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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 Jackson Carlaw Jackson Carlaw Conservative

In a little while.

The vote did not carry any caveats. It was a UK-wide referendum that meant that we were all going to go or we were all going to stay. Indeed, that was recognised by the First Minister during the campaign, when she took part in UK-wide television debates, rightly in my view, as we both campaigned to convince people from across the UK to remain. As I have said previously—I was quoted by no less a source than the then First Minister—had I lost the independence referendum in 2014, I would have been among the first to join team Scotland in seeking a good deal for us outside the UK. That would have been my duty. Likewise, after the Brexit vote, it is vital that the losers, however hard it is, provide their consent to the result and seek to make our withdrawal work.

I now hear an argument from the SNP and others that the 2016 vote is invalid, because leave voters somehow did not realise what they were voting for in the referendum. We are asked to accept the assertion, with only self-serving anecdotal evidence to credit it, that 17 million people were so foolish when they voted to leave that they had obviously been hoodwinked. Such an argument only illustrates in the eyes of those who voted to leave the arrogance of those who make it and the very elitism that those voters in part voted against. Almost every study of the 2016 vote has shown that leave voters knew exactly what they were voting for—it was to remove the UK from EU supranational institutions and to get greater control of their community and our borders.

I want to set out why the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration that goes with it are worthy of our support. As time passes, and as the pressure of a deadline intensifies, it is all too easy to lose track of how far we have come. If we cast our minds back to mid-2016, we find that, at that point, the discussion was often nervously considering the possibility of no deal being reached with our European partners, a complete breakdown in talks with the EU, mutual intransigence, the EU27 rejecting the deal and a no-deal outcome becoming a certainty. We were told that we would never be able to agree financial terms to leave and that the price that the EU would demand would be between £80 billion and £100 billion. We repeatedly heard that view expressed to the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee. Even a year or 18 months ago, a deal was far from inevitable, but we now have it in our grasp.

The agreement offers us a chance to deliver Brexit in a smooth and workable manner, and that is the view of our 27 EU partners every bit as much as it is the view of the UK Government. It is now the only way that we can leave the EU on the basis of an organised exit. It delivers on the decision that the country made, handing back control of our money, laws and borders to the British people. It returns control over our waters, offering us the chance to revitalise our fishing sector. Although we will be able to strike new deals around the world, the agreement will also ensure that we maintain a strong and abiding friendship with our allies across the continent.