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UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement: My commitment to you on next steps

Today Parliament debated and voted to implement the Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU, which provides a legal framework for the UK’s future relationship at the end of the transition period.

Brexit has been a fraught and lengthy process. It is an issue which has divided opinion here in Portsmouth and across the country for decades. I believe you cannot welcome this deal with any enthusiasm but I do want to set out the reasons why I voted in favour of implementation legislation today and importantly, what I will do next to hold the Government to account on what happens next.

I have always been a proud advocate for Britain’s future in Europe and have always tried to represent the views of the many thousands of Portsmouth people who feel the same, and also respect those who do not.

That has meant standing shoulder to shoulder with campaigners and using my voice in Parliament to support a public vote on any deal. It has meant working across the House and across party to prevent a no-deal and to protect workers’ rights and safeguard our environment. It has meant fighting hard to secure investment in Portsmouth Port to avoid disruption and traffic chaos.

I remain steadfast in my belief that Britain should be a modern, outward-looking nation, with close economic and cultural ties to its nearest neighbours in a world of superpowers. Whilst this deal puts that at risk, it must be seen as a foundation to build on with a Labour Government ensuring closer cooperation and prosperity for all.

The Trade and Cooperation Agreement is not the deal we were promised. Instead of the Prime Minister’s much-vaunted “oven-ready deal”, what has emerged is the bare minimum that the public could have expected from a needlessly fraught process.

The months of dither, delay and theatrics have caused unnecessary damage to businesses and the wider economy, all in the middle of a global pandemic and the worst recession in three centuries.

There is no doubt that a better deal could have been reached, but that is not what was voted on today and it is important to recognise this.

There are only two choices facing the country: implement an underwhelming but mutually-agreed trade deal, or immediately face a disastrous no-deal Brexit.

I have always been clear that crashing out of the EU without a deal would be unthinkable. It would cause permanent and unacceptable damage to communities including our own. It would be bad for British business and it would be bad for Portsmouth people.

On an issue like this, I don’t believe we can sit on the sidelines. The tough, but necessary decision to accept the implementation of legislation is one that reflects the urgency to avoid a disastrous no-deal. It allows the country to focus once again on the day-to-day priorities that matter: fighting the pandemic and rebuilding the economy.

But I am absolutely clear that this does not give the Government a free hand for the future. The consequences of the deal are this government’s, and this government’s alone, to own. I can reassure you I will hold them to account every step of the way.

So my vote today was conditional. It is based on what you have told me that right now people and business want stability and certainty. It recognises what our partners in the EU have fought for – an agreement that they have collectively agreed and I believe can be put right.

The Brexit debate may be over. The fight for the future isn’t. Nothing in this trade agreement closes the door on a stronger future relationship with Europe. The first review point for the agreement is in 2026. There will be at least one general election before then.

That’s why in the coming days I will be setting out a series of demands on government must deliver for Portsmouth. I will be listening to constituents, local businesses and trade unions in the coming days to shape these priorities for our city. To be part of that task, please get in touch.

We can start now on beginning to build on this agreement to secure a more prosperous and fairer future for everyone. I urge you to help me here in Portsmouth with that mission.

Stephen Morgan MP