29 Reasons Why MPs Should Vote Against Article 50
The UK is clearly a divided nation as shown by the EU referendum result. However, will ploughing on regardless of the cost of Brexit really heal the rift? I don’t think so. No, to bring people together we need a genuine and open discussion to understand if leaving the EU is a reasonable and sustainable solution to people’s concerns.
For this reason I have outlined below 29 reasons why MPs should vote to block Article 50.
- Less than 40% of the electorate voted in favour of leaving the EU.
- 52% of people who voted chose to leave the EU, but given a turnout of 72% this means that only 37% of the total electorate actually voted in favour of leaving the EU. This figure would be even lower if you allow for the fact that adults aged between 16 and 17 were not allowed to vote and around a million ex-pats living in another member state for more than 15 years were also excluded from the vote.
- Indeed, only 26% of the UK population voted to leave the EU. To call this the “will of the people” is a complete fallacy and is a dangerous use of a referendum result. John Stewart Mill, an English philosopher, political economist and civil servant argued in 1859 that following the “will of the people” could be an “abuse power”.
- Theresa May attempted to ignore Parliamentary sovereignty.
- A British PM cannot trigger a General Election without the approval of 66% of all MPs and so why should Theresa May be allowed to use a small majority in a referendum to force the UK to leave the EU? May tried to argue that she alone could trigger Article 50 despite the Conservative Government in 2010 confirming that referendum cannot be binding due to the sovereignty of parliament.
- What May attempted to do was unconstitutional and would have reduced the power of Parliament. Fortunately the Supreme Court has confirmed the power of Parliament and May will now have to get a bill through Parliament.
- The referendum was not binding and requires Parliament’s consent to proceed. Why are MPs ignoring the nature of the referendum Bill?
- The Government had the opportunity to make the referendum binding by requiring a super majority, 2:1 in favour and a 70% turnout, but instead asked Parliament for an advisory referendum. The Government rejected more than one attempt to introduce clauses that would have made the result binding. An advisory referendum is supposed to be just that because it would be reckless to base a major constitutional change on a simple majority without Parliament first debating it and voting on such a change.
4. A majority of MPs wanted the UK to remain in the EU.
- Before the referendum a 74% of the UK’s 650 MPs were in favour of remaining in the European Union. Now they have the opportunity to vote on Article 50 MPs should stand up for their principles and do what is best for the UK. They should vote against Article 50. Even Theresa May made this statement about supporting the Remain campaign on the Andrew Marr show. Why is now using a simple majority to ignore her own opinion that the UK would be better to remain in the EU?
- Winston Churchill famously said the first duty of a MP is to do what he thinks is best for the country and secondly to represent his constituents.
5. The Leave Campaign had no plan or costings for leaving the EU.
- If someone proposes a major constitutional change the least you would expect is a carefully thought out implementation plan, including estimates of the costs and benefits of the change. Any proposal with so little effort put into the planning and implementation stage of the process deserves no respect and should not be taken forward until a credible plan is presented and put to Parliament.
6. People can change their minds.
- It is over 6 months since the referendum and only now do people know that the plan is to leave the single market and probably the customers union. Given the potential impact of such changes on the economy and people’s lives it is only reasonable to give the electorate a second opportunity to vote on the full details of the plan when it has been finalised.
- A recent YouGov survey found that 54% of Leave voters are not prepared for their family finances to be affected by Theresa May prioritising immigration over the economy. Only 11% of people who supported Brexit said they would be prepared to be more than £100 a month worse off to get greater control over immigration.
7. The electorate were lied to about many of the potential benefits of leaving the EU.
- Although misinformation was a characteristic of both sides of the argument, the Leave campaign made a number of claims (e.g. £350m a week to go to the NHS and Turkey about to join the EU) that have proved to be totally inaccurate and untrue. For a start the Office for Budget Responsibility now estimates that the UK will only save £250m a week by leaving the EU and that most of the cost savings will be wiped out for a number of years due to the high cost of leaving the EU.
- The EU is also asking for around £60bn to cover existing commitments. People cannot be expected to have an informed opinion on leaving the EU when much of the information about leaving the EU was false.
