[7th Allotted Day]

Part of Points of Order – in the House of Commons at 10:43 am on 11th January 2019.

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Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union) 10:43 am, 11th January 2019

I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman wants a debate on independence. I suggest that he should be patient, because that debate is coming, not because I want it and not because he wants it, but because the people of Scotland are demanding it. The simple answer to his question, however, is that the nature of Scotland’s union with this place is fundamentally different from the nature of the partnership of the EU.

As I was saying, earlier this week, Glenn Campbell of the BBC—not Glen Campbell the Rhinestone Cowboy, in case Members are wondering—tweeted, after interviewing the Secretary of State for Scotland:

“Scottish secretary @DavidMundellDCT says if PM’s #Brexit deal is voted down he doesn’t see why MPs shouldn’t be asked to vote on it again once they’ve had time to reflect.”

The Secretary of State for Scotland does not see why, having asked MPs to vote on the deal once, the Government should not come back and try again once we have had time to reflect. So it is okay for Conservative MPs—that is who he is talking about—to be allowed to change their minds about the Prime Minister’s deal, and it is okay for Conservative MPs, as the Standing Orders allow them to do, at the end of this year to change their minds and have another go at removing the Prime Minister through another vote of no confidence, but it is not acceptable to allow the people to confirm whether they have changed their minds.

Returning to the intervention of Ian Murray, at the same time that this Parliament and these nations are being presented with a choice of at least two futures, the people of Scotland are faced with a choice of two futures as well. It is not a choice that they wanted to be forced into and it is not a choice that we wanted them to be forced into: there was a majority vote to stay in the Union of the United Kingdom but there was a significantly bigger percentage majority vote to stay in the union of the EU. Through no fault of the people of Scotland, and against the expressed wishes of the people of Scotland and our national Parliament, we are being forced into a position where it is no longer possible to respect the results of both referendums, so the people of Scotland are going to have to decide which future they want: which of these two unions is more important to us?

Is it to be a true partnership of equals, which, as our friends in Ireland have seen, sees all other members show solidarity and support even for relatively small members of that partnership; or is it to be the so-called partnership where the powers of our Parliament are already being stripped back unilaterally by the British Government, as confirmed by Britain’s own Supreme Court? Do they value more a union that was forged by the desire of former mortal enemies to work together to sustain peace and prosperity across a continent, or a Union that was forged through bribery and corruption for—[Interruption.] Or a Union that was forged through bribery and corruption for the sole purpose of sustaining sectarian bigotry in the appointment of high offices of state? Do they give most importance to a union that has at its core the fundamental belief that the exchange of the free movement of people, the free exchange of talents and the free exchange of ideas benefits us all or one that denounces its citizens as queue jumpers and chooses to exploit them as bargaining chips? The exploitation of migrants as bargaining chips was not the policy of the Scottish Government; it was the stated policy of the colleague of Luke Graham in the United Kingdom Government.

This Parliament faces a choice next week, and it must be a choice not between the Prime Minister’s deal or no deal, but between the Prime Minister’s Brexit or no Brexit. That is the choice this Parliament deserves and demands; that is the choice the people of these islands deserve and demand. The time is coming—and I think it will come a lot sooner than most in here expect—when at least one of the partners of this Union, and possibly more, will see a demand from its citizens to be given a further choice: do we want to remain part of a Union that tramples on the rights of our citizens and which treats us as a second-class nation, not as a partner, at every opportunity, or do we want to remain part of the most successful trading partnership and one of the most successful partnerships for peace—a partnership that even now has numerous other candidate members desperate to get into it? Again, I will give way if anyone on either side of the House—[Interruption.] We have a lot of countries trying to get into the EU, but nobody that has left the empire of the UK has ever asked to come back—nobody that has won their independence has ever asked to come back. I wonder why that might be.

We will be opposing this rotten deal next week not because we think no deal is an option, but because we want, and we demand, the alternative: to give Parliament the choice to say, “Is this the Brexit we expected?” and if not, “Don’t do it.” We have to give that right to the people of these islands as well.

Nobody was elected to this Parliament in 2017 on a no-deal Brexit manifesto. Nobody voted for a no-deal Brexit in the referendum; that was not one of the options. This Parliament and this Government do not have the right to do anything that creates the danger of a no-deal Brexit without the explicit approval for such a course of action from the people of these islands. A Government who claim to respect the democracy of the people or the democracy of Parliament must not attempt to force the issue by effectively giving us a choice between “Would you like to voluntarily give us your money?” or “Would you like me to shoot you?” That is not an acceptable choice; it is anti-democratic. It is fundamentally wrong for the Government to seek to turn this into a choice between doing what the Prime Minister tells or leaving without a deal.

Not leaving is still an option, and not leaving must continue to be an option, and we will continue to press the case to allow the people to decide whether they want to accept the Prime Minister’s Brexit or, having seen what it really means—having seen the disastrous impact of the deal the Prime Minister has achieved—they want to decide that the best deal we can ever get is the deal we already have.