The second reading of the Brexit Bill – what the opposition parties say

In this special CBR documentary Boni Sones, a CBR Policy Associate and Executive Producer of, talks to three opposition MPs and candidates about the Second Reading of the Brexit Bill: Seema Malhotra for Labour, Eilidh Whiteford SNP and Julian Huppert LD Candidate.

1 February 2017

Seema Malhotra Labour MP for Felton and Heston votes for Brexit Bill but puts down amendments

Seema Malhotra, the Labour MP for Felton and Heston lives in a constituency that voted narrowly to leave the EU. She voted with the government for the two line Brexit Bill on its Second Reading in the House but put down three amendments none of which were successful.

The Bill passed through the House on Wednesday 9 February with no single amendment  by 332 votes to and 290 against. 52 out of 229 Labour MPs rebelled and voted against it in defiance of their parties three line whip to vote for it. Only one Conservative MP Ken Clarke voted against. 52 out of 54 SNP MPs voted against as did seven out of nine LDs.

Malhotra, a member of the Brexit Select Committee, had called for the government to proceed with an “evidence based” Brexit and her amendments covered the way to proceed in the Commons; the need to reform the freedom of movement rules and keep our membership of the single market; and thirdly to secure a strong future for young people, so there is an exemption to allow them rights to work and study. She said: “We also need a national convention to ensure people are involved in this debate to bring together all of society in the regions and nations. We need a collective conversation as we go forward.”

She explained: “I am supporting the Second Reading, but we need to have a meaningful way of going forward…I am going to find it really difficult to walk through the voting lobby tonight (1 February) but we have to abide by the result of the referendum. This is only the start of the process and we have a long way to go to get the right result for Britain. A lot of what we do depends on how the government takes forward the negotiations and how they take forward the engagement with parliament and the country. ”

She ended: “The convention is about stimulating and engaging in proper evidence based conversation and I think it is a vital part of keeping the British people informed and onside as we go forward.”

NB: Malthotra subsequently voted for the unamended Brexit Bill again on 8 February.

31 January 2017

Eilidh Whiteford SNP MP votes against the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ Brexit Bill

Eilidh Whiteford the SNP MP for Banff and Buchan voted with her party to oppose the government’s two line Bill to Brexit the EU, despite the fact her constituency voted Leave. 62 per cent of Scottish voters wanted to Remain in the EU and Whiteford says she agrees with the Tory former Minister Ken Clarke when he movingly addressed the Commons to ask MPs to vote with their conscience in the best interests of their constituents. He got a standing ovation with clapping from the SNP MPs and some Labour ones too.

Whiteford also discusses the latest developments on her Istanbul Council of Europe Convention Private Members’ Bill on violence against women as it reaches its Committee stage but says Brexit will not affect it although she is concerned more generally about the possible erosion of women’s rights, such as equal pay and maternity rights when the UK does leave the EU: “There could be a rolling back of rights based legislation in the UK or cuts to public services if our economy is slowing down and that has a knock on impact to services to all citizens and women would be disproportionately affected by that.”

Whiteford said she agreed with Clarke when he said in the Commons that the UK was heading towards an “Alice in Wonderland Brexit”. She said: “The former Chancellor of the Exchequer compared people within his own party of having gone down the rabbit hole, and living in a delusional fantasy World. I do think there are very, very, serious questions to be asked and that is where I think my caution comes from”.

She continued: “I don’t think people are asking seriously what the outcome of this will be. It is like a child jumping into the swimming pool for the first time at the deep end and you don’t know what it is going to be like. That is not fine when you are trying to do international negotiations on important issues that have real consequence for people’s livelihoods and jobs”.

