When Labour MPs vote on the meaningful vote amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill today, we have a huge opportunity: the chance to fight for a workers’ Brexit instead of a Tory Brexit.
It’s a simple choice between pushing for a Brexit that will safeguard our workers and industry, or a race-to-the-bottom Brexit that risks Britain becoming an off-shore tax haven with uncontrolled corporate power. With every passing week, it becomes clearer that we need parliament to step in to rescue Brexit from this destructive, chaotic and incompetent government.
Last week, I resigned as shadow minister for the Cabinet Office to vote against remaining in the European Economic Area (EEA). While I’ve repeatedly voted against a Tory Brexit, I don’t believe that the EEA is the right option for our country. I was not prepared to limit our ambitions to a deal that would mean taking rules from Brussels but having no role in making them.
Staying in the EEA would be a betrayal of the vote to Leave. I promised my constituents in Crewe and Nantwich that I would respect the referendum result. And unlike our Prime Minister, I keep my promises.
The Tories are in an absolute shambles. We have a Prime Minister who makes promises to her own MPs one week and breaks them the next. It’s no wonder that a Tory cabinet minister quits every six weeks, or that David Davis threatens to resign more often than he meets EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier.
Theresa May can’t be trusted by her own party – let alone by Labour MPs – to handle one of the most critical issues our country has faced in a generation. And with a Tory Brexit, it won’t be the elite few the Tories promote who will feel the pain, but the many that Labour represent.
Some in the media seem to enjoy pushing the ridiculous line that there’s nothing different between Labour’s Brexit policy and that of the government. Make no mistake, there is a clear dividing line.
Labour is alone in clearly saying that it would seek to negotiate a new, comprehensive UK-EU customs deal to ensure that there are no tariffs with Europe, to support our manufacturing industry and to help avoid any need for a hard border in Northern Ireland.
Labour will ensure that existing EU rights and standards are protected and extended after Brexit, which is why we opposed the Tories when they voted against maintaining the European Charter of Fundamental Rights in UK law.
And while the Tories would allow UK industries to fail, we want future Labour governments to have the freedom to intervene in the economy to protect workers, to create new good jobs, to upgrade and rebalance our economy.
A ‘no deal’ Brexit would be the opposite of that. As Jeremy Corbyn has said, it risks a jobs meltdown. And yesterday, we found out that EU presidents and prime ministers are bracing themselves for exactly that outcome. And who can blame them when it’s plain for all to see that this government is botching Brexit?
But while EU leaders have no choice but to deal with whatever Brexit proposals are placed in front of them, British MPs have a choice. Labour MPs should vote for a Labour Brexit: one that protects our economy and its workers, respects the EU referendum result and secures the interests of the country for the many, not the few. Today, that means voting for the meaningful vote amendment.
Taking back control means exactly that. Today we have an opportunity to give ordinary working people more control over the Brexit process by empowering their representatives in parliament. This government simply cannot be trusted to act in their best interests. We must take the reins and deliver a workers’ Brexit.
Laura Smith is MP for Crewe and Nantwich.
This article originally appeared on Labour List.