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European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:27 pm on 22nd October 2019.

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Photo of Ian Blackford Ian Blackford SNP Westminster Leader 3:27 pm, 22nd October 2019

I think there are very legitimate questions to be answered, and my hon. Friend is quite correct. I am conscious of time and I have taken a number of interventions, but I am not far from the end and I wish to move on and conclude. [Interruption.] Really? “Thank God for that” is what we get from Government Members. That is the disrespect that is shown to the Scottish people. Perhaps they should stand up and put it on the record. That is an absolute disgrace.

It is simply an insult to democracy that the Government are trying to push this Bill through in limited time, and I urge Members—I urge even those on the Government Benches—to ask themselves: is this really how they want things to be done? Even the previous director of legislative affairs at No. 10, Nikki da Costa, stated in May that this Bill would take “more than four weeks”. What has changed? Moreover, it was agreed that this legislation must not be passed until the UK Government have published an economic impact assessment of their deal, yet on “BBC Breakfast” on Saturday, the Brexit Secretary confirmed that no economic analysis has been done by this Government on the final deal. That is the height of irresponsibility. There is no economic analysis on a deal that is going to have a fundamental impact on the lives of all our citizens.

Each and every one of us in this House knows—because we have seen the evidence, we have listened to the experts—that there is no such thing as a good Brexit. In every scenario, Brexit threatens jobs, it risks environmental standards, it risks workers’ rights, it unravels co-operation and opportunities and, importantly, it poses questions about the future values that the UK has fostered hand in hand with the European Union. This Government are closing their eyes, putting their head in the sand and hoping that the sun comes out—the sunny uplands that the Brexiteers talk about—but that is reckless and it is foolish. The arrogance and the incompetence of the Government cannot and must not be allowed to go unchecked. Our priority today must be to ensure that an extension is negotiated and secured with the European Union, so this House can scrutinise fully and properly the significant lasting changes that this legislation will mean.

In closing, I want to touch on some of the substantive points about why, in no circumstances, will the SNP ever vote for Brexit and this shameful deal. Despite our efforts to compromise, this legislation will take us out of the European Union, out of the single market and out of the customs union. With the Prime Minister’s deal, under a free trade agreement Scotland’s GDP would be around 6.1% less, or £9 billion worse off, than if we stayed in the European Union. That is equivalent to £1,600 per person in Scotland. That is the cost of the Prime Minister’s Brexit for Scotland. Northern Ireland businesses will have easier access to the European single market while simultaneously enjoying “unfettered” access to the UK market. There is significant uncertainty as to how the economic impact may play out, but it could see Scottish business losing market share with direct competitors. The risk is that supply chains may be re-organised to take advantage of Northern Ireland’s preferential access to the single market. It may even play a role in location decisions in some cases.

The SNP is significantly concerned that the removal of the commitments on environmental protection from the withdrawal agreement, and restricting them to the non-binding political declaration, opens the door to UK divergence from EU standards. The political declaration remains weak in relation to human rights, and in particular on the importance of continuing UK compliance with the European convention on human rights.

Scotland will be worse off—unfairly disadvantaged—despite our will to remain. Therefore I urge Members not to sell out Scotland. Listen to the will of the Scottish people, protect our devolution settlement, respect our democratically expressed wishes and stand by the rights of the Scottish people, businesses, farmers, crofters, fishermen, students, doctors and nurses. Stand by them and vote to stop this disastrous deal and to give the Scottish Parliament, and therefore the Scottish people, their say.