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European Union (Withdrawal)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:56 pm on 3rd September 2019.

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Photo of Tommy Sheppard Tommy Sheppard Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Scotland), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (House of Lords) 8:56 pm, 3rd September 2019

The hon. Gentleman is wrong, because the seeds of the problem were sown long before that. They were sown when a right-wing Conservative Government decided to seize on the result of the referendum and use that narrow majority and interpret it for their own ends to restructure the country and its international relationships and its economy. Even now, we see a situation in which the Government are committed to pursuing the hardest of Brexits, crashing out without a deal if they deem it necessary, and even believing that that is the preferred course of action. They know that there is no majority for that course of action not only in this House but in the country.

That brings me to the topic of the election, which is an associated matter. There have been suggestions that if we pass this legislation, the Prime Minister will immediately throw his toys out of the pram, go to the country and demand a general election. We have already had an echo from the Leader of the House of the gross populism that may well come to be reflected in that campaign—something that does his character no great service, to be honest. But if that election is going to come, let us be quite clear that we need to have it before this country crashes of the European Union without a deal. We are ready for election: bring it on! But we must either have it before 31 October or extend that deadline so that we can make a decision as a people and elect a Parliament before this fait accompli is presented to them.

That would be the legitimate thing to do, and I say to the Prime Minister that if he really wants to have an election, he should not engage in these procedural shenanigans and this duplicity in trying to game Parliament. He should put the proposal for a no-deal Brexit to the electorate and explain the consequences, and see if that is what they vote for. When that happens, I will relish the prospect of contesting that election, because we shall not only be contesting that election in order to stop Brexit and have a reconsideration of that strategy; we shall also be explaining to the people of Scotland that this is their chance to consider having a different course of action from the one laid down by the current Prime Minister. I am confident that when we go to the people of Scotland, many more than ever before will now understand the attractiveness of having political independence over their own affairs and of being able to control their own destiny and establish their own relationships with the rest of the countries in Britain, Europe and the world. That is what is coming down the track, and I warn the Government to be aware of it.