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Uk’S Withdrawal from the EU

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:16 pm on 27th February 2019.

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Photo of Stephen Gethins Stephen Gethins Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) 4:16 pm, 27th February 2019

I thank the right hon. Lady for that clarification. The amendment standing in my name and that of my colleagues will be pressed to a vote, because we think that as the clock ticks we cannot wait for another two weeks. We have been waiting for “another couple of weeks” or for “another few days” for months and years now. This House needs to take a bit of responsibility for the situation in which we have been left, for which posterity and history will judge us.

On the way that history will judge us, let me talk about the human element of this. I do not want to embarrass Alberto Costa, but I am going to say a few kinds words about him. Three years ago, in Prime Minister’s questions, he asked the Prime Minister not to make him vote against his parents’ interests. We back his amendment about EU citizens, which he has rightly tabled. We back him, and we think he is doing a brave and decent thing. I note the remarks made by former colleagues of his such as Lord Duncan of Springbank about how valuable they thought it was working for him. I hope I have not damaged his future political prospects too much by saying that, but I remark on the decency of what he is trying to do, his own personal situation and the bravery of what he has done today.

What I find incredibly striking is that we have a Government where collective responsibility is breaking down, where a Prime Minister remarks that she does not want a Cabinet full of yes-men because she cannot get collective responsibility and where Ministers have been able to say whatever they like, regardless of what Government policy is, yet you end up sacking a member of Government for agreeing with you. What kind of situation are we in? This is an extraordinary set of circumstances in which the Prime Minister fails to sack Cabinet members for disagreeing with her publicly but sacks a member of the Government whom she has agreed with, whom the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster agreed with at the Dispatch Box, although he is not in his place at the moment, and whom the Home Secretary found himself in agreement with this morning. That is an extraordinary state of affairs. Do not worry; I am sure that the hon. Member for South Leicestershire will return to disagreeing with us on other occasions, but I salute what he has done today and the way in which he has conducted himself, with a common decency that we too rarely see in this Brexit debate.

We get told about “Project Fear”, but it is not that when it is a matter of fact. One in three businesses are planning to relocate some of their operations and one in 10 have done so. The UK is seen as a bad choice for investment. The global chief investment officer at UBS Wealth Management has said:

“The consensus among those investors is that the UK is uninvestable at this point”.

That is not good for anybody. We also have a decline in our public services, where we are seeing a dramatic decline of 87% in the number of applications from European economic area nationals for UK registration, according to the Nursing and Midwifery Council. That is a crucial public service, where EU nationals fill gaps in the workplace to provide it. So much damage is being done by this threat of a no-deal. Our amendment is a simple one and I hope that Members will back it, because it is straightforward and it will help to take this away.