In the immediate future, Parliament will be debating and dividing on the implementation of Article 50 and, consequently, triggering the formal negotiations for United Kingdom to leave the European Union. This is not something I campaigned for; indeed, my whole political life – starting as it did in my teenage years – has been founded on internationalism, free trade, liberal democracy, pluralism and Keynesian/mixed economy economics as core beliefs, all, of my mind, protected and enhanced through EU membership.
I welcome the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this week that Parliament must have a vote on triggering Article 50 – an important decision confirming that Parliament, not any particular government of the day, is ultimately sovereign.
While I am obviously proud of the 55% Stroud Constituency vote to remain in the EU, the overall national referendum result cannot be ignored. Certainly, it would be highly risky to overrule the majority vote in support of leaving the European Union (just as the 1975 vote was widely acknowledged for forty years) so soon after it has taken place and without any significant movement in public opinion. This is why I and the vast majority of the House of Commons – including most Labour MPs – will be voting to implement Article 50.
This particular vote is not the end of the matter; rather is a staging post in the long and complicated process. The real debates are for later as the continually moving tectonic plates – in political and economic terms – need to be navigated and the UK confronts issues associated with having to deal with unbridled national self interests across the globe. Leaving the EU is not just a domestic function but the beginning of a redefinition of the UK’s place in the international sphere.
In order to help influence these debates, I have established an independent think tank – Modern Europe – to examine the fundamentals behind the negotiations, and to signal steps to ensure the UK remains connected to Europe, has the capacity to trade effectively wherever possible and can continue a constructive part in world affairs. Ultimately, I imagine a situation where the EU is reformed and our relationship with it is based on mutual respect and exceedingly close ties.
My values will continue to inform my approach to Europe and I am certainly ready to engage with ideas about how we can prepare the UK for the challenges ahead and the opportunities arising from the changes in the balances of economic power now underway.
I welcome the commitment to a concluding parliamentary vote in 2019 and I reserve judgement until the shape of the final deal becomes clear.