This is my final Echo column of 2016, and what a year it has been. It’s safe to say 2016 has been a year of upheaval. However, one thing remains constant, I will continue to represent the people of my constituency here in Sunderland to the full; making sure that their voices are heard in Parliament.
2017 is expected to be as busy a year as any, with the negotiations for exiting the EU expected to officially begin by March 2017 when Article 50 is invoked – which will begin the official negotiations of our exit.
We are still none the wiser as to what a post-Brexit Britain will look like or what our relationship with the EU will be, but it is welcome that the Government have finally conceded to Labour’s calls and will now set out their Brexit plans before Parliament.
It is only right that Parliament has a role to play in the negotiations. This is a momentous constitutional, economic and diplomatic task that we must get right, or face serious consequences and ramifications.
Parliament must be able to fully scrutinise the Government’s plans. MPs are elected by local people to be their voice in Parliament and hold the Government to account; Brexit does not change that.
The result of the referendum was clear, we will be leaving the EU, and if and when the times comes for Parliament to vote on invoking Article 50, I will be voting for it.
Yet, this does not mean that Theresa May and her Brexiteer Secretaries of State have free rein to do as they wish.
The people of our City did not vote to become poorer as a consequence of leaving the EU, and it is up to me, my other Sunderland colleagues and all MPs to hold the Government to account so we get the best deal possible that protects the jobs and livelihoods of people across the country.
To do that, I need to hear what the people of our area want us to do as their politicians, and I welcome any comments from my constituents about what Brexit should look like to them, and as part of this, I will be holding public meetings in the New Year to hear more about the views of the residents of Washington and Sunderland West.
Brexit will happen, but it is still unclear what it will look like.
I will make sure to continue to hold the Government to account, and continue to be the voice for Washington and Sunderland West in Westminster.
For me, we need a good deal that respects the outcome of June’s referendum but does not make us poorer because of it. This will be my driving force in the coming year.