8. Theresa May’s Government has no mandate for hard Brexit.
- The referendum did not specify that the UK would leave either the Single Market or the Customs Union. The ballot paper simply asked if voters wanted to remain or leave the European Union. There was no indication about the nature of any withdrawal from the EU.
9. Brexit could result in the break-up of the UK.
- Following Theresa May’s speech of 17th January, Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of SNP, has indicated that a second Scottish independence referendum is almost inevitable. Scotland voted strongly in favour of remaining in the EU (62% to 38%), and the Scottish Government want to remain in the single market. A hard Brexit could you also increase pressure for the unification of Ireland as Northern Ireland also voted in favour of staying in the EU and is the only part of the UK to have a land border with another EU country.
10. Theresa May’s plan is not credible or logistically possible.
- May’s plan is to leave the single market and the full customs union and negotiate a new “frictionless” trade agreement through “associate membership” of the customs union without having to submit to the regulations of the customs union. All of this is to be completed within 2 years.
- Why would other members of the customs union approve an agreement that allows the UK to ignore existing regulations and rules? For free trade to happen counties must collaborate to ensure compatibility between national legal systems, standardising their rules and regulations to bring down trade barriers. The UK doesn’t want to abide by the rules of the customs union and so why would other members agree to a free trade agreement?
- May wants to complete a new deal within 2 years? It took the EU seven years to agree a trade agreement with Canada. Indeed, Michael Fuchs, a senior adviser to Germany’s Angela Merkel has told reporters that May’s Brexit plan is impossible as she does not appear to want to give up anything to achieve her aims.
11. Taking the UK out of the single market could seriously damage the economy.
- May wants to take the UK out of a market over 500 million people with no guarantee that we can obtain “frictionless” access to the single market after we leave the EU. This means that the City of London would almost inevitably lose its European passport allowing free trade in financial services throughout the single market.
- This is a highly risky, if not, reckless strategy which runs contrary to the Conservative Party’s own policy of being the party of “economic competency”. The City is also one of the biggest contributors to corporation tax in the UK and if tax receipts decline this could force the Government to increase income tax whether it likes it or not.
12. May considers “no deal is better than a bad deal” with EU.
- No country wants a bad deal, but no deal is the worst scenario for all countries and could be very damaging for the UK economy. Before it joined the EU the UK tried to get approval for a free trade agreement with the emerging EU and France blocked it. Relying on all 27 countries to approve a new trade agreement again seems a very risky approach to trading with EU countries.
13. The EU already has many trade agreements with other nations which the UK would exclude itself from if it leaves the EU.
- The EU has just completed a free trade agreement with Canada and has many multilateral and bilateral trade deals, and includes the USA as a major trading partner. The EU is currently in discussions with Japan about a free trade deal. As 44% of the UK’s exports go to the EU why would we want to risk jeopardising this trade?
14. We risk losing sovereignty of Gibraltar and 30,000 loyal subjects.
- As all 27 EU states have to agree to any new trade agreement with the EU it is highly likely that Spain will use this as an opportunity to push for joint sovereignty of Gibraltar. Spain only opened its border with Gibraltar because it wanted to join the EU and now will have the opportunity to make life even more difficult for the people of Gibraltar if the UK leaves the EU.
15. London risks losing its status as Europe’s leading financial hub and a centre of creativity in the arts and sciences.
- Many multinational banks have already announced they are planning on moving thousands of jobs from London to other European financial centres in response to Brexit. Losing the European financial passport will be a major blow to London’s status as a financial hub. Further, London has successfully attracted many talented people from the rest of Europe and other countries due to its ethnic and cultural diversity. This has helped establish London as a centre of creative and high-tech science. Given the perception of Brexit from outside the UK and proposed new immigration controls this status is in serious risk of being undermined.
16. Leaving the EU is likely to undermine the UK’s world-leading position in science and innovation.
- The EU has greatly assisted UK science and innovation as freedom of movement of expertise and EU science funding has supported important complex international research and development programmes. This has been beneficial for education, training, innovation and the economy overall. Leaving the EU will prevent collaboration, remove funding opportunities and hinder attracting talent from other EU countries.
