voted for amendment 7 on Wednesday are to represent our constituents throughout this process and to have a say on the terms of our exit.  We are leaving the European Union, but we must do it in the right and proper way.

On Thursday, the Health Secretary appeared on the Today programme and pointed out that the Government’s loss on the amendment “isn’t going to slow down Brexit, it’s not going to stop Brexit.”  That is an important point to stress.

On the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, there have been 36 votes.  The Government has won 35 out of those 36 votes and I have only rebelled once.  It is so important that context is given to this vote before people attack my motives and those of my colleagues.

I have repeatedly said that we must move beyond the divide lines of the referendum campaign.  A Remain vs Leave narrative is damaging and unhelpful.  As are newspaper headlines attacking individuals for voting with their conscience and with their country’s interests at heart.  It is critical that we build consensus and move forward as one.  Parliamentary scrutiny of the negotiations can only benefit achieving that consensus.

I must represent all of my constituents in this process, whether they voted Leave or Remain, whether they see no role for Parliament in the process or a high level of engagement.  I will continue to put Eddisbury first and I can only do that if Parliament has sufficient oversight.  In closing, I would reiterate on the strongest terms that I am not trying to delay or stop Brexit.  It is wrong for my vote on amendment 7 to be framed in this way.  I have welcomed the progress made in phase one of the negotiations and look forward to supporting the Prime Minister as we shape our future relationship with the EU in the New Year.  These are unprecedented times with Brexit being such an enormous change for this country.  We must get it right and I look forward to further progress being made.

If you would like to read the speech I gave during the debate in the House go to: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2017-12-13/debates/77F256AC-E26E-…