Post-Brexit 'National Renewal Funding'
04 Feb 2019When Parliament gave the Government the green light to hold an in-out referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, it was surrendering all of its decision making powers to individual voters across the country. MPs changed their role from representative to delegate on this issue.
Having been instructed by voters in that referendum to leave the EU, our job as MPs was to ensure their instruction was carried out. At this late hour, with just weeks left until we are due to leave, MPs must now see a deal through which implements the referendum result – regaining control of our borders, laws and money – while protecting the supply chains and export markets that support jobs in manufacturing.
When Theresa May brought her Brexit deal to Parliament, I tried unsuccessfully to secure amendments to the ‘backstop’ arrangement in Northern Ireland, and on workers’ rights and environmental safeguards. But I ended up voting in favour of the deal because, for all its failings and weaknesses, I believe that we now risk either having the result of the referendum stolen – I do not wish to aid and abet those in Parliament whose real aim is to destroy Brexit – or leaving the EU without a deal which, in my view, would be catastrophic for our manufacturing industry.
This week we have been told that a few dozen Labour MPs representing working-class areas in the Midlands and the North that voted leave, are now inching towards voting for a deal. What’s more, Mrs May is said to be tempting them with offers of major new sums of public investment in these areas if they do vote for a deal.
The Tories have failed dismally to offer the kinds of investment we need in the North, but the new sums being mooted by Mrs May could represent a start.
Although I have previously voted in favour of a deal that delivers Brexit safely, and will do so again in future, I do not want Birkenhead to lose out on any extra cash that could be heading to the North.
So I am lobbying for Birkenhead to receive a share of that extra money which we need for roads that are fit for the age of the car, not the horse and cart. Similarly, we need new street lights so that people can see where they’re walking at night. Our cash-starved schools require more help and the town is crying out for more police officers on the street.
This is the immediate package of investment I want for Birkenhead. But across the North, as a whole, we need major investment in high-speed rail that runs from Liverpool to Newcastle, linking up all of cities and smaller towns in between so that people can access decent-paying jobs without having to up sticks and move away from home. Such a programme should take precedence over High Speed Two which will have the effect of turning Birmingham into a London suburb.
And when Parliament is closed down for major refurbishment works, MPs should move to one of our great Northern cities as part of a post-Brexit renaissance.
I will be voting in favour of a Brexit deal, in almost any event, but if there is new investment on the table for towns across the North, I will be fighting for Birkenhead to receive every penny we can get.