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It is a real pleasure to follow Dr Wollaston. I will vote against the withdrawal agreement, because I want to help and support my constituents in Motherwell and Wishaw, and because I believe the UN rapporteur and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation when they talk about increasing poverty; I have seen it in my constituency. I spent last Saturday helping a wonderful woman, Martine Nolan, with her great toy giveaway to children in my constituency and constituencies close by who will not have a Christmas because of the poverty that they are suffering. Those children’s parents are in work. In this country, being in work no longer means that someone earns enough to support their family adequately. I will not listen again to those Front Benchers who tell me that the only way out of poverty is work, when people in my constituency work in a gig economy, earn very little money and have no job security.
Within weeks of setting up my office in Motherwell, the people in my office helped me to establish the Poverty Action Network. I pay tribute to the members of that network, which include people from North Lanarkshire Council, organisations across Motherwell and Wishaw, and organisations right across North Lanarkshire. They want the best for people, I want the best for people, and this deal most certainly is not that.
As I said in my maiden speech, my constituency has always welcomed immigrants, starting with Lithuanians after the first world war. We have had Congolese refugees and Syrian refugees, and huge numbers of Polish people have contributed enormously to the culture, health and wealth of my constituency. I do not want to see barriers go up to prevent that.
At the moment, EU nationals are choosing not to come to Motherwell and Wishaw. For example, last month’s Nursing and Midwifery Council figures showed that EEA applications for registration in this country were down 87% last year, and they are still dropping. The people who look after our most vulnerable mostly come from EU countries.
When my husband was dying, I was relieved that he would not need more radiotherapy, because I was so worried about what might happen if he had needed it and there were queues at Dover, we were no longer in Euratom and he could not get the vital services he needed. He was lucky that he did not have to wait, and he is out of that kind of pain now.
Turning to businesses in my constituency, small businesses rely on there being higher numbers of EU nationals in Scotland. That is especially true in the highlands and islands, but even the factory in my constituency that makes kilts for the UK Army employs EU nationals. It needs those people and the support they provide.
“lumbered with complex paperwork to bring in EU staff post-Brexit that will cause a significant drag on the billions they contribute to the economy each year.”
We cannot have that; it does not help our businesses. How will the economy grow when we do not have the right people in the right jobs because of paperwork?
The fact that Northern Ireland has secured a separate Brexit deal—and for very good reason—will affect competition between Scotland and Northern Ireland. Unfortunately, companies will start to move. It is just a short hop across the water from Stranraer—or, rather, below Stranraer—to Belfast.