February 2019: News From Your Local MP

January 24 2019

Now we have rejected the Brexit deal, we need to find common ground

As I write this, the government is still struggling to come to terms with the worst Parliamentary defeat in modern times. Theresa May’s EU Withdrawal Agreement is now dead, at least in its current form – but what comes next looks far less certain. 

I am proud to represent one of the most politically-engaged constituencies in the country. Over the last few months thousands of people in Bristol West have contacted me about the UK’s departure from the EU. 

From speaking to many of you, I have come to the conclusion that the vast majority of people in Bristol West share my view that the UK should remain in the European Union or, failing that, have the closest possible relationship with it. In this context, the government’s proposed Withdrawal Agreement was a bad deal for the UK.

With an unprecedented number of MPs, I voted against the Withdrawal Agreement. It was far from what was promised by the Tories and would have been a bad deal for Bristol and the country. 

I was very proud we have resoundingly rejected this deal. The vote itself was only possible thanks to the Labour Party and its whips, of which I am one. 

Whatever the next steps - an election, another referendum, a deal or something else - it looks almost inevitable that we will need more time. The European Union negotiators have suggested they are open to extending Article 50 in certain circumstances. As a whip, I can see a huge amount of legislation which must be passed if we are to leave the EU, and it will be extremely difficult to do this in a couple of months.

To move beyond Brexit, we desperately need to overcome the deep divisions and inequalities in our country. We need to find common ground.

I was pleased to see one example of this in Parliament this week. I invited Bristol artist Elaine Robinson to spend the week of the big vote in Parliament. Sitting at a table in a corridor near the Commons chamber, she invited anyone who came past to leave their fingerprint on a large piece of paper. These will eventually be encased in resin. This simple idea caught the imagination of MPs, peers, researchers, journalists and Parliamentary staff. Elaine wanted to demonstrate we have a lot which unites us, even in times of stark disagreement. Some very well-known politicians left their mark on her artwork, side by side with their political opponents. The work has been such a huge success that Parliament have invited Elaine back for a second week.

At this divisive time, we have to  look at what we share. I am privileged to represent a constituency so engaged in the political process.