Leaving the Eu: Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:19 pm on 12th June 2019.

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Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union) 3:19 pm, 12th June 2019

I have enormous respect for Hilary Benn, the Chair of the Exiting the European Union Committee, on which I serve, and I know that he would show latitude where possible, but it would be a bit much if Committee members starting taking questions from those giving evidence, as the hon. Gentleman suggested. I say this to him and some of his hon. Friends: if they want to throw out accusations about failing to respect the result of a referendum that meant that Scotland has to keep sending Members of Parliament to sit in the Palace of Westminster, doing that to an SNP MP, or any Scottish MP, while they are delivering a speech in the Palace of Westminster, when we are only here because we do accept the result of that referendum, is not the most credible time for it. I have said often enough that I respect the right of the people to speak in a referendum. I also respect the right of the people to say that they want another go, and I not only expect but demand that the result of the 2016 referendum in my nation of sovereign citizens be respected, rather than simply laughed out of court time and again by the Conservative party.

We already know from previous work done by the Confederation of British Industry and others that the financial cost to Scotland of a no-deal Brexit is more than the entire amount we spend every year on our precious national health service. Up to 100,000 people could lose their jobs, although in this place, some people seem a lot more concerned about who is going to get one job than about who is going to lose the other 100,000.

There was a bit of protest from Conservative Members when I said that a no-deal Brexit was against the clearly expressed will of the people, but it is true. In a democracy, one of the key ways that we find out the will of the people is through the ballot box. For nearly three years we knew that about 17.5 million people wanted to leave the EU, but none of us knew or had any right to assume what kind of Brexit they wanted. I cry shame on all those who had the arrogance to think that they knew what the 17.5 million people wanted.

We still do not know what Brexit they all want, but thanks to the EU elections on 23 May, we know what they do not want, because the same people who voted in 2016 to leave the European Union decisively rejected the parties whose manifestos consisted of a no-deal Brexit. This was the first time that people had ever been given the chance to turn out and vote decisively for a no-deal Brexit, and even those who voted leave avoided the no-deal parties in their millions: 34%—barely one in three—of leave voters supported the no-deal parties. Of the 17.4 million people who voted leave, 11.5 million refused to vote for hard, no-deal Brexit parties on 23 May.