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
It is a pleasure to follow Mr Gyimah, and I applaud his courage in resigning as a result of his concerns about the deal.
There is much I could say about the detail of this agreement: red lines breached, for example, and the Court of Justice of the European Union articles 87, 89, 158 and 174 and article 14 of the protocol in relation to Northern Ireland make it very clear that the Prime Minister has had to make some pretty major concessions on her red line on the Court of Justice. We have heard in the Chamber—and have now seen it clearly in writing in the legal advice—that as a matter of law we could be trapped in the Northern Ireland backstop permanently and unable to get out of it, as I sought to clarify with the Attorney General earlier this week. The Northern Ireland backstop also means that the catch of fishing vessels registered in Northern Ireland will have preferential treatment through tariff-free access to the market in a way that fishing vessels registered elsewhere in the UK, including Scotland, will not have. I look forward—but do not hold my breath—to hearing the Scottish Conservatives making a fuss about that.
Today and the next few days should be about the bigger picture. I am looking forward to having an in-depth debate about immigration in due course, if we ever do see that much-promised White Paper, but I do want to make a few remarks about it now before moving on to the bigger picture. As I said earlier, it is a matter of record, because Scotland voted to remain, that the Scots did not hold the same concerns about sovereignty or immigration as held elsewhere in these islands, yet the political declaration confirms the UK Government’s intention to end freedom of movement. That will see people across these islands, but in particular the Scots who did not vote for it, lose the rights they have as EU citizens.
This is a deal that will see us made poorer not just economically, but also, equally importantly, socially. Even the Migration Advisory Committee has acknowledged that inward migration has made an overwhelmingly positive contribution to the economy of these islands, and particularly Scotland. The MAC, while failing to acknowledge the need for regional and national variations in immigration policy across the UK, did knock on the head many of the myths about immigration that drove the sort of xenophobia that led to the poster the Labour spokesperson, Ms Abbott, described earlier.
Scotland in particular has benefited from inward migration because at the start of this century we had a dwindling population and that EU migration has built our population and brought many young and economically active people into Scotland. Any Scottish MP who holds regular surgeries will confirm that that is a fact. There are two major universities in my constituency and all the academics tell me it is a fact that the process of Brexit and the rhetoric around immigration in this country is discouraging people from coming to live and work and study in Scotland. Scots did not vote for that, and that is one of the many reasons why we will not be supporting this deal.
Freedom of movement has been vital to fill gaps in the employment market in Scotland, and indeed across the UK. We have a big crisis across the UK in how we look after our ageing population. A lot of the people who look after our ageing population at present come from elsewhere in the EU and it will be a real shame if we discourage them from coming here in the future.