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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

It is extraordinary: I have not even mentioned Slovenia yet, but the hon. Gentleman knows the reference I am making. I know he is a decent Member and has served his country well in the diplomatic service, and I know he will have been embarrassed by the Foreign Secretary’s recent remarks. I want to talk about—[Interruption.] I am a Front-Bench speaker. I want to talk about the UK’s standing in the world of which we are still a part for the time being.

There are those who are quite content to compare the EU with the USSR and cannot handle these remarks from Donald Tusk. Just at the point when we need friends and influence around the world—as Richard Graham, who works so hard on these things, knows full well—we are losing them. Let us look at some of the reactions to that. Carl Bildt, the former Swedish Prime Minister, said that Britain used to be a nation

“providing leadership to the world. Now it can’t even provide leadership to itself.”

Latvia’s ambassador to London said:

“Soviets killed, deported, exiled and imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Latvia’s inhabitants after the illegal occupation in 1940, and ruined lives of three generations, while the EU has brought prosperity, equality, growth, and respect.”

I ask Members to please reflect on what our closest friends and allies are telling us. Asked to respond to Hunt’s remarks when he compared the EU with the Soviet Union, the European Commission’s chief spokesman, said:

“I say respectfully that we would all benefit, in particular foreign affairs ministers, from opening a history book from time to time.”

The Foreign Secretary clearly did not listen. He doubled down when he went to Slovenia and referred to it as a “Soviet vassal state” to which the former Speaker of the Slovenian Parliament said:

“The British foreign minister comes to Slovenia asking us for a favour while arrogantly insulting us.”

At a time of crisis, the greatest crisis that the UK has faced since the second world war, we are led by political pygmies who do not understand the history of those countries that are closest to us, never mind the history of the nations of these islands. They have turned the UK into the political basket case of Europe. There is utter astonishment and bewilderment in Brussels and elsewhere at the UK’s decline. There is also astonishment in Scotland at what is going on down here, even by those who, unlike me, backed the Union.

Anna Soubry was right to raise a point of order last night and I listened to it carefully. I am glad that, because of her work, we got the no-deal papers released, and I thank her for it. It has to be said that the document was pretty flimsy, a very small document. There is much more to the Scottish Government’s document. Their analysis, which they were happy to publish a long time ago without having to be forced, has shown that any form of Brexit will be damaging for Scotland’s economy. The deal will be damaging to Scotland’s economy, which is why we cannot vote for it, but a no-deal Brexit could result in a recession worse than that in 2008, causing Scotland’s GDP to fall by up to 7%, and unemployment to rise by around 100,000.