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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 Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

Not just now.

The earliest that we could contemplate holding that referendum would be in September. What would the question be? There are at least four different possible outcomes that people want from this process. Some people want no Brexit at all, some want Brexit on the Prime Minister’s terms, some want Brexit on other terms—as yet undefined—and some want a no-deal Brexit. How can we have a referendum that would give a majority for any one of those propositions?

Nor is there much evidence that a second referendum would have a different result from the last one. The opinion polls on the remain or leave question show that remain would have a small lead. That is exactly what the opinion polls told us in advance of the 2016 referendum, so the chances are that we would go through the expense, trouble and delay of a second referendum and end up exactly where we started.

The reality is that the SNP knows that. Quoted in

The Herald on 12 February, a “senior SNP source” said of the people’s vote campaign:

“It’s dead and everyone knows it. Many people in the party are taking this view now”.

For all their rhetoric about how bad a no-deal Brexit would be, many in the SNP actually want no deal because they believe that it would drive up support for Scottish independence. That, after all, is the only issue that matters to the SNP. From the very start, it has seen Brexit as an opportunity to advance the independence agenda.

Within hours of the referendum result being announced back in June 2016, Nicola Sturgeon was on her feet in Bute house, telling the world that she was instructing her civil servants to draw up legislation for a second independence referendum. Everything that the SNP has said and everything that it has done since that point has been about independence and nothing else. Fortunately, the Scottish people have more sense. There is no evidence of support for independence growing; indeed, people are increasingly angry at SNP opportunism over Brexit.

We need to avoid no deal. We can do that by backing the withdrawal agreement. That was the case in January and it is still the case today. It is what business wants, it is what farming wants and it is what fishing wants; it is clearly in Scotland’s interests. We should get on and vote for it before more uncertainty and damage are caused.