According to the Wine and Spirit Association in the UK, 90% of their members were in favour of remaining in the EU. We all know that it’s pretty clear that Parliament will give the go ahead to the Theresa May to trigger Article 50 but that hasn’t stopped people in the trade writing to their MPs before the vote on Article 50 – notably in constituencies which voted Remain. Here are some of them, including a couple from Masters of Wine, and a reply from an MP.
1. Tim Atkin MW to his Tory MP in Putney, the cabinet minister Justine Greening.
Rt Hon Justine Greening MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA
27th January 2017
Dear Ms Greening
Following on from the Supreme Court’s ruling and the decision to hold a vote in Parliament on whether to trigger Article 50, I am writing to you to express my deep concern about the economic impact that Brexit will have on our country, especially if we abandon the Single Market. This is not the only reason why I am in favour of maintaining our current relationship with the EU, but it is the most substantive.
I know that you campaigned for Remain before the referendum, as did a majority of the cabinet, and I imagine that your views have not altered radically since June 23rd. More to the point, you are a much liked and respected MP in a constituency that voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU. I’m sure it will not have escaped your attention that Putney had the twelfth highest Remain vote in the country, or, indeed, that Richmond Park was eighth on the same list.
I appreciate that you are partly bound by collective cabinet responsibility, but I would ask you to respect the views of your constituents by voting against the triggering of Article 50. Many MPs campaigned and voted for Remain, only to find out later that their constituents disagreed with them, but that is not the case in Putney. You can represent the views of a majority of your constituents, while remaining true to your conscience and what I suspect you know to be right for the future of our country.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Tim Atkin MW
2. Letter from Andy Slaughter, Labour MP for Hammersmith, in reply to a supportive letter from Nicolette Krajewski, who owns a vineyard in Bordeaux with her husband Martin.
Dear Ms Krajewski,
RE: Why I am voting against triggering Article 50 in the House of Commons
Thank you for your e-mail regarding the upcoming vote in Parliament on triggering Article 50.
I am a passionate pro-European, who worked hard for the Remain campaign last summer and still believes our prosperity, security, culture and values will be strengthened by close relations with the rest of Europe, including through membership of the EU.
70% of the voters of Hammersmith voted to Remain. I have always thought my first loyalty is to my constituents and thousands have lobbied me to vote against the trigger. I also represent – though they could not vote in the Referendum or General Election – the 15% of Hammersmith residents who are citizens of other EU states and who are being shamefully held as ransom by Theresa May’s Government.
The Referendum result was close – we should not ignore the 48% who voted Remain any more than the 52% who voted to Leave. Just as Governments – and MPs – represent everyone, not just those who voted them in, so we should now be trying to find a way forward that (almost) everyone can live with.
But none of these is the reason I will be voting against triggering Article 50.
Yes, the Referendum was a deeply flawed process with a narrow victory for one side, whose promises – most infamously the £350 million a week for the NHS – were abandoned as soon as the result came in. But no election is perfect, and issues of misrepresentation, turnout and size of mandate are often prayed in aid by the losing side.
The Supreme Court was right to give the decision on starting the exit process to Parliament rather than let Theresa May – herself unelected as PM – use medieval prerogative powers to make herself the sole arbiter. But Parliament must have primary regard to the result of the referendum, the purpose of which was to express the view of the British people on our membership of the EU.
What has convinced me to vote against the trigger was the decision by Theresa May in her speech two weeks ago, repeated and expanded on since, that this would be not only the first but the final chance to influence not just whether but on what terms the UK left the EU.
I raised this issue with Theresa May at PMQs last week and her answer made it clear that she was not interested in consulting either Parliament or the British people on the final Brexit deal.
We are being asked to accept whatever deal Theresa May negotiates, with no alternative – except no deal at all. We cannot say, sorry that is a terrible deal, go back and try again. Or, as a final step, if she really is incapable of safeguarding our future, putting the decision on whether to go through with Brexit back to the electorate.
