In wake of the Article 50 vote, it is important that I express the reasoning behind my decision and outline my future intentions on what is a hugely important issue.
In her speech on the 17thof January, the Prime Minister committed to placing a final Brexit deal to a vote in both Houses of Parliament. After the Supreme Court ruled against the Government, Parliament was given the opportunity to vote on whether or not to trigger Article 50. With regards to this vote, which took place last week, I voted in favour of triggering Article 50. The people had their opportunity to express a view in the referendum and the Government have chosen to follow this result. While it was a very close call and the results from Huddersfield have not been formally published, the UK as a whole voted in favour of leaving the European Union. Although I campaigned passionately for ‘remain’, I must respect this and cannot try and wilfully divert the country’s intentions. The UK will have a future outside of the EU. In order to ensure this future is a positive one, I also voted in favour of over 80 amendments which sought to add protections for our economy, our rights and our future.
To be clear, while I voted in favour of triggering Article 50, I also voted for additional protections to be amended and added to the bill. These amendments included protections for EU citizens currently residing in the UK and secured funding for the NHS. I was deeply disappointed that the bill passed through the House of Commons with no added amendments.
Regarding the final vote which will ask Parliament to approve the deal negotiated by the Government, I will be paying very close attention to the terms of the deal and its likely impact on my constituency. Leaving the EU will entail significant risks to the future prosperity of Huddersfield.
Firstly, exports to the EU from Yorkshire and the Humber were worth £7.8bn in 2015, while imports were worth £12.1bn. Therefore, we need to ensure a fair trade deal and I will work to try and reduce any possible negative impacts on trade with the EU. Secondly, there are significant issues surrounding the impact of Brexit on higher education. The University of Huddersfield is the third largest employer in its district and it contributes an estimated £300 million pounds annually to the local economy. While the current participation of UK universities in EU-funded projects is not set to change, the higher education sector is already experiencing an impact with regard to collaboration in EU research projects and staff mobility. Indeed, the long-term consequences of Brexit are unknown. Finally, workers’ rights and work place regulations are currently enshrined through EU legislation and we must ensure that these will not be eroded upon exit from EU. This includes the right to equal pay, extended parental leave and the right to 4 weeks’ paid holiday per year.
I am proud of the community I represent and believe I have a responsibility to my constituents to fight for the very best Brexit deal. I will only approve the negotiated deal if I am certain that this has been reached. I’m not going to lie down and let people roll over my constituents. I will not give a free pass to those politicians who will seek to rebuild the country in their own image, which will set back the enormous gains this country has made in terms of workers’ rights, rights for women and minority groups.
I am focussed on working towards the objective all voters had in common, which is that we must secure the best possible deal for Huddersfield and for our country.