17. Many UK industries are reliant on EU regulatory bodies to trade in both the UK and EU.
- The UK does not have the resources or money to create numerous regulators to replace existing EU regulatory bodies within two years. EU pharmaceutical companies for instance have to submit results to the European Medical Agency (EMA), which is currently based in London. Otherwise companies cannot proceed with testing and production. Of course the EMA will have to move to another EU country, which will result in job losses in the UK. However, even if we establish our own agency, UK companies may still have to submit results to the EMA if they wish to have continued access to EU markets.
- It is possible that the UK could petition Europe to allow EU regulators to continue to regulate UK companies but this would conflict with May’s plan to leave the single market. It would also give the EU another bargaining counter in negotiations. So we are left with potentially having to replicate EU regulatory agencies which will add significantly to the cost of leaving the EU.
18. UK citizens would lose the automatic right to work and live in other EU countries.
- 1.2 million British born people currently live in another EU country and an estimated 800,000 are workers and their dependants. Currently people in the UK can work and live in any other EU country without having to apply for approval from the other member state.
- This is likely to end if we leave the single market and customs union as the UK Government wants to prevent EU nationals coming to the UK without first being granted permission. Apart from the loss of a right that many of us have benefited from over the years this will increase red-tape and make it more difficult to recruit skilled staff from other EU countries. Why would such staff come to the UK when they can go to an EU member state without any need to complete paperwork?
19. It is not clear if Article 50 is reversible.
- As no country has ever triggered Article 50 it is not known if at the end of negotiations it is possible to reverse our decision and to remain a member of the EU. It is perfectly possible that after two years of negotiating the UK may not have a plan that is acceptable to the electorate. What if this happens and we are forced to leave the EU because Article 50 is not reversible?
20. UK citizens may lose the right to free medical care when travelling in the EU.
- Currently UK citizens have access to free or subsidised medical care when travelling in the EU via the EHIC card. However, this will now be part of the Brexit negotiations. Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, admitted during evidence to a Commons committee he could give no guarantees that the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will survive withdrawal from the EU. Removing access to the EHIC card would have serious financial implications for UK citizens travelling in the EU, especially if they don’t have travel insurance.
21. UK universities will lose tens of millions of pounds in fees from EU students deciding to study elsewhere.
- EU applications for UK universities have declined by 7% according to figures provided to a select committee of MPs. It is the first drop in applications from EU students to study in the UK for almost a decade and is likely to have been influenced by the Brexit decision. EU students have been an important source of growth for UK universities because the number of 18-year-olds in the UK are declining. Applications from EU students rose by 5.9% between 2015 and 2016 and 7.4% the year before.
22. Producing a White Paper after a bill has been passed is contrary to our normal constitutional process.
- A White Paper normally proceeds a bill to allow MPs to properly debate the full details of any proposals to be enshrined in law. Producing a White Paper after the Article 50 Bill has been voted through Parliament will prevent MPs from shaping the Article 50 legislation and diminishes the power of Parliament.
- As A.C. Grayling points out on Twitter:
“Producing a White Paper AFTER legislation: sheer trickery: MPs should absolutely not stand for it. Redouble MP lobbying efforts accordingly.” – A C Grayling
23. Allowing just 5 days for MPs to debate the Bill for triggering Article 50 shows “contempt” for Parliament.
- The Government’s Bill to trigger Article 50 is only 8 lines long, composes of 137 words and MPs are being given just five days to debate it. This has angered many Labour MPs in particular as they believe it shows “contempt” for Parliament. This appears to contradict the leave campaign’s promise to bring back parliamentary sovereignty.
Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats called the Bill an “affront to parliamentary sovereignty and democracy”.
“Take back control was a mantra of the leave campaign, but this government’s extreme reluctance to involve parliament in this process has instead been an affront to parliamentary sovereignty and democracy.” Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat leader.
- In the explanatory notes it indicates that the Bill is not expected to have any financial implications. This is completely untrue as the Government themselves have estimated that the cost to the UK once we leave the EU will be around £120bn.
