Brexit: It’s time for politicians from all parties to work together, in the national interest

My article for the Evening Post Friday 15th July

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Okay, cards on table: I strongly believe that our national interest is best served when our country is a full member of the EU, and that's why I campaigned passionately for Remain.

But the electorate has spoken, and we must now move forward. Neath Port Talbot voted to leave the EU, and as the MP for Aberavon I have heard that message, loud and clear.

Given the very worrying signs we have already seen that the vote may lead to a serious and prolonged economic downturn, I can understand the clamour for a second referendum. But we cannot continue to hold referendums repeatedly, until we get the result we want. We must now respect the outcome of the vote, and accept that our future lies outside the EU.

My job as the MP for Aberavon is therefore to do whatever I can to secure the best possible Brexit deal for the UK, and for my constituency.

For the UK to formally leave the EU we must invoke Article 50, but this must only happen once we have agreed and settled on a basic negotiating position.

The first step will be to define what is meant by ‘the best possible deal’.

 

We know that we need to ensure that we strike the best possible trade deal with the EU, but we also know that the vast majority of people who voted leave on the 23 June did so due to concerns about immigration. So, the basic negotiating position must balance the economic imperative of access to the single market, whilst also ensuring that we deliver on tighter immigration.

This is a very difficult circle to square, because free movement of people and labour is part and parcel of the single market, so it is difficult to see how we can have our cake and eat it in these negotiations. But I believe that it can be done if we are smart, pragmatic and creative in the way in which we approach the negotiations.

In order to secure the best possible deal we must send the strongest possible team into the negotiations, and Parliament must be allowed to hold that team to account. Together with Seema Malhotra MP I have therefore called for a new, cross-party Special Parliamentary Committee (SPC) on EU Renegotiation to be formed.

Labour MPs must be able to influence and scrutinise the negotiations if we are to defend the interests of the working people we were elected to represent, and if we are to prevent the Tories using Brexit as an excuse for achieving their long-held aim of making a bonfire of workers’ rights.

The Labour Party must therefore insist that the Brexit negotiating team is held to account by a cross-party committee made up of the government, the official opposition, the SNP and Plaid, and comprising a mixture of Leave and Remain campaigners. 

The Brexit negotiations will shape the nature and destiny of our country, not just for the course of one parliament, or for one prime minister’s time in office, but for decades to come.

We find ourselves in unique and unprecedented situation. Brexit negotiations are set to completely dominate the political, economic and constitutional agenda for the foreseeable future. It is impossible to overstate the sheer complexity of what is coming down the track.

It is vital that we see these negotiations as delivering not just for the 16 million who voted Remain, or the 17 million who voted Leave, but for the entire country, and for future generations. This must be a process of unity, not division; of compromise, not intransigence; of pragmatism, not purism.

The referendum campaign was a deeply divisive process. It split cities from towns, communities from communities, and nations from nation. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that it has created the deepest national crisis that we have been in, since 1945.

Now is therefore the time for politicians on all sides to roll up their sleeves and work together, for clarity, unity and cohesion.