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John Cryer
6 Gainsborough Road
E11 1HT
Tel: 0208 9895249

EU Referendum

Why I voted against “the Great Repeal Bill”

Many readers will know that the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – also known as the Brexit Bill - has now been published and that Labour MPs voted against it in the House of Commons on the evening of Monday September 11th. We also voted against the programme motion which laid down the timetable for the parliamentary debate. That timetable only allows eight days for the debate (contrast that with more than 40 days for the Maastricht Treaty Bill in the early nineties).

The Bill is a spectacular power-grab by a government which abhors parliamentary scrutiny and opposition and, of course, called an election in the hope that the Labour Party would be crushed and therefore such opposition would simply not be there.

This is an example of just how authoritarian the Bill is: it allows for secondary legislation to be passed by a small committee with a government majority in the future. That committee would have the power to amend this Bill without the issue going to the House of Commons.

In other words, ministers have planted clauses in the legislation to allow that same legislation to be changed by the back door by their own MPs. The Bill is littered with such clauses and therefore is simply not worth the paper it is written on.

It also allows a minister to determine the exact date on which we leave the EU, again without any reference to parliament.

The above are just three reasons why I believe we were right to oppose the Bill and the programme motion.

I have always been very critical of the European Union and believe the referendum of last year should be respected and that the result creates a democratic imperative to leave the EU.

However, what the government is proposing is to take dictatorial powers, ignore parliament and push through whatever they like.

This should not happen in a real democracy. Sadly, we lost the vote in parliament so we now have to try and amend the Bill. The shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, will be putting down loads of amendments as he has done before.

It remains to be seen whether any of them will be successful.

Brexit/Article 50

I have had many people contact me about this issue. Principally after the referendum and then in the last few weeks and days. Emails and letters have been both for and against Brexit. As I have said previously, I voted leave although I took no part in the campaign. Although this was a difficult decision, I took it because I see the EU as unaccountable and undemocratic.

In this age of online petitions and 38 degrees online campaigns I can understand that a growing number of constituents expect their views not only to be respected and listened to but also acted upon. I acknowledge that. I have received several emails which are pretty robust along the lines of ‘you will do as you are told’. And yet, as unfashionable as it may be, MPs are still representatives, not delegates. It is our duty to exercise our judgement on behalf of our constituents and the wider electorate, on that basis, to vote for what we believe to be the right decision in any given situation - even when that decision risks condemnation or being at odds with significant numbers of those we represent.

We are also accountable and must be prepared to set out the reasoning behind any decision we take. As a Labour MP representing a constituency that voted to remain, I feel a particular responsibility to set out why I think voting to block the triggering of Article 50 would have been mistaken, and why I therefore did not vote against the Bill at second or third reading.

Parliament passed the Referendum Bill by a huge majority and that Bill made it clear that the final decision would be left with the voters. 

MPs and peers repeated this and said the outcome would be respected. The same thing was said in the booklet that was delivered to every home in the country. The referendum then delivered a clear majority of 1 million for Brexit. While London voted for remain the plebiscite was not regional but national.

I therefore felt I could not vote against triggering article 50.

And if the referendum had been rejected by MPs blocking article 50, it would only have increased cynicism and distrust of politics, after all the promises that had been made.

As I have said, we must hold the Government to account and not give them a blank cheque. The Bill on Brexit has only just been published, therefore our amendments have only just been written. Our amendments sought to: 

i) Allow a meaningful vote in Parliament on the final Brexit deal. Labour’s amendment would ensure that the House of Commons has the first say on any proposed deal and that the consent of Parliament would be required before the deal is referred to the Council of Ministers and Parliament.

ii) Establish a number of key principles the Government must seek to negotiate during the process, including protecting workers’ rights, securing full tariff and impediment free access to the Single Market.

iii) Ensure there is robust and regular Parliamentary scrutiny by requiring the Secretary of State to report to the House at least every two months on the progress being made on negotiations throughout the Brexit process

iv) Guarantee legal rights for EU nationals living in the UK. Labour has repeatedly called for the Government to take this step, and this amendment would ensure EU citizens’ rights are not part of the Brexit negotiations.

v) Require the Government to consult regularly with the governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland throughout Brexit negotiations. Labour’s amendment would put the Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) on a statutory footing and require the UK Government to consult the JMC at least every two months

vi) Require the Government to publish impact assessments conducted since the referendum of any new proposed trading relationship with the EU. This amendment seeks to ensure there is much greater clarity on the likely impact of the Government’s decision to exit the Single Market and seek new relationship with the Customs Union

vii) Ensure the Government must seek to retain all existing EU tax avoidance and evasion measures post-Brexit

There is also the possibility that we may table more amendments as the Bill progresses. I for example will be discussing with the front bench both the legal rights of EU nationals living and working in the UK, but also UK nationals living and working in the EU and things such as property and health reciprocal arrangements. 

EU Referendum

Dear Constitutent, 

The voice of the majority of the British people has been heard and we are to leave the European Union.
 This was the British people’s opportunity to make an informed decision on our country’s future and they turned out in great numbers to do so. Although I have long-held, strong views on this, I do not feel that the people of this country should take their cues from a politician like me on an issue as important as this and should instead look at the facts and make their own minds up. This was a massive moment for Britain. For that reason, while I stated my views plainly to anybody who asked, I did not campaign in the referendum but exercised my right to vote.   

I voted to leave, not because I am a nationalist or xenophobe but because I am a socialist and a democrat. In my considered view, the EU is not Europe but an elitist and largely unaccountable construct which has undermined democratic governments and is too closely linked to the corporate world. Real power rests with the European Commission and the Council of Ministers, both of which are undemocratic and in the case of the council meets in secret. The European Court of Justice – not to be confused with the European Court of Human Rights whose existence I support – enforces their decisions and consistently rules in the interests of big business and against trade unionists. Continued membership of the EU would have made it harder for a future Labour government to protect workers’ rights, renationalise the railways or maintain a universal Royal Mail service.

I represent a multi-cultural and diverse community with residents from all backgrounds and nationalities. My views on the EU have nothing to do with my work as a local MP which is to serve all my constituents, to fight for every constituent – regardless of their voting history or record and what is their place birth, nationality or mother tongue. I would hate to think that any EU nationals among my constituents would feel unwelcome or undervalued by the outcome of this referendum, and I want them to know how much I appreciate the contribution that they make to our public services, to our economy and to our communities. Their presence here is absolutely not my problem with the EU. 

I may have voted to leave the EU, but that is no endorsement of the official Vote Leave campaign or of Nigel Farage and associates, both of whom contributed a shamefully divisive tone to this referendum at times. As I have said, I did not campaign alongside these people, but cast my vote according to my sincerely held beliefs. 

The vote has shown big differences across the country, including London. Many families, friendships and communities have been put under immense strain. We now need to look at why people have voted in this way – some will have voted for similar reasons to me, many will have voted for all sorts of reasons. The ‘political class’ needs to now listen, learn and understand these reasons and try to bring the country together. It will not be easy, but it is what we must do
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