European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:24 pm on 4th September 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Stephen Gethins Stephen Gethins Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) 4:24 pm, 4th September 2019

Yes. As usual, the hon. Gentleman has been a good colleague, and has made an excellent point. In a Parliament of minorities, we must work together. We want a general election, but we will not have a general election on the terms of this Government, because we do not trust them. None of us can trust them, and we should be absolutely clear about that.

Over the past few years—and I say this personally—it has often been humbling to see people give up careers and livelihoods for what they think is right, and we have seen the best of that over the past few days. There are Members opposite, and Members on these Benches who may not have started on these Benches, who know that a no-deal Brexit will damage their constituents. I never thought that I would be here proposing a Bill with the likes of Justine Greening, Nick Boles and Mr Hammond. To be fair to them, I do not think they thought that they would be here proposing a Bill—which might be passed—with a member of the Scottish National party. However, that is the position in which we have been left.

The Bill does not go as far as I might have liked. My SNP colleagues and I do not want to see Scotland taken out of the European Union against its will, and we want to stop Brexit. However, I know that others who have signed the Bill and will vote for it want to deliver Brexit. We disagree on that, which is fine, but we agree fundamentally that a no-deal Brexit is unacceptable and must be stopped at all costs.

This legislation is important, and I am sorry that we have a Government who cannot be trusted and who have tried every trick in the book to avoid scrutiny and democracy. Can Members imagine how we can be in a position whereby, over the weekend, the Government could be asked a legitimate question about whether or not they respect the rule of law? I hope that Members will reflect on that during the coming days. Unfortunately, it goes to the heart of the Prime Minister’s approach. He is the least trustworthy resident of No. 10 Downing Street whom anyone can remember. We are in our present position because of a mess of his making. He had no plans before the referendum, and he has no plans now.

There is nothing new in the negotiations, and the Ministers have told us nothing new about them. Instead, we have a Government who are perfectly willing to let the rest of the population endure food price increases when too many people already depend on food banks, medical shortages that will hit the most needy and vulnerable, and damage to public services that have already been hit by a decade of austerity, depriving our young people of education and employment opportunities that my generation enjoyed and benefited from.

All of us in Parliament should be doing our utmost to support and protect those people. That is a basic tenet of our democracy. This slash-and-burn approach to politics will damage everyone across these islands and Europe for decades, but most of all it will damage people in the United Kingdom. We can stop it now, and we can do so with legislation. We owe that to the most vulnerable, and to those who will be worst affected.