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

As usual, the hon. Lady makes an excellent point. Hers is one of the few sane voices that we have heard throughout the debate, given her interventions and the way in which she stands up for her constituents and others in the United Kingdom.

I noted the other night, with regard to the no-deal situation that we are in, that one Conservative MP—in fact, the longest-serving Conservative MP in the House—described the “headbanger” wing of the Conservative party. I am not sure what the names of the other wings are, but I was taken with that: the party’s members are talking about a headbanger wing, which must be a sizeable proportion of the party. While we are talking about no deal, I note the words of the Dutch Prime Minister, who is alleged to have said that a decision to vote for no deal was

“like the Titanic voting for the iceberg to get out of the way”.

The Chancellor seems to get this, and in his spring statement today, he talked about a smooth and orderly transition that would be threatened by no deal. He knows that it would threaten jobs and wages, yet we still debate it and we still have not ruled it out.

I am not sure which wing the Secretary of State for Scotland belongs to, whether the headbanger wing or some other wing, but he claimed the other week—I am sorry that he is not in the Chamber—that the SNP wanted no deal. I do not have his experience, but I remind him that the SNP was the first to come up with a compromise, as I have outlined; we were the first to ask for an extension; and last week, we even tabled a simple parliamentary motion on ruling out no deal. I know that the Tories are trying to turn democracy on its head and claim that defeat is in fact victory, as we have just heard from the DEFRA Secretary, but that is surely a step too far. We wanted to rule out a no deal, and he could easily have voted for our simple motion.

Let me remind DEFRA Secretary—I hate to break it to him—that Tories lost the last election in Scotland, again. The SNP won the last election in Scotland, again. Guess what? Unlike the Tory party, we kept the majority of our seats, so if he wants to talk about democracy and winning, he is welcome to take some lessons from us. On negotiating tactics, if we are in a situation of no deal and hearing what the Chancellor said today, it as if the Prime Minister has shot herself in one foot, then wants to shoot herself in the other foot, just to show everyone how terribly serious we are.

Today’s trade tariffs will hit our industries, not least the food and drink industry on which jobs in my constituency and others rely and for which the DEFRA Secretary has responsibility. [Interruption.] The Trade Secretary is back. He promised that the UK would

“replicate the 40 EU free trade agreements that exist before we leave the EU so we’ve got no disruption of trade”.

Secretary of State, how is that going? Not going well? No, it is not going well, is it? This is not just a political problem for the Conservative party, as Ministers seem to suggest—it is a problem for public services; it is a problem for jobs; and it is a problem if we want to look forward to the future. It is not just a Tory civil war that is being waged among Tories—it is a problem for us all.