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European Union (Withdrawal) Acts

Part of Prime Minister’s Statement – in the House of Commons at 12:51 pm on 19th October 2019.

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Photo of Ian Blackford Ian Blackford SNP Westminster Leader 12:51 pm, 19th October 2019

Thank you, Mr Speaker. Perhaps if Members settled down, we could get through this and their voices might be heard.

Despite promise after promise made by the Scottish Tories to protect our fishermen, we already know that the backstop loophole in the deal threatens to be devastating for the Scottish fishing sector. Under the proposed deal—[Interruption.] It might help if Ross Thomson listened, rather than trying to shout from the Bar of the House. This is about fishermen’s livelihoods, which the Scottish Tories falsely claim to protect. Under the proposed deal, Scottish fish exports to the European Union face being hit by damaging tariffs. Any move that could see Scottish vessels registered in Northern Ireland land their catch there and then have it moved to the Republic of Ireland for processing to escape those duties would pose a huge danger to Scotland’s fishing ports and wider processing industry. That is the reality of what the Tories are threatening to do to our fishing industry. This would directly threaten thousands of jobs, and could make the sector among the hardest hit by Brexit in the whole of Scotland—Scottish fishing sold out by the Conservatives yet again. That is the stark reality, as opposed to the bluster of a UK Tory Government who once again treat Scotland as an afterthought. Well, we in the SNP will not stand for it.

I warn Members who march through the Lobby with the Government this afternoon that selling Scotland out by backing this deal will be the final nail in the coffin for the Union. While the UK drags Scotland out of the EU against our will, and this Tory Government downgrade our devolution settlement and destroy our rights, in Scotland the SNP are looking proudly at our record. We are ambitious for our nation, and not this Prime Minister, not the Leader of the Opposition and not any leader of the Liberal Democrats—not anyone—will stand in our way. The Scottish people are sovereign and they should have the choice to determine their own future.

This year, Scotland is marking the 20th anniversary of devolution—the establishment of our Scottish Parliament. The first speech that was made in the new Scottish Parliament in May 1999 was by my good friend Winifred Ewing. At the time she made that speech, she was of course also the Mother of the European Parliament, having served there since 1979. Winnie expressed the hope that the Scottish Parliament would try to follow the more consensual style of the European Parliament and other European Parliaments, rather than the more confrontational approach that we have witnessed again here today in Westminster. In our actions today, we are trying to stay true to that advice.

Although there remains uncertainty over whether the proposed deal will pass, what is absolutely clear is that it would take us out of the European Union, out of the single market and out of the customs union against the overwhelming democratic will of the people of Scotland. Scotland did not vote for Brexit in any form and, unlike others, the SNP will not vote for Brexit in any form. Scotland has been shafted, sidelined, silenced and ignored by this UK Government, and it cannot be ignored today. I urge Members not to stand by and allow this Prime Minister to drag us into an economic abyss, because I warn the House that it is clearer than ever that the best future for Scotland is one as an equal, independent, European nation. That is a choice that the SNP is determined to ensure is given to the people of Scotland, and those who vote against Scotland’s interests this afternoon should be aware that they are ending the Union. Scotland is not for leaving Europe. We will become an independent nation. My message to Europe is: leave a light on for Scotland.