EU Withdrawal Agreement

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 4:41 pm on 18th December 2018.

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Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union) 4:41 pm, 18th December 2018

It is always a delight to follow Stephen Kerr. I can reveal that his speeches are watched with great excitement in SNP headquarters, where the single question is: how many more phone lines will we have to open for people wanting to join the SNP?

Looking back to April 2017, immediately after article 50 was triggered, we knew that for two years nothing very much would change, but nobody really knew what would happen after that—that depended on the outcome of the negotiations. In December 2018, we know that during a two-year implementation period nothing much is going to change, but nobody has any idea what will happen after that. So after two or two and a half years of the greatest efforts by the brightest buttons in the Tory box, we are no further forward than we were in April 2017. All they have done is bring back and order us—not ask us, but order us—to support a deal, every single aspect of which is immeasurably worse than the deal that we already have and the deal that our nation overwhelmingly voted to retain.

Yesterday, without a hint of irony, the Prime Minister warned about damaging the integrity of our democracy. This from a Prime Minister who broke her promise not to call a snap election and broke her promise to give Parliament a vote last week, and from a party that allowed two self-confessed gross misconduct MPs back in just to let them vote in a leadership contest and a Government who are the first in history to be in contempt of Parliament. If the Government are worried about a loss of trust in the integrity of our politics, I suggest they get themselves a very large mirror and spend some time in front of it. If they want to know about the millions of people who are wondering whether this façade of a democracy is ever going to deliver, they should not only speak to but listen to some of the 62% in Scotland who voted to remain with the deal we already have, or indeed to some of the 71% in Northern Ireland who voted for a peace process that, right now, is not guaranteed under Brexit and which, even if the Prime Minister’s deal is accepted, still will not have a guaranteed long-term future.

The Prime Minister claims to have listened to Parliament. She has listened to Parliament in the way that a defence lawyer listens to the case for the prosecution: absolutely no prospect of her budging an inch from her position, but listening for potential clues as to how she can impose her will on everyone else. Yesterday, she told us that this was not about expressing our personal views, saying that

“expressing our personal views is not what we are here to do.”—[Official Report, 17 December 2018;
Vol. 651, c. 528.]

In response to 23 different Members of Parliament, she then expressed her personal views about what was right and what was wrong. So when the Prime Minister says that we are not here to express our personal views, what she really means is that we are here to listen to her personal views and then do what we are told, regardless of what 649 other Members of Parliament and 60 million other people may think is best. That is not a parliamentary democracy; that is an elected dictatorship. When the word “elected” refers to a Prime Minister without a parliamentary majority, without the confidence of a third of her own MPs, and opposed by nearly 58% of those who voted in 2017, that elected dictatorship becomes dangerously close to an unelected dictatorship.

Had the Prime Minister not run away from debate last week, we would have been discussing the Union for eight hours on Tuesday. The question for Scotland is, which Union? The day is fast approaching when the people of Scotland will be asked whether they want a Union that is a true partnership of equals, such as is enjoyed by our friends in Ireland, or a so-called partnership of equals, which even today has demonstrably treated our nation and our nation’s elected representatives with absolute contempt. When that question is asked, and it will be asked very soon, the answer from the sovereign citizens of Scotland will be as emphatic and as final as it is inevitable.