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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 Tom Arthur Tom Arthur Scottish National Party

I recognise the range of reasons for people voting to come out, and my party’s position on the CFP has been well known for decades. However, there was a broad suite of reasons for the vote, and it is incumbent on parliamentarians to explore them.

The question is, will Brexit deliver for the people who voted for it? Will it address their concerns? If we are honest with ourselves, we know perfectly well that it will not do so. It will not, in itself, address inequality. It will not address lack of opportunity.

Fundamentally, the withdrawal agreement that has been produced is unworkable. It is riddled with irreconcilable paradoxes, such as the paradox of wanting close association with the European Union while having the capacity to engage with other nations on trade. It is simply not possible to have both. It seeks to reduce immigration, but the reality is that, if we are to get anywhere in trade negotiations with China or India, there will have to be relaxation of visa rules. We have already seen an increase in immigration from outside the EU, and such immigration will offset the immigration that was coming from within the EU.

We want to preserve standards and present Britain and the UK as a world-class producer of goods, but leaving the EU will mean compromising our standards, as has been made clear by the revelations about what the United States will demand in trade negotiations. The withdrawal agreement does not confront those issues; it sits in a state of paradox. It is not unlike the paradox of Buridan’s ass, which tells of a donkey that is equidistant between a bucket of water and a haystack. The starving, dehydrated donkey cannot choose which one to go for, so it dies. That is the reality of the withdrawal agreement.

Buridan’s paradox is about the difference between determinism and free will. The issue of determinism is important, because the withdrawal agreement is the result of red lines that the Prime Minister did not have to set. Those red lines have led to this path; the negotiation, which has led to the miserable compromise that cannot command the support of the House of Commons, is the result of a Prime Minister having shown utter incompetence not only in setting the red lines but in triggering article 50—the one card that she could play—prematurely.

The Presiding Officer is indicating that my time is up. I hope that I have been able to contribute something to the debate.