Brexit vote D-day: ‘The people have spoken over Brexit’ - MPs

Craig Whittaker MP
Craig Whittaker MP

A defeat for the Government in the Supreme Court has meant that all MPs get to say whether the UK formally starts to leave the European Union.

Judges voted eight to three against an appeal by ministers who wanted to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty without Parliamentary say-so.

EU and UK flags together

EU and UK flags together

But Members look likely to vote in favour of the European Union Notification of Withdrawal Bill – starting the two-year process of Brexit, which Prime Minister Theresa May has said will begin by March 31.

Before the House of Commons debate started on Tuesday, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had imposed a three-line whip ordering his party’s MPs to vote in line with the government’s wishes ahead of a Wednesday, February 8 vote – sparking a backlash from some ‘Remainers’.

Most in the Labour camp are pro-EU, but many have vowed not to try and block the legislation and will vote in favour of the bill.

As Hemsworth MP for Labour Jon Trickett put it: “The people have spoken.”

However some MPs, including two of the opposition leader’s own whips and resigning frontbenchers, said they will rebel and vote against triggering Article 50 out of respect for the mandate in their own constituencies.

Some have also expressed concern that only two days have been set aside for the bill’s second reading – the first and main opportunity for MPs to debate its key principles.

All the MPs in the Kirklees, Wakefield and Calderdale districts are set to back the bill, but those from the Labour party such as Yvette Cooper, Paula Sherriff and Holly Lynch will work to amend the mere 137-word, two-clause Tory legislation.

Members spent Tuesday and yesterday debating the bill and will gather again next Wednesday before the final vote. It will then move on to the House of Lords.

Dewsbury and Mirfield MP Paula Sherriff has confirmed that she will vote to trigger Article 50, but she said the government does not have a “blank cheque” to weaken tax avoidance laws and workers’ rights.

She said: “Even though I voted to remain in the EU, I accept and respect the result of the referendum. I absolutely believe in democracy and it would be wrong for MPs to go against the wishes of the majority.

“I also believe it is right to fight for the best possible Brexit deal and the Supreme Court decision was the correct one.

“MPs should have the opportunity to hold Ministers to account on the decisions they now make which will have profound consequences over decades to come.

“By rushing this bill through in just a handful of days, I do have concerns that the government has sought to limit time for thorough debate.

“Crucially, I’m also supporting amendments to the bill that will ensure Parliament is able to hold the government to account throughout the Brexit negotiations.

“These include vital protections to stop the Prime Minister from weakening laws against tax avoidance and evasion and to protect against the erosion of workers’ rights after we leave the EU.

“The Tory government do not have a blank cheque to negotiate a deal that puts jobs, workers’ rights and our economy at risk.”

Tracy Brabin, Labour MP for Batley and Spen, revealed in her column last week that she will give Article 50 her vote.

She wrote: “I believe we must move past the titles of ‘remainers’ or ‘leavers’ because at the end of the day, no one who went to cast their vote last June did so with the wish of making our great country worse.”

And she added: “Business have told us they want tariff free access to as much of Europe as possible so they can sell their British made products and services with ease.

“The government should give assurances that’ll be top of the negotiating paper as jobs in communities like ours rely on it.”

Pontefract, Castleford and Normanton MP Yvette Cooper said that she has always pledged to respect the referendum result.

But she is also concerned about workers’ rights and the Conservatives turning Britain “into a kind of offshore tax haven – that’s not what people round here voted for”.

She added: “We’ve got to start debating the detail of what kind of Brexit we get and I don’t want to see a right wing plan.”

Hemsworth MP Jon Trickett, a former shadow business secretary, said on Twitter that as a democrat he feels Parliament must debate Article 50 properly.

Halifax MP Holly Lynch confirmed that despite campaigning to remain in the EU, she will vote to trigger Article 50.

But she is concerned about the amount of time that was set aside for the debate. Next Wednesday’s debate at third reading before the vote will be limited to what is actually in the bill, rather than what could have been included – which can only be brought up at second reading,

She said: “I am surprised that the government only dedicated two days of debate to the bill itself, and I have already agreed to add my name to an amendment which calls on the government to specifically consider the financial impact that Brexit will have on the NHS and publish those findings.”

Other amendments were being considered by Ms Lynch on case by case basis.

She added that she will speak with businesses and employers in Halifax throughout the process in order to understand their needs and ensure that jobs, workers’ rights and the NHS are protected.

Meanwhile, Conservative MPs are set to overwhelmingly back the bill.

Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker, a Tory who voted to Remain in the EU, said: “I know many of you in the Calder Valley have strong views on issues that flow from Brexit.

“However, it’s important, that we as MPs now come together to support the Prime Minister in legislating to allow her to trigger Article 50 and get on with seeking to negotiate the best possible deal for the UK.”

Andrea Jenkyns MP, who represents Morley and Outwood, said she was “hugely disappointed” in the Supreme Court ruling on January 24.

But she added: “I am confident parliament will deliver on the democratic Brexit vote.”

Across West Yorkshire, all local authority areas except Leeds voted for Brexit.

In Kirklees 54.6 per cent of people voted for leave with a majority of more than 20,000 people; in Wakefield the Leave campaign got 66.3 per cent of the vote; and 55.6 per cent of the Calderdale Council area population backed Brexit. All had more than a 70 per cent voter turnout.