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[2nd day]

Part of European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 1:14 pm on 1st February 2017.

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Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (International Affairs and Europe) 1:14 pm, 1st February 2017

May I start by congratulating the former Chancellor, Mr Osborne, on his speech, which was a good deal shorter and a great deal less lucrative than the ones he is used to giving these days? [Interruption.] As is being pointed out to Tory Members, he is anything but cheap these days. He may have argued the case with passion during the campaign, but his tendency to take perfectly reasonable Treasury forecasts on the long-term damage that would be done to the GDP and wealth of this country as a result of withdrawal from the single market and turn them into apocalyptic, emergency Budget, day of judgment scaremongering was one reason why the remain side lost the campaign. Campaigns have to be built on more than fear.

I want to talk about the politics, the economics and the procedure, and about Scotland. My hon. Friend Mr MacNeil asked me yesterday whether I could remember, in the last 30 years in this place, a time when the House was gripped by collective madness. Obviously, that time was Iraq, when this House was mesmerised by a strong Prime Minister into the blood and disaster of the Iraqi war, but it is certainly not mesmerising rhetoric that is responsible for mad MP disease in this case. Mr Clarke yesterday made a comparison with “Alice in Wonderland”, but Alice only took herself into the hole; this Prime Minister is taking virtually all the Tory party, half the Labour party and the entire country into the hole. What is being done is politically crazy.

In 1962, Dean Acheson said:

“Britain has lost an empire and has not yet found a role.”

After listening to the speeches of some Tory Back Benchers yesterday, I am not so sure that they are reconciled to the empire bit. Successive Governments and Prime Ministers found a solution by pursuing a role as a leading country in Europe, and balancing that with a special relationship with the United States of America. A German Chancellor once said that the relationship was special because only one side knew about it, and that is certainly true, but none the less, it was a rational policy. Some Prime Ministers took that far too far, into the desert of Iraq, but none the less it was a rational, logical policy.

We cannot, having pursued that policy of having influence in Europe and the good things that come from it, as Edward Miliband reminded us, cut that off and then pursue the special relationship with the USA. That leaves us caught in the headlights, as the Prime Minister was earlier this week. When asked to condemn the obvious thing that any human being would have condemned, she refused to do so three times, in case she offended her new bestie in the White House—and incidentally, if she had said it, she would have offended her new best friend in the White House. So she goes headlong into the arms of a United States President who is, at best, unpredictable. This is going to get worse and more embarrassing because of the imbalance in the relationship.

Then we must consider the economic damage—