East Ham MP Stephen Timms defied the three-line whip over Brexit

PUBLISHED: 08:00 22 February 2017


Last week I voted against the Government’s bill to trigger Article 50, and start the process of leaving the European Union.

This was the final Commons vote on the proposal and I have opposed it each time. The Bill is now going to the House of Lords for debate there.

There are good reasons why many people chose to leave the EU. In particular, its decisions are sometimes reached in an undemocratic way. The 2015 changes to the European sugar market are a good example. If Britain was to stay, this would need to be put right. However, my worry is that the economic price of leaving is too high.

If Britain can no longer trade barrier-free with other European countries, we will pay a high price in UK jobs. One estimate is that 70,000 jobs could be lost because of new barriers facing financial services alone. If banks and insurance companies in the UK can no longer trade freely with other European countries, they will move their operations on to the continent. Worry about jobs was the main issue I campaigned on in the EU referendum.

In voting against the Article 50 bill, I defied a three line whip imposed by Labour Party leadership. It’s the first time I have done that in my twenty-three years as an MP. The majority of voters in Newham voted to Remain, and it was very important to me to represent their interests.

However, the Government won the vote with a big majority. Brexit looks set to go ahead. In September, I was elected by Labour MPs to serve on the Brexit Select Committee. I will use my position on the Committee to highlight the threat to UK jobs, and to press the Government to do everything it can to keep jobs here.

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