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[3rd Allotted Day]

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 4:12 pm on 6th December 2018.

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Photo of Ged Killen Ged Killen Labour/Co-operative, Rutherglen and Hamilton West 4:12 pm, 6th December 2018

Like many of my constituents, who voted overwhelmingly to remain in the European Union, I felt devastated on the morning of 24 June 2016. It was the sheer magnitude and permanence of the decision, and the feeling that, as a nation, we were committing an act of self-harm that would leave us socially and financially worse off for the foreseeable future.

Like many of my constituents, I also felt a deep sadness about what we stand to lose, not just economically but the fact that the outcome of the referendum felt like part of our identity was being taken away. That is why I shudder when I see the Prime Minister celebrating, talking about people jumping the queue, and tweeting in a style more suited to the current President of the United States, saying that we will be

“putting an end to the free movement of people once and for all.”

There is nothing to celebrate about leaving the European Union, and putting an end to the free movement of people is a step backward, not a step forward.

Let us not forget that it goes both ways. I am proud to call myself a European, but the next generation will not have the same freedom we had to live, work and study across the EU. For them the world will become smaller, which is certainly not something to celebrate. Just like on the other big questions, this withdrawal agreement tells us little about the impact of the decision to end free movement. What will it mean for the Scottish economy? That is a fundamental concern for many businesses in Scotland which rely on recruiting EU nationals to meet demands in the labour market. The onshore fishing sector, for example, is 70% dependent on an EEA workforce and is already having difficulty filling some roles, such as fish filleting.

I accept that there were concerns about free movement during and prior to the referendum, but the reality is that whatever new trade deals we manage to secure in future will have to include some element of workforce mobility. So the debate on migration is not going away, and the Government will have to do what they should have done all along: tackle the myths about immigration, and clearly set out what we gain as a nation and a society from people choosing to come here to live, work, study and contribute. Years of failing to do that, along with years of the Government blaming Europe for the bad while claiming credit for good, have played a large part in taking us to where we are today.

And where is that? The Prime Minister is right about one thing: given her red lines, this is the only deal that was possible. She boxed herself into a corner in an attempt to unify that side of the House when she should have been listening to concerned voices across this House. She has completely failed to take Parliament with her through this process, so we are now in the ludicrous situation where the Government are reassuring people that we are not going to be poorer than we are today, we are simply going to be poorer than we otherwise should be tomorrow. No one voted for that. She travels across the country expecting people to pat her on the back for agreeing to this, while at the same time denying them any say in the matter.

None of what we know now was on the ballot paper in 2016. The only time the public have been able to express an opinion on any of this since the referendum was when they considered the Conservative party’s manifesto in June 2017 and took away the Conservativesmajority. There is no easy way out of the situation we are now in. I will always welcome an early general election, but while Parliament is in deadlock, with seemingly no majority for any option, it seems to me that the only democratic option left is to have a people’s vote. This deal is not a good deal for my constituents and I could never support it.