Burnley MP Julie Cooper column: It really is time to put the interests of the country first
You won’t be surprised that I return to everyone’s least favourite subject, Brexit.
I must begin by saying that following the Government’s monumental defeat on Tuesday evening, I felt only sadness.
There was certainly no delight in seeing Theresa May, weary and visibly unwell again beaten, not by the Opposition but by her own MPs.
My sadness and regret though is not for the Prime Minister, because she has been the architect, of her own downfall. My sadness is for our country.
The Prime Minister’s recklessness and sheer determination to unite the Conservative Party has wreaked havoc. It really is time to put the interests of the country first. Brexit does not have to be this way. It is possible to reach agreement on a smooth exit from the EU.
I have never made a secret of the fact that I voted to remain within the EU because I genuinely believe that we are all better off in the EU than out, however, a majority of the electorate thought otherwise and voted to leave the EU.
I respect the result of the Referendum and at the General Election in 2017, I outlined what my approach to Brexit would be.
I said quite clearly that I respected the leave result and that I would work to secure a deal that did the least possible damage to Burnley and Padiham; a deal that would protect jobs, living standards and workers’ rights and on this basis, I was re-elected.
Since that time, I have done everything in my power to deliver the promised Brexit.
Brexit has never been a party-political issue and at the outset Theresa May ought to have established a cross party task force to determine our national objectives before the negotiators were sent off to the EU to arrange the divorce.
Two years ago, Labour offered to help, and I have no doubt that the Lib Dems, the Scottish and Welsh nationalists, the DUP and the Green Party would have come to the table in the national interest, had they been asked.
Sadly, they weren’t asked, and our offer was refused.
The truth is that Theresa May did not even listen to her own Cabinet let alone, her own MPs. As a result, the UK negotiating team arrived in Europe with no clear instructions, and it really is no wonder that the UK has become a laughing stock, not just in Europe but across the world.
More than two years have gone by and it is only in the last three months that there has been even the semblance of an exit plan.
On Tuesday Theresa May asked MPs to vote for a hastily cobbled together half-baked plan committing us to a legally binding agreement with no guarantees of anything except that if it passed we were stuck with it. She asked Parliament to trust her and she would negotiate all the important stuff later.
Well I’m sorry but I am not inclined to sign a blank cheque for a Conservative Prime Minister consequently I had no hesitation in voting against her deal.
In the end of course, it didn’t matter how I voted because 75 Conservative MPs also thought it was a bad deal and voted against their own Prime Minister. She can’t govern this country without the support of her own MPs it is time for her to hang up her boots so to speak!
Where do we go from here you may well be asking? Well, next I expect that Parliament will rule out the option of `no deal`. ‘No deal' would be a disaster for Britain and I will do my best to stop that happening and just to be clear on that point at the time of the Referendum there was no mention of ‘no deal’.
David Cameron ahead of the Referendum promised to negotiate a good deal if the country voted out.
There is a cross party majority in Parliament for a sensible exit deal and surely now the Prime Minister will stop trying to appease her own Party and see that it is time now to put the country first and work cross party to secure our exit.
Because of the incompetence of this Government we are running out of time and it is likely that the exit date will need to be delayed for a few weeks to sort this mess.
Crucially though even at this late stage I believe this can be sorted and now is definitely the time for Theresa May to let Parliament get on with the job that she has proved incapable of doing.
My next MP’s surgery will be held at my office at 8 Keirby Walk, Burnley on Saturday, March 23rd, from 10am - noon (no appointments, first come first served.)
Alternatively you can write to me at my office, Keirby Walk Office, email me at [email protected] or telephone 01282425744.
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