Brexit

– in the Scottish Parliament on 3rd October 2019.

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Photo of Jackson Carlaw Jackson Carlaw Conservative

1. The deal that was presented by the Prime Minister to the European Union, about which he is currently speaking in the House of Commons, has now attracted support from people who want to leave the European Union with a deal. I would vote for it—why will the First Minister not do so?

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

We found out this week that Jackson Carlaw will vote for whatever Boris Johnson tells him to vote for.

The proposals that were published by the United Kingdom Government yesterday do not look, at this stage, like they will be acceptable to the European Union. The proposals also seem to break all the promises that were made to Ireland at the start of the Brexit process. Aside from all that, the proposals would take Scotland out of the European Union, out of the single market and out of the customs union, all against our will, and they suggest a much looser relationship with the EU—a much harder Brexit—even than that proposed by Theresa May.

I will be quite clear, as I have been crystal clear in the past, that I will not support something like that, because Scotland does not support that. If Jackson Carlaw was interested in standing up for Scotland, as opposed to simply standing up for Boris Johnson, he would not be supporting it either.

Photo of Jackson Carlaw Jackson Carlaw Conservative

Our position is that further dither, delay and uncertainty, and the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister—to which the First Minister is disgracefully open—is much more damaging to us all than getting the matter sorted now. We are at the 11th hour; there is a need on all sides to compromise if we are going to reach a negotiated settlement. Yet, the record of this Scottish National Party Government has been to fail to do so.

The First Minister repeatedly says that she will do anything possible to stop no deal, yet, despite three opportunities so far this year, her MPs have never voted for a deal. Does she regret not ordering her MPs to vote for a deal when she had the chance?

The First Minister:

My alternative to no deal is no Brexit. That is what the people of Scotland voted for. All the efforts that I made at compromise, to keep us in the single market and the customs union, were spurned and cast aside by Theresa May. I will not support an option that takes us out of not just the EU but the single market and the customs union.

Jackson Carlaw has no credibility on this, or perhaps on anything else, after the events of this week. He has gone from being an enthusiastic remainer to a Boris Johnson-loving, no-deal Brexiteer in what seems like a heartbeat. To use the language of the Secretary of State for Scotland, he has brought the Scottish Tories “into line” with his Westminster bosses. In doing so, he has completely abandoned the interests of the Scottish people—shame on him for that. No wonder his colleagues now want to get rid of him. I have to say that I thought the Labour Party was the master when it came to getting rid of leaders, but at least it waits until the leader is elected before it tries to oust them. Jackson Carlaw is about to be ousted before he is even elected.

Photo of Jackson Carlaw Jackson Carlaw Conservative

The real shame is a First Minister who is prepared to conspire to make Jeremy Corbyn the Prime Minister of this country.

Once again—and typically—the First Minister confirms that there has not been a referendum this century the result of which she is prepared to accept, support or implement. That is not democracy. Let us just examine for a moment the First Minister’s plan and the fantasy top team that she now wants to run Britain. We have the Liberal Democrats, who want to cancel Brexit altogether—although Jamie Stone, the official spokesman for Scotland, wants to support no deal over Jeremy Corbyn. We have Jeremy Corbyn, who wants to get a new deal and then possibly campaign against it in a referendum that he may or may not support. That is topped up by the SNP, which claims that it will do everything to avoid a no-deal Brexit, other than to vote for a deal.

The Conservatives want a deal and we would vote for a deal—[

Interruption

.]

The First Minister has said that she wants a deal, but now will not vote for one. Which approach does she think is most likely to secure a deal?

The First Minister:

I want Scotland to remain in the European Union. First, because that is the best option for Scotland and secondly, because that is what people in Scotland voted for—they voted to remain in the EU. Jackson Carlaw used to agree with me on that: he used to agree that, if that was not possible, we should at least stay in the single market and the customs union, and he used to agree with me that no-deal Brexit should be avoided at all costs. Now, we have a situation where Jackson Carlaw’s position can be simplified to simply doing whatever Boris Johnson instructs him to do.

Jackson Carlaw does not care about the best interests of the Scottish people. I am not even sure that he cares about the best interests of the Scottish Conservative Party, because backing no deal is certainly not in those interests. I think that Jackson Carlaw has made the miscalculation that backing Boris Johnson is the best way to remain leader of the Scottish Conservative Party. I have to say that his colleagues seem to have a completely different view of that. Jackson Carlaw has squandered any shred of credibility he ever had.

Photo of Jackson Carlaw Jackson Carlaw Conservative

If the First Minister had the courage of her convictions, she would have voted for a general election several weeks ago and there would have been an opportunity for the issue to have been resolved before 31 October. She had a chance, but once again, her MPs were all talk and no action.

The Scottish Conservatives welcome the fact that, in the EU and the European Commission, senior figures have not rushed to judgment—unlike the First Minister—and have made it clear that they are prepared to examine the plan in detail. We urge both those in Europe and the UK Government to continue their intensive discussions over the coming days. That is the best way to get the matter resolved, rather than the neverendum that the First Minister supports.

The truth is—and the First Minister has confirmed it—that the SNP does not want a deal. It is not prepared to respect or implement the result of the referendum; whether it is this deal or Theresa May’s deal, the SNP’s answer is always no. Rather than have yet more delay, is it not time that we got this done?

The First Minister:

When it comes to Boris Johnson’s proposals, it is probably more a case of intensive care, rather than intensive discussions, given the reactions that we heard yesterday. I do not see any indication that the proposals will be acceptable to the European Union. They also break every single promise that was made to Ireland. I remember Ruth Davidson saying that she would never, ever back any proposals that put a border down the Irish Sea, but now Jackson Carlaw has completely changed his position on that.

The fact of the matter is that there is not a shred of principle in the Scottish Conservatives’ position. They have gone from enthusiastic remainers to no-deal Brexiteers, simply because they have been instructed to do so by Boris Johnson.

The First Minister:

Jackson Carlaw is saying that I do not support a deal. I do not know where Jackson Carlaw has been for the last three-and-a-half years: I do not support Scotland being taken out of the European Union. I want us to remain in the EU. I do not want Scotland to be dragged out against our will by any Tory Government. That is why I will continue to press for Scotland’s place in the European Union and I will continue to offer a choice to the people of Scotland, so that we can choose an independent future as a way of protecting that relationship.