Labour Brexit stance drives Shadow Environment Secretary Maskell to quit

Labour Brexit stance drives Shadow Environment Secretary Maskell to quit
Rachael Maskell
Rachael Maskell has resigned from her role as Shadow Environment Secretary, becoming the second holder of the position to step down over Labour’s stance on Brexit in just over seven months.

Maskell announced her decision yesterday prior to voting against the party’s three-line whip in the House of Commons poll on the triggering of Article 50.

MP for York Central, an area that voted heavily in favour of remaining in last June’s referendum, Maskell was one of 144 MPs, and 47 Labour MPs, to vote against the Brexit bill, which passed with 498 votes in favour, therefore enabling the UK’s withdrawal from the EU to commence.

Environmental Audit Committee Chair Mary Creagh was among the other Labour MPs to defy the Labour whip.

Maskell said that her constituents’ views as well as her own fears that Theresa May’s plans for Brexit had no place for climate change action or environmental protections meant that she could not vote in favour of beginning the Brexit process.

Dawn Butler, Shadow Minister for Diverse Communities, and Jo Stevens, Shadow Welsh Secretary, also resigned from the shadow cabinet after Jeremy Corbyn imposed the whip, effectively ‘forcing’ MPs to vote in favour of the bill and triggering article 50.

Maskell took over the role in June, when Kerry McCarthy stepped down in protest over Corbyn’s leadership of the party in the lead-up to the referendum. McCarthy warned in her resignation letter that vital environmental protections would be threatened by the decision to leave the EU.

12 members of the shadow cabinet resigned over Corbyn’s stance during the referendum, and were replaced by MPs who had stayed loyal to the leader, including Maskell.

Risk to climate change and environmental action

Writing on her website, Maskell said: ‘I believe that Theresa May’s Brexit “plan” is creating an unjustifiable level of risk at a time of national and international uncertainty and volatility, with silence on national security measures, no mention of climate change mitigation or environmental protections, and no guarantee of good jobs or employment rights.

‘Most worrying of all is the rapidly changing social context which is leading to a rise of racism and hate crime in the UK. These are the very things that I have campaigned on all my life and believe are central to Labour’s values.

‘I also have serious concerns about the impact of the prime minister’s plan to take the UK out of the single market and customs union on the agricultural sector.’

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