Yesterday's vote wasn't about whether Britain leaves the European Union - that issue was settled by the referendum. Labour recognises and respects the result of the referendum and will fight for a Brexit deal that protects jobs, the economy and rights.
My decision to vote as I did has nothing to do with trying delay or otherwise scupper Brexit. The vote was about a Bill that puts huge and unaccountable power into the hands of government ministers, side-lines Parliament on key decisions and puts crucial rights and protections at risk.
The purpose of the EU Withdrawal Bill is to repeal the European Communities Act 1972. That will mean EU institutions can’t make laws affecting the whole of the UK and is one of the underlying principles the EU Referendum endorsed in June last year.
However, in drafting the bill the Government framed it in such a way that gives Ministers the powers to ‘correct’ current EU Laws that pass into UK law and put in place any agreement to withdraw from the EU through “secondary legislation”. This is why I voted against the bill; because of the unprecedented and sweeping powers it will give Ministers to change the law without Parliament having to approve any changes.
These “Henry VIII” powers are deeply undemocratic and represent nothing but a shameless power grab by the government. The Government spoke about ‘taking back control’ to Parliament, but this bill would do the opposite. I couldn’t vote to give the Tories a blank cheque to tear up workers’ rights, equality law, consumer rights or environmental protections and put jobs and the economy at risk.
While I completely accept the result of the EU Referendum, I am certain that people in Middlesbrough and across the UK did not vote for an end to the sovereignty of parliament in drafting and approving UK law.
Already, the passage of the EU Withdrawal Bill into its ‘second reading’ is facing a variety of amendments and it will be scrutinised in fine detail in the committee stages. Throughout this scrutiny process Labour will be working to ensure the UK as a whole gets the best Brexit deal that protects our rights, freedoms and trade.