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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 Elizabeth Smith Elizabeth Smith Conservative

I think that everybody in the chamber, whatever our political views and however we voted on Brexit, fully acknowledges that the 2016 referendum result has led us to one of the most difficult periods that there has ever been in British politics. Recognising the complexities and difficulties of Brexit has made us question a lot about ourselves, but has also raised questions about the political process and how it operates.

Brexit has been deeply troubling—it has been emotive and divisive in exactly the same way as the independence referendum in 2014—but, as we try very hard to take an objective stance on the current debate, we should remember three things. First, we have a democratic duty as politicians to respect the result of the referendum, even if we personally do not like that result. Secondly, rather than watching endless wrangling over constitutional structures, voters want us to focus on an outcome that works for them and their families. Thirdly, as we listen to the public, we must also carefully listen to those sectors on which our economic future depends, especially in business and industry. The majority, if not all of them believe that we should support the deal.

We should also acknowledge that, in 2014, when the people of Scotland made a decision to stay in the United Kingdom, and in 2016, when the people of the UK made a decision to withdraw from the EU, they made those decisions when the terms of the plebiscite were agreed beforehand. That agreement embodied an acceptance by both sides that the result of the referendum would stand.

As I said in the previous Brexit debate in this chamber, I was very disappointed by the EU referendum result. I strongly believed that the economic reasons for remaining in the EU—Willie Rennie mentioned some of them—were powerful and I believed that a majority would think so. I was wrong.