Prorogation of Parliament — [Joan Ryan in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 6:00 pm on 9th September 2019.

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Photo of Tommy Sheppard Tommy Sheppard Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Scotland), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (House of Lords) 6:00 pm, 9th September 2019

I know; it is staggering.

We need to ask ourselves why this is happening. It is because we have a Prime Minister who has no mandate, no majority in the House and no ability to get legislation through Parliament. Rather than compromise with Parliament or seek a majority, he is determined simply to walk away from it and not have the debate. That is a very bad look for our democracy.

It is also bad that we have a Prime Minister who, in his public pronouncements, is uncertain whether he will deliver on the will of Parliament, and now the law of the land, which is that in the absence of a withdrawal deal with the European Union, we should seek an extension until 31 January to allow further time for an agreement to emerge. That the Prime Minister and his advisers are equivocal on that is a matter for deep concern.

I do not buy the Prime Minister’s suggestion that all we need to do in these circumstances is have a quick cut-and-run election. There is no point having an election if the main point of it—to decide whether or not to crash out of the European Union without a deal—cannot be altered by the outcome. We cannot allow an election simply so that the Prime Minister can escape the obligation that Parliament has placed on him. Parliament has not allowed that to happen, and I am sure that it will not allow it later on tonight.

An election will need to come soon; the delay will be only a matter of weeks. As soon as we are confident that we will not crash out of the European Union without a deal, and have more time to consider options and strategy, it will be frankly impossible to advance the process in the country without going back to the people. It is time for them to have another say.

I sense that an awful lot of Members of Parliament, on both sides of the House, understand very well the consequences of Brexit; they are not attracted to them, but they feel that they do not have a mandate to oppose Brexit because of the nature of the manifesto on which they stood in 2017. Shaking up the political cards and allowing a different Parliament to emerge with fresh mandates may open the possibility for reconsideration of this matter. I hope that an election will allow a new Parliament to consider putting the matter back to the people who started the process.

It is not the role of Parliament to overturn, set aside or ignore the will of the people, but it is the role of Parliament to interpret it. If we have found, three years later, that what the people asked us to do—that is, to leave the European Union and make things better—is simply undoable, and if what they ask cannot be done, and the circle cannot be squared, then we need to go back to the people, explain that, and ask them whether they want to reconsider. It may well be that they do not want to do that, and that they are content to leave the European Union knowing that it will impoverish them and their families, and diminish the character and culture of this country. That choice should be for them, and they should be allowed to make it, but I am confident that if we are given the opportunity to fight that election, we can get an alternative point of view to emerge—one that will look at the benefits of remaining in the European Union, and changing it so that it delivers for people’s aspirations.

When that election comes in Scotland, my party will not just say, “Stop and reconsider the process of Brexit,” and campaign for an alternative Government to the one that we have had for nearly a decade, but demand and assert the right of the people of Scotland to choose an alternative future. It should be their right not to go down the path that they are being led down by the Prime Minister, and to say that they want to consider an alternative, independent future, in which they take political control of their affairs and determine their relationship with the rest of the people in Britain and Europe. That is the manifesto that we shall put before people in the election that I am sure will come in November, and I look forward to returning to this Chamber to argue that case.