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 elected as the Labour MP for Lincoln in 2017.

I’m sure we can all agree that the current political situation feels very negative and worrisome. This country is in crisis, and last week we saw the Prime Minister shamefully disregard the death of Labour MP Jo Cox and dismiss concerns that his divisive language was putting other MPs at risk as “humbug”.

Yet amid the political gloom and chaos, there is light at the end of the tunnel and a future that we can be excited about. Last week, at Labour’s annual conference, we outlined a programme that would radically improve the lives of all working people in our country.

The real crisis facing our country isn’t just about Brexit. Labour’s conference shows that we stand for the real change Britain needs after years of Conservative austerity and failure. Labour will rebuild and transform our country by investing in our economy. We will provide decent jobs and secure homes, bring communities together. We will build a fairer country that cares for all, so that no one is held back, and no community is left behind.

As a former nurse, I care passionately about our NHS, and I am delighted that Labour’s conference saw us commit to end the social care crisis and introduce free personal care for older people. This will help older people live with dignity, providing help with daily tasks whilst helping people to stay in their own homes for longer. We also announced that a Labour government would stop big pharmaceutical industries from ripping off our NHS, scrap prescription charges and increase annual GP training places by 1,500 to 5,000 – which would deliver 27 million extra appointments a year. We will also declare a climate emergency in the NHS and plant 1 million trees to help it meet a net-zero carbon emissions target.

On that theme, Labour now has one of the most ambitious climate change policies in the world. We will kick start a Green Industrial Revolution to save our planet and create hundreds of thousands of high skilled, high wage jobs with a worker-led just transition to renewable energy. We announced an unprecedented investment programme to facilitate the electrification of vehicles, as well as a commitment to build 37 new wind farms. For years, politicians have not taken climate change seriously enough – Labour is now the only party committed to tackling the crisis with the urgency it demands.

We announced a raft of positive, exciting and transformative policies to build a fairer, more inclusive Britain.
Labour will expand the range of public services free at the point of use to include childcare, post-school education, bus travel for under-25s and school meals for primary school children. Foodbank usage, which has risen sharply in our city under the Tories, would also be halved in the first year of a Labour government. Living standards and productivity are at historic lows, which is why Labour has announced a plan to transition to a 32-hour working week within a decade – with no loss in pay.

At Labour conference, we strengthened our resolve to do everything necessary to stop a disastrous No Deal Brexit, which would cost Lincolnshire 1,250 jobs and £12bn a year – more than we currently spend on all health services. As soon as No Deal is off the table, we need a general election to get rid of Johnson’s government of the privileged and wealthy.

Contrary to many misleading reports, Labour has arrived at a clear and sensible Brexit policy. Within three months of taking office a Labour government would go back to Brussels and negotiate a sensible deal and within six months of taking office we will end the Brexit crisis by taking the decision back to the people, with the choice of a credible leave offer or remain. The Tories want to force through a catastrophic No deal, and the Lib Dems want to undemocratically revoke the referendum – both of which are divisive and have no mandate. Labour is the only party attempting to unite the country by giving the people a voice so that we can focus on rebuilding Britain.
The choice at the coming election is clear. Whilst Boris Johnson’s born-to-rule Conservatives will look after the privileged few, Labour will put wealth and power in the hands of the many. We will rebuild Britain and invest in Lincoln and every community across the country by taxing the top 5% to properly fund world-class services for everyone.

Karen Lee was elected as the Labour MP for Lincoln in 2017.

Boris Johnson, who is an unelected Prime Minister, intends to shut down a democratically elected chamber to deliver a no-deal Brexit with as little scrutiny as possible. Plain and simple, this is a coup d’etat. As a result, Lincoln may not have a say in how our country leaves the EU.

We were told that the central aim of the Brexit vote was to empower Parliament by taking back control of our laws. This week’s announcement saw quite the opposite and proved that the current Prime Minister is willing to undermine the British political process to deliver an ideological hard-right wing Brexit, which has no mandate and will damage the UK’s economy and living standards. This action has curtailed the democratically elected chamber’s influence during the gravest British political crisis since World War Two.

To be absolutely clear, I have been talking to local businesses for months now, and all the managing directors of those companies have told me that a catastrophic no-deal Brexit will negatively impact them and result in job losses in Lincoln. Their words – not mine.

Many are trying to muddy the waters of the discussion to present this abuse of power as part of a reasonable process. The fact of the matter is, Mr Johnson’s plan to shut Parliament for five weeks represents the longest prorogued closure of Britain’s legislature since 1945. As the Conservative Common’s Speaker John Bercow MP put it, this is an “offence against the democratic process.”

Don’t let those who attempt to justify the government’s actions fool you — I can guarantee that if it didn’t suit their political aims they would be in uproar. As the Senior Conservative MP David Lidington has said, it sets an extremely dangerous precedent that would have turned some of his “Tory colleagues who are cheering at the moment… purple with rage.” Shutting down Parliament to avoid scrutiny sets a very dangerous anti-democratic precedent, through which the former Conservative Chancellor, Phillip Hammond MP, asserted would cause a “constitutional outrage.”


We enjoy many freedoms in the UK, but let’s not kid ourselves, they were hard-fought. We can track the roots of Parliamentary sovereignty to the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution. But the tireless struggle for freedoms has been developing throughout history and incorporates successes such as universal suffrage, improved labour laws and equal marriage. These improvements in working people’s lives were not simply given to us, we demanded them. Similarly, if we do not protect the freedoms won by previous generations, as we saw this week, they can be endangered.

This leaves us with the question, how do we oppose the attack on our democracy inflicted by Boris Johnson? As my colleague, Shami Chakrabati, put it in her Guardian column, one of the gravest dangers is ‘outrage fatigue’. The attack on our democracy is the latest in a sustained nine-year assault on working people through repressive government policies such as austerity. The public, whether leave, remain, left-wing or right-wing, need to resolutely oppose the government’s actions which are a mockery of the British constitution. It is vital that we spread the message that we are not willing to let Boris Johnson erode our democracy.

The Labour Party and the public have 63 days to avoid a no-deal Brexit. We have reached out to opposition parties and backbench Conservative MPs to find practical ways to prevent a no-deal in the short period we have left. 

If the Prime Minister is so sure that the public wants a no-deal Brexit, then why doesn’t he test public opinion through a public vote or a general election?

Karen Lee was elected as the Labour MP for Lincoln in 2017.

+ More stories