European Union (Withdrawal)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:56 pm on 3rd September 2019.

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Photo of Ian Blackford Ian Blackford SNP Westminster Leader 7:56 pm, 3rd September 2019

I do not know what the Prime Minister believes, but he was asked several times today by Members in this House to tell us what proposition the Government are making. There is none. It is a sham. This Government are heading us towards the cliff edge of no deal. That is the reality.

The deepening of the democratic deficit under the Prime Minister is despicable. This decision is an outrageous assault on basic democratic principles, and yet the Prime Minister and his cronies will argue that this is normal. A suspension, he argues, is quite right and proper —what ridiculousness. I know that the Prime Minister has never been one to deal in facts, but let me make it clear for Members. In the last 40 years, Parliament has never been prorogued for longer than three weeks. In most cases, it has been prorogued for only a week or less. To try to argue that five weeks is normal is, if we are being polite, disingenuous.

The reason we are here today—the reason why we, for want of a better phrase, are taking back control of the Order Paper on a cross-party basis—is to stop the Prime Minister running down the clock and obstructing the democratic right of MPs to debate, vote and represent the will of the people who sent us to this place. This shameful act from the Prime Minister is because he knows there is no majority here for a no-deal Brexit, because he knows there is no support from the public for a no-deal Brexit and because he knows what we all know: that a no-deal Brexit is catastrophic for the lives of citizens across these islands.

Just in office, the Prime Minister is toying with our democratic processes. Ruth Fox, director of the Hansard Society, said that it was an “affront to parliamentary democracy”. Why? Because the Prime Minister wants things his own way, and at any cost. The real reason he cannot bear for Parliament to sit and debate is that he knows he does not have the majority to support his disastrous plans to destroy our economy with a no-deal Brexit. What an embarrassment to parliamentary democracy. Well, the Prime Minister cannot stop MPs doing their jobs. We will be heard, and democracy must be respected.

Just last week, I was proud that my party signed a declaration alongside MPs from across the parties in Church House, warning the Government:

“Any attempt to prevent parliament sitting, to force through a no-deal Brexit, will be met by strong and widespread democratic resistance.”

Has the Prime Minister still not listened? Even today, a cross-party group of politicians are in Edinburgh for a full hearing in the Court of Session, attempting to prevent the Prime Minister from proroguing Parliament. My hon. and learned Friend Joanna Cherry has already called on the Prime Minister to swear on oath his reasons for the Prorogation of Parliament. Will the Prime Minister do so? I think we know the answer to that. We also have a group of experts in constitutional law, human rights and justice arguing in The Times that the recent decision to prorogue Parliament sets a dangerous precedent and, furthermore, is incompatible with Executive accountability to Parliament as prescribed by the constitution.

Has the Prime Minister no shame? This is a blind power grab, showing total arrogance and contempt for the electorate. Instead of giving the people a new Prime Minister who listens to their wishes, he has robbed the people of all power. What does shutting down Parliament on a whim mean for this Prime Minister or a future Prime Minister? For us from Scotland, what protection do we have if any UK Prime Minister sought to shut down the Scottish Parliament? We need to protect our Parliament from this Prime Minister.

It is clear that this House is not supportive of the Prime Minister’s actions. This emergency debate is crucial, as MPs today need to carve a way forward to allow emergency legislation against no deal to be passed. The cross-party Bill seeks to ensure that the UK will not leave the EU without a deal unless Parliament consents to such an outcome. It will also require the Prime Minister to then extend article 50. That is a crucial step to prevent a catastrophic no deal, to protect our economy and our communities. This is how we can come together to avoid a no-deal Brexit, to protect the interests of citizens across these islands and, fundamentally, to protect not simply the rights of Parliament or parliamentarians but the rights of the people.

The denial of Parliament having its say denies people in Scotland and across the UK their say against a no-deal Brexit. We in the SNP cannot countenance that. I urge Members to unite to stop a no-deal Brexit, to stop this Prime Minister and this dictatorship, and to restore democracy. Tonight, it is our turn to take back control. Tonight, the Prime Minister is going to be stopped in his tracks. The Prime Minister has tried to rob the people of their power. Now it is our time to rob him of his.