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UK Constitutional Integrity

Volume 641: debated on Wednesday 16 May 2018

The constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom is vital to the security and prosperity of all four nations. That is why the EU (Withdrawal) Bill respects devolution, while allowing common approaches to be maintained to secure the common market of the United Kingdom.

Yesterday the Scottish National party’s Brexit Minister said:

“There is no such thing as a single market in the UK.”

Does the Minister agree?

Mr Russell has always been perfectly constructive and sensible in his approach to negotiations, and I am obviously disappointed that so far the Scottish Government have not felt able to join the Welsh Government in agreeing to the sensible compromise that is on the table. What has been made very clear to me by Scottish businesses, however, is that the UK common market matters a great deal to their prosperity.

Is the Minister aware that we can have integrity and maintain integrity as well as having access to this vital £600 million market? Is he further aware that a small businessman in my constituency, after hearing him on the Radio 4 “Today” programme, phoned me and said “I feel suicidal.”?

I am sorry if constituents feel that way after talking to the hon. Gentleman. The important point about small businesses is that they need to be able to sell freely to customers and to get supplies from contractors in all parts of the United Kingdom freely without erecting new internal trade barriers within our kingdom. That is what the EU withdrawal Bill makes possible.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that UK-wide frameworks are good for business and good for jobs? Does he share my regret that Nicola Sturgeon wants to damage the integrity of the UK?

Constitutionally, nationalist politicians are quite entitled to pursue their political objectives. The Government’s responsibility is to ensure that Scottish businesses and Scottish consumers are protected and that they do not risk extra burdens or higher prices as a result of obstruction in the UK internal market.

Order. Mr Linden, I have high hopes of your prospects of statesmanship in due course, which are not aided by you waving an Order Paper in an eccentric manner. [Interruption.] Order. The same goes for Scottish Conservative Members. Mr Kerr, you are a most amiable individual, but you do tend to become very over-excitable. Calm yourself, man, calm yourself.

Last night, four out of five parties in the Scottish Parliament voted by an overwhelming majority to withhold legislative consent for the EU withdrawal Bill. How would this Government, in ignoring the decision of the democratically Scottish Parliament, preserve the integrity of the United Kingdom?

I have been very heartened by the degree of cross-party support in the Welsh Assembly and in the House of Lords for the sensible compromise that the Government have put on the table. As I have said repeatedly to Scottish Ministers, my door remains open to consider any practical proposal they want to bring forward, even at this stage, but I would urge the Scottish Government to think again.