EU Withdrawal Agreement

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 4:19 pm on 18th December 2018.

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Photo of Tommy Sheppard Tommy Sheppard Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Scotland), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (House of Lords) 4:19 pm, 18th December 2018

Let me explain it this way: we can never say that people do not have the right to reconsider a proposition in a democracy. On the other hand, we cannot have a referendum every month or every year, so we have to set tests for whether it is legitimate to have a second referendum. I would set three tests. First, the information on which the initial decision was taken needs to have substantially changed or to have been shown to be wrong—I think that test is met. Secondly, a significant number of people have to have changed their minds—enough to create a different result. That test is met. The third test is whether the elected Parliament is incapable or unwilling of discharging the mandate from the referendum. When we get the chance to vote on it, that test, too, will have been met. It is now possible that having a people’s referendum is actually the only way to get out of the current impasse and crisis.

Let me turn to the official Opposition. I am being completely non-sectarian. I do not just want to work with the Labour party in defeating this Government; I am desperate to do so. I am really concerned by what has happened over the last 24 hours. Earlier comments suggested that the mis-wording of Labour’s no confidence motion to include “the Prime Minister” but not “the Government” is somehow a mistake or an ineptitude. It is not. It is a deliberate attempt not to put the question, so that it now languishes on the Order Paper with the same authority and effect as 1,900 early-day motions that are lying around.

I say to the Labour Front Benchers: you need to do something to dispel a growing concern, which is that Labour Members are not effectively taking on the Conservatives because they are not actually disagreeing with their policies all that much and would be quite content to see them go through. The Labour party needs to lead. It is the biggest Opposition party in this House. It needs to step up and co-ordinate the opposition on the Opposition Benches, but also on the Government Benches, and to defeat these proposals. Please do that and we will be your willing accomplice, if you ask us to be so.

There has been a lot of talk about the fact that Scotland, for the time being, remains part of the United Kingdom. I respect the 2014 referendum result. Scotland does remain part of the United Kingdom, and we have every right to argue in this Parliament for the benefit of our constituents within the United Kingdom, which is why we are desperately engaged in a process of trying to save this country from itself—from the worst act of collective self-harm in history—by stopping this ridiculous process of Brexit. But know this: we will not go down with the ship if it does not change direction. We will use our right of self-determination as a lifeboat to escape from this catastrophe. And when the time comes, if this process unfurls the way the Government want it to, you will be the greatest champions of Scottish independence, because the people of Scotland will take their opportunity to chart a different course and become a proper European nation at the heart of Europe.