Whiteford elaborated: “Brexit has been a very divisive issue but as MPs we are called to make the hard choices and act with integrity even if they don’t make us popular. MPs need to act in the interests of their constituents as they determine them to be and not for what they think is the easy option. People thought they were voting for different things with Brexit and some of the things people were told they would get. In Scotland they were told that there would be: 1.5 billion more to spend on public services and that was a falsehood. We were told there would be 20000 new jobs that was just a falsehood. We were told there would be more cash for Scottish higher education instead our Universities are having to step back. There are not going to be new powers for the Scottish parliament on fishing or agriculture or social policy. The government is trying to play down expectations of the benefits of Brexit.

“Most famously we were told that there would be £350 million extra for the NHS but there will be less money to spend on the NHS. The gains of Brexit will be wiped out by the losses of Brexit. What is the reality down the tunnel of Brexit now? We need to meet the needs of all our citizens. Almost half voted the other way to Remain. It is very hard to argue against finding some kind of compromise position and to find a positive way to stay in the single market and to keep as many of the benefits that accrue to us as possible.

“I will be voting against. I won’t give the government a blank cheque when they haven’t even had the courtesy to put a White Paper before the House of Commons. They haven’t even told us what it is.

NB: Whiteford subsequently also voted against the Bill again when it came back to the House the following week.

26 January 2017

Brexit White Paper, Trade, Torture and #HumanRights

Julian Huppert the LD candidate for Cambridge in the next General Election

Julian Huppert, the Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge until the 2015 General Election has been selected to fight the seat again for his party at the next General Election, whenever that is. With the LD fortunes now improving nationally as they continue to campaign for a pro EU stance following the vote to Brexit, Cambridge looks set to become a bell weather seat in any future election, given that recent boundary changes have given the constituency two new LD wards and Huppert only lost by 599 votes to Labour.

Boni Sones, Executive Producer of, asked Huppert his views on the announcement by the PM Theresa May in one PMQs in the House of Commons that the government will now be publishing a White Paper on Brexit following the Supreme Court ruling by eight to three that parliament must have a say on triggering Article 50.

As Theresa May flew out to meet Donald Trump, the newly sworn in President of the USA, hoping to secure a commitment to a trade deal when Britain withdraws from the EU, Trump had just told reporters that he was in favour of torture and water boarding, which had recently been outlawed in the States.

Huppert key quote: “Yes we can get a deal but it will be an atrocious deal bad for this country. It will be bad for Cambridge economically but also bad for our rights. Trump is not persuaded about the environmental issues – his claims that climate change was invented by China to weaken the US – and a weakening in workforce rights, these are the sort of things I would be worried about.

“Women’s rights are crucial and when we see people like Trump rolling back on abortion support in quite astonishing ways and to do that surrounded by a bunch of men, it is terrifying. He is pretty atrocious for anybody unless you are a rich white man.”

Huppert goes on to say: “We need to insist on standards. Within the EU we do have environmental standards we have workforce standards. We also have human rights standards and we are able to stick to them as a block of 500 million people. We are much more able to stand up for that than if we break up and go away.

“The LDs are a pro-European and pro rights party and human rights we will continue to make that argument at the next general election.”

Huppert accused the Labour party of being weak on triggering Article 50: “MPs are being weak and pusillanimous. If Labour was being strong we could win the vote with Labour being so atrocious in a number of ways and struggling to work out a position to hold together that lets all of us down.”

He said he was hopeful of winning Cambridge back for the LDs at the next General Election, whenever that was, even if May calls an early one after triggering article 50 in March this year.

“It’s feeling very good very positive.”

Huppert ends by warning against revoking the Human Rights Act:

“I fear massively for what the costs of rushing into trade deals will be for our rights – pulling out of the human rights act is utterly terrifying – the rights listed there are the right to life, the right not to be tortured, the right to fair process – what’s not to love?”

NB: The Labour MP for Cambridge Daniel Zeichner did vote against the Brexit Bill in the Commons on both occasions.

Listen to the podcast

In this special CBR documentary Boni Sones a CBR Policy Associate and Executive Producer of talks to three opposition MPs and candidates about the Second Reading of the Brexit Bill: Seema Malhotra for Labour,  Eilidh Whiteford SNP and Julian Huppert LD Candidate.

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