On Tuesday 12th and Wednesday 13th June, MPs will debate and vote on 15 Lords amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill. The government has allowed MPs just 12 hours to make some of the most important decisions of their political lives. The stakes couldn’t be higher.
It is therefore crucial that MPs hear the voices of their constituents before they vote. Here is a draft letter which focuses on what Molly considers to be three of the most important of the 15 amanements.
Please contact you MP ahead of next Tuesday, using this template to help you draft a letter. Download Word version here
Dear [Find your local MP here: https://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/]
I am writing to you ahead of the debate on the EU Withdrawal Bill in the Commons next Tuesday and Wednesday. This debate could be the most important one of your political life. The stakes for the country could not be higher and we will all be watching and trusting you to make the right decisions for your constituents.
[Suggested introductory paragraph if your MP is Conservative]
As my elected representative in Parliament I expect you to be doing all you can to steady our economy over the coming years. As I am sure you are aware, this is the message coming from businesses across the South West – from large multi-nationals like Honda to dozens of SMEs and farmers and food producers. The Brexit vote divided the country and has the potential to send lasting and damaging shockwaves throughout the UK. The upcoming votes in the Commons on the Lord’s amendments is one of our last chances to push towards the common-sense centre ground that both respects the result of the EU referendum, protects the foundation blocks of our democracy, and limits the potential damage from Brexit.
[Suggested introductory paragraph if your MP is Labour]
The up-coming vote on the EU Withdrawal Bill gives you the chance to support the Brexit that is best for workers, jobs and living standards that Labour has been promising since the referendum. On Tuesday and Wednesday you will have a chance to safeguard the employment and environmental rights that have been protected by the EU. This is a test for Labour and for your leadership. We need you to work with those from other parties who also recognise the dangers. It would be fatally damaging to the Labour Party if it is seen to be doing anything to support the Conservatives’ hard Brexit.
[To MPs of all colours]
I would therefore draw your attention in particular to the following amendments:
Support amendment 1 to retain membership of the customs union
The first and most important reason why we need to be in the customs union is to protect our industry. As I’m sure you are aware, the CBI has made a strong case for our continued membership, with Carolyn Fairbairn making the case that such a relationship is a ‘practical, real-world answer’ that is best for jobs, wages and living standards after the transition period ends. The purpose of a customs union is to remove tariffs between countries and so cut administrative burdens as goods move across borders, which is why the CBI is so supportive.
The delays that manufacturers would face if we were outside the customs union would threaten the existence of large employers like Honda, in Swindon, who rely on just-in-time production techniques. Indeed, we know that such companies are now seeking parts suppliers outside the UK, threatening British jobs.
The customs union is also vital for the many food and farming businesses that our economy in the South West depends on. Food producers who rely on rapid transport – as revealed recently for shellfish – will also suffer.
And perhaps most important of all, staying in the customs union would ease the Irish border issue. Up to now, the Government has been unable to answer how it will enforce a customs border between the UK and Ireland without also creating a “hard” border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. This risks breaking the Good Friday Agreement, and avoiding any resurgence of conflict must be a priority.
Leaving the Customs Union would rip us out of a well-tuned system of relations with our closest partners in exchange for false promises of a “Global Britain”. I urge you to support this first and most important amendment next week.
Support amendment 49 to give Parliament a ‘meaningful’ vote on outcome of EU negotiations
Dubbed by some as the belt and braces approach, amendment 49 stipulates that the government cannot conclude a withdrawal agreement with the EU unless the House of Commons approve it.
Despite the Prime Minister’s promise that Parliament will have a meaningful vote, it is necessary to have this written in law and more importantly on democratic terms. Amendment 49 includes a timetable and sets a deadline of November 30th for MPs to approve the Brexit deal.
This means that if Parliament finds the withdrawal agreement unsatisfactory they are able to instruct the government to negotiate a different deal with the EU or they could honour a ‘People’s Vote’, giving the people the opportunity to vote on whether to accept the deal or to stay in the EU if they reject it.
Why is this necessary?
Firstly, we are holding the government to their own standards of democracy. Parliamentary democracy mandating elected representatives to be able to have a say on the withdrawal agreement is exactly the kind of democracy that the Prime Minister claims to revere.
Secondly, with the deadline for Article 50 quickly approaching, it is necessary to ensure that Parliament are endowed with the powers to represent the people and act in the best interest of the UK by averting a cliff-edge Brexit.
Finally, I would urge you to support amendment 49 to ensure that the UK Parliament are granted the same power as the European Parliament to have a meaningful vote on the withdrawal agreement.
Support amendment 95 to remove fixed exit date of 29 March 2019 from the Bill
The decision to fix the UK’s departure from the EU at 11pm on the 29th of March 2019 was framed by the British government as a mechanism ‘to avoid confusion’. It is clear however that a fixed date would significantly increase uncertainty, as in the event of a ‘no deal’ scenario, such a cut-off date could leave the UK in a disastrous doomsday scenario, with threats of food, fuel and medicine shortages in the first few weeks after the UK’s departure from the EU.
I would urge you to support amendment 95 to remove the fixed exit date of the 29th of March, to ensure that, if no deal is reached, Article 50 could be extended to allow flexibility for Parliament to act in the interests of the UK. With this date fixed in law, we would be forced to leave the EU no matter how destructive the consequences.
It is important to stress that under Article 50, it is legally possible to extend the two-year negotiating period, and it is only the British Government who are trying to enshrine the fixed date into law.
No negotiation as delicate and as important as our future relationship with the EU should be arbitrarily limited by a particular date. For the sake of the citizens of the UK and their livelihoods, I urge you to remove this cut-off date from the Withdrawal Bill.
[Final comments – or better, personalise this part!]
I urge you to act and vote courageously in the best interests of the country and your constituents next week.