EU Withdrawal Agreement

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 5:02 pm on 18th December 2018.

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Photo of Patrick Grady Patrick Grady SNP Chief Whip 5:02 pm, 18th December 2018

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am very grateful to have caught your eye, and I will be very brief.

In 2015, the Scottish National party released the speech that Alex Salmond would have given if Scotland has voted yes to independence. If we had won the referendum in 2014, we would have embarked on a programme of nation building, of ambition, of progression and of bringing everyone together, recognising that not everyone would have voted in favour of independence, and recognising and reaching out to the people who voted no.

How that contrasts with what the Prime Minister did in 2016 and what she has done since. She has pandered to the hardest and most extreme Brexiteers on her own Benches instead of trying to bring the rest of the United Kingdom together. That is the legacy with which we have been left today, that is why we have found ourselves in the current farce and impasse, and that is why the deal that the Prime Minister has proposed is unacceptable to everyone and the no-deal contingency planning has had to be stepped up. It turns out that rather than getting £350 million a week for the NHS, we will have 3,500 troops on the streets. No one in the United Kingdom voted for that to happen as a consequence of Brexit, yet that is exactly what we are seeing.

However, the real story of the past few days has not been the contemptible failure on the Conservative Benches—we have known about their chaos for a very long time—but the failure on the part of the Labour party and the Leader of the Opposition, who should have taken his constitutional responsibility seriously and tabled a motion of no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government. He is the man who should be the credible alternative in this House, and he has singularly failed to be that. That is because the Labour party is the pro-Brexit Labour party and the leader of the Labour party is the pro-Brexit leader of the Labour party, and that is a betrayal of the people the Labour party is supposed to represent.

It is true that hard-core Labour voters voted leave in 2016, but the job of the Labour party should not simply be to kowtow and run away in fear; it should remake and remake again the positive case for European membership rather than support a Brexit that is going to put those very people out of work and make them less well off.

That may be difficult for the Labour voters in the north of England, but the voters in Scotland have an alternative. The voters in Scotland have a way out: if we want to exit from Brexit, we can do that by exiting the United Kingdom.