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European Union Withdrawal Negotiations

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 5th March 2019.

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Photo of James Kelly James Kelly Labour

The consequence of that disastrous decision was the loss of the 2016 referendum, costing David Cameron his premiership. As Patrick Harvie said, when Theresa May took over, she declared that “Brexit means Brexit” and tried to produce a solution that was in tune with that statement. However, again, the reality was that she could not navigate her way through the internal politics of the Tory party.

Theresa May went to the country in 2017 seeking a bigger majority to ensure that she could get a deal through. That went catastrophically wrong, as she ran aground on the election trail and was returned without an overall majority. Since then, she has not been able to achieve any consensus in the House of Commons, which has subsequently resulted in her losing a vote on her proposed deal by 230 votes. Now, with 25 days to go, she has resorted to simply running down the clock in the hope that, as we get nearer to 29 March, people will vote for her deal.

All around us is evidence of the implications of Brexit and of a no deal. In the car industry, Honda in Swindon is closing down with the loss of 3,500 jobs, and Jaguar Land Rover continually warns of the threat of a no-deal Brexit. The implications for trading arrangements are important, because a lot of companies rely on just-in-time production to get goods into and out of the United Kingdom quickly. The Government is drawing up plans for lorry parks, but that will slow everything down and have a dramatic effect on the economic production of those car companies.

A no-deal Brexit would have drastic economic consequences. Experts have warned of the dangers to the exchange rate, with the pound being devalued by anything between 10 and 30 per cent. The Bank of England has said that inflation could rise to between 4.25 and 6.5 per cent, and that there would be consequential changes to interest rates. All that would result in implications for the real value of money and in the economy slowing down, ultimately leading to a reduction in demand and in production and resulting in job losses. There would also be an impact on the Scottish budget.

It is right that we assess the implications of where we are now and reject a no-deal Brexit on the basis of its drastic consequences. The fact is that there is no support for any option to go through the House of Commons, which means that the extension of article 50 is the next logical step in order to extend the process.

As part of that, a public vote must be considered—there must be the option to bring this back to the people. Members have pointed to the democratic result in 2016, but given the potential consequences—the job losses, the drastic impact on our communities and the reduction in people’s living standards—if this goes back to a public vote, we must have the option to remain.

We have a catastrophe before us and people have been let down. To plot a way forward, we need to clearly reject a no deal, look at extending article 50 and look at options for the future, including a public vote.