October 22, 2019 4.56 pm This story is over 32 months old

Karen Lee: Why I will not support the Prime Minister’s deal

‘I could never support a Brexit which jeopardises Lincoln’

I will never vote for any piece of legislation that will degrade the living standards of people in Lincoln. In my role as Lincoln’s MP, I have the responsibility to protect the interests of everyone within our community. The Brexit Deal proposed by the Prime Minister is a threat to businesses, the Northern Ireland peace process and the rights and protections of the people of Lincoln. I will therefore be voting against it.

Fundamentally, the deal proposed today is worse than the deal I previously voted against three times. Rather than addressing concerns held by businesses and trade unions, the deal undermines the potential for a mutually beneficial economic relationship with the European Union. It rules out the possibility of negotiating a new customs union, which has been a key demand of many local Lincoln businesses who rely on imports and exports from the EU.

Our local manufacturing businesses depend upon a close relationship to protect supply chains and frictionless trade. The vital importance of this relationship is outlined by the fact that 48% of the East Midlands’ total exports are with the European Union. The threat posed by the Prime Minister’s deal was recognised by the lobby group for engineering and manufacturing industries, Make UK, who have told the Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay MP that the deal poses a “serious risk to manufacturing competitiveness”.

I have been contacted by many Lincoln residents regarding their concerns with the potential for a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. Johnson’s deal would create barriers to trade for businesses in Northern Ireland as they remain part of a customs union with the EU, while the rest of the UK leaves. This means that goods will require checks at the border between the UK and Northern Ireland. Even the government’s allies, the DUP, have warned that Johnson’s deal drives a coach and horses through the Good Friday Agreement. To protect the Good Friday Agreement and address businesses’ trading concerns, the whole of the UK should be included in a customs union with the European Union, not just Northern Ireland.

Why does the government’s Brexit deal not include a customs union and a dynamic alignment with the EU? I believe it is because they are committed to watering down rights and protections in order to secure independent trade agreements that will be great for wealthy shareholders but terrible for working people. If there are no legal safeguards to maintain the current standard of rights, future Conservative governments will be able to strip away our rights and protections.

The Labour Party has been proud to deliver many progressions in workers’ rights. We cannot allow this ideologically-driven Conservative government to degrade the rights we have won. The Prime Minister is on record saying, “the weight of employment regulation is now back-breaking”, and three of his Cabinet Secretaries were authors of the book Britannia Unchained, which advocated for stripping back workplace rights because Britain “rewards laziness”.

We cannot allow a race to the bottom in order to secure a trade deal with Donald Trump’s America. The price of this deal is lower workers’ rights, lower environmental protects and the privatisation of our NHS. The Conservatives have already expanded the internal market by the Health and Social Care Act which has led to one-third of contracts being awarded to private providers. NHS privatisation process wasted millions of pounds of public money and undermined the principle of universal healthcare. I refuse to bet the future of our country on a Trump trade deal which threatens one of the greatest progressions in the UK’s history.

I could never support this type of Brexit which jeopardises Lincoln and the UK’s future. The government’s negotiations have failed because they have deliberately divided our country, rather than trying to bring us together. As a result, I believe the only way we can solve the Brexit crisis is by putting the decision to a confirmatory vote between a credible Brexit deal and remaining in the EU.

Karen Lee was the Labour MP for Lincoln between 2017 and 2019. She is an NHS nurse and a Labour County Councillor for the Cathedral and Ermine ward of Lincoln