Grimsby-raised MP Angela Smith says 'majority' of Northern Labour MPs want soft Brexit

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 13 Jun 2018

An MP who was raised in Grimsby is one of the leaders of the Labour rebellion over a so-called “hard Brexit”.

Angela Smith, MP for Penistone and Stockbridge in South Yorkshire, has close links to Grimsby after growing up and being educated in the town.

The 56-year-old has strong family roots in the area, with her father working for a time as a fisherman on the docks and her grandfather was a former mayor of the town.

Her uncle is also a freeman of Grimsby – a fact she had to declare when questioning witnesses from the town's fish market last year because of a “small financial interest” freeman have in the land around the docks and Freeman Street.

Mrs Smith’s home town might have voted by 70 per cent to leave the European Union (and her constituents in South Yorkshire by 60 per cent) but the Labour politician is pushing for a so-called “soft Brexit”.

MPs on Wednesday evening will vote on whether the House of Lords was correct to change the EU Withdrawal Bill in a bid to keep the option open of remaining in the single market.

The Lords amendment called on the Government to negotiate, alongside the exit talks with Brussels, to remain in the European Economic Area (EEA).

Leaving the EU but staying in the EEA would effectively keep the UK in the single market after Brexit.

Mrs Smith, who moved to Nottingham and later Sheffield after completing her A-levels in Grimsby, is encouraging MPs to back remaining in the single market – despite that meaning free movement would continue, with little ability to restrict European migration into the country.


Angela Smith MP completed her A-levels at Tollbar Academy (then Tollbar secondary) in New Waltham

The ex-Tollbar Academy school pupil said it was “a nonsense” that all northern MPs favoured a hard Brexit and slammed the Labour leadership for failing to back the EEA vote.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is expected to demand his MPs abstain on the vote.

Mrs Smith, a former Labour whip, said it would be “a mistake of historic proportions” for the party to “abdicate its responsibilities” by refusing to back EEA membership.

READ MORE: Free ports could be coming to Grimsby – here is what to expect

“There is a nonsense argument going about that Labour MPs from the North are in favour of letting a hard Brexit get through, while it is those from the South who are determined to oppose the Government,” said the Corbyn-critic and supporter of Open Britain, an anti-Brexit campaign group.


Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, pictured in Grimsby, is due to instruct his MPs to abstain on the EEA vote (Image: Sarah Washbourn)

“I want to make it very clear that the majority of backbench Labour MPs in the North would, on a free vote, back EEA membership as a basis on which to negotiate the best deal for Britain.

“It is shameful that so many are now being pressured to instead let the Government get away with a hard Brexit.”

READ MORE: Grimsby's fishing industry could see a post-Brexit revival, claims minister on visit to town

Labour sources in the whips office claim there would not be enough support in the party to defeat the Government on the single market amendment, with MPs in leave voting constituencies holding concerns about free movement continuing after Brexit.

Grimsby MP and Labour shadow housing minister Melanie Onn is expected to follow the Labour whip and abstain. Tradition negates that she would lose her job on the front bench if she does otherwise.


Melanie Onn, MP for Great Grimsby, is expected to abstain on the EEA vote (Image: Rick Byrne)

Cleethorpes MP and Tory backbencher Martin Vickers is an avid Brexiteer and has confirmed he will be voting against the EEA amendment this week.

The three other Tories in the North Lincolnshire region – Louth MP Victoria Atkins, Market Rasen MP Sir Edward Leigh and Brigg MP Andrew Percy – are expected to vote it down also.

While Tory whips are said to be confident of winning the EEA vote, they are far more anxious about the so-called “meaningful vote” amendment, due to be voted on today.

If successful, the amendment states that, in the event that MPs reject the negotiated exit deal with the EU in the autumn, it would be Parliament – rather than ministers – which would hold the power to decide what steps are taken next.

Some fear it could be used to stop the Brexit process altogether.



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