This week a number of important votes are taking place in the House of Commons relating to Brexit.
Labour’s Shadow Brexit team under Keir Starmer have been robust, forensic and relentless in taking the Tories to task on their chaotic handling of withdrawal negotiations so far.
Last week at Prime Minister’s Questions, Jeremy Corbyn eviscerated Theresa May on her Government’s division, paralysis and failure to publish any coherent plan for Brexit. And our position is clear: we want an arrangement that brings the benefits of the single market and the customs union, and a close relationship with the EU.
That’s why I’m voting for our frontbench amendments, designed to ensure that Parliament has a meaningful vote on any final deal and to urge the Government to seek a deal in the context of access to the single market and a customs union.
The cost of leaving the single market to the UK would be хЃ29bn a year by 2030 – and хЃ3bn for the North West alone. Thousands of existing jobs and businesses would be lost. Many more would never get the chance to be found. I have a responsibility to tell people these uncomfortable truths, so in the same breath as telling you that I respect the vote to leave which is why I voted for Article 50, I also need to say that there are consequences to that and not all of them are good.
There is, however, another amendment from the House of Lords that would enable the Government to join the European Economic Area (EEA), which would allow Britain to stay in the single market. This amendment is not supported by the Labour frontbench, but I will be voting for it.
I am very clear that EEA membership is not a perfect option for a future relationship with the European Union, but at this stage it is unfortunately one of the few realistic options left for the UK.
Two years on from the referendum and over a year since Article 50 was triggered and time is rapidly running out; visions for Brexit need to be replaced with plans for Brexit, and I don’t see many of those forthcoming.
Specifically, no-one has come forward with any alternative structures that would simultaneously protect workers and businesses in St Helens, ensure the UK has access to trade and export markets and prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.
I realise this is not without its political challenges. St Helens North is a Leave-voting seat. But my impression from talking to you – my friends and neighbours – is that if we reduce the interests and priorities of people in St Helens to Brexit and immigration then we do ourselves a disservice. Which is why those figures I quoted above that emerged over the weekend about the cost of leaving the single market made my mind up not to let the best be the enemy of the good on the EEA amendment.
Labour’s historic mission has always been to bring about better conditions and a more hopeful future for the people and the places we represent. That’s what brought me in to politics and that’s what I’ll always work for; for the people of St Helens and for the country.

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