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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

If we continually go back to the people because we have not accepted what they said in the first place—and the terms were agreed—we are in danger of undermining our democracy, which is very precious to everybody in this chamber.

Like many others who voted to remain, I had to accept that people made a decision that I did not. There are some interesting points to make in that regard. In all the tortuous negotiations and the reaction to them, we have seen a constant battle between respecting the democratic will of the people—in other words, ridding British politics of all the things that were seen by the 52 per cent to be the disadvantages of an increasingly bureaucratic EU, especially in having too much control over our laws and borders—and preserving those aspects that were seen to be advantageous, the overwhelming number of which were economic.

The country has been faced with a national debate that has played out across the land and within families, according to different criteria predominating among leave and remain voters, and we need to respect that fact—something which, in my view, has never been accepted by some on the right wing of my party or by some in the SNP who have persistently implied that the Scottish electorate was not divided in its opinion on Brexit when, of course, it was.

That is why we have seen a constant use of Brexit as the raison d’etre for the promotion of independence for Scotland. As I have said before, and will say again, the arguments for Scottish independence are seen by many as amounting to a perfectly coherent political belief, which is why, in 2012, the Edinburgh agreement was signed by the Scottish and UK Governments to allow that political belief to be tested in a referendum. That referendum was lost. There was not a sufficient number of voters who were persuaded of the benefits of an independent Scotland. The economic analysis was not judged to be in an independent Scotland’s favour. Not enough people were persuaded that Scotland was better off outside the UK. However, some in the SNP have never accepted that, just as some in the Conservative Party are not prepared to accept the outcome of the Brexit debate.