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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

The right hon. Lady is right, I might regret it. As so often, she makes a powerful point. That is why our amendment today—I hope she will support it—is a very simple one that will take no deal off the table. The Cabinet knows how damaging it will be; business knows how damaging it will be. These papers are there. They have been seen, as the right hon. Lady correctly points out. On top of that, the Scottish Government analysis shows that EU structural funds are worth €941 million to Scotland across the EU budget period, and we do not know what happens next. That is almost €1 billion and we do not know what happens.

There are 4,500 EU national staff facing uncertainty in Scottish universities, and I see that daily in my constituency work. A letter from 150 universities says that

“leaving the EU without a deal is one of the biggest threats our universities have ever faced”.

The University of St Andrews, which signed that letter, has been around for more than 600 years, so it has a bit of context; it knows a thing or two.

Do you know what stings? Scotland never voted for this. We were the first to suggest an extension, as common sense. The Scottish Government were the first to propose a compromise, to which the UK Government did not really have the decency to respond. And here we are proposing to reach out and work with the Government to take no deal off the table as well. We did not vote for this process but we have to engage with it, and we have engaged with it. I pay tribute to our friends and colleagues from different parties who have worked with us, because this is the right thing to do.

The Scottish food and drink industry thinks that we will lose £2 billion in sales annually. This does not affect the hedge fund managers or those who have pushed money offshore. It affects the poorest and most vulnerable, as well as small businesses, and it has an impact on unemployment in some of the areas of the United Kingdom that can least afford it.

I hear people saying about the EU as a political union, “Why would you want to be a member of the UK in the EU?” Well, you know what? The EU listens. We are in a partnership of equals in the EU; it cannot force us to do things. We have a Court of Justice, a Parliament and a Council of Ministers—the UK has none of them. The EU is a club for independent, growing and thriving member states. There is no place for independence or a partnership of equals within the United Kingdom.

Our amendment is a simple and straightforward cross-party proposal that rules out no deal all together. Yes, we want to take things out of the hands of the Prime Minister, but we also want her to commit to this because I am sorry to say that, with her twists and turns, it has become increasingly difficult to trust anything the Prime Minister says. Four weeks away from leaving, our amendment seems to be a responsible course of action, as there are so many pieces of legislation still to be passed.

I have raised many points, but I now address Mr Baron. We have put £4.2 billion into no-deal preparation. Just think what we could have done with that £4.2 billion at a time of continued Westminster austerity, when our public services are crying out for it and when we should be tackling climate change, poverty and many other challenges. Continuing with no deal is irresponsible, irrational and—I appeal to some of the Tories—very, very expensive. I hope that all Members will join us in backing our cross-party amendment.