Two Southwark MPs will vote against triggering article 50, while Harman says she will press PM to protect jobs and rights
“I accept the referendum result and the will of the British people... But this does not mean the Government has a blank cheque," Harman said
Two of the borough’s MPs have added their names to a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May in protest against her promise of a “hard Brexit” from the EU.
Bermondsey and Old Southwark MP Neil Coyle and Camberwell and Peckham MP Harriet Harman were among the 43 Labour MPs who wrote to the PM.
Neil has again said “whatever happens” he will vote against the forthcoming bill to trigger Article 50, which officially kicks off the Brexit process.
Theresa May last week stated that her government will seek to completely remove Britain from the EU, including the common market with tariff-free trade, and the free-movement-of-people agreement.
May hopes to have negotiated a new free-trade deal within two years of the Article 50 being triggered. She added that failure to negotiate a new deal would see Britain adopt World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariffs instead.
Eleven judges of the Supreme Court gave their verdict on Tuesday: that triggering Article 50 and the Brexit process could not be done without a bill being approved by Parliament.
Meanwhile, reports surfaced on Friday that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn may order his MPs to vote in favour of the forthcoming Article 50 bill, but this yet to be confirmed.
But Neil, an outspoken critic of Corbyn, told the News he has written to Labour whips requesting a free vote rather than a whipped vote.
“I will be voting against it whatever happens, with the interests of my constituents,” Neil said.
“Bermondsey and Old Southwark overwhelming voted to remain in the EU. I made a promise that I would never vote for anything that I believe would do damage to people in my constituency, and it’s becoming more and more clear that this would do damage.
“Every time I visit a college or school and I ask children what they think, they all say we should have remained, and it’s this group who should have had a vote in the referendum. I also know three businesses that are considering leaving London.”
A spokesperson for Helen Hayes, MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, said her position “had not changed” since the News asked about her voting intentions in November. Helen previously said she will vote against triggering article 50 unless there is a second referendum on the terms of Britain’s negotiation strategy or if a general election is called.
Harriet Harman, in a statement to the News on Tuesday, said: “Today’s Article 50 ruling confirms that Parliament, not the Prime Minister, has the power to trigger Article 50. By choosing to fight this the Prime Minister has wasted taxpayers’ money trying to prevent Parliament having a say on the Article 50 process.
“I accept the referendum result and the will of the British people and will not frustrate the Article 50 process. But this does not mean the Government has a blank cheque. This is just the start of the process. Once Article 50 is triggered we have to make sure that the Government puts the UK in the best position possible to weather the trade storm – including now from President Trump in the USA.
“We will press throughout the Brexit negotiations for a deal that prioritises jobs, the economy and workers’ rights and try to amend the Article 50 Bill to prevent the Conservatives tearing up existing economic and social protections and to ensure the legal status of EU citizens in the UK is resolved before negotiations begin and the Government aim to secure full tariff free access to the Single Market. Living standards and EU citizens must not be used as a bargaining chip in Brexit negotiations.
“There also needs to be a proper vote in Parliament on the final Brexit deal – to be held before the Government agrees any final deal with the EU.
“This is a difficult set of decisions for those of us who wanted to stay in the EU. But Labour is handling this collegiately and will continue to discuss it together.”