On 26th January a short Bill to confer the power to trigger Article 50 on the Prime Minister was published following a judgement by the Supreme Court.
The judges decided on a point of law that the Government could not use the Royal Prerogative to trigger Article 50 and that Parliament must formally give the Prime Minister that power.
As a Labour MP, although I campaigned strongly for Remain, I accept the decision taken by voters in the referendum, both in Worsley and Eccles South and nationally.
The Bill has been debated by Parliament and I voted to give the Prime Minister Parliament's authority to trigger Article 50 and to begin the process of negotiating Britain's withdrawal from the EU.
The Bill now faces further scrutiny in the House of Commons and the House of Lords before it can become law.
Labour tabled a number of targeted amendments to the Article 50 Bill. The amendments sought to improve the process, and ensure that Parliament is able to hold the Government to account throughout the Brexit negotiations.
Labour’s amendments would:
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 European Council 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.
These amendments are aimed improving the process, ensuring Parliament is able to hold the Government to account throughout the negotiation, and seeking to ensure the Prime Minister secures the best deal for the whole country.
Once we have a clearer idea as to what form the negotiations and the overall deal will take, it will then be Parliament’s role to scrutinise the Government properly. My job as an elected MP is to make Exiting the EU work for people in Worsley and Eccles South as best we can and that is precisely the parliamentary sovereignty I believe that the public voted for on 23 June last year.
It is vital that the UK secures the best exit deal from the EU in the negotiations that will follow the triggering of Article 50 - one that protects jobs, living standards and workers' rights. I do not believe the Government should be given a blank cheque for the high risk approach it has chosen to take.