November 2018: Your Local MP
Brexit: Plenty of questions, but the government has no answers
From knocking on doors in Bishopston, it is clear to me that many of you are worried about our future relationship with the European Union. You’re not alone! It occupies almost all my time.
I held a public meeting on Brexit at St James’ Priory church, near the bus station. The church is the oldest building still in use in the city and seemed a good place for calm reflection about the uncertain future. I will briefly answer the questions which were asked most often. See www.debbonaire.co.uk for a full list.
What happens next?
I wanted the government to secure a good deal for the country, but it seems certain that any agreement will fall woefully short of their own promises. This means Labour will vote against it in Parliament. If Parliament votes down the deal, Parliament should decide what happens next. Another public vote is likely to be the only way to break the deadlock. This could be either another referendum (the ‘People’s Vote’) or a general election.
This tortuous process has confirmed my belief, that the best relationship we can have with the EU is full membership. At the very least, we should stay in a customs union and Single Market arrangement.
How can Bristol businesses prepare?
I speak regularly with Bristol businesses of all sizes. Many are finding it difficult to prepare, not knowing what our future relationship with the EU might be. Unfortunately, they should be preparing for a ‘no-deal Brexit’.
The government’s ‘no deal’ papers are a good starting point (see www.gov.uk), although they are short on detail. It will be vital for any business to look closely at its supply chains and customers.
The extent of the possible disruption was brought home to me recently when I visited a building materials supplier in my constituency. This company uses mainly local materials, selling to customers from the local area, so it seemed almost Brexit-proof. But even this company relies on essential chemicals and machine parts from other EU countries.
What can people do to influence this situation?
You can always contact me with your concerns. As your elected representative, I will continue to challenge the government. As an opposition whip I am scrutinising the vast amount of legislation the government needs to pass in a few months. I will keep fighting to protect the things that people in Bishopston care passionately about, including protections for workers, consumers and the environment.
Secondly, get involved in the debate. In the event of another vote, campaigning will vital to make the case for remaining as close as possible to the EU.
Thirdly, we all need to take part in healing the divisions which led to the Brexit vote. This means listening to and speaking with people with different viewpoints. As I put it to Theresa May in Parliament this month, Brexit was the result of deep divisions within our society. The country needs to come back together and we all have a part to play.