James speaking on Brexit in Parliament
James speaking on Brexit in Parliament

Updated 29th May 2019

29 months since the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, the Prime Minister presented her draft deal to Parliament and the country.

I made clear at the election and since becoming your MP in June 2017 that I respected the result of the referendum.

Whilst I voted Remain I said I would support a Brexit that works for Bury and Britain.

Since my election, I’ve engaged with thousands of local people and employers on this most important issue.

Nearly 3,000 people have completed my two Brexit surveys, taking your views as this all unfolds.

Hundreds more of you have spoken to me on the doorstep and in coffee shops, meeting rooms and church halls at my public meetings across our brilliant town.

Well over 800 people have contacted me directly, including on social media, from all sides of the debate and I have engaged with every one of you.

I’ve listened to dozens of local employers and provided them with the opportunity of a roundtable meeting with Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary, Sir Keir Starmer.

Their primary concern was the protection of jobs in our town.

This remains mine.

A bad deal will cost jobs in Bury and that’s not something I will support.

On 15th November I spoke to BBC Radio 5Live on the PM’s deal. Listen below

See my interview on Sky News with Faisal Islam on 28th November below

Here, and separately at private and public meetings, I keep your concerns and the welfare of our town uppermost in my mind.

The PM’s deal is a bad deal.

This was a point made from across the House during the statement on 15th November which dismissed it.

It doesn’t deliver on the promises made to those who voted Leave.

And offers instead half-baked proposals, a veto for the EU on the UK leaving, risks the integrity of the UK on Northern Ireland and offers a pathetic amount of detail on our future relationship as we all try to move forward.

This is not a deal Bury should sign up to.

It doesn’t protect jobs, rights and living standards for people in our town.

Asking us instead to hurtle into the unknown without reassurances for anyone.

People may say “just get on with it”, but the choice is not between Theresa May’s deal or no deal. And no one voted to be worse off.

In December 2018 the Prime Minister cut short the debate and pulled the vote on her deal as it became abundantly clear that it did not have the support of the majority of MPs.

Watch my speech in the emergency debate called on 11th December following the Prime Minister’s cancellation of the vote on her deal

I believe it is incumbent on the government to work across all parties for a better deal that protects jobs, rights and our economy.

However, the Prime Minister has proven herself unwilling or unable to do that. After cancelling the meaningful vote she fled to Europe to seek further assurances from EU leaders. Her pleas fell on deaf ears.

Despite this, she refused to schedule a meaningful vote at the earliest opportunity so that MPs could express our view and then move forward on an alternative plan that truly unites the country.

The government has spent billions of pounds on contingency planning for no deal, despite this having virtually no support in Parliament or the country.

See below my intervention during the Prime Minister’s statement to the House on 17th December

She finally scheduled the meaningful vote for the last possible minute before the legal deadline in January and lost to an historic defeat of 240 votes, with MPs from every party including 170 Conservatives voting against her deal.

She brought back the same deal we rejected in January early in March and it was again voted down by MPs from all parties by a large margin. I believe her aim is to try to scare MPs into voting for her deal or face no deal.

As I have said, I believe this to be a confection. These are not the only two options available and the PM has been reckless and irresponsible in spending two and a half years running down the clock before presenting a bad deal at the last minute.

If the Prime Minister cannot deliver an alternative plan then I believe she should seek further instruction from the public. She is however determined to plough on with her disastrous deal.

Watch my speech in the latest debate on Brexit in March 2019

Indicative Votes

On 27th March, Parliament held a series of Indicative Votes that sought to bring the preferred views of the country via its representatives together in a bid to move forward. Frankly this is an exercise that should have been done 2 years ago. The absence of involving the House of Commons in the process and deal-making of Brexit has been staggering. Truly, this lot couldn’t run a bath.

The febrile atmosphere returned shortly after with no overall majority but some insights as to the type of deal Mrs May might have been able to construct with the will of the House had she sought counsel anytime before now.

Below is the graphic from The Times on how the votes played out.

The results of Parliament
The results of Parliament's indicative votes

My votes

I voted for Brexit with a Customs Union, Labour’s Brexit Plan (a permanent Customs Union and a new relationship with the single market which includes a restriction of freedom of movement determined by economic need. It’s also to enshrine in UK law worker’s rights and close alignment on security – combating terrorism – and environmental standards – climate change efforts).

And I voted to Revoke Article 50 (if facing no-deal) and for the public to have the final say.

I voted against a damaging No-Deal Brexit and the similar Malthouse Plan B.

As I have said, I will vote for what is best for Bury and Britain. It is why I am supportive of a Customs Union Brexit or Labour’s Plan which is to project jobs and prospects in towns like ours. And as I outlined in my speech to Parliament above where I declared: Let Britain have the last word!

Faced with a no-deal Brexit – chaos and the economy falling off a cliff – I voted for the revoking of Article 50 because it is better to pull up than crash over as we hurtle towards no-deal. With the reality of those advocating no-deal either protected from its consequences or ignorant of the government’s own assessment of the damage it will cause.

Opposition talks

Finally, in April 2019 – almost three years after the referendum and two years after the General Election in which Theresa May lost her majority – the government opened talks with the Labour opposition to try to seek a compromise on a deal which would command the support of a majority of MPs. I supported these talks and wish they had happened two years ago. Unfortunately Theresa May refused to budge on any of her red lines and the talks collapsed.

The Prime Minister

Theresa May, after announcing that she was going to bring her bad deal back for a fourth time, faced a revolt by her own Cabinet and was forced to announce her resignation, throwing the country further into chaos and uncertainty. We’ll now have to wait months for the Tory Party to fight among themselves to elect a new leader before we find out who the new Prime Minister is and their strategy for Brexit.

I spoke out following her resignation as new figures emerged showing the devastating impact that a no-deal Brexit would have on manufacturing jobs in Bury and beyond. I urge whoever emerges to lead the government to listen to British businesses and unions and compromise to avoid a no-deal or hard Brexit and reach a deal which works for Bury and Britain, with the people given the final say in a confirmatory vote.

In the aftermath of the European elections, I wrote for The Times reiterating my view that committing to a people’s vote is the only way to avert a no-deal Brexit. You can read it on my website here.

We must urgently address the reasons why people voted to Leave.

It’s why I am passionate about Labour’s plan to rebuild our economy.

Let’s end austerity, invest in our communities, safeguard local jobs, rights and standards and put power and investment back into our towns and communities.

Britain needs a say in all its future trade deals with the world, a new comprehensive customs union with the EU and an approach which supports Bury businesses, jobs and the manufacturing supply chains they depend on.

The relationship with the single market needs to tend to the interests first of workers in Britain whilst ensuring businesses the continued access to vital European markets for both goods and services.

The PM’s deal mentions nothing of workers’ rights, as I warned against.

I want those guarantees alongside protections for consumers and our environment.

I have said before, I imagine all those I represent on both my shoulders – left and right – and consider our town’s reactions in response to this and every action of this Government. Of course we’ll have some different views but I know as your MP we’ve a shared faith in fairness and an ambition to move forward, united.

It’s easy in an age of social media posting to only see or read things in primary colours but I hope I’ve conveyed how seriously and deeply considerate I have been and continue to be on your behalf and all those I represent.

I’ll keep standing up for what’s right for us as a town and what we need to thrive.

These are testing and difficult times with harder days to come, but let’s remain strong; believing in and arguing for what’s best for Bury and Britain.

James Frith

Labour MP for Bury North

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