Finance / Theresa May has ‘blank cheque’ for ‘hard, destructive brexit’ says Nick Clegg

Theresa May has ‘blank cheque’ for ‘hard, destructive brexit’ says Nick Clegg

Theresa May has a "blank cheque" for a "hard and destructive" Brexit, Nick Clegg said after MPs overwhelmingly backed her to formally begin Britain's exit from the European Union.

The former deputy prime minister vowed to keep up the pressure for a "meaningful" vote on the final deal the Prime Minister achieves in negotiations.

He spoke after the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, which will pave the way for Mrs May to begin exit talks under Article 50 of the EU treaties, passed through the Commons without being amended.

"The Government have made a political decision to pursue a hard and destructive Brexit and the Bill that has passed unamended gives them a blank cheque to do so," the former Liberal Democrat leader said on behalf of the Open Britain campaign.

"There is no mandate for the hardest of hard Brexits the Government favours, which risks leaving us poorer, weaker and more isolated.

"Ministers must now be properly held to account for the course they have charted and the end result must be a more meaningful role for Parliament than a false choice between a bad deal and no deal at all."

Leading Brexit campaigner Gisela Stuart described the vote as "vital" but warned peers not to amend the Bill as it passes through the House of Lords.

But the Labour MP said the Government must urgently seek a reciprocal agreement with Brussels on the rights of EU citizens in the UK and British expats in Europe.

Commenting on behalf of the Change Britain campaign, she said: “This legislation is not the place for many of the important issues that will arise in the coming months. But that doesn’t mean those issues have gone away.

“The Government urgently needs to recognise the rights of EU nationals living and working in the UK and we must hold the Prime Minister to the commitment she made today that this issue would be at the top of her agenda.

“We need to create a fair and controlled immigration system based on an individual’s skills and not whether they are an EU or non-EU national.

“And we need to work for a clean Brexit which takes us out of the EU’s single market and the EU’s customs union.

“This will enable us to take back the control required to respond to the challenges and opportunities ahead, and to start the process of national renewal.”

In an email to supporters, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said the party would continue fighting for a second referendum on the final Brexit deal in the Lords.

“Tonight’s vote isn’t the end of the process. Over the next few weeks, Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords will seek to make changes to the Government’s plans,” he said.

“Our goal will be to protect Britain’s membership of the single market, protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK and to give the people the final say on Theresa May’s deal.”

Plaid Cymru Brexit spokesman Jonathan Edwards criticised the Government for not listening to Welsh concerns.

“I have sat and listened to Tory MPs argue explicitly that we should sacrifice Welsh exports, Welsh farming and manufacturing, in order to protect the financial services sector in London,” he said.

“The votes on this Bill were not about whether the referendum should be accepted. They were about accepting the Tories’ extreme form of Brexit.

“It is quite clear that Westminster does not represent Wales. Westminster has no intention of acting as a Parliament for four nations.

“The only intention that this place has is to revert to a unilateral state, under Westminster rule.”

Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas said she would continue fighting for environmental protections, EU nationals’ rights and argue against threats to turn Britain into a low tax, low regulation “new Singapore”.

“Tonight’s vote is a hammer blow for those of us trying to defend our communities against the dangers of an extreme Brexit,” she said.

“We’ve received no reassurances on environmental protections, EU nationals’ status here or the role of Parliament or the public in the post-referendum process.

“The Labour Party has colluded with the Tories today.

“Despite not a single Labour amendment being accepted, their leadership trooped through the lobbies with the Government, holding their hand as they lurch towards an extreme Brexit.”


PA Wire

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