Last month I arrived in sunny Brighton with my little one in toe, ready for the annual Labour Party Conference. It was heartening to be greeted by a multitude of EU flags waving in the wind at a rally whilst I was gearing up for my first speaking slot at a fringe event on why citizens’ rights need to be guaranteed before Brexit negotiations move forward.
Since the referendum result in June 2016 local, regional and national media have been dominated by this topic and with good reason - even if it has left many casual observers with a critical case of “Brexit fatigue”.
Leaving the European Union is not only a highly complex process, it also bears intricate details that will have profound implications for every single aspect of life and work in the UK, while at the same time handing the Tories sweeping and unprecedented powers. It is hard to overstate what a monumental change of direction for our country this will be and the desperate need for scrutinising every aspect of the process. To ignore the news, research and comment related to Brexit would be a complete blunder.
With this in mind, I was shocked to learn that Brexit - the single biggest issue affecting our country - and dare I say one bigger than our Party itself - had not been selected as one of the eight topics that conference would vote on this year. As a democratically elected representative for the North East of England, this is my top priority and will take up the majority of the time I have left in the job. So I took my frustration to Twitter and expressed the views above, only to have thousands of notifications pour through a couple of hours later after my tweet had been picked up by none other than JK Rowling - my 15 seconds of fame had come at last! And whilst most who replied seemed to share my opinion, it soon became apparent that many others had made this into a leadership related issue.
Along with other fellow Labour MEPs, I was looking forward to having a wide platform to debate the ins and outs of Brexit with likeminded individuals who stand for the same values as me and who support the strong opposition that is the Labour Party - a government in waiting. Wanting to properly debate and vote on Brexit during Conference is not and should not be considered a way of undermining Jeremy Corbyn whose stance, despite what others have tried to spin it as, is clear. He would still vote remain if a second referendum happened and under a Labour government, the UK would unilaterally guarantee EU citizens’ rights, as well as secure a trading relationship with Europe that protects industry, protects jobs and protects services.
The meeting between Jeremy Corbyn and chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has gone better than any of talks with David Davis to this point, and the Labour leader is well known for having reached out to other socialist leaders across the continent. He would, no doubt, be able to get a good deal for the UK - something of which Theresa May and her Cabinet seem incapable; a Cabinet that has only managed to self-destruct by being divisive on vital issues like Brexit. Our Party must take note.
This week Jeremy Corbyn is visiting the European Parliament in Brussels and our Labour delegation will meet with him to discuss Brexit. Theresa May is also here, trying her best to do some damage control and break the deadlock in Brexit talks caused by her unreliable and incompetent team. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out which one of them is set up for failure.
As I have learned with my new son Natan, it takes a village to raise a child in the same way it takes a fantastic amount of teamwork and cooperation to get a good Brexit deal. The Tory government has proven time and time again that they are incapable of standing united to deliver this. A Labour government however would ensure that leaving the European Union will not jeopardise the future of any of our children.