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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

The Tory 2015 manifesto is not my bedtime reading, but as I recall, page 72 said:

“We say: yes to the Single Market”.

The Tories were right to say yes. It was funny that yesterday all the Conservative speakers remembered the commitment to a referendum, but not one of them remembered their commitment to the single marketplace. Of course it was not the case that a withdrawal from the European Community meant a withdrawal from the single marketplace. During the campaign, I had the pleasure of debating with Daniel Hannan MEP, who said:

“Absolutely nobody is talking about threatening our place in the Single Market”.

Of course it is possible to honour the result of the referendum and stay in the single marketplace, and even if people think there will be an exit from the single marketplace, it is madness, in diplomatic negotiating terms, to abandon that position now. The UK should keep its place in the single marketplace and allow the other European countries to negotiate it out of it, not give it away before the first word is spoken in the negotiations.

I come next to the procedures of this House. I have here the list of amendments tabled to the Bill, stretching to 103 pages; we are told that they are to be debated in three days. Eighteen months ago, the Scotland Bill, which was not the greatest constitutional change in history, got six days of debate. I say to Labour Members such as the right hon. Member for Doncaster North, who listed all the things wrong with the Government’s approach, that if they believe that now, they should vote against the Government; if they cannot do that, they should at least vote against a programme motion that will make it impossible to debate the sensible changes that the right hon. Gentleman outlined.

As was well pointed out yesterday, the process is procedurally deficient, not only in terms of the time given, but in terms of the question that will eventually be put to the House. The final vote will be on the deal that comes back from a Prime Minister who said that

“no deal…is better than a bad deal”,

so the choice the House will likely get is a bad deal or no deal. It is therefore crucial that when the House debates it and comes to a decision, there is a meaningful vote—a vote that can make a difference—as opposed to Hobson’s choice, made with a metaphorical gun to the House’s head.