Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

[2nd day]

Part of European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:21 pm on 1st February 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Scottish National Party, Glenrothes 4:21 pm, 1st February 2017

May I say first that I respect the views of any Member who acts according to their conscience, and that I have nothing but contempt for any Member who acts purely out of self-interest or self-preservation?

The Government can claim a mandate to take the United Kingdom—or what is left of it—out of the European Union, but nobody can claim a mandate to take anyone out of the single market. That, essentially, is a major part of the reasoned amendment tabled by the Scottish National party. We are being asked to hand complete control of the process to a Prime Minister and a Foreign Secretary who between them cannot even handle a dinner invitation without creating an major international, political and diplomatic stooshie.

The Government, if anything, have a mandate to keep us in the single market. That is what was in the 2015 Conservative election manifesto. I know that Conservative Members do not like to be reminded about it now, but that is the mandate they were given by the people. As recently as 24 October 2016, the Prime Minister told the House:

“I want to get the best possible deal with the maximum possible opportunities for British businesses…to operate within the single market and to trade with it in both goods and services.”—[Official Report, 24 October 2016;
Vol. 616, c. 36.]

The fact that as recently as October the Prime Minister wanted to stay in at the very least should tell us that membership or non-membership of the single market is far too important to be dealt with without a single debate or vote in this House.

Some MPs have been subject to unfair pressure to vote in a particular way. Nobody here has the right to tell anybody that they are being dishonest or anti-democratic by exercising their vote. I have had that as well. I received an email darkly hinting that there are a number of people in my constituency who want to leave and threatening me with deselection if I dare to vote against the Government tonight. Given that the email came from Labour Leave, I have no intention—[Laughter.] It did cross my mind that, pension-wise, I could get a much better deal by losing rather than retiring. Maybe when I decide that the time has come to leave, I will stand as a Labour candidate to guarantee my “loser’s pension”. [Laughter.]

The Secretary of State concluded his speech yesterday by asking us to trust the people. What we have heard from the Tory Benches is actually much more than that: what we are hearing from the Tories today and yesterday is the abolition of the sovereignty of Parliament. They have finally accept that the people are sovereign. I welcome that. It is 700 years after some of us accepted it, but they are welcome.

There are four different sovereignties represented here. The sovereignty of my people tells me that 62% want to stay in. We put forward a compromise that respects the wishes of those who want to leave, respects the wishes of those in Scotland who want to remain, and respects the issues of the 55% in 2014. If we are forced to choose between the 55% and the 62% who want to remain in the European Union, I think the Conservative party might get a very nasty surprise indeed.