Read more: Tom Quinn on why a three-line whip is Corbyn’s “least-worst option”
Next week MPs will begin a short series of debates on the triggering of Article 50. The timeframe is short, the Bill we’re debating is extremely brief and the consequences of our decision cannot be overstated.
The Tory plan for leaving is now increasingly clear. Britain will be “free” from Europe and we will jettison ourselves as a tax haven, floating desperately across the Atlantic, reaching for a friend. We’ll be out of the single market, out of the customs union and free movement will be stopped. The economic risks are huge—and our public services are at threat from a government willing to engage in a race to the bottom on corporate taxation. The NHS is suffering badly now—imagine what it will look like if the government cuts taxes even further and has even less money to spend.
Such a vision for Britain’s future is truly chilling, but it is not inevitable—not if if those who oppose it work together to prevent it from occurring. There’s no doubt that the Tories benefit from rushing through the triggering of Article 50 with as little dissent as possible. They’ve somehow morphed a narrow referendum result in favour of leaving the EU into an overwhelming mandate to leave the world’s biggest trading zone and curtail our social and environmental protections.
An unconditional vote to trigger Article 50, given these plans, endorses the Tory vision. That’s why it’s such a great shame that the Labour Party has capitulated to the Conservatives in just that way. By tabling amendments to the Bill they hope to safeguard against an extreme Brexit, but by guaranteeing support for triggering Article 50 under any circumstances—by means of a three-line whip—they undermine their best chance of getting concessions.
I know that the decision on how to vote on Article 50 isn’t easy for some Labour frontbenchers. But, with the leadership looking unlikely to budge on its support for an unconditional triggering of Article 50, it does fall on Labour MPs to defy the whips and vote against the government.
I will not be capitulating to the Tories over Brexit—and will vote against triggering Article 50 in…