Informal European Council

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:42 pm on 6th February 2017.

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Photo of Angus Robertson Angus Robertson Deputy Leader, Scottish National Party, Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader 3:42 pm, 6th February 2017

May I begin by joining the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Labour party in extending to the Queen the best wishes of my right hon. and hon. Friends on the occasion of her sapphire jubilee? We wish her a very pleasant day with her family, and many further jubilees to come.

I thank the Prime Minister for giving me advance sight of her short statement about what was the first European Union informal summit since she published her White Paper on Brexit. It was also the first meeting since she met colleagues in the Joint Ministerial Committee of the British-Irish Council, and, of course, the first since her visit to Dublin.

As we have already established, the Prime Minister wants no hard borders on these islands; she wants the free movement of peoples on these islands and the safeguarding and boosting of trade on these islands, and we on these Benches wholeheartedly support these aims. But given the great importance that the Prime Minister gives in the White Paper to the Union of the United Kingdom and what we are told is a partnership of equals, she will surely have briefed her European colleagues while she was in Malta about the progress of negotiations with the other Governments on these islands. So did she confirm that she will work with the Scottish Government to secure continuing membership of the European single market? Did she tell her European colleagues that we value EU citizens living in our country, that their presence will be guaranteed, and that she is prepared to learn the lessons from Canada, from Australia and from Switzerland, where it is perfectly possible to have different immigration priorities and policies within a unitary state? Did the Prime Minister remind European colleagues that in Scotland we voted by 62% to remain in the European Union and that only one Member of Parliament representing a Scottish constituency voted for her Brexit legislation?

We are getting to a stage where warm words from the Government are not enough. It is the member state that is supposed to negotiate on all of our behalves within the European Union. Scotland did not warrant a single mention in the Prime Minister’s statement. She now has the opportunity to tell us: what Scottish priorities did she raise at the European summit? Did she raise any at all?