Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:39 pm on 9th January 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Philippa Whitford Philippa Whitford Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Health and Social Care), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union) 1:39 pm, 9th January 2020

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his contribution. I think that the tone was set when we saw the former Brexit Secretary, Mr Davis, turn up to the first meeting with not a piece of paper in his hand to meet the EU negotiators. That was rather naive.

Early in her premiership, the former Prime Minister spoke of consulting across the House, and across the UK, before she went to Europe, but she never did. This Prime Minister has sought no common ground, within this Parliament or with the devolved nations, despite the fact that two of them voted to remain.

Brexit was never defined during the referendum. Indeed, Nigel Farage and some of the most ardent Brexiteers suggested that of course the UK would stay in the single market—that it would be madness to leave. They just wanted to get back to a common market.

The Scottish Government’s report, “Scotland’s Place in Europe”, put forward as early as December 2016— three months before the article 50 letter was sent—the compromise proposal that the UK should stay in the single market and customs union. With a 52:48 referendum result, that might even have provided the basis of a compromise between leavers who did not want closer political union and remainers who wanted to keep as many EU benefits as possible. However, if England and Wales wanted to diverge further, the proposal was that Scotland and Northern Ireland should be allowed to stay in the single market and customs union, which would have respected how those nations voted.

Sadly, the proposals were dismissed by the Government out of hand, and the fact that 62% of Scottish voters voted to remain has been completely ignored, with no quarter given and no compromise offered. Indeed, Scotland and the majority of her elected representatives have been treated with growing disrespect in this place over the last three and half years. I gently point out that we do actually have television and the internet in Scotland and that this is being seen by the Scottish people.

Our request for a devolved or, at least, regionalised immigration process after Brexit has also been dismissed, despite Scotland’s demographic need for immigration. We have to be able to ensure that EU citizens, who have made their home in Scotland—including my other half—can stay without being exposed to the notorious hostile environment of the Home Office, but, in future, we also need to be able to attract immigrants from Europe and across the world. With the risk to our public services and key industries such as tourism and farming, and the threat of depopulation in the highlands and islands, this UK Government are certainly not acting in Scotland’s interests.

The UK Government have already taken the overall power to set the rules in 24 areas of devolved competence. All that the Scottish and Welsh Governments requested was that any new UK frameworks should be agreed rather than imposed, but the Tory Government refused—hardly the respect agenda that we used to hear so much about. With the inclusion of fishing, farming, food standards, food safety and food labelling, as well as public procurement, it is clear that this is about being able to tie up Scotland and sell it out in a trade deal. This power grab already drives a coach and horses through the Scotland Act 1998, but in voting down yesterday my simple amendment to protect the devolution Acts from sweeping delegated powers we saw a Government taking power to alter the devolution settlement without even parliamentary scrutiny.

Last night, the Scottish Parliament voted by 92 to 29 to withhold legislative consent from the Bill, due to the risk that it poses to Scotland and the current devolution settlement. Ignoring this voice and riding roughshod over the legislative consent process after 20 years of devolution will undermine the very Union that Conservative Members protest to hold so dear.