Vote on Article 50

Many constituents have been in touch about Britain’s departure from the European Union, following the outcome of the EU referendum on 23rd June (the result of which I respect).

It is clear that this issue remains very divisive, with strongly held views on both sides, with 52% of those taking part in the referendum voting to leave the EU, and 48% voting to remain.   The result in Newcastle was even closer – with our city voting to remain within the EU by a margin of 50.7% to 49.3%.  And it is also worth highlighting (despite some claims to the contrary on the internet) that there is no figure for how Newcastle North voted, as the ballots were counted on a city-wide basis.

I have therefore thought extremely long and hard about this issue since June, listening very carefully to the concerns of constituents, local businesses and employers, whilst also working to hold the Government to account on its lack of planning for, strategy, and approach to Britain’s departure from the EU – and most particularly on how Ministers intend to ensure that that this process will not damage the economy and jobs in Newcastle and the North East, nor weaken hugely important EU-derived protections we all benefit from – such as employment rights, environmental legislation or consumer standards.

As a member of the Education Select Committee, I am also taking part in an inquiry into how leaving the EU will affect the UK’s universities; and as the Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party’s backbench group on International Trade, I have been looking very closely at the implications of exiting the EU for Britain’s exports – an issue of crucial importance to the North East, particularly when 58% of our region’s exports currently go to the EU.  Links to examples of my work are available here: (a contribution made to yesterday’s debate)

Despite the fact that seven months have now passed since the referendum result, I remain hugely concerned about the lack of transparency around this monumentally important and historic process; about the Government’s proposed approach to the negotiations – including ruling out, before the negotiations have even begun, remaining within the Single Market (which will have an enormous impact on the North East’s economy); and about the Government’s continued failure to explain how they will engage with the North East to ensure the issues which will particularly affect our region will be taken into account as part of the negotiations – despite making clear commitments to do so for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Furthermore, despite promises to Parliament that a White Paper would be published by the Government to set out a formal plan and strategy for leaving the EU, this is still to materialise – and MPs were therefore asked to vote this evening on the Second Reading of a Bill which would effectively give the Prime Minister a blank cheque to press ahead with leaving the EU in a way that I believe could be enormously damaging for Newcastle, the wider North East and indeed the country.   As I said, I accept and respect the outcome of the referendum on 23rd June, but the way in which the Government chooses to conduct these negotiations – and agree the terms of our departure from the EU – will have enormous implications for our country for decades to come.

As the Supreme Court ruled last week that when and whether the Prime Minister should be able to trigger Article 50 is for Parliament to vote on, I had to make a decision on what I felt was right at this stage, in my role as the elected representative of Newcastle North. I therefore took the decision that I should vote against the Government’s Bill enabling Article 50 to be triggered at this stage, before we have a significantly more detailed plan and strategy in place and before we head down a – potentially irreversible – path that could do irreparable damage to our area and the country. This was not a vote against triggering Article 50 altogether – just a vote against triggering Article 50 at this stage without what I believe to be much needed clarity and safeguards in place.

As the vote was passed, I have now tabled an amendment to the legislation for consideration at Committee stage in the Commons next week (the next part of the Parliamentary process), which calls on the Government to set out how it intends to engage and consult with regions in England – including the North East – throughout the Article 50 process. I simply do not think it is acceptable for the Government to pursue these negotiations without consideration of how their strategy will affect different parts of the country, and nor is it good enough that this assessment should be made by civil servants in Whitehall.  I have also signed a number of other amendments tabled for Committee stage, covering some of the concerns I have raised above, in the hope that the legislation as it stands can be improved and provide the reassurances I believe are still required.

25 thoughts on “Vote on Article 50”

  1. Wow. What a hard, hard day. Thank you Catherine for taking the brunt of all that soul-searching and for trying to locate a way forward that includes all of us. Phhhhhfffffff. Don’t know if it’s your cup of tea but I’m definitely going for a stiff gin now.
    Thank you. XXX

  2. Thank you for listening to the people whom you represent, thinking this through so deeply and for following through with action in such a measured way at a time when so much is being oversimplistically reduced to binary concepts and self interested posturing. Your integrity is highly appreciated.

  3. Dear Catherine,
    Thank you for having the courage to vote with your conscience. I think you are a great MP and would have voted for you regardless, but am impressed that you have taken this stand.

  4. Thank you for voting against the bill to trigger Article 50. I wish you every success in your efforts to ameliorate the disastrous consequences of leaving the EU, for the sake of Newcastle and the North East in particular and the UK in general.

