Carol Sykes (The Star, Wednesday, January 11), wrote that she was appalled to see my name on the list of MPs who voted in favour of triggering Article 50 to begin the process of leaving the European Union.
The result of the EU referendum was a vote to leave. No one voted on June 23 in the belief that Parliament would override the result and it would undermine democracy if we did.
I campaigned actively for the UK to remain in the EU – for jobs, for our place in the world and as the best way to tackle the biggest issues we face, from climate change to terrorism.
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But the decision was to leave.
The choice we now face is on the terms of our exit and on our future relationship with our European neighbours.
People voted to leave the EU, they didn’t vote on the detail. And getting that detail right is vital for our future.
As one of Labour’s Shadow Brexit Ministers my job now is to make sure the Government does not make a mess of it. And the early signs aren’t good. There is too much at stake to sit on the side-lines complaining about the decision.
The referendum campaign was deeply divisive and I have challenged the Government to do more about the hugely worrying spike in hate crime that we have seen since.
Those who argue we should ignore the referendum result should ask how that would help to mend the divisions.
The Prime Minister should now be uniting the country behind her plan to make Brexit work in the interests of the whole country. But she has been reluctant to tell us what her plan is. That simply won’t do.
Labour has led calls for the Prime Minister to present her Brexit plan to Parliament before we start the formal process of leaving. And Theresa May has reluctantly agreed.
Of course we don’t want every last detail of her negotiating strategy. But we need answers to vital questions, like the ones raised in Carol’s letter – will the Government push for companies to be able to trade on the same terms or will they face barriers, threatening jobs? Will the Government guarantee EU nationals already here working in our NHS and other vital public services the right to stay?
Does the Government intend to push for our universities to still have access to EU research funds that create hundreds of jobs in our city?
I’m asking these questions of the Government in Parliament day in day out.
I’m holding leave campaigners to account for their promises – like their commitment that no region will lose out when we stop receiving EU funding, something South Yorkshire does especially well from.
And I’m calling on the Government to treat our European allies as partners – on whom we rely and will need to rely in the future – rather than burning bridges with hostile rhetoric.
Carol asks if I am “depending on the current government to mitigate some of the damage that Brexit will do”.
It is precisely because I don’t trust this Government – on jobs, workers’ rights or maintaining our influence in the world – that I am part of Labour’s team holding them to account.
I don’t believe voting against the result of the referendum would help get the best Brexit deal for my constituents.
Instead, I will be a strong voice for them in the debate about what kind of future we want for our country and the wider – increasingly fragile – world.
I’d be more than happy to meet with you Carol and your group to discuss these important issues further. Please get in touch with my office to arrange.
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