UK-EU Renegotiation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:48 pm on 3rd February 2016.

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Photo of Angus Robertson Angus Robertson Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader 12:48 pm, 3rd February 2016

We in the Scottish National party warmly welcome the opportunity to make the positive case for the European Union. It really matters that we are part of the world’s largest single market; it really matters that we can help to determine the rules and laws that apply to us; and it really matters that we have a social Europe with rights and protections for citizens and for workers. First off, will the Prime Minister therefore commit to a positive campaign to remain in the European Union, and not resort to the negative tactics of “Project Fear”?

On the Prime Minister’s negotiations, may I suggest that he stops pretending to have won some major victory? He has not even secured the treaty change he promised and much else besides. What is at stake is much bigger than his recent discussions; it is about whether or not we remain in the EU. That is what the debate across the UK will be about in the run-up to the referendum.

The timing of the referendum really matters to the electorates and the Governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as of London, where there are elections in May. This morning, the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, the Labour First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, the First Minister of Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster—[Interruption.] I think the First Ministers of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland deserve a little bit more respect than the baying from the Tory side of the House. They and the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness, have written to the Prime Minister today. I think that right hon. and hon. Members should listen to what they say:

“We believe that holding a referendum as early as June will mean that a significant part of the referendum campaign will necessarily run in parallel with those elections and risks confusing issues at a moment when clarity is required…
We believe that the European Referendum is of vital importance to the future of the whole United Kingdom and the debate leading up to it should, therefore, be free of other campaigning distraction. We believe it would be better for you”— the Prime Minister—

“to commit to deferring the EU referendum at least until later in the year.”

Will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to confirm that he will be respectful of the views of the Governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and defer the referendum beyond June?

Finally, may I take the opportunity yet again to ask the Prime Minister to answer this question, which he has singularly failed to do thus far? Will he confirm that there are still no safeguards in place that would stop Scotland being taken out of the EU against the will of the Scottish electorate?