This is not about re-running the Referendum of last June, it is about giving Parliament or the people a say in the future of the country. It is the least we deserve. Anything else is not just arrogant it is fundamentally undemocratic.
Forces on the right of politics, in the Conservative Party as well as UKIP and the far right, have long dreamed of rolling back the welfare state, employment rights and even the NHS. They also have a barely disguised distaste for the inclusive, tolerant and diverse society that places like Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush, indeed most of London, represent.
These are not easy decisions and the arguments do not all run one way. When we debate the amendments to the Government’s plans next week I will support those that give a real choice at the end of the process and I will make my decision on future votes depending on any concessions the Government makes. Sadly, as I write, Theresa May looks like she has surrendered to Farage just as she shamefully did to Trump on the refugee ban.
Labour MP for Hammersmith
3. Natasha Hughes MW, to her MP, Kate Hoey. Hoey, who campaigned to Leave, is the Labour MP for Vauxhall, which voted to Remain.
Dear Ms Hoey,
I emailed you in the aftermath of the vote to Leave the EU last June, pointing out that your vote was in direct opposition to the vote of the vast majority of your constituents. I asked you at the time how you reconciled your position as an MP within a representative democracy and your disregard for the views of the people you serve. I received no response.
Since writing to you, many of our worst fears have been realised. Trump is now President of the USA and appears to be intent on following a protectionist philosophy without any apparent concern for its impact on the rest of the world. President Putin is clearly implicated in attempts to alter public opinion in the West, with a view to undermining our democracies. The position of the UK has become weaker, both within a global context and in terms of our internal democratic debate. With respect to our European neighbours, it is clear that we need them just as much – if not more – than they need us during these uncertain times.
It is clear that many of the arguments put forwards by the various Leave campaigns during the referendum were less than honest. I acknowledge that the Remain campaign was not much better, in many respects, but nevertheless it is clear that the NHS is never going to get that £350 million per week that we allegedly send to Brussels (without mentioning that much of it came back in subsidies), as Leave campaigners promised. The Leave campaign talked about a potentially massive influx of Turks in the arguments against immigration, but the UK government is now telling the Turks that we will support their candidacy as members of the EU. Nor did Leave acknowledged that our Civil Service does not have the expertise – or the staff numbers – to handle the various treaties that we now need to negotiate and complete within in unfeasibly short time frame. And no one in either group acknowledged the nett contribution to our economy and our society provided by people* who build our houses, pick our fruit, clean our hospitals, care for our elderly and cook in our restaurants.
Further, we were promised, time and again, by those heading the Leave campaign that leaving the EU did not mean leaving the single market. Yet now we are planning to do just that.
It is alarming that we are now looking to Trump’s government to counterbalance the economic harm that will be caused by doing just that. It is equally clear that our government is planning on turning the UK into a low-regulation tax haven that will adversely affect the careers and lives of the vast majority of those who voted Leave.
It is simply unclear as to why we are about to undermine our economy and culture in the name of some mythical chimera of ‘sovereignty’ which, at best, is only an illusion undermined by the complex nature of global trade and communications.
Following on from the Supreme Court’s ruling and the decision to hold a vote in Parliament on whether or not to trigger Article 50, we now have an opportunity to avert the potential for damage to the UK, its economy, its democracy and, most importantly, its people – not just in the immediate future, but for the generations to come.
As I’m sure you’re aware, the overwhelming majority of your constituents voted to remain in the EU. I realise that you campaigned to leave the EU, but as Tulip Siddiq said to Corbyn, MPs are elected to represent their constituency, not to represent Westminster to their constituents.
As a final point, I would like to mention that the vote in June was a close-run thing. Many who voted for Leave have said that their vote was a protest vote against the government and against austerity. Others have claimed that they did not expect their vote to count, casualties of our first-past-the-post political system. Many have also said that they regret voting for Brexit. Few claim to have actively voted for the hard Brexit that now appears to be our destination.
