A Statement from The Rt Hon Kevan Jones MP regarding The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill ahead of Second Reading today.

Ahead of the Second Reading of the EU Withdrawal Bill today, I wanted to outline to my constituents my position.

I have always been clear that I accept the result of the 2016 referendum.

In 2017, I was elected by the people of North Durham on a manifesto that explicitly outlined a negotiating position to retain the benefits of the Single Market and the Customs Union. Labour’s manifesto, on which I stood, further recognised no-deal as ‘the worst possible deal for Britain’ that would inflict ‘damage to our economy and our trade arrangements.’ On this basis, Labour would ‘negotiate transitional arrangements to avoid a cliff-edge for the UK economy.’

I also stood on a commitment to securing beneficial EU-derived laws on workplace protections, consumer rights, product regulation, and environmental protections.

The current Bill before the House does not secure these protections. Unlike the previous deal, there are no words which even acknowledge the importance of these standards. These are minimum standards which we have come to regard as basic, such as entitlement to paid annual holidays.

The Bill explicitly removes the Government’s promise to seek a close relationship with the EU, which contravenes my commitment of retaining a mutually beneficial trading agreement with Europe, underpinned by the Single Market and Customs Union. This is particularly important to the North-East of England, where we conduct 60% of our trade with the European Union.

The Bill does not remove the threat of no-deal, something I was elected to oppose. The Bill, in its current form, will allow the Government to enact a no-deal Brexit once the implementation period is over in late 2020. This has been called a ‘trojan horse no-deal’ or a ‘trapdoor no-deal’, which is something I cannot accept.

And the Bill causes the immediate breakup of the Union, by placing a customs border in the Irish Sea. This Bill may yet break the Union further, with Scotland seeking similar arrangements as Northern Ireland.

It is on these lines and factors that I have judged any deal brought back by the Government. I will be voting against it at Second Reading.

In addition to these objections, I believe it is wrong that, should the Bill be passed at Second Reading, Parliament will have less than 48 hours to analyse one of the biggest changes in our constitutional history. This affords no time for adequate scrutiny and no proper timetabling, with no attempt to reach consensus with the Opposition. It is inconceivable but nonetheless true that the Wild Animals in Circuses Act has been afforded twice the amount of parliamentary scrutiny as our future relationship with our largest trading partner.

I understand the frustration that this has caused many in my constituency and that people want this issue to be concluded. However, it is important to remember that this is simply an exit agreement and that the impression being given by the Government that this would ‘get Brexit done’ is not true. If the Bill were passed, we would enter a transition period until the end of 2020 and begin negotiating the future trade deal with the EU based on the Political Declaration. On average, trade deals take around 7 years to agree. So far from being the conclusion of the issue, it would just be the beginning.

I hope this clearly explains the position I have consistently held.

As always, I am very happy to meet with constituents to discuss this matter or any other matter of concern. If you could contact me on [email protected].

Best wishes,
The Rt Hon Kevan Jones MP