We need your support to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can continue to hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

European Union (Withdrawal) Act

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:24 pm on 25th March 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Stephen Gethins Stephen Gethins Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) 7:24 pm, 25th March 2019

As usual, my hon. and learned Friend makes a very powerful point. I know that she tried to intervene on the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, but those on the Treasury Bench will have been listening to and taking note as well.

We are told that the biggest problem with this is the European elections. Let me tell the Government something: the biggest problem is not the European elections—not people taking part in a democratic election to elect parliamentarians—but the jobs that the Government’s plans are going to cost, the public services that will be hit by Brexit and the opportunities that we have all had being denied to future generations. Each and every Member of the European Parliament is elected. That Parliament sits at the heart of the European project. We sit in a Parliament where not even half the parliamentarians who serve here are elected. It is a disgrace—it really is. We will be caused a huge amount of damage just because the Government want to avoid the democracy and scrutiny that comes with a European Parliament election. However, I am not that surprised when we have a Prime Minister who, as we have heard today, not only opposes a referendum and giving people a say in this momentous decision but is even opposed to respecting the will of Parliament.

If the Brexit debate has done anything, it has shown that the UK and the way in which it operates is no longer fit for purpose, as the example of the House of Lords amply illustrates. The EU is not perfect—no union involving 28 sovereign and independent member states ever can be—but, critically, it has the checks and balances to protect the smallest members from the largest. Within the UK, we have a constitutional set-up that is somewhat outdated and has not caught up with the momentous decisions that we are having to make now, but in the EU there is a modern and up-to-date relationship between member states—a true partnership of equals. I say this to a Government who have failed to respect devolution throughout this process: the EU would not be allowed to do that; indeed, it cannot be allowed to do that. To the people of Scotland, our message is this: there is a better way to do this that our friends and neighbours—our nearest neighbours in places like Ireland and Denmark—are pursuing successfully. This is not as good as it gets. In the meantime, and until we reach that point, it is up to each and every one of us to continue to work as constructively as we can.

I do not want to see our friends and neighbours south of the border dragged over a cliff edge by an out of touch and irresponsible group of Tory anti-EU ultras—no country deserves that. The easiest thing for us in Scotland would be to say, “We voted against this. It’s not our problem,” but actually it is our problem. We cannot just say, “The Tories made this mess. It’s for them to clear it up,” because it is clear that they are incapable of clearing up the mess they have made. The damage these plans would do to everyone across these islands would be devastating and felt for decades to come.

I again thank Members who have worked constructively. Today’s motion provides a start, but it is only that—a start on undoing this devastating Brexit, which has been brought to us by a Tory party that is out of control.