Catherine West on Brexit vote: ‘We must secure the status of EU nationals in UK’

Catherine West MP

Catherine West MP - Credit: Archant

Hornsey and Wood Green MP Catherine West has said she is still “waiting for the call” about her shadow cabinet status after disobeying the Labour leadership and voting against the Brexit bill.

Ms West said she called her whip – the person who enforces party discipline – before the vote on Wednesday last week to tell her they “had to talk” – only to find out she too was rebelling.

But the shadow foreign minister still has hopes of persuading leader Jeremy Corbyn of her view – and even praised his effort during the EU referendum campaign.

Ms West told the Ham&High she was “incredibly sad” about Britain’s decision to leave the EU, stressing her concerns for European citizens living in the borough.

She said: “It’s digraceful the way the Government is using EU nationals as a bargaining chip – they are being treated like pawns in a game.

“I just want to secure their status. [Britain] should just say they have the right to remain – it would be a good opening gambit, and the EU countries would probably say a similar thing.”

She added: “We’re taking so much of our identity and just saying goodbye to it.”

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Hornsey and Wood Green voted 75 per cent in favour of remaining in the EU when Britain went to the polls in June.

She said she had to represent those people in Parliament when voting on the Brexit bill, which ultimately passed its second reading by 498 votes to 114.

But she also said she had to do what was best for the country.

“The national interest is to stay in the EU,” she said.

“We are going to go into a recession. So many things will go down.”

She added she cannot see a way she would ever vote with the Government on the bill’s third reading – which takes place later today – but said her job now will be to “hold the Government’s feet to the fire” and push for amendments – including one recognising EU nationals’ right to stay in the UK.

Reflecting on the pro-EU and pro-Brexit factions emerging in the UK, she said: “We just have different visions of the world.”

She also said she feels Labour volunteers were “tired” in the build-up to the referendum because of their work on the campaign to elect Sadiq Khan as Mayor of London in May, potentially affecting the result.

Ms West will be holding a “What does Brexit mean to you?” meeting at the Labour Party Office in Middle Lane from 10am on Thursday.

Another will be held on on Saturday, March 4 from 10.30am to 11.30am at Jacksons Lane (Space 4) in Archway Road.