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Britain's Place in the World

Part of Speaker’s Statement – in the House of Commons at 3:55 pm on 15th October 2019.

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Photo of Stephen Gethins Stephen Gethins Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) 3:55 pm, 15th October 2019

All of this takes away our rights, and the hon. Gentleman makes a valuable point.

If we need any further advice, what do we say about the hundreds of thousands of UK citizens who are now desperately looking up long-lost family connections to see whether they can get a much sought after EU passport? I cannot blame them for doing so—I will not blame them—and I can understand why they would do it, but I do blame this Government for devaluing UK citizenship, and for nothing: they have given up any pretence that any of this is a good idea or that any of this benefits us, and freedom of movement sits at the heart of the benefits that UK citizens have had for generations. The UK will now be unique among its neighbours in not having freedom of movement for our citizens. It is tragic, and it is regressive.

Today’s debate is about Britain’s place in the world, but Britain’s place in the world has rarely been more diminished than it has been by this Government. I think that has been done not by the people of the UK or even those who voted leave, but by the continuing failure of those who sold a Brexit myth and have absolutely no idea how to deliver it. It has even been diminished in the view of those who the Brexiteers think will save us from our nearest neighbours. I note that former Prime Minister Gillard of Australia has said:

“I do worry that people are starting to imagine that a trade deal with Australia is somehow a substitute for being on the doorstep of a market with 500 million people—it’s not.”

She is right. I also notice that Canada’s Globe and Mail has had to express an apology recently because, six months ago, it described the Government’s Brexit policy as a complete “omnishambles”, saying that things could not get any worse, but of course things did get worse. At least, it had the decency to apologise for the mistake it made.

The broader mess of Brexit is seen more globally where the UK has become more and more isolated at a time when it needs to work with its international partners. The Secretary of State talked about a leading role in global affairs. Why does he not talk about a leading role in global affairs to the Yemenis, given that we have held the pen at the UN, but cannot deliver on the agreement and continue to sell arms to one of the perpetrators of that conflict? This is a Government who model themselves and their policy on Trump’s White House. That is not the international positioning I think the UK Government should be looking at, and it is not the leadership that anybody should be looking at.