As the MP for Blackburn, I was a strident remain campaigner. Not because of a great emotional commitment to the European project, but because I saw the EU as a vehicle for economic growth in Blackburn.
When considering how to vote, my first instinct was always to do the right thing for Blackburn.
I absolutely respect the result of the referendum and voted to trigger article 50 tonight. I would have expected the referendum result to be honoured had the result been reversed, and as a believer in democracy I reflected the will of my constituents when I walked through the division lobbies.
But my priorities have not changed. The economic future of Blackburn, Lancashire and the UK must be our focus now. What shape will Brexit take and how will it affect the lives of people in Blackburn?
Labour has always stood for ordinary families. A Brexit which is set solely by the Conservatives won’t have the interests of towns like Blackburn at heart; it will be to turn Britain into a Singapore off the coast of Europe.
So while I will vote to honour the result of the referendum, I won’t offer the government a blank cheque. Myself and my colleagues will put forward a vision for a Labour Brexit, one focused on keeping trading relationships open so they can continue to underpin jobs and businesses, focused on protecting rights at work so that unscrupulous employers cannot use Brexit as an opportunity to water down conditions for their workers and focused on providing certainty for businesses and investors, so we do not suffer a cliff-edge Brexit that would penalise the poorest the most.
I don’t believe anyone in Blackburn voted to see our community suffer through economic devastation. No one voted to make their neighbour poorer, to throw their employment into question and to see the order books of companies in Blackburn empty out.
A bad Brexit could have catastrophic consequences. The cost of basic goods could skyrocket, jobs could leave Blackburn and we could face a disaster for our community. Pointing this out is not obstruction, it is the democratic duty of public servants. I am committed to honouring the referendum result, but not to damaging our community and the town I call home.
Theresa May and her government have failed in their unspoken duty to provide the people of Britain with a properly scrutinised procedure for leaving the EU. Instead of addressing Parliament on a matter of such importance, the Prime Minister chose to address the media. Instead of engaging in reasoned debate, she has sought to demonise those with concerns as ‘defying the will of the people’. She has allowed the right wing of the Conservative Party and their allies in UKIP to define the national conversation. She has, in short, taken the cowardly & undignified option of seeking narrow political gain from an issue that is of supreme national importance. By seeking to limit Parliamentary scrutiny, by wasting taxpayer money contesting court cases, the government has failed in their duty to Leaver and Remainer alike.
I will be supporting Labour amendments to place jobs and the economy first and to ensure that my constituents are able to have the benefit of public scrutiny through parliament of the process. Not to frustrate the result, but to ensure the post-Brexit Britain is shaped in the interests of the many not the few.