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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

It was rejected by such a massive vote in the House of Commons for a variety of reasons, not least that the deal as it was presented then was not acceptable. That is why, since that day, work has progressed to achieve a different outcome, and we will see what that is next week.

I again state unequivocally, because I believe that this is fundamentally important, particularly today, that Scotland does not value those who have made their home here only for the economic benefit that that brings, important as it is. Those who have settled here contribute immeasurably to the fabric and culture of our country and our whole national life experience. No one could have come away from watching the interview with Mrs Macdonald that was broadcast earlier today without feeling deeply saddened by it. It is a reminder to us all that major events such as Brexit are not really about graphs or charts; they are about the impact on people. I am sorry for any distress that that has caused her, and I hope very much that she will get support over the coming weeks

If we are a more tolerant and inclusive nation, it is because of the presence of new Scots, not in spite of it. In a UK with a rapidly changing demographic, we all need to work together to ensure that that is the perspective of the whole of the UK and not just of the politicians in this chamber. We do not envisage a United Kingdom that pulls up the drawbridge on the world; we want it to remain the same outward-looking country that it has always been.

Indeed, the Prime Minister’s deal secures many of the asks that the SNP once demanded. It asked for an implementation period to smooth our exit from the EU—that is being delivered. Rightly, it called for guarantees for EU citizens who live here—those, too, are being delivered. It has insisted on the need to prevent a hard border in Ireland—again, that is exactly what the deal will ensure. At no stage has the SNP acknowledged any of that. It has a campaign to run: to use Brexit to stir the independence pot. In its own words, that “transcends everything”. It is also the core reason that the SNP has lost—not gained—support since the Brexit referendum took place. Rightly, it has been seen to be using Brexit for its own political ends. Let us remember that at the election in 2017, the SNP, led by Nicola Sturgeon, lost half a million votes—the largest loss of votes in a single election by any party in modern Scottish political history.

Just 25 days are left before we leave the EU. No amount of talking, debating or arguing will get around the cold, immovable fact that if no deal is agreed, we will leave with no deal. That is not a political statement or an opinion; it is a fact. It is the automatic operation of the law and the default position, and no amount of bluster will get away from it. The EU has made it clear that any request to extend the deadline, were one to be made, would be agreed only to facilitate an agreement that has been reached, not to allow further vacillation. It is not enough for the SNP—or any other party—simply to say that it wants to avoid no deal. If it wants to do so, it will have to back a deal. Only one deal is on the table—one that, until the final vote, is still capable of clarification to meet the genuine concerns that many MPs and others still have. Even as we speak, progress continues to be made to resolve such concerns, and to give a majority of MPs the reassurance that they need so that they are able, in good conscience, to give the deal their support.