Our topsy turvy politics

The world’s gone mad. It’s a sentiment which has been expressed often since 23 June last year and even more so since President Trump was elected. In Chiswick we have two Labour MPs in an area which votes largely Conservative. On the Brexit bill they voted against their party the first time round and supported their party on Monday (while themselves remaining consistent) in line with what most of people in Chiswick want, even though for the most part they didn’t vote for them. Clear?

The Brexit referendum was largely about the sovereignty of the British parliament. As I started writing this MPs were voting on the two amendments made by the Lords to the Brexit bill: that Parliament should have a vote on whatever deal the Government finally makes with the EU on our departure (aka the sovereignty of the British parliament) and that the rights of EU citizens living in Britain should be guaranteed before Article 50 is triggered. Now both Houses have passed the bill, without either amendment.

The first time the EU Withdrawal Bill was voted on by MPs, Labour backed the Government. This time round, Labour told its MPs to vote against the Government. Same bill. The only difference in it was two amendments made by the Lords, that unelected body which Labour has long campaigned to get rid of and the Conservatives have defended.

I haven’t spoken to Rupa Huq, but I have heard from Ruth Cadbury, MP for Brentford and Isleworth, whose constituency contains large parts of Chiswick, and who has voted consistently against the bill. The first time she was a rebel and got a slap on the wrist from Labour whips. This time she voted in line with her party and, she believes, with the wishes of her constituents, who voted 60% for Remain.

Guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens

On the first amendment she says:
“European citizens living in the UK make a huge and valued contribution to our economy and society. As well as working in business, many EU citizens are employed in our public services – including the many thousands who provide care to our sick and elderly. Our cultural life has undoubtedly been enhanced as a result of European citizens deciding to make our country their home, and our university sector benefits enormously from EU students and researchers… EU nationals should not be used as bargaining chips”.

Parliamentary vote on outcome of Brexit negotiations

On the second amendment she points out that the Government has already conceded that parliament will get to vote on Brexit, quoting David Jones MP, Minister for Exiting the European Union, speaking in the House of Commons on 7 February:
“… what I am committing to from the Dispatch Box, is that before the final agreement is concluded—the final draft agreement, if you like—it will be put to a vote of this House and a vote of the other place. That, we intend, will be before it is put to the European Parliament.”

Throughout the discussion of Article 50, the debate has been on whether a parliamentary vote would be ‘meaningful’ or whether it would be engineered in such a way to be merely window dressing. On this she says:

“Our successful Labour-led amendment to the Bill seeks to formalise these promises. It would also ensure that Parliament is able to express its view should the negotiations lead to no deal being reached with the EU. Labour is clear that no deal is the worst possible deal, and would not be in the national interest. This amendment would ensure there is a truly meaningful vote at the end of the Article 50 process”.

Party politics seems increasingly confused in this country. The uncertain future facing EU nationals in Britain and the anxiety that causes is one of the most unpleasant consequences of the Brexit vote. I have to say I admire Ruth for taking a moral position on this, irrespective of the impact it may have on the rest of the negotiations or on her own career prospects.