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MP Buck: ‘If parliament rejects Brexit deal, the only option will be a people’s vote’

EU ‘withdrawal agreement', hailed by the PM, will not protect jobs, says Labour’s Karen Buck

26 November, 2018 — By Tom Foot

Westminster North Karen Buck: ‘This is not a deal I can accept’

KAREN Buck has laid bare her feelings about Brexit and the controversial “withdrawal agreement” that the prime minister unveiled last week.

The agreement is a 585-page document about how the UK will leave the European Union between March 29 and the end of 2020.

In a message to constituents posted on Ms Buck’s website this week, the MP for Westminster North said it was “utterly extraordinary” that with only 18 weeks to go “we find ourselves in this mess”.

She said a “false prospectus” had been put to the people during the 2016 referendum and the past two years had been spent trying to “square the circle of damaging the economy while ‘taking back control’ from Brussels”.

She wrote: “Most of my constituents know that I have always believed that Brexit would be a disaster and that no possible deal could replicate the advantages of our remaining in the EU.

“That is why I campaigned for a ‘Remain’ vote and voted against the triggering of Article 50, which locked us into a ridiculous timescale for the complicated process of negotiating withdrawal.

“And while I respect the deeply held views of many people who voted to leave, the fact remains that the ‘Leave’ campaign was based on a raft of promises which could never realistically be delivered, and a false prospectus was put before the British people.

Last month’s march in central London, calling for a public vote on the final Brexit deal

“There was the possibility, in the after­math of the referendum, that we could aim for a ‘soft Brexit’, which kept us in the customs union and single market, for example.

“But this was never the aspiration of the ‘hard Brexiteers’ who now have such dominance on the govern­ment’s side. So two years have gone by while they tried to square the circle of avoiding damaging the economy while ‘taking back control’ from Brussels, and without ever being clear what that means.

“It is now obvious that they have failed.

“So what is wrong with the withdrawal agreement itself? It won’t protect jobs or the economy. It won’t deliver frictionless trade. It does not include plans for a permanent customs union – which is vital to protect manufacturing. It is vague on the issue of services, which are the larger part of our economy, the political declaration only seeks the bare minimum… and on areas such as financial services it offers no firm mechanism to protect the industry.”

On workers’ rights, she said the agreement “only provides for a ‘no-worsening’ clause for workers’ rights and the environment”.

“The backstop proposes a different constitutional settlement for the UK to the rest of Great Britain, which inevitably raises the potential of further pressure to break up the union from elsewhere, particularly in Scotland.

“There is no separate security arrangement proposed for the backstop period. That means that following transition (proposed to end on 31st December 2020), existing security arrangements would fall away.

“The political declaration relies on incredibly vague aspirations such as achieving ‘dialogue and exchange in areas of shared interest’ and ‘consideration of appropriate arrangements’ – not firm commitments to retain membership or equivalent arrangements in a whole raft of agencies and programmes we would want to remain in.

“The political declaration is just two vague sentences and no detail beyond committing to ‘reciprocity’. This is an extraordinary lack of detail on what was a central issue during the referendum.

“This is not a deal I can accept. And, although this is an incredibly fluid and fast moving situation, it doesn’t seem as if the government has any chance of getting a majority in parliament.

“I also know that leaving with ‘no deal’ would trigger the greatest crisis for this country in modern times – the health secretary, Matt Hancock, has even said he can’t guarantee people would not die as a result.

“But we can’t accept that this is a straight choice between a bad deal and no deal.

“If parliament does vote this down in a few weeks’ time, the only and right option is to give the public the final say on Brexit in a people’s vote, in which the choice includes staying in the EU.

“I believe people are much better informed about the options and the constraints than was the case in 2016.

“Of course there is a risk involved, but no options now are risk free and I believe this is the only way forward.”

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