Uk’S Withdrawal from the European Union

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:47 pm on 13th March 2019.

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Photo of Stephen Gethins Stephen Gethins Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) 4:47 pm, 13th March 2019

The hon. Lady makes a valuable point, as she often does.

Before an election or referendum, we are expected to publish manifestos, White Papers and discussion papers—you name it—so that those who win can be held to account for the promises they made, critically, before any vote was cast. That is a fundamental of our democracy. The mess that we are in just now—and it is a mess—shows why Brexiteers such as the DEFRA Secretary avoided scrutiny during the EU referendum. Then, after being presented with the cold, hard reality in government by civil servants who work hard and present the facts, the promises were denied, often by those who used to be in post, including some of the DEFRA Secretary’s former colleagues.

In the few examples where we have some concrete proposals, the promises were not kept. I am not just talking about the extra £350 million for our NHS that was never forthcoming, because the DEFRA Secretary himself promised that Scotland would get immigration powers. We need those powers, which would be good for our nation and good for the economy. I have raised that matter in the House on several occasions, as have my right hon. and hon. Friends and others, yet we are told that it is not a matter for the Government. The DEFRA Secretary is a senior Minister. If we cannot hold him to account, who do we hold to account for the promises that were made and broken? Who do we hold to account for Vote Leave? That is a basic part of our democracy, and our democracy has been let down badly. This is a situation of his making and he is responsible.

I was late to emojis, but they have come in handy. I do not know where I would be without the unicorn emoji. Any right-thinking politician worth their salt will have found it extraordinarily handy during this debate. It is the must have accessory for a decent-thinking politician in 2019. Here is a lesson: politics is about each and everyone one of us taking responsibility.