Labour MP Stephen Kinnock says Theresa May has a “moral duty” to let Parliament vote on triggering Britain’s official exit from the European Union begins.
Kinnock, a leading Remain campaigner, told Business Insider it would be “completely absurd” and “a betrayal” if British MPs were not given the chance to vote before Theresa May triggers Article 50.
Business Insider sat down with Kinnock this week to discuss Brexit, including why Remain lost, the sort of deal Britain should aim to negotiate, and what the result means for Labour.
In this first part of the interview, Kinnock, the MP for Aberavon whose father, Neil, led the Labour Party from 1983 to 1992, tells BI why Parliament should have a vote on the triggering of Article 50.
“A big part of their [the Leave campaign’s] pitch was about the sovereignty of the British parliament and how it’s completely unacceptable that this so-called EU superstate — which of course is a complete myth — was deciding everything in the UK and we need to give control back to British Parliament,” Kinnock said.
“It would be completely absurd to have a referendum where by far the most famous catchphrase was ‘take back control’ — those three words won the referendum for the Leave campaign — to then not allow Parliament to have a proper debate and vote on arguably the most important issue we have to consider since World War 2. It would be a betrayal of the vote and a betrayal of what people have said, which is British Parliament being back in control.”
“It would be a betrayal of the vote and a betrayal of what people have said which is British Parliament being back in control.”
MPs from both sides of the House have argued May should present to Parliament the terms she intends to negotiate during Brexit talks before triggering Article 50. Stephen Phillips, a Tory backbencher who voted Leave, said it would be “tyranny” if the government decided to trigger the clause without first securing parliamentary approval.
Kinnock agrees. He said: “I believe absolutely and completely that the UK has to leave the EU. I am not at all in favour of a second referendum.
“But when Theresa May writes that letter to the European Council she has to set out the terms of what we are going to be asking for. I expect there to be a big vote in favour of triggering Article 50 — but we must be given the opportunity to do so.”
May on Wednesday agreed to hold a Parliamentary debate on the triggering on Article 50 but has not promised a vote.
If May does go to Parliament seeking approval before triggering Article 50 it would mean, in theory, that MPs could delay the start of Brexit negotiations if they were unhappy with the Prime Minister’s position. This situation could arise, for example, if May signalled she was pursuing a “hard Brexit”, which would involve Britain leaving the European Single market.
Kinnock, who campaigned passionately for Remain in the run-up to the June referendum, refused to be drawn on whether he’d vote to block a hard Brexit but said May must negotiate a “balanced” and “sane” deal before she can expect to secure a parliamentary majority.
“The bottom line for me is if May feels she can’t secure a majority in parliament, that will be because her position is not the right one, and she, therefore, must ensure she brings a position to parliament that we would vote for,” he said. “What we are looking for is a balanced Brexit.”
“I know we are not going to get everything. But it’s got to be a sane and balanced Brexit and that’s the message that all MPs should send to her. She knows that’s what the majority of the house wants to see. She knows that we are not going to have our cake and eat it. But you’ve got to have confidence that your prime minister is at least going to try and get the best possible deal.”
Kinnock, who before entering politics was the director of the World Economic Forum, argues that May has a “moral” obligation to let MPs have a say on when Article 50 is triggered. “We all know what a terribly decisive and confrontational experience the referendum was and that’s another reason why we need to have a parliamentary debate,” he said.
“As a prime minister, your primary duty is to unite your country and create as much cohesion is possible. We had community against community, town against city, families going against each other, we’ve got to reunite our country.
“The first step to uniting the country is in this place [Houses of Parliament] because we represent the people. It would be a betrayal of our democratic principle and it would show Theresa May is not really serious about being a one nation Tory.”
The rest of our interview with Kinnock will be published throughout the week.
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