Article 50 Column in Ham and High

The Prime Minister has now served  the Article  50 notice formally beginning Brexit. Her letter’s not so veiled threats over security were crude and provocative. The response from the other 27 states is not encouraging either, refusing the PM’s key demand that the terms of exit and new trade arrangements should be negotiated simultaneously.

Faced with a leaving bill of up to 50 billion Euros, it is going to be a long time, and more likely never, that the Brexiteers’ referendum promise of an extra £350 million a week for the NHS will materialise.

And for those who expected a return to Parliamentary sovereignty, the Government’s intention to use ‘Henry VIII’  powers , enabling Ministers to decide on new laws without Parliamentary scrutiny,  must be a surprise – unlike now, as our Parliament has the opportunity to scrutinise all new laws and regulations from the  EU.

So I am pleased that Labour has set out 6 key tests to hold the Government  to account over the Brexit deal.

Does it ensure a strong and collaborative future relationship with the EU? A comprehensive EU-UK trade deal and continued cooperation in counter-terrorism, policing, science, medicine, culture and technology .

Does it deliver the “exact same benefits” as we currently have as members of the single market and customs union?  This is the standard Brexit Minister David Davis promised.

Does it ensure the fair management of migration in the interests of the economy and communities? London is very different from much of the rest of the country on this. We were the only English region that voted remain. Whether it is highly skilled researchers in biomedical  science, workers in the City, NHS and care home staff , or coffee shop barristas and restaurant waiting staff, the talent that migration brings  keeps the capital functioning.

Exiting the EU must not be used as a pretext for rolling back employment rights or weakening hard-won protections, so does it defend rights and protections and prevent a race to the bottom? And I would also add, will it guarantee the vital consumer and health protection rules that have come from the EU- whether it is the drive for clean air and seawater, compensation for delayed flights, or controls over mobile phone charges.

Does it protect national security and our capacity to tackle cross-border crime?

Does it deliver for all regions and nations of the UK? The Prime Minister has failed to gain the confidence of the governments of Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland and is well out of step with London’s needs.

This may all sound like a tall order, but these points reflect the promises and commitments made by the Conservative Government and  by Brexiteers to win the referendum.

So my personal view is that if these tests are not met, and if there are clear signs that the public mood has substantially changed because the negotiations are not   proceeding  to a satisfactory conclusion, then we should be offered the chance to think again, through another referendum.