Murray urges Labour MPs to vote to save jobs
*This article first appeared in The Scotsman on 12/06/18*
By Ian Murray
Labour MP for Edinburgh South
IT’S going to be a whirlwind week in the Commons as we walk through the voting lobbies to shape our post-Brexit future.
I’ll be taking no enjoyment in the process as we move one step closer to leaving the EU: the single greatest act of self-harm we have inflicted on our country in modern times.
There will be substantial number of votes on amendments to the Withdrawal Bill, mainly thanks to peers in the House of Lords who defeated the government time and time again.
Given the parliamentary arithmetic, I’m confident we can smooth some of the particularly rough edges of the Tories’ Bill by tomorrow evening.
I also hope we can demonstrate that we’re not prepared to allow the Conservatives to trample over the devolution settlement. The Labour frontbench has put forward a sensible compromise which I hope is selected by the Speaker, and is backed by SNP MPs who must not play political games on this vital issue.
It looks as though there will be enough Government rebels to try and maintain the Customs Union, but the other stand-out amendment, labelled Amendment 51, is the most important vote this week. It would oblige the UK Government to prioritise staying in the European Economic Area (EEA).
Members of the EEA are members of the European Single Market through the European Free Trade Agreement, which would deliver a soft Brexit and achieve the Government’s aims of the ‘exact same benefit’ on leaving the EU.
As many as 80,000 jobs in Scotland alone depend on the Single Market and leaving it could wipe £2.2billion-a-year from the Scottish economy by 2030.
When so many livelihoods are at stake, there is no question which way I am voting. As a member of the party of workers, I will be voting to save jobs and protect livelihoods.
So it’s deeply troubling that the Labour frontbench is, so far, unwilling to sign up to this. It is a cross-party amendment and the only one which can capture the support of the House.
EEA membership, sometimes dubbed the “Norway” option, is not perfect, but it is the least worst Brexit option. Some rule-making powers would be lost because the UK would not have a seat at the top table. That’s why I would rather we remained in the EU.
But if we are to leave, then it is the duty of every MP – particularly every Labour MP – to do everything in our power to protect the people we represent.
If we fail to do so, future generations will suffer and rightly ask us why we failed to act.