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How We Leave The EU Will Define Britain For The Next Decade - The Government Must Respect The Need For Proper Scrutiny

24/01/2017 17:22 | Updated 24 January 2017
Lauren Hurley/PA Archive

The Supreme Court today decided that only Parliament, not Theresa May, can withdraw from the treaty that makes the UK a member of the European Union of Parliament. This is a reminder of a really simple constitutional point: governments don't both implement laws and make laws; they run the country but a Parliament, with representatives from every community, sets the rules. Given that our Parliament is sovereign and derives its powers from the people - the Government must respect its ability, right and duty to make laws independently.

This fundamental principle was cited again and again by Leave campaigners as a reason to leave the European Union, it is bitterly ironic to hear them now decry it as they attempt to dictate the detailed terms of a Brexit deal.

So how will I vote when a bill to leave the EU reaches Parliament for debate and decision? It is no secret that I campaigned for the UK to remain in the European Union. Indeed, I took part in the televised three versus three debate against Boris Johnson, and forcefully put the case that many of the Leave side's claims were either misleading or outright fabrications, like the £350million a week for the NHS. And the Wirral, part of which I represent, voted narrowly in favour of remaining in the European Union.

However, the electoral system by which we administer our democracy is one I both respect and value. It is the means by which I was elected an MP in 1992 and every General Election subsequently. It is the means by which the UK opted to remain in the Common Market in the 1975 referendum. And it is in this knowledge that I accept the result of the referendum and think it would be damaging to the most fundamental values of our democracy if politicians sought to overrule the referendum result. But a 'yes or no' referendum question has not signalled the kind of Brexit which should be pursued by the Government and it is perfectly legitimate for Parliament to have a decisive say on the kind of deal which we believe will be in our country's best interests.

I remain a passionate believer in the virtues of cooperation and solidarity, both domestically and internationally. In a changing and complex world our alliances are a source of strength, succour and power, not a hindrance. It is the most isolated countries that have most to fear from developments such as the election of a protectionist, nationalist US president or a hostile nation's sabre-rattling on the borders of Europe. Another central tenet of our democracy is that a representative must always act in the best interests of their constituents. That is why my overriding priority over the coming months and years will be to help secure the best withdrawal deal for my constituents in Wallasey and the UK as a whole. One that safeguards our prosperity, civil and human rights, and Britain's role in the global order.

But in order to allow me to act as a Labour politician in the best interests of Wallasey, the Government must themselves abide by the fundamental democratic values of transparency, consultation and compromise; something that Theresa May has so far failed to do. She has shown a worrying tendency to prefer secrecy over transparency and to divide rather than build trust. The Government must now submit itself to meaningful Parliamentary scrutiny of their plans for leaving the EU so that Parliament can set out its hopes and concerns and come to a view on the best way forward for our country.

I am disappointed that the Government still refuses to publish a White Paper, setting out its negotiating position, before triggering Article 50. The vote on 23 June last year did not define the precise terms of Brexit, on issues such as membership of the single market and customs union, workers' rights and environmental protections. Indeed, the terms of Brexit were ferociously debated throughout the campaign and, despite the best efforts of the Remain side, the Leave side never fully articulated what the terms for withdrawal from the EU might be. These are important matters to everyone in this country, and I believe the Government must be able to provide clear answers to our questions. If the Government does not agree to publish a White Paper then I will seek to ensure the Bill is amended to do so.

Our withdrawal from the EU will, in some respects, define at least the next decade in Britain's future. It will have an effect on businesses, schools, our ability to attract talent to our universities, our wealth, productivity and international relations. It is crucial that Britain secures the right outcome for the many, not just for a few corporate mates of the Tory government. I hope the Government will respect the role of Parliament and provide for proper scrutiny and challenge. I and my Labour colleagues will continue to press the Government to ensure that we get the best deal possible.

Angela Eagle is the Labour MP for Wallasey

This blog first appeared on Angela Eagle's Facebook page, and can be read here

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