View from the House: Brexit deal fails test and must be stopped


- Credit: Chris McAndrew (Creative Commons

It was a powerful and moving show of unity this Armistice Day.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron stood together at Compiègne – the first time since 1940 that leaders of France and Germany have met at the site where the ceasefire ending the First World War was signed.

As one of the architects of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), Robert Schuman, said back in 1950: “The purpose of this new European Community is to make war between historic rivals France and Germany not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible.” It is safe to say that the ECSC and its succeeding institutions, namely the EEC and the EU, have succeeded in that goal – keeping the peace between its members for over 70 years.

This sense of common purpose around peace and stability must not be brushed aside lightly. There has rightly been so much talk about the economic benefits of remaining in the EU, but our membership goes far beyond trade. It is about shared values of co-operation and internationalism and a strong belief in working together to tackle issues that transcend national borders, whether that be climate change, tackling terrorism, promoting human rights or addressing the refugee crisis.

For so many years, our relationship with our European neighbours has also been a cultural exchange of ideas, which is why I was so appalled at the prime minister’s cynical move to suggest EU citizens are “queue jumpers”. EU citizens have come here to look after our sick, teach our children and build this country, just as so many British citizens have gone to other EU countries. It is a nationalistic dog whistle and it is shameful. Any suffering for non-EU job applicants has been caused by the draconian policies and “hostile environment” created under her leadership at the Home Office.

One of my worries has been the rise in vitriol in our national debate, egged on by the images pushed out by Mr Farage of the “leave” campaign of a queue of refugees and the words “Breaking Point” or the Home Office’s “Go Home” vans.

With scarcely more than 100 days to go until Brexit, no support in parliament for the PM’s deal, and Jacob Rees-Mogg failing to mount a “no deal” coup, you can expect to see more attempts from the Brexiteers’ cheerleaders to ramp this up, blaming others rather than look in the mirror.

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Labour has been very clear: Mrs May’s deal fails our six tests and we will vote against it when it comes before parliament. But we should not be forced to choose between a bad deal and no deal. With each passing day, the case for a “people’s vote” becomes clearer. The latest polling shows that more than 100 seats that backed Brexit now want to remain in the EU, and that if a referendum were held today there would be a 59-41 split in favour of remain. When the facts change, people change their minds and that is why we are seeing increasing numbers of people coming out in support of a people’s vote.

Democracy did not die on June 23, 2016, and I believe Brexit can and must be stopped.