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Thank you for calling me, Mr Speaker. I appreciate your forbearance and patience, because it has been a long afternoon.
Along with every other area in Scotland, my constituency voted to remain, yet Scotland has been repeatedly ignored. Because my time is limited, I will focus on three main points. I believe that this deal is bad for young people, bad for women and bad for the economy. The Scottish National party has repeatedly argued that it would be best for jobs, the economy and living standards to remain in the single market. We have refused to be dragged by those on the right into a self-defeating argument about immigration. Instead, at every opportunity, we have focused on the positives, such as free movement and the ability to live, work and travel across 27 countries, as well as the rich economic, cultural and societal benefits that migrants have brought to our country.
Since 2016, I have met many EU citizens and their families—French-born and German-born, teachers and nurses. People who have raised their families in Scotland and have spent the vast majority of their lives there are concerned about their ability to continue to live in the Scotland that they call home. That is just one instance where there is still a lack of certainty. There is also uncertainty for young people. It was my predecessor, Winnie Ewing—“Madame Écosse”—who championed the Erasmus programme. We should not deny future generations of young people the opportunity to learn, to travel and to broaden their horizons but, if anything, sadly, Brexit will only serve to do the opposite.
For all those reasons and more, the Scottish National party has repeatedly argued in favour of remaining in the EU, and, short of that, remaining in the single market and the customs union. Otherwise, free trade arrangements will introduce barriers to trade that will damage jobs, investment, productivity and earnings.
Women will be particularly affected, and the most disadvantaged and the most vulnerable will be hardest hit. When the Women’s Budget Group and the Fawcett Society examined the economic impact of Brexit, they found that there are serious implications for women, predominantly those who are workers, consumers and use public services. The cuts that this Government have placed on those services already have a disproportionate impact on women. A failure to prioritise gender equality has led to an increase in economic insecurity and inequality for these women.
This debate has served to do nothing except highlight how much Brexit has taken over the agenda. I should have been in Westminster Hall this afternoon condemning the Government on their record on gender inequality. Instead I am here debating this. That is of course where we are at and I would not choose to be anywhere else on this day but debating this important subject, but there are so many other important subjects that have been completely neglected.
In most scenarios, real wages for low-paid workers will reduce, prices will increase, and inevitably increase further, and levels of productivity will reduce as well. The UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty outlined that it was clear that the impact of Brexit was an afterthought. That is the point here. So I wish to focus on those who have already been forgotten in this debate: the vulnerable in my constituency, the one in four children who grow up in poverty, and that is only expected to increase. People will ultimately be worse off. We know that for a fact. Is that not sufficient reason in itself for the Government to reconsider their actions and to prioritise protecting the interests of those who need protecting most and are most at risk of the harsh impact of Brexit? Instead they are freezing their benefits and hitting them with five-week delays in universal credit. We are fully acknowledging by visiting food banks that there is an issue here and that we need to do more to support food banks. It is a scandal that these people are an afterthought—frankly, that is how this comes across. While we stand here discussing Brexit, people will go hungry at Christmas—people will go without food, children will go without gifts, and that is the least of many families’ problems.
My constituency is home to many multinational companies that rely on trade with Europe. In fact, Europe is eight times the size of the UK market, so our relationship with Europe could not be more important. DFDS, the largest employer in Larkhall that daily delivers to all major fish markets and distribution centres; Tunnock’s in Uddingston, which sells its famous teacakes and caramel wafers across Europe and beyond; and Borders Biscuits, based in Lanark with customers across the EU, all not only trade across Europe but are employers in my constituency. Their trade and the trade of many others rely on a good deal with Europe. In my opinion this withdrawal deal fails to deliver that. It offers no guarantees of frictionless access to the single market. It places Scotland at a serious competitive disadvantage to Northern Ireland—and, frankly, to the Union, which Members are so keen to keep. It is no certainty versus stability for the UK’s economy and relationship with the EU in the long term—[Interruption.] I thank hon. Members for chuntering from a sedentary position. Let us remember that in 2014 the people were told that the only way to remain in the EU was to remain part of the UK. Please tell me how that is working out for us. Tonight, too, there has been cross-party support in the Scottish Parliament from four of the five main parties rejecting this deal.
For all those reasons and more, I will be voting against the withdrawal agreement and supporting the amendments to protect businesses and jobs and, most importantly, the most vulnerable in my constituency. I cannot honestly in good conscience vote for a bad deal. The bottom line is: the Tories and everyone else across here protected the Union by telling people they could stay in the EU and then pulled the rug from under them the minute people voted to remain part of the UK. What kind of deal is that for Scotland? So of course Scotland is going to vote for independence.