Tory accuses Lancaster MP of Brexit vote ‘arrogance’

Peter Cartridge.
Peter Cartridge.

The deputy leader of Lancaster and Fleetwood Conservatives has hit out at the city’s MP for voting against a Brexit bill.

Peter Cartridge said Cat Smith had gone “against the fundamental principles of our democracy” and been “dismissive and arrogant” by not backing the Government’s Great Repeal Bill in a vote on Monday night.

Cat Smith, MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood.

Cat Smith, MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood.

Ms Smith was one of 290 MPs who voted against the bill which will end the supremacy of EU rules and regulations in Britain but move them into existing UK legislation.

A total of 326 voted in favour including seven other Labour MPs and the Conservative MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, David Morris.

Ms Smith criticised the inclusion of the so-called ‘Henry VIII’ clause in the bill which will allow the Government to amend legislation in future without the usual scrutiny. She described this as a “power grab” by the Tories.

In a letter to the Lancaster Guardian, Mr Cartridge said: “Last June, the UK voted to leave the EU and to end the supremacy of EU law, take back control of our borders and leave the single market so we can negotiate new free trade deals around the world.

“It’s really disappointing that Catherine Smith, the Labour MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood voted to block Brexit in Parliament.

“This goes against the fundamental principles of our democracy. A democracy which makes this country the envy of the world.

“I am bitterly disappointed she has decided that the EU referendum should be ignored – it is arrogant and dismissive of the millions of our fellow countrymen who voted for Brexit, not to mention the majority of voters in this constituency.

“The Labour Party need to start respecting the will of the people, otherwise they are not fit for purpose.”

Ms Smith said in her weekly Lancaster Guardian column: “This bill is not about whether Britain leaves the EU. I have been very clear that Brexit is happening, I voted to trigger Article 50 and we are leaving the European Union. That issue was settled by the referendum result and the Article 50 Bill.

“Instead, this bill is about how we leave the EU, what role Parliament has in the process and how we safeguard vital rights and protections as we leave.

“The principle behind the bill are sensible, but the Government has chosen to include so called “Henry VIII clauses” – in 1539, he introduced the Statute of Proclamations which gave him the power to legislate by proclamation so he could make or change laws without bothering with Parliament. Invoking these Henry VIII clauses today would give unfettered power to the Cabinet and allow it to sidestep Parliamentary scrutiny altogether as it translates all of the EU law onto the British statute book.

“It’s often said the Brexit vote was about ‘taking back control from Brussels’ but that doesn’t and shouldn’t mean taking back control and handing it directly to Conservative ministers to do with what they please with no accountability to the democratically elected Parliament.”

A total of 308 Conservatives, 10 Democratic Unionists, seven Labour and one independent MP voted in favour of the bill.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn imposed a three-line whip, ordering Labour MPs to vote against the legislation. A total of 238 Labour, 34 Scottish National Party, 12 Lib Dems, four Plaid Cymru, one independent and one Green MP voted against the bill.

The bill will now face more attempts to change it with Conservative MPs believed to have tabled new amendments. The EU Withdrawal Bill overturns the 1972 European Communities Act which took the UK into the then European Economic Community. It will also convert all existing EU laws into UK law.