I hope that you too believe that our government is pushing too hard in a direction that will harm the vast majority Britons, and will find it within your conscience to vote as your constituents would wish you to vote.
I look forward to reading your response.
4. A letter from a senior figure in the wine trade, who preferred to remain anonymous, to Chuka Umunna. Chuka Umunna is the Labour MP for Streatham, which voted to Remain, as he did. (The introductory first paragraph is excluded.)
I am writing to you following the judgment handed down by the Supreme Court yesterday and, in particular, with reference to what will follow in Parliament; and about your own position and role as local MP for – at 79.28% – the most pro-Remain constituency in the UK.
I heard your public comments yesterday and I agree with much of what you said about respect for the rule of law, the likely majority in the House of Commons for triggering Article 50, the need to table amendments to the Great Repeal Bill that will follow and – particularly – your refusal to give Teresa May’s government a “blank cheque” on the content of the deal the UK government will negotiate on leaving the EU, and that you will fight for the best possible deal for your constituents. Equally my husband has heard you speak on a public platform with Nick Clegg and Anna Soubry and we applaud your efforts as Chair of Vote Leave Watch. In general we have agreed with your views, your approach and felt effectively represented.
There is one issue where I believe you do not represent us or your constituents more broadly – and that is your intention to vote in favour of triggering Article 50 when the (presumably short) Bill come before Parliament in the next few days. As I have made clear I share your view that the result of the Referendum should be respected by Parliament. But not by you! While many MPs will have campaigned and voted for Remain and found out later that their constituents disagreed with them, you are in no such position. They need to weigh up whether they will follow the ‘representative’ or the ‘delegate’ model of Parliamentary democracy – as, for example, Remainers Anna Soubry and Ken Clarke have both done, but with different conclusions. Under either model, however, you have a clear mandate to vote against the triggering of Article 50. This is also important in order that Parliament’s vote reflects the closeness of the Referendum result. Moreover it would start in earnest the work you rightly expect to do in holding the government to account as it negotiates an EU exit deal. And, because of the current inability of the Labour Party to perform effectively as her Majesty’s Opposition, I believe you must not consider yourself in any way bound by the Labour Whip.
In short, if you are to represent me and the vast majority of your constituents accurately, if you are to hold the Government’s proverbial feet to the fire and provide effective Parliamentary opposition, if you are to start as you mean to go on in protecting your constituents’ interests in respect of the final Brexit deal you must vote against the Government in respect of the forthcoming Bill to trigger Article 50.
I look forward to your reply.
5. Robert Joseph‘s email to Damian Hinds, the Tory MP for East Hampshire, which voted to Remain, as he did.
Dear Mr Hinds,
As a recent arrival in Liphook, I was not here to vote in the referendum last June. I voted in Wandsworrth, where the majority for Remain was 118,463 versus 39,421 – a much bigger margin, admittedly, than in East Hampshire. In any case, however, both areas rejected Brexit.
While I share your view that the result of the Referendum should be respected by Parliament, there is no evidence that 52% of the electorate opted to leave the Single Market. Especially since the Leave campaign stated that this was not what it was proposing. Owen Patterson clearly stated that “Only a madman would actually leave the Market” while even Aaron Banks suggested that the “Norway option looks the best for the UK”.
As an MP, you need to weigh up whether to follow the ‘representative’ or the ‘delegate’ model of Parliamentary democracy – as, for example, Remainers Anna Soubry and Ken Clarke have both done, but with different conclusions.
Under either model, you have a clear mandate to vote against the triggering of Article 50. This is important in order that Parliament’s vote reflects the closeness of the Referendum result. Moreover it would start in earnest the work you and other MPs on all sides of the House will need to do in holding the government to account as it negotiates an EU exit deal.
Thank you for taking the time to read this email. I hope you will give it and other similar messages your most serious consideration.