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Leaving the EU

Volume 650: debated on Wednesday 28 November 2018

2. What recent discussions he has had with the Prime Minister on the effect on Scotland of the UK leaving the EU. (907834)

8. What recent discussions he has had with the Prime Minister on the effect on Scotland of the UK leaving the EU. (907840)

11. What recent discussions he has had with the Prime Minister on the effect on Scotland of the UK leaving the EU. (907844)

13. What recent discussions he has had with the Prime Minister on the effect on Scotland of the UK leaving the EU. (907846)

I have regular meetings with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and colleagues. The deal is a deal for all parts of the UK and it will protect jobs, security and the integrity of our United Kingdom.

I see that the Prime Minister is in Glasgow today talking about Brexit and exports. Does the Secretary of State recognise the disruption and delays that are expected at UK ports as a result of the withdrawal agreement, which necessitates the development of Scottish ports as an alternative route for Scottish exporters? If he is pledging support for the Prime Minister for a poor deal for Scotland, will he also support the Rosyth-Zeebrugge ferry, which would help our exporters to get their goods to market?

I would certainly be happy to discuss the specific issue of the Rosyth-Zeebrugge ferry with the hon. Gentleman, but if he and his colleagues do not want to see disruption at ports and elsewhere, they should not, on 11 December, be voting for a no-deal Brexit.

Today, the Chancellor has confirmed that every single Brexit scenario will leave the economy worse off and can be justified only by what he described as political benefits. Given that Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, surely the Secretary of State must now acknowledge that there are no political or economic benefits and that Brexit would be an all-round disaster for Scotland.

I will take no lessons from the hon. Gentleman on taking action to damage the Scottish economy. The SNP’s position is to take Scotland out of its biggest market—the UK market—and leave everyone in Scotland poorer.

To quote a tweet from @ScotTories:

“Let me be absolutely clear: As we leave the EU, we need complete control over UK fishing. #NonNegotiatable”.

So said one of the Secretary of State’s Scottish Tory colleagues. Can he credibly tell Scottish fishing communities that the Prime Minister’s deal meets those terms?

I absolutely can, and that is why I am today signing the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation pledge on delivering a Brexit for the fishing industry. I look forward to the 35 SNP MPs, who say they stand up for Scotland’s fishermen, doing likewise.

It struck me this week that the juxtaposition of the festive season with the Brexit negotiations could help the Secretary of State kill two proverbial birds with one stone. It comes to the House’s attention, via the Glasgow Herald, that his good friend and former chair of the Scottish Tory party is to be summoned imminently to give evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee about his dodgy donations during the Brexit referendum campaign. I was wondering whether the Secretary of State, being a parsimonious chap, was going to save money on postage and deliver his Christmas card to his former friend, Mr Cook, in person at Westminster.

I am afraid that that question is too convoluted for these purposes. It is a matter for Committees of this House who they take evidence from.

Yesterday, the Scottish Government produced analysis of the Prime Minister’s deal suggesting that the withdrawal agreement we are being asked to vote on would make all of us poorer, but the interim Scottish Conservative leader immediately dismissed it as an excuse for another referendum, even though the Chancellor said today it would make us poorer. Who of the two is right?

I am sure the hon. Gentleman did not wish to mislead the House, but the analysis produced by the Scottish Government is not an analysis of the deal the Prime Minister has negotiated; it is a rehashed version of a document produced in January that looked only at generic issues. The analysis that this Government will be producing will be focused on the deal that has actually been negotiated.

Leaving the most successful union in history after 311 years would bring economic chaos to Scotland. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the effect of Scotland leaving the UK would be much worse than the effect of Brexit under any scenario?

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. As we have discussed many times in the Chamber, Scotland trades four times as much with the rest of the UK as it does with the EU. I am sure that people in Scotland are starting to ask why the SNP is so keen on delivering a no-deal Brexit. It is because the SNP sees that it is the ideal backdrop for an independence referendum debate.

Nicola Sturgeon wants to drag Scotland into constitutional chaos by having a further two referendums, against the will of the Scottish people. Will my right hon. Friend join me in condemning the First Minister’s stance?

I absolutely condemn Nicola Sturgeon’s desire to create division, chaos and uncertainty. All along she could have joined the Prime Minister and worked with the UK Government to get a deal for Scotland and the UK, but she chose to put her own interests and an independence referendum first.

Will the Secretary of State join me in welcoming the BP Clair Ridge project, which started up in November and will produce an estimated 640 billion barrels of oil? Does he agree that this is clear evidence of confidence in the Scottish economy as we leave the EU?