  5. The Prime Minister said she would publish a White Paper with a detailed plan after the article 50 vote, a chance then to debate. I am not sure how you say you respect the outcome of the referendum (indeed, which you did not vote for in the first place) . There were various reasons why individuals voted to leave but the majority voted to leave . Your vote against the party whip provides yet more ammunition to those who see this as sadly further evidence of the Labour party falling apart. As a life long labour voter I despair at the prospect that in rest of my life time I will probably only ever see Labour opposing !

  6. Dear Catherine. Thank you for the article detailing your reasons for voting as you did. I understand that not everyone will feel the same but personally, I respect the fact that you voted with your conscience and out of a desire to act in the best interests of your constituents. I am confident that you will continue to do the same during the remainder of the exit process.

  7. MPs (of which you are one, Catherine) are not leaders to make people’s decisions, they are there to represent the will of their constituents/people. You made a personal decision because you didn’t like Brexit. I’m utterly amazed that you believe exiting the EU (not Europe) will not benefit the country and especially the NE. Tell me – where are big business, manufacturing, mining, production, etc. ? Where were the big guns when industrial decline removed our economic force ? We produce little other than cars from Nissan and a smattering of SME outputs (little of which is Northern Newcastle I may add) so your concern is ill-founded.
    It’s a shame that local MPs didn’t produce real benefit and real industry instead of talking about layer upon layer of political winning. Where were you all when Siemens pulled the plug for example?

  8. Seems to me you are happy to disregard your own leaders three line whip plus the result of the referendum. the vote was on whether or not to trigger article 50 not the detail. I wont be voting for you again at the next election .

  9. Thank you for having the courage in your convictions to stand up for something that I, and many others, believe is fundamentally wrong. I only wish that our party would have shown the same bravery and commitment as yourself. I have voted for labour all my life but it is with sincere regret that I no longer can as long as Jeremy Corbyn is the leader. Nonetheless I will always remember your vote on article 50 and retain the utmost faith in you to represent me as your constituent.

  10. Irrespective of how Newcastle voted, (extremely closely, as it happens), or how Newcastle North voted, (Leave, apparently), parliament voted overwhelmingly to grant a referendum, the people voted to leave, you should therefore be doing your utmost to respect the vote and be working tirelessly for the best deal possible. You say you respect the vote, yet vote against triggering Article 50 ! I consider that hippocritical and deceitful. I’m from generations of Newcastle Labour voters, but in light of your betrayal of the people’s wishes, my family and my self will no longer vote for you, or Labour.

  11. Thank you for standing up for the interests of our area. Too often it is forgotten that although the result of the referendum was “Leave” almost half voted to stay in the EU. Those of us who wish to “Remain” are not some tiny crackpot minority.

  12. Thank you for keeping us informed and supporting the North East in this monumental move. I voted to remain as I felt that there had been such little information to make an informed decision. Going forward the government must take how this will affect the entire country into careful consideration.

  13. that sums up my concerns precisely. the Prime Minister has already cost me sleepless nights over her threatening tone to the EU and not making the economy the priority in negotiations. Voting to trigger article 50 would appear to give her carte blanche to do as she wishes. You made the right decision.

  14. I commend you for what you have done however as an individual who has backed brexit from the start, I feel that you like so many others will not accept the fact that we are leaving. It’s like the lib dems moaning on wantin another referendum. I appreciate your stance but I feel as a constituent you were wrong in your action. I wish people would just stop moaning on and get on with the job. The country has spoken now get on with it.
    Putting amendments in is just
    Another way to thwart the will of the people. But like I started I would like to commend you. Your a very brave MP. Remeber this when the general
    Election is called .

  15. Well done for having the courage to vote against the Article 50 bill. I support your amendment to the legislation, the government does not have a mandate to wreck the future economy of this region and the rest of the country.

  16. I have lost all faith in the Labour Party under its present leadership, I also think the actions of Diane Abbott and being absent from the vote are despicable….are we to be given kind of statement from Jeremy Corbyn?
    Catherine I think you are a wonderful MP but that you have an uphill battle ahead of you.
    Kind Regards
    David Hattam

  17. Thank-you Catherine for representing the voice of the MAJORITY (of those able to vote) who did not vote for Brexit. Your constructive challenges to government will hopefully ensure no carte blanche approach by those in power and some representation for the MAJORITY of the voting public who did not vote for this sorry mess. Continue the good fight, you are a bright light on a dark night.

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