Cat Smith column - Why I voted against this damaging Brexit deal

Theresa Mays Brexit agreement was voted on in Parliament this week
Theresa Mays Brexit agreement was voted on in Parliament this week

Fleetwood MP Cat Smith gives her reasons for voting against Theresa May's EU withdrawal agreement and calls for a general election

As I write, MPs are preparing to take part in one of the most historically significant votes of our times. After more than two years of Conservative Party in-fighting and three Brexit Secretaries later, Theresa May is asking MPs to approve her EU withdrawal deal. By the time you read this, we’ll know the outcome of that vote.

In the EU referendum, the Lancaster and Fleetwood constituency, like the country at large, split almost down the middle, with a slight majority voting to Leave.

While people may have been divided between Leave and Remain, your letters and emails to me make clear the Prime Minister’s proposals have united almost everyone in opposition to what is clearly a botched and damaging deal.

Theresa May’s plan failed to deliver on what those who voted leave believed they were voting for, whilst also failing to guarantee the rights and advantages many of us have come to expect after decades of EU membership. That’s why I voted against the deal.

In Fleetwood, the reasons people voted to leave were varied, and not every leave voter wanted the same outcomes from leaving the EU. Some contacted me saying they had changed their minds, but the vast majority of those who voted leave in 2016 still wanted us to leave – and one of the reasons was to have control over our fishing rights.

But Theresa May’s deal wouldn’t have delivered that. The EU political declaration said that “a new fisheries agreement” would need to be agreed, but the text of the deal appeared to include an implicit threat that a deal on fisheries would need to be agreed if the UK wanted to extend the transitional arrangements and prevent the backstop kicking in.

Access to UK waters cannot and must not be used as a bargaining chip.

Similarly, there were many reasons for wanting to remain in the EU, and although a small number have told me they’ve changed their minds, the vast majority of these voters still want to remain.

In our constituency, with two university campuses and an internationally renowned Nautical College, education has been at the forefront of your concerns, and mine. We need them to be able to recruit and retain the best and brightest minds from around the world, and maintain research collaboration internationally.

And whether you voted leave or remain, no one voted to make our country poorer. The government’s own analysis of Theresa May’s deal showed that GDP would be reduced by around 3.9 per cent – that’s millions of pounds a year lost from local businesses and local workers.

The deal presented by Theresa May wouldn’t have protected jobs, workplace rights or environmental standards; it wouldn’t ensure frictionless trade, so our manufacturing and food processing businesses could export, and it provided no certainty about our future relationship with the EU.

I believe we now need to have a general election. As well as Brexit, we need to address the many other vital issues facing our community and our country. Poverty is growing and Universal Credit is letting down hard-working families, homelessness is up and rough sleeping has doubled, personal debt is rising and crime is up too. Our most pressing needs – for investment in our NHS and other public services, have been ignored for the last two years whilst the Conservative Party have been arguing amongst themselves.

We need a General Election to break the parliamentary deadlock, and we need a Labour government to deliver now before austerity and this Tory Government makes life even more intolerable.