In his time in the House, my hon. Friend has established himself as a champion of the oil and gas industry. That news is indeed very welcome, and it demonstrates BP’s continuing confidence in our UK Government’s approach to the sector.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, from the off, our Prime Minister’s No. 1 priorities have been the protection of our economy, the national interest, and the protection of our UK internal market—in complete contrast to the Scottish National party, which only sows division, and would go out of its way to destroy that internal market, which is of prime importance to Scottish business?

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. The distinction between the leaders of the various parties is very clear: the Leader of the Opposition is focused on a general election, the leader of the Scottish National party is focused on an independence referendum, and Theresa May is focused on the national interest of this country.

I do not know whether the Secretary of State realises how ridiculous he has looked with his resignation-non- resignation business. He is like a demented Grand Old Duke of York. He has led his merry band of Scotch Tories halfway up resignation hill, and has forgotten whether he is going up or down. Scotland voted overwhelmingly against Brexit, and increasing numbers of Scots do not want anything to do with it. If the Secretary of State cannot represent the people of Scotland, will he just resign and get out of the way, for goodness’ sake?

Well, I suppose there is no greater expert in the House on being ridiculous than the hon. Gentleman, swinging one way and another on every issue of the day. I am quite clear. The United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, and this Government will deliver that.

Order. We have four Front-Bench supplementary questions and we are pressed for time, so they need to be brief.

Mr Speaker,

“We could not support any deal that…leads to Northern Ireland having a different relationship with the EU than the rest of the UK”.

Those are the words of the Secretary of State for Scotland. I put it to him that the backstop provides exactly that in the withdrawal agreement. Given that, how can he justify remaining in the Cabinet?

The hon. Gentleman has quoted selectively from what I said. I acknowledged that there were already significant differences between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, not least because of the Belfast agreement, and in relation to, for example, the single electricity market. However, I am clear about the fact that the greatest threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom is posed by the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues. That is why they want a no-deal Brexit.

Given the gravity of the situation, I think we should expect Ministers of the Crown to answer questions put to them. The Secretary of State has publicly refuted the differentiation on which the withdrawal agreement is based; he has threatened to resign on numerous occasions; and now he has nailed his colours to the Prime Minister’s mast, and invested what political capital he has left in this deal. I ask him this: if the withdrawal agreement is rejected by this Parliament, as it surely will be, will he at that point resign his position?

My position is quite clear. The integrity of the United Kingdom must be preserved. The SNP and Nicola Sturgeon see Brexit as an opportunity to break up the United Kingdom, so above all else I put that first.

May I begin by supporting the Secretary of State’s comments in relation to Lockerbie?

The Secretary of State drew red lines for his support for the Brexit deal on the integrity of the UK and on fishing. Unless those things were protected, he would resign. The Prime Minister has come back with a deal that creates a border in the Irish sea and sells out Scottish fishermen. May I ask what the right hon. Gentleman is still doing at the Dispatch Box?

What I am doing is standing up for the integrity of the United Kingdom. When I see Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon caballing about what they are going to do next, and no doubt agreeing that the keys of No. 10 Downing Street will be handed over to Labour for another independence referendum, I know I am doing the right thing.

Order. One respect in which the right hon. Gentleman is not doing the right thing is his referring to Members of the House by name. He knows better than that, and I hope he will improve his performance.

The right hon. Gentleman knows my views, but judging by the looks on the faces of those sitting beside him, I do not think he has quite got the mood of the room. The reality is that the Secretary of State’s so-called red lines were written in invisible ink; they disappeared when the Prime Minister came back from Brussels. Labour will vote against the Prime Minister’s deal; it is a bad deal for Scotland and it is a bad deal for working people. The Commons could unite behind Labour’s alternative: a comprehensive and permanent customs union with a British say in future trade deals, and a strong single market relationship to support British business. It is clear that this deal cannot command the support of the Commons. If the Secretary of State now thinks this deal is the best deal for the country, why does he not put that theory to the test and call for a general election and let the people decide?

The hon. Lady has just proved the point from my first answer, and now that she has taken an interest in the fishing industry, which I was not previously aware of, I hope she will sign the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation pledge on what should now happen in relation to the fishing industry. I did not know what Scottish Labour’s position was on this issue, and I do not expect many other people do, but it should not surprise us that ultimately it is being Nicola’s little helpers to vote for a no-deal Brexit.