Chris Bryant was one of the Labour MPs who defied his party whip by voting against triggering Article 50 following the debate in Parliament on Wednesday (1 February 2017). The MP for Rhondda also went against his constituency after they voted in favour of leaving the EU by 53.7% in last June's referendum.
Bryant explained during his speech in the House of Commons prior to the vote why he would "never, never, never" be in favour of Brexit.
At the very first hustings I attended in 2001, at Treorchy Comprehensive School, the first question I was asked was, "Will you always vote with your conscience?" I recently visited Ysgol Cymer, also in my constituency, and asked members of the school council how I should vote today, after setting out the problems involved.
Every single one of them said, "With your conscience", and that is what I intend to do. I am a democrat, and most of those in my constituency voted in a different way from me.
I am a democrat, but I believe in a form of democracy that never silences minorities. The 48% in this country – and, for that matter, the 46% or 45% in my constituency, or whatever the figure was – have a right to a voice, so today I am voting and speaking on behalf of a minority of my constituents.
All my life I have believed that the best form of patriotism is internationalism. My first political memories are of Franco's guards in Spain. I was thrown out of Chile in 1986 for attending the funeral of a lad who had been set on fire by Pinochet's police. I distrust politicians who spuriously use the national security argument to launch campaigns against migrants, refugees and ethnic minorities. I fear the turn this world is taking towards narrow nationalism, protectionism and demagoguery. Distrust of those who are different from us can all too often, although not always, turn to hatred of foreigners. That way lies the trail to war.
I know that is not the tradition of the Rhondda. We were built on migrants from England, Scotland, Ireland and Italy. This country was built on the sweat, the courage, the ingenuity and the get up and go of Huguenots, Normans, Protestants fleeing the inquisition, Irish Catholics fleeing famine, Jews escaping persecution, Polish airmen, Spanish nurses, Indian doctors and Afro-Caribbeans who wanted to help make this country great.
I have stood at every election on a platform and a party manifesto that said we would stay in the European Union. That was my solemn vow to the voters of the Rhondda. I admit that I lost the vote, including in my constituency, but I have not lost my faith. It remains my deep conviction that leaving the European Union, especially on the terms that the Government seem to expect, will do untold damage to my constituents, especially the poorest of them.
I am going to vote for the reasoned amendment tonight because I believe it is in the interest of my constituents. I know that many of my constituents will disagree with me, and maybe they will take it out on me, just as it was taken out on Burke in Bristol. In the end, there is no point in any of us being a Member of this House if we do not have things that we believe in and that we are prepared to fight for and, if necessary, lay down our job for.
This moment is so dangerous because the Government has stated that it is irreversible. This is it, folks. Now or never. In this most uncertain of times, we are being asked to vote for a completely unknown deal. Yes, I know we are going to leave the European Union and that the House will vote for it. My vote cannot change that, but I believe this bill – this way of Brexiting – will leave us poorer, weaker and at far, far greater danger in Europe, in the West and in this country, so I say not in my name. Never, never, never.