After over 40 hours of debate Parliament has now approved the Government’s Article 50 Bill, which provides the Prime Minister with the power to invoke Article 50.
I am very pleased that, despite the political games that some Labour MPs seemed to be engaging in and all the amendments put forward by the opposition, Parliament has now taken this next step in delivering the result of the EU referendum.
As your local MP and Senior Government Whip I did everything I could during the debates and votes over the past couple of weeks to deliver the legislation required by the courts.
I have been inundated with correspondence about the votes that took place on this Bill and about the issues that were being discussed, and I want to take this opportunity to address some of the points that were raised.
In respect of the argument that we should not leave the EU, it is my belief that it would be democratically impossible to ignore the wishes of the electorate.
The British people voted by an overwhelming majority in June last year to leave the EU and more people voted in the referendum than at any general election since 1992.
No Prime Minister or Government in British history has ever received as large a mandate, and in 388 of 650 constituencies, the vote to leave exceeded the number of votes for the sitting MP.
Parliament also voted by a majority of 373 to invoke Article 50 by March this year, and yesterday it voted by a majority of 372 on the third reading of the Article 50 bill. One of the most emotive issues that has been raised by local residents and also my own colleagues is that of European citizens in the UK.
It is not surprising that people want to see this situation resolved as quickly as possible – European citizens already resident here make a huge contribution to our society and our economy, in crucial public services like the NHS and across all our industries.
The reason that EU nationals here and UK nationals in the EU have not already received this assurance is not because of an issue of principle but because a few EU countries are insisting that there can be ‘no negotiation before notification’, and so nothing can be settled until Article 50 is triggered.
This is why the Prime Minister and the Government have made it absolutely clear that securing their status will be a key priority as soon as Article 50 is triggered and the negotiations begin.
In addition, the Government has promised a vote in Parliament should any changes be proposed to the status of EU citizens here in the UK.
The Article 50 Bill has now passed to the House of Lords without amendment. Peers will have their opportunity to scrutinise it and I hope the Bill will make speedy process through the Lords.
I am fully behind the Prime Minister as she works to deliver the result of the referendum and ensures we get the best deal possible for our country.
I will be holding regular surgeries over the coming weeks in Ripon, Skipton and other locations.
For more details on these, please visit my website at www.juliansmith.org.uk or contact my office on 01756 795898.