24. The NHS is heavily reliant on staff coming from other EU countries.
Statistics from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) show that there has been a 90% fall in the number of nurses coming to the UK since the Brexit vote. The figures relate to the number of nurses and midwives from other EU countries registering to work in the UK. Only 101 nurses and midwives from other EU countries registered to work here in December 2016 compared to 1,304 in July, the month immediately after the referendum.
There has also been a large rise in the number of EU nurses who have decided to stop working in the UK. In December 318 nurses from other EU countries decided to leave the NMC’s register, almost twice the 177 who did so in June, the month the referendum took place.
25. Given that Jeremy Corbyn consistently defied the Party line as a backbencher why should Labour MPs take any notice of the three-line whip?
- In his 32 year career as an MP Jeremy Corbyn defied the party whip over 500 times. Even David Cameron never managed to vote against the Labour as many times as Corbyn has. Labour MPs should therefore not feel obliged to vote as requested by their leader and should instead vote for what is best for the country and block Article 50.
26. As part of Brexit the UK is to leave Euratom which is likely to delay the building of new nuclear power stations and reduce the competitiveness of the UK in this sector.
- The explanatory notes for the Brexit Bill revealed that the UK will also leave Euratom, which promotes research into nuclear power and uniform safety standards.
- Referring to Hinkley and other nuclear projects, Dr Paul Dorfman of the Energy Institute at University College London said:
“The UK nuclear industry is critically dependent on European goods and services in the nuclear supply chain and their specialist nuclear skills. Leaving Euratom will inevitably increase nuclear costs and will mean further delays.
27. Brexit MPs don’t understand how the EU works or the complexity of leaving the EU.
- After the referendum Liam Fox, International Trade Secretary, said that the UK would negotiate many new trade deals for when we leave the EU. However, EU regulations prohibit member countries from negotiating trade deals with other countries while the nation is still a member.
- Theresa May also thinks that the UK can negotiate a free trade agreement with the customs union without having to comply with their regulations. Michael Fuchs, an adviser to Angela Merkel has said this is no possible as “you can’t eat a cake without paying for it”.
- On the 27th January Mr Iain Duncan Smith issued a statement criticising the Supreme Court’s judgement on Brexit. A leading barrister analysed the statement and concluded it was inaccurate and inappropriate given the British constitution. This raises the question of how valid other statements Iain Duncan Smith has made during and since the Brexit campaign. To conduct their jobs competently MPs should have a good working knowledge on such matters.
28. “The election of Trump has transformed Brexit from a risky decision into a straightforward disaster.”
Donald Trump is a destabilising influence on the world economic and political landscape. In an article for the Financial Times Gideon Rachman argues that Trump is a disaster for Brexit because the UK can no longer rely on the US for support because Trump’s vision and policies are at odds with Theresa May’s strategy and values.
Donald Trump is the most protectionist US president since the 1930s and any trade deal would probably require major concessions on the NHS and agriculture. This is the opposite of May’s vision of . “global Britain” being a champion of free trade. May is also a firm supporter of NATO and the UN whilst Trump as twice referred to NATO as obsolete and wants to drastically cut funding for the UN. Trump would also like to see the break-up of the EU whilst May wants to see the EU prosper as it is our biggest trading partner.
Given our very different values and outlook on the world this is not the time to break free from the EU. We should be seeking stability within the EU rather than risking an uncertain future with a closer relationship with the US.
29. Hate crime has soared since the Brexit vote.
According to official Home Office figures there was a 41% increase in racially or religiously aggravated crimes recorded in July 2016 compared to the same month the year before.
Brexit is making the UK poorer, smaller, more inward looking, is reducing diversity, less tolerant and will create unnecessary barriers to both trade and travel. It is also making our Government more selfish, our opposition irrelevant and lowering our status in the world.
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- About the author: Neal Cole is a digital marketer who has worked in a number of European cities including Paris and London, and also in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar. He is the founder of Conversion Uplift Ltd which provides digital optimisation consultancy services and has worked for brands such as Deezer.com, Foxybingo.com, Very.co.uk, partypoker.com and Bgo.com.