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UK’s Withdrawal from the EU

Part of Business of the House (Today) – in the House of Commons at 1:40 pm on 14th February 2019.

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Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union) 1:40 pm, 14th February 2019

That is certainly an interesting proposal. Let me say that each and every time I have stood for election I have read, and often contributed to, the manifesto on which I have stood, and I will always honour my manifesto commitments to the best of my ability. I would expect my party colleagues in the Scottish Government to honour the manifesto on which they were elected as well.

The backstop is not the problem for me; in fact, I do not think it is really the problem for more than a tiny minority here. The reason I reject the deal—and the reason it is rejected by the Scottish National party and the overwhelming majority of Scotland’s parliamentarians, both here and at Holyrood—is that it is a rotten deal for Scotland, and changing the backstop will not fix that. It will seriously damage our economy, it will place unsustainable strain on the public services that are so dear to our hearts, and it will cause wholly unacceptable pain to tens of thousands of citizens who have chosen to give Scotland the benefit of their talents.

Let me give just one example of what this means to real people. In November last year I had the privilege of visiting Glenrothes’s twin town, Boeblingen in southern Germany. The occasion was the town’s award of its highest civic honour to my good friend John Vaughan—a constituent of my hon. Friend Stephen Gethins across the border—in recognition of the decades of voluntary service that John and his wife Karen had given, and their contribution to the bonds of friendship between our two towns. I later submitted an early-day motion to mark John’s achievement, and I am grateful to all who signed it.

On Tuesday, my hon. Friend the Member for North East Fife told the House that Karen Vaughan had been told that she must travel to Edinburgh and ask permission to register as a foreigner in her own country. Karen has lived in the United Kingdom for longer than the vast majority of people whom I can see in the Chamber. She has been here for 74 years. Someone whose contribution to these nations cannot be measured—someone who came here as a babe in arms three quarters of a century ago, after the defeat of Nazism in Europe—is now being told by this Parliament that she must make a round trip of nearly 100 miles to ask permission to be registered as a foreigner in the only land that she has ever known, and probably the only land that she will ever know. What have we become, Mr Speaker? And, much more frighteningly, if this is what we have become before Brexit, where in the name of God will we be heading after it if we have a Government who see that as an acceptable way to treat any human being?

Of course, the Government will do as they always do, and say that it is just an isolated case. Everything about Brexit involves “isolated cases”, such as Jaguar Land Rover, Nissan, Ford and Airbus. But those are not isolated cases. The heavy engineering manufacturing industry is not an isolated industry. There have been warnings for years from every sector of the economy and every area of our public and civic life that Brexit would not work, and every one of them has been ignored for years.