Life in Politics by Alex Sobel MP: Why I cannot vote for Theresa May's deal

The meaningful vote will finally take place next week.

Monday, 7th January 2019, 1:48 pm
Updated Wednesday, 9th January 2019, 12:44 pm

I cannot vote for this blank cheque deal that does not guarantee the protection of jobs and living standards, the environment or the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland.

After the vote, MPs have four options. The first is no deal. No deal would be a disaster, making the people of the UK poorer under every single measure and running the risk of reigniting conflict in Northern Ireland.

Theresa May has used the spectre of no deal as a metaphorical gun to the head of MPs who understand its implications but oppose her deal. Her argument is ‘it’s my deal or no deal’, which is simply not true.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

My colleague and neighbour Hilary Benn recently tabled an amendment that would give Parliamentarians the final say over no deal. In short, it allows MPs to stop a no deal Brexit in its tracks. This amendment has significant cross-party support and if passed, will provide a safeguard against a disastrous no deal Brexit.

Another option available to the Prime Minister is to extend Article 50 and renegotiate a new deal. However, the EU have been clear— that there is no other deal available with the Prime Minister’s current red lines – red lines she chose.

One of the existing structures is EFTA, commonly known as the Norway Model. This would mean being part of the European Economic Area but not the EU, giving us access to the single market but not to the existing Customs Union. This honours the result of the referendum whilst protecting jobs and living standards.

The price is that we lose political representation and have no say over the rules that we follow. There is much discussion about Norway Plus which is EFTA with a Customs Union on the model of the existing Customs Union. The final option is to remain in the EU. The Government could just revoke Article 50 and stay but as the decision was made by the people if Parliament cannot find a way forward it must be the people who have a final say.

Whilst we cannot keep having referenda forever, there is good evidence that public opinion has changed as the promises of the leave campaign have proved to be fanciful at best and complete fabrication at worst. If there is no majority in Parliament for any of the options previously outlined, the decision may have to go back to the British people to sort out the deadlock. For me, there are three scenarios which I would vote for if presented in Parliament. These are either to renegotiate based on full access to the European Single Market and a Customs Union, to join EFTA or to hold a referendum giving the people the final say with an option to remain on the ballot.

I cannot vote for May’s deal and will not accept a no-deal scenario.

Alex Sobel is the Labour MP for Leeds North West.