European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill Debate

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Department: Cabinet Office

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Rory Stewart Excerpts
2nd reading: House of Commons & Programme motion: House of Commons
Tuesday 22nd October 2019

(4 years, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill 2019-19 View all European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill 2019-19 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Ian Blackford Portrait Ian Blackford
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Let me make some progress. I will happily take interventions later on—[Interruption.] I have not even started yet.

It will come as no surprise to the House that Scottish National party MPs will not vote for this Bill that seeks to implement the destructive Brexit deal, and I commit all 35 of our MPs to not doing so. We will be united. Scotland voted to remain: 62% of those who voted in Scotland voted to remain, and we are the only part of the United Kingdom being taken out of the European Union, the single market and the customs union against our will. England voted to leave; Wales voted to leave; and Northern Ireland is getting a differentiated deal—there may be issues with it, but it is getting a differentiated deal—and that at the very least puts Scotland at a competitive disadvantage. Scotland is being sidelined and silenced, but Scotland will not be silenced. The SNP is here to fight this toxic Tory Government. Scotland’s voice must be heard, and we must be respected.

Ian Blackford Portrait Ian Blackford
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I really have to question whether Conservatives are thinking about these interventions before they make them. Scotland is a country. London is a city. There is a world of difference between them. This reminds me of the Prime Minister’s statement that a pound spent in Croydon was worth more than a pound spent in Strathclyde. What about London, indeed! Our Scottish Parliament must be respected and have its say on the legislative consent motion for this Bill. I say to the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart) that this is the difference: Cardiff and Edinburgh must provide consent to this Bill, but that is not the situation for the city of London.

Members should note that the Scottish Government have now lodged in the Scottish Parliament a legislative consent memorandum for this Bill. It concludes by recommending that the Scottish Parliament withhold legislative consent. We were told after our referendum in 2014 that we were to lead the UK. Under the respect agenda, we were told that we were an equal partner and that our opinions would be respected, yet here we are today, with our Parliament and our views being disregarded, and our rights as EU citizens about to be taken from us against our will.

--- Later in debate ---
Rory Stewart Portrait Rory Stewart (Penrith and The Border) (Ind)
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In this whole debate, I believe there have essentially been two principles. One of them is the principle of how to honour the result of that referendum, and the second is the principle of how to take a deal safely and responsibly through Parliament. My big beg to the House—here I am speaking to colleagues who voted for Brexit—is let us, please, in these very final stages, do it properly. This is their great founding moment. This document is an opportunity for them to create an enormous constitutional change that can last for the next 40 years, so please do it properly—do it properly through the House of Commons. I know that is a very difficult thing to say, but this is possible to do.

I could make an argument about the philosophical principle here, but the reason to do this is essentially a reason of trust. We have heard a lot about trust from Brexiteers today, and for every kind of reason: there is every reason for Brexiteers to be enraged. They voted to leave, but they did not leave on 31 March, and they are in a boiling rage. They were promised we would leave on 31 October, and they want to leave. I get it. But it is also really important that we think about the other half of the population, and we have to think about how to do this legitimately.

This is not easy to do, but I promise this as somebody who voted remain and has backed a Brexit deal from the moment of that referendum again and again and again. I have done so for no reason at all: I am not a member of this Conservative party any more—I do not get any bonus points for voting for a second referendum—and I literally have nothing to gain from backing this Brexit. I am backing it for one reason only, which is that people voted for it, and I promised to respect the result of that vote. However, in return, people deserve scrutiny. This is a hell of a big document, and we cannot pretend that two and a half days is long enough to scrutinise it.

I know there will be many voices in the Chamber saying, “We’ve been talking about this long enough. What are we going to scrutinise anyway? What speeches are we going to hear that we haven’t already heard, and anyway the whole place is a talking shop.” We cannot think like this. This is our Parliament, and we cannot do down our Parliament. As the right hon. Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) has said again and again, this was an exercise in regaining the sovereignty of Parliament. If it is about regaining the sovereignty of Parliament, treat Parliament with respect. If we are taking back control from a European court to a British court, treat the British court with respect. If you are taking back control from a European Parliament to a British Parliament, treat Parliament with respect. If you are taking back control, show that you are worthy to exercise that control.

All I am asking for is a little patience. Three days in Committee and three days on Report and we could have the Bill done in the House of Commons by 31 October and taken in the Lords. I promise you, this founding moment for you, instead of being poisoned with the stain of illegitimacy and associated with bullying tactics and a casual attitude to the Supreme Court, the monarchy and the Parliament, could be done in an honourable, responsible and proper fashion of which you can be proud for the next 40 years.