Firstly, because I hear so often ‘it is about respecting the will of the people’ I want to make this point at the outset: Last year’s referendum was about *if* we should leave the EU. The country said yes. Today’s vote is about *when* and *how* we leave, which is a totally different issue and is an issue the referendum gave no guidance or instruction on at all, it is the job of government and parliament to figure out and deliver.
I am not trying to block Brexit I am trying to get it right.
There are two reasons why my conscience will not allow me to start the Brexit process now. The first is that our government is not physically or technically ready for what comes next. The EU has 600 specialist negotiators and 3,000 assistant negotiators. This is the most powerful negotiating team in the world. The last time the government released figures for how many specialist trade negotiators we had was in July and the figure was zero. None. I’m not making this up, it is a government figure. By now they will have some but they will be few and new into post and they won’t yet have a plan.
Secondly, we simply have no idea at all what economic relationships will replace the ones we will loose. Last July David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, said this:
“Within two years, before the negotiation with the EU is likely to be complete, and therefore before anything material has changed, we can negotiate a free trade area massively larger than the EU.”
Well it’s almost a year since the referendum so where is this free trade area he promised us that is “massively bigger than the EU”? It doesn’t need to be complete - a sketch, an outline, a mere hint would do! Instead we have nothing. I want what was promised because if I am going to vote in the Commons on your behalf over something that will affect every single person for generations to come I want to make damn sure that ministers can deliver on their promises.
If we are going to move the most precious thing we have as a country, our economy, then we need to know where the destination is before we take those first perilous steps. Is that unreasonable?
Because right now it looks like Theresa May has a plan to get us out of the EU, but only a wish-list for what comes next.
Last week we were promised a ‘white paper’ by the prime minister. A white paper is an official government document which outlines government policy. Basically, it’s a plan. But get this, we’re going to be given the plan after we vote! That’s right, we are going to vote tonight on wrenching our social and economic foundations away from our existing partnerships but be given the plan on how it will unfold tomorrow. It is actually hard for me to comprehend the stupidity of this sequence of events.
The government seem to have decided that the only way they can survive this mess whilst keeping the Conservative Party together is to push the accelerator peddle to the floor and drive at full-speed so that nothing can keep up. The problem is we are heading off into the darkness with the headlights off, making the chances of having a crash so much higher.
So what have I done about this? I have set three tests for our own community before I will lend my support to moving forward with Brexit. I’ve posted them here and you’ll see they are also hanging in my shop window (as you can see, I’m not hiding from debate!). Last night I gave a speech in the House of Commons setting out my reasons for opposing the Bill, I’ve also posted that video here. I’ve worked with MP’s from all parties to try to build consensus and we’ve submitted amendments to the Bill. I’ve been out talking, listening, and debating this issue on doorsteps and in the media. From The Argus, local radio, right through to Good Morning Britain where today when I was making my case against Iain Duncan-Smith and Piers Morgan. As you can see I am doing whatever I humanly can to protect everything that is great about our community and country as we enter this perilously uncertain period.
Some people reading this will agree with my stance, many others won’t. But as always what is most important to me is to be honest with you about where I stand on big issues. I promised you that the place we live and the people who live here will always come first with me. Today I will be voting against my own party as well as the government and this is really upsetting for me. But as I get on the train to come home to Hove tonight I will know in my heart that it was the right thing to, that I worked as hard as I possibly could on your behalf, and ultimately that what I did was to protect our home, our economy, and everything that makes our city the best place to be in Britain. Yours, Peter
Click here to view my speech in Parliament.