A more responsible approach to Brexit is needed

  • So we need an honest debate that brings Leavers and Remainers together about how we get a Brexit that benefits everyone, now and for the generations yet to come.

  • Chuka Umunna MP and Rt Hon Anna Soubry MP

We are leaving the European Union. It’s the most important decision our country has taken for more than 40 years. It will affect everything, including our economy and our place in the world, for generations to come. The young, in particular, will benefit or otherwise from the Brexit deal the government and the EU negotiate. The reality of the referendum vote is that the younger you were, the more likely you were to vote Remain; and like it or not the overwhelming majority of Remainers of all ages have felt bitterly disappointed by the result.

So we need an honest debate that brings Leavers and Remainers together about how we get a Brexit that benefits everyone, now and for the generations yet to come. That is why it is vitally important that we have a national debate about Brexit, where the plans put forward by the government, their negotiating strategy and tone are properly debated, contributed to, scrutinised and, where necessary, amended. And we believe members of parliament must play a part in all of that.

That is why we, along with parliamentary colleagues from the Liberal Democrats, the SNP, the Greens and Plaid Cymru, have founded the new all-party parliamentary group on EU relations. Whatever our political divisions, we all believe that it is crucial that MPs from different parties work together on an issue as important as Brexit.

We will aim to increase the role of parliament in this process. As democratically elected MPs, we have a duty to our constituents to represent them as well as to initiate and lead debate and discussion. This will mean scrutinising the plans and strategy of the government which in turn requires greater openness and engagement from Whitehall.

We will take evidence and conduct research so that all our colleagues in parliament are better and more fully informed. The Repeal Bill is published today and there are more Brexit related bills in the pipeline — we will give our own take and continue to work across the political divides on the issues and topics that unite us. The excellent work of cross-party MPs on Euratom, especially Rachel Reeves and Ed Vaizey, is a model for how we can all work together.

We will listen to and engage with businesses, trades unions, third sector groups and others, to help craft a Brexit that has jobs and economic growth at its heart. And we will be opening communication with leaders in Brussels and the member states so that MPs can hear directly from them how the negotiations are going, rather than solely through the filter of the British government.

This is important because we passionately believe a new and more responsible approach to Brexit is required, and a deal that delivers as much of the benefits of EU membership as is possible and retains good relations with all member states. The general election removed the government’s majority, while leaving it in power. It is extremely doubtful that some Brexit scenarios, especially the prospect of leaving with no deal at all, now possess a parliamentary majority. What is required, therefore, is cross-party co-operation, looking at the kind of Brexit deal that puts jobs, the economy and the life chances of our young people first. We all want the best possible deal for Britain, and that requires MPs to be players, not just spectators, in the Brexit process.