COVENTRY’S Labour MPs fear a ‘no-deal’ Brexit disaster and say they have not ruled out supporting Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposals to prevent this outcome.
They said they will not support a second referendum or a so-called ‘people’s vote’, and would keep the pressure on Mrs May to call a General Election.
In the 2016 EU referendum, 55.6 per cent of Coventry voters voted to Leave the European Union.
Coventry South MP Jim Cunningham, Coventry North East MP Colleen Fletcher and Coventry North West MP Geoffrey Robinson predicted tragic consequences for Coventry in the event of a no-deal break with the European Union – and also spoke of the damage Mrs May’s Chequers deal with cabinet members could do.
We asked each MP these questions:
1. What is your position on Brexit with a crucial parliamentary vote approaching? Which way will you vote?
2. Would you back a second referendum?
3. Would you vote for Theresa May’s Chequers deal to avoid a ‘no-deal’ scenario?
4. How would a ‘no-deal’ affect Coventry and the wider region? And the same for an outcome based on the Chequers deal?
5. What is your main concern on deciding which way you will vote? Protecting jobs, trade agreements etc?
Mrs May’s Chequers deal was rejected by EU chiefs last month and has divided the Conservative party.
A deal is still being negotiated with the EU.
The UK Parliament is due to make a final decision at the end of the month.
The government is hoping to agree a draft treaty outlining the transition of the UK’s exit from the EU – of which it has been a member since 1973.
It is still trying to resolve disagreements about the UK’s relationship with the customs union and the fate of the Irish border.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has called on his party to reject the government’s deal to force a fresh general election.
But fears of hard-Brexiteers hijacking the process and settling for a no-deal scenario have ignited concerns for those who demand a negotiated exit.
Many Labour MPs, like those in Coventry, have had to balance the desires of their constituents who voted to ‘leave’ and their own principles of remaining in the EU.
In the West Midlands and Coventry the stakes of Brexit are particularly high amid predictions thousands of jobs could be lost in the car industry – reliant on tariff-free trade with the EU, according to JLR chief Ralph Speth.
Jim Cunningham MP response:
“The main thing for me at this stage is to see what deal Theresa May brings back from the EU before I, or the Labour Party as a whole, fully commits to supporting or opposing that deal.
“I can admit that the deal is unlikely to be acceptable for me or the party and I’m unlikely to back it, but let’s wait and see.
“I have mixed feelings about the idea of a second referendum at this stage. We must make sure we respect the result of the previous referendum and I believe a new referendum would be a difficult proposition to sell to those people who voted leave before.
“However, with such pronounced splits in Parliament, and the wider country, over what our future relationship with the EU should be, a second referendum may offer us a chance to find a way forward.
“I also feel a General Election is preferable, as it allows the people to have a say on who is taking the country forward as well as on our future relationship with the EU.
“I will not commit to voting for or against a deal that we have not seen yet.
“We must avoid a no-deal scenario, all the evidence shows that this would be a disaster for the entire country.
“However, Parliament will be clear when it votes on the issue that a no vote to Theresa May’s deal is not a yes vote to no-deal, this I am sure of.
“I feel that both a no-deal, and the Chequers deal, would leave Coventry poorer and put thousands of jobs at risk in the short- and medium-term.
“I supported remain in the referendum and I continue to be disappointed about the result; this is because I feel any form of Brexit will weaken us for the next few decades and have a negative impact on Coventry and the West Midlands.
“However, we may well find out that there is a form of Brexit which can lead to a more successful future in the long-term and have a positive impact for Coventry, predicting that far into the future is difficult when we haven’t seen a final deal proposal yet.
“I will vote on the basis of whether or not the deal on offer will protect the livelihoods of the people of Coventry whilst also maintaining a strong relationship with the EU.
“I understand why people voted for Brexit and I still feel it is our job as MPs to find a way of leaving the EU which has more benefits than drawbacks.
“However, if the Government think that they’ll be able to force through a right-wing Brexit which will threaten the jobs, working conditions and wages of the people of Coventry and the UK then they are sadly mistaken.”
Colleen Fletcher MP response:
“I will support the Labour Party position. The outcome of negotiations is still unclear but Keir Starmer’s comments at conference indicated that Labour will vote against a deal that is based on the Chequers proposal.”
On the possibility of a second referendum she said: “I would prefer Theresa May to call a general election so that a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn could take over the Brexit negotiations.”
On having to vote for a Chequers deal to avoid a no-deal she said: “It is impossible to answer speculative questions.
“No-one knows what the choice will be but it is unlikely that Parliament would accept the choice as you have described above.”
She added: “In the short term any sort of Brexit will have a damaging impact on the Coventry economy.
“Jaguar Land Rover has recently emphasised this point and I know our universities have concerns too.
“However, in the longer term it is possible that Brexit could deliver benefits by doing trade deals with the rest of the world.
“Brexit has divided the country and has divided Coventry.
“It is a sad reality that in every scenario a-lot of people will end up angry and upset.
“I think the most important thing is to bring the temperature down and try to reunite our communities following such a divisive few years.”
Geoffrey Robinson MP response:
“Labour accepts the referendum result and a Labour government will put the national interest first.
“We will prioritise jobs and living standards, build a close new relationship with the EU, protect workers’ rights and environmental standards, provide certainty to EU nationals and give a meaningful role to Parliament throughout negotiations.
“We will end Theresa May’s reckless approach to Brexit, and seek to unite the country around a Brexit deal that works for every community in Britain.
“Labour will always put jobs and the economy first.
“A Conservative Brexit will weaken workers’ rights, deregulate the economy, slash corporate taxes, side line Parliament and democratic accountability, and cut Britain off from our closest allies and most important trading partners.
“Labour recognises that leaving the EU with ‘no deal’ is the worst possible deal for Britain and that it would do damage to our economy and trade.
“We will reject ‘no deal’ as a viable option and, if needs be, negotiate transitional arrangements to avoid a ‘cliff-edge’ for the UK economy.
“The issues that affect our continent now will continue to do so in the future – and Labour will continue to work constructively with the EU and other European nations on issues such as climate change, refugee crises and counter-terrorism.”