[5th Allotted Day]

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Act – in the House of Commons at 4:24 pm on 9th January 2019.

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Photo of Stephen Gethins Stephen Gethins Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) 4:24 pm, 9th January 2019

That is an excellent point. I spent years benefiting from freedom of movement on the Erasmus programme. I know that many other Members who are present did as well, and that it has benefited our friends, our relatives and many of our constituents. Who are we to deprive the next generations of the benefits that we have had—the rights and opportunities that we have had? It is utterly shameful to be depriving our young people of freedom of movement, from which many of us across the House have benefited, and which benefits everyone without fear or favour. That is yet another failure.

Then there is security, which is a basic priority of the UK Government and of any Government anywhere in the world. This is a Government who are, proactively and consciously, making us less safe, isolating us from key partners elsewhere in Europe and drawing away from key planks such as the European arrest warrant. According to the Royal United Services Institute,

“the full benefits of membership—combining both shared decision-making and operational effectiveness—cannot be replicated” by the deal that we are seeing today.

Nowhere has the disregard for security—and for the peace process—been seen more clearly than in Northern Ireland. There has been an utter disregard for it throughout the debate, although that is not the Government’s fault, and it is not the fault of one or two Ministers who argued for Remain. The disregard shown during the EU referendum and subsequently was appalling as well, especially given that the European Union has been a key partner for peace in Northern Ireland for decades.

Let me now, briefly and finally, say a little something about the Labour party. We have the weakest and the least stable Government in living memory. They cannot even defend their own record. They cannot even defend the basics. They are actively making us poorer and less secure—proactively—and at great cost as well. All that the Government have going for them—and I say this with great respect to the shadow Secretary of State, the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras, who was very good today and always is, as are many other Labour Members—is an exceptionally weak Opposition Front Bench.

I want to work with the Opposition Front Bench, and we work together very well. The right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras has been a champion for his cause. However, the Leader of the Opposition appears to have washed his hands of any kind of leadership when it comes to this issue—the biggest issue to have faced his party. There is no such thing as a “jobs first” Brexit, but there is such a thing as a jobs-destroying Brexit.

We want to work with Labour, and the House should not just take my word for it. Last night, as I was preparing for today’s debate, I was contacted by a member of the Labour party who lives in Crail, in my constituency. She sent me a letter which she has sent today to the Labour party’s international policy committee. I know that all Labour Members will have read it, but I will read some of it out for the benefit of the House. She wrote that

“if there is a general election, or a second referendum, the Labour Party should make it clear that being in the EU is in the UK’s best interests, and that it is Parliament’s duty to ensure that we stay.”

That did not come from the Scottish National party, or from my friends among the local Liberal Democrats, or even from the Conservatives or the Green party, but from my own local Labour party. I always like to say that there is a great deal of sense in North East Fife, but apparently there is even a great deal of sense in the North East Fife Labour party, and I hope that its members are listening.