By Lisa Nandy
After years of argument, it is decided.
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Just weeks later and worker’s rights have been binned. The environment has been thrown overboard. At a time when global warming threatens everything, from the future of our planet to the security of our pensions, promises of a “Green Brexit” are nowhere to be seen. It is important to understand why. A close trading relationship with countries like the USA and China will follow, on their terms, and a commitment to higher standards can only get in the way. Nothing less than a century of hard-won progress from the Labour movement is at stake.
There is worse. This populist prime minister will write into law that we will leave the EU in 12 months time. It is often forgotten, through all the twists and turns of recent years, that the real negotiations that will set the terms of trade have not yet begun. That trade deal must now be concluded and ratified by all 27 member states – all within the next 12 months. There is no precedent.
If Plan A fails we will exit on terms that, from Tynemouth to Tottenham, many businesses will not survive. It also opens up the possibility of leaving without arrangements to import medicine, run clinical trials and conduct medical research. What sort of government is prepared to threaten the jobs, health and well-being of its own people?
Parliament’s right to veto the trade deal, which I and other Labour MPs won, has gone.
The process will be conducted in secret. Shamefully, given the mantra of “Take Back Control”, MEPs in Brussels will have more power over what happens to our economy than British MPs. This is Boris Johnson’s approach to trade talks with the EU and a signpost to how he intends to approach trade talks with Donald Trump and others in the future.
Most of all this Bill indicates the nasty, uncompromising route this government will take. Promises to EU citizens and child refugees have been torn up. Child refugees will have no right to join family members in the UK. Listening to the prime minister today, I was reminded of the child refugees I once worked with whose dignity and determination inspired me into national politics. One teenage girl traced her mum after years of separation, only to find she had just months to live. Separated by national borders, the law prevented them from travelling and they never met again. Now, the Tories propose that children stranded on the other side of the world will be banned from doing the same. This is nothing at all to do with Brexit. This is a prime minister abusing the power of his new majority to attack the most vulnerable children in the world.
After last week’s shattering defeat we cannot close our ears to the anger about Brexit amongst leave and remain voters alike. If there is any prospect of reconciliation we should take it. But this is the real face of Johnson’s Tories and their rotten agenda. Behind it is a belief that a vote to leave the EU was permission to abandon the basic decency, tolerance, warmth and compassion that runs as deep in the communities that voted to leave as those that voted to remain. They are wrong about our country and about our values. That is why I voted against the bill, and why Labour must come together now and speak for the decent, tolerant outward looking country we know we are.
Lisa Nandy is Labour MP for Wigan.