[2nd Allotted Day]

Part of Immigration (Time Limit on Detention) – in the House of Commons at 2:39 pm on 5th December 2018.

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Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice and Home Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 2:39 pm, 5th December 2018

I agree, and part of the reason why the language has been so toxic is because we have not been talking about the reality of the situation but about a perceived reality.

A Labour Member who is no longer in his place made a point earlier that I entirely agree with: the Conservatives have through their policies created a great deal of poverty across the UK. Wales and Scotland have to an extent been protected from that because we have had different devolved Governments, but I notice as I travel around provincial England that the infrastructure is not in as good condition as it is in Scotland. No social housing has been built here for years, too; in contrast we are building a lot of social housing in Scotland. Many working-class people in England have been led to believe that the cause of their woes, such as the fact that they cannot get a house or a well-paid job—they can get a job, but not a properly paid job—is the immigrants, when it is the fault of this toxic Conservative Government.

Under the withdrawal agreement, EU citizens who are already here will not continue to enjoy the same rights that they enjoy now; they will continue to enjoy some rights, but not the same rights. They will lose their lifelong right of return, they will not have the same family reunification rights, and they will get no protection from inadvertently becoming undocumented illegal citizens—and, my goodness, the Windrush scandal has taught us what happens to undocumented citizens who are lawful citizens in this country. God help EU citizens who find themselves undocumented illegal citizens. Do not take my word for it; take the word of the National Audit Office and reports of various Committees in this House. And in order to hang on to the rights they already have—not to get a passport, but to get the digital identity that means they can hang on to the rights they already have—fees will be imposed on EU citizens. In Scotland, the Scottish Government have said they will pay those fees for those working in the public sector, but now it appears that there might be a bit of a tax-catch in relation to that, and I am looking forward to the Conservative Government addressing that properly, and perhaps extending the same largesse that the Scottish Government have to people working in the public sector south of the border.

I am going to touch briefly on the security, justice and law enforcement issues. As other Members have said, it is simply impossible for us as a third country to have the same degree of security, justice and law co-operation that we previously had, and, in fairness, the Home Secretary recognised that. But one of the things that has concerned those of us who represent Scottish constituencies—or some of us, at least—and the Scottish Government and commentators in Scotland most about this process has been the abject failure of the British Government to recognise that Scotland has a separate civil and criminal justice system. This is not about devolution; this is about the Act of Union. Scotland has had a separate legal system forever, and it is protected by the Act of Union. Yet our separate criminal justice system, our separate civil law system, and our separate Law Officers have not been consulted properly on the impact of these matters on the Scottish legal system. As we know, there is no mention whatsoever of Scotland in the withdrawal agreement or the political declaration. A lot of other much smaller regions get a mention, but not Scotland. This is not fanciful; I know, because I used to work in the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, that co-operation across Europe has made a huge difference to law enforcement in Scotland, and if we lose that, we will be worse off as a result.

As I said earlier, today is a day for looking at the bigger picture. Speaking as someone who represents a Scottish constituency and as someone of Irish parentage, I see the bigger picture of the whole Brexit process as a tale of two Unions: the Union that is the United Kingdom and the Union that is the European Union. There are extremely stark differences between the ways in which the members of those Unions treat one another. So far as Ireland, north and south, is concerned, British politicians largely overlooked the threat that Brexit posed to the Good Friday agreement until after the referendum, and even then, many of them—particularly on the Conservative Benches—were and still are unable to accept the reality of the legal obligations that the United Kingdom undertook in that agreement. That old anti-Irish xenophobia that people like my mother remember so well has raised its head again, even to the extent of some on the Conservative Benches talking about the Irish tail wagging the British dog, and other such insulting metaphors. However, because the EU27 got behind the Irish Government’s legitimate concerns, they became central to the Brexit process. Conservative politicians—not all of them, but some—and indeed a few on the Benches behind me, waited in vain for the EU27 to crack and throw Ireland under the bus. That did not happen, and it is not going to happen.

I was at an event recently where the distinguished professor of modern history at University College Dublin, Mary Daly, remarked that the current situation in this House had uncanny echoes of what happened here 100 years ago when the electric politics of Ulster determined what happened at Westminster. It is quite ironic that that should be so, given that we are shortly to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the election of the first female MP to this Parliament. She was of course the distinguished Irish nationalist, the Countess Markievicz, who went on to be the first woman Cabinet Minister in western Europe. The truth is that the problems that arose as a result of partition have come back to haunt this House as a result of the Brexit process, but I believe that something that unites us all is that we want to see peace being kept in Northern Ireland.