[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

As usual, my hon. Friend has made an excellent point.

I appeal to the Labour party. We have a weak Government, and an absolute crisis is facing us. I have worked with many Labour Members, and I know that many of them are pained by the position that has been taken by the Leader of the Opposition in particular. They behave honestly and decently, and they make a fine contribution, as has been evident today. I appeal to them to join with the SNP in the short time that we have left, because there are alternatives, and other Members and Ministers have made that point. As the shadow Secretary of State and others made clear, we must revoke article 50 or seek an extension. That is the only sensible course of action left to us, because the current situation will not play out sensibly. Although helpful, no amount of motions requiring a response within three days can help us beyond that point. It will be embarrassing for the Prime Minister, but it is a small price to pay.

Over two years ago, the Scottish Government set out a compromise that they devised with members of other parties, with experts—we still like to listen to experts—and others, but that compromise was rejected by the UK Government without them considering it or coming back on anything. This Government have comprehensively failed on the biggest issue to face a post-war Government, so this Parliament must take back control of the situation. It also means that we are now in a place, after almost three years, whereby when we get some kind of final solution such is the huge impact that we must put it back to the people in another referendum to let them sign it off. I know that that certainly has support across the SNP Benches and, increasingly, among those on the Government Benches as well. Given the time that the Government have wasted since 2016, that is our only reasonable option. No deal must be ruled out. Billions of pounds have been totally unnecessarily wasted. We have not struggled for metaphors for the Government’s failures over the recent past, but a ferry company without any boats is up there with the best of them.

Brexit has no redeeming features—none. We are almost three years on from the referendum, and I believe now even more than I did then—I was strong for remain—that Brexit is the wrong thing to do and that nothing good whatsoever will come out of it. I want everyone across these islands to thrive, but what underlines the current set-up is that the UK is broken and that we probably need to move on to a new relationship. Every one of Scotland’s neighbours—similar-sized countries—is more successful, fairer and has a more equal and respectful relationship with the UK Government than Scotland does. Our close neighbours in Scandinavia have a healthy and respectful economic and political relationship, even though not all those independent states are members of the EU. That is a healthier and better state to be in. I note that none of the 50 states that have gained independence from the UK since the second world war has made as much of a mess as the UK Government have made of this situation, because they had a much more straightforward way through.

Right now, however, we must focus on sorting out the almighty mess that the Tories have left us in. The Government have had their chance, but they have blown it over the past two and a half years. All that they have achieved is to drive up support for the EU across the other member states. Support for the EU in Ireland is at 92%, meaning that those of our near neighbours who believe in leaving the EU are giving the flat-earthers a wee run for their money, and they are even giving those who believe that the Prime Minister still runs a strong and stable Government a bit of a run for their money. We have been sold this nonsense for far too long. We are stuck on a sinking ship, and this Parliament must take back control. We need a common-sense solution, and this deal is not it.