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European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:25 pm on 22nd October 2019.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Independent, Beaconsfield 4:25 pm, 22nd October 2019

I value my hon. Friend and neighbour—in terms of our rooms—far too much to ignore what he has to say, but I have to say to him that my Unionism extends to Scotland in a very big way, and I think he knows that. Admittedly one can make powerful arguments to the contrary on this, as indeed he and his colleagues have done—it is such a pleasure to have them here as dotted Conservative representatives from north of the border. That has given me such pleasure, but we cannot ignore the arguments are going to be made by those who disagree with us. I simply make the point that I think I know enough about the situation to see that that argument is going to be made in a context where, on the evidence of the 2016 referendum, a majority in Scotland wanted to remain.

It is not that Scotland is the same as Northern Ireland—I wish to reassure him on that point. There are exceptional features to Northern Ireland, but I simply say that we, as a Unionist party, are creating an extra layer of difficulty for ourselves, which we will have to argue our way through. Of course, that may be an inherent consequence of Brexit; it is one reason why I regret so much the 2016 result, although I acknowledge that we cannot ignore it. However, I have suggested repeatedly—I will not go over this now—that there is a better way of trying to address this issue: by going back and getting confirmation that this is what people really want, because of the nature and consequences of what we are about to do.

My final point is about why I will vote against this Bill on Second Reading. I might have abstained otherwise, but I very much regret the programme motion, which is treating the House in an insulting way. It also says something about this Government, which worries me. I am a Conservative—even though I have lost the Whip I remain a Conservative—and to see a Government, on a constitutional measure, playing bully-boy tactics with this House can only be counterproductive to the very aims they would like to achieve. This is not the quiet government I came here to try to deliver, and I therefore regret very much that I will vote against the programme motion and against the Government on Second Reading.