This week I voted for an amendment to the European Union Withdrawal Bill because it was necessary to guarantee that there can be Parliamentary scrutiny and sovereignty as we return control of our laws from Brussels. There have been strong opinions on both sides of the argument about this, and even suggestions that by backing this amendment I have somehow blocked Brexit, or increased the likelihood of another election. This is not true. I respect the referendum result and voted to trigger Article 50. We are leaving the European Union but need to do so in a way that leads to as few unintended consequences as possible.
In returning powers from Brussels we must not exchange one system with poor democratic oversight for another. As we take back control of our laws, Parliament has an important role to play in scrutinising the government's work. Both in my role as Chair of the Health Committee and as a Constituency MP it is my duty to be look closely at both the pitfalls and opportunities of the various options for the type of Brexit ahead.
Clause 9, which I and colleagues voted to amend, had such far reaching consequences that I have copied it verbatim below:
A Minister of the Crown may by regulations make such provision as the Minister considers appropriate for the purposes of implementing the withdrawal agreement if the Minister considers that such provision should be in force on or before exit day.
If left unamended, this clause would have been incompatible with the Prime Minister's pledge to give Parliament a 'meaningful vote' on the deal. In effect, it allowed Ministers to make changes to laws with no democratic check by Parliament. Its breadth even concerned Brexiteers like Jacob Rees-Mogg, who said during the debate, "clause 9 gives some powers that trouble even Eurosceptics. I have never felt comfortable with the self-amending part of the Bill."
I and my colleagues had made our concerns clear to government for many weeks ahead of the vote and we feel that this vote was entirely avoidable. The clause should have been removed and the government could easily have done so. This would have avoided the need for an amendment.
Far from obstructing Brexit, this vote strengthened its democratic underpinnings, preventing major constitutional change from potentially being pushed through purely by ministerial decree.
I have been dismayed with how irresponsibly my vote has been misrepresented in some parts of the press. I welcome robust debate and I am always willing to listen and to defend what I believe. Labelling MPs 'traitors' for defending a fundamental democratic principle or judges 'enemies of the people' for upholding the law, just fuels a hateful division. It also entirely misrepresents why I voted as I did and why I felt it was necessary.
As we build an independent Britain – we will need to work constructively with our European neighbours. The more I hear, during Select committee hearings, about the consequences that would arise from a disruptive and chaotic Brexit, the more I feel that we must try to achieve a soft landing. The consequences of no deal and no transition would be very serious indeed.