As many of you will know, I campaigned for the UK to remain in the European Union prior to the referendum on the 23rd June 2016. I believed that remaining in the EU would give Gateshead and the North East the best opportunity to play a major role in the national economy, and provide secure, skilled employment and training across the region.
However the people of Gateshead voted 57% to 43% to leave the EU. Whilst this was not the outcome I campaigned for, I utterly respect the wishes of the majority of those who voted in Gateshead and across the country. It was my intention to vote in line with the position of the Labour Party last night, and vote for the motion to allow the Prime Minister to trigger Article 50. Unfortunately, I suffered a significant recurrence of a long standing back problem, which has resulted in a suspected prolapsed disc in my back. This has rendered me in some pain and mainly immobile and sadly unable to take part in any parliamentary business this week. Whilst I hope to be well enough to travel down to Westminster next week to take part in the debates and votes surrounding the amendments to the motion, at this stage it is looking highly unlikely that I will be able to make it.
It is imperative that the rights of ordinary working people across Gateshead and the North East are protected during the upcoming negotiations with the EU. It is clear that over the last 7 years of Conservative government, they have no interest in investing in or protecting the North East and its people.