Early Parliamentary General Election

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:49 pm on 28th October 2019.

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Photo of Ian Blackford Ian Blackford SNP Westminster Leader 5:49 pm, 28th October 2019

May I begin by thanking the European Union for granting the extension that this Parliament asked for under the Benn Act? We are not leaving Europe on 31 October, as the Prime Minister told the Conservative party and the United Kingdom we would be. The Conservative party and the Prime Minister have been defeated once again.

A general election on the terms offered by the Prime Minister is not and will not ever be acceptable to the Scottish National party, but doing nothing is not an option. The impasse cannot remain forever. We on these Benches do want an election, but not with the hand that the Prime Minister is delivering. Let us be clear about what he promises: he proposes to bring back his bad withdrawal deal; he knows that some Labour MPs will help him pass that Bill and then he would have us leave the EU at the end of November, before a general election. For Scotland, that would mean we would be taken out of the EU against our will, and we will never vote for such a proposition. It would give the Prime Minister a post-Brexit election, something we simply will not sign up to.

At the weekend, I and the leader of the Liberal Democrats wrote to Donald Tusk seeking a meaningful extension to article 50 that would remove the risk of no deal and give us time. The continuation of the flextension, whereby the UK can leave at the end of any month in which it passes the motion, is not the complete safety and security we want. It demonstrates precisely why if we enable this motion to pass, we will be out before the Prime Minister’s election. We cannot allow this Prime Minister to railroad through this disastrous so-called “deal”: a deal that opens the door to a hard Brexit, with us outside the single market and the customs union; and a deal that would end freedom of movement, seeing Scotland’s working population decline—that is what the Conservatives offer the people of Scotland.

The people of Scotland have made their position very clear, because we voted 62% to remain in the EU. Where is the respect to the people of Scotland and to our Parliament? This is, after all, a deal that leaves Scotland at a disadvantage to Northern Ireland and a deal that will not have the consent of the Scottish Parliament. Let me tell the Prime Minister that that consent is required, despite what he said at Prime Minister’s questions last week. There must be respect towards the Scottish Parliament. This deal will cost each person in Scotland the equivalent of £1,600 compared with EU membership —or even more if no trade agreement can be reached.

So today, Scottish National party Members will not be supporting the Prime Minister in his motion. We will not be bullied by this Prime Minister. We will not play his games. And we know what he does not want: to face the electorate having missed his 31 October deadline. He has not delivered Brexit, and the people know he has failed. In his own words, it is time for the PM to look for the nearest ditch.

We will support the Liberal Democrat proposal for an election before Brexit can happen, with no reintroduction of the withdrawal agreement Bill, because given the way some Labour MPs voted, we cannot trust Labour to block the Bill in future. This is not an issue of three days between election dates; it is an issue of whether we are in the European Union or out of it. That is fundamental. We are ready for an election, but it must be on those terms, not—not ever—on the Prime Minister’s. In that election, we want to see votes for 16 and 17-year-olds and for EU nationals. When that election comes, we will fight the Tories on Brexit, on the rape clause, on austerity, on the harm they have done to people’s lives and livelihoods, and, yes, we will fight them on the right of Scotland to choose our own future, rather than be dragged through this Westminster mess ever again.