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Leaving the EU

Volume 662: debated on Wednesday 19 June 2019

I should like to begin by wishing Shelley Kerr and the Scotland team all the best in tonight’s women’s World cup match against Argentina. Although results have not necessarily gone the team’s way to date, they have been a credit to Scotland and have transformed people’s views on women’s football.

I have had regular discussions with the Prime Minister on a range of matters relating to EU exit. It is the Government’s position that leaving the EU with a deal is in the best interests of Scotland and the UK.

One thing that the Secretary of State for Scotland and I can agree on is wishing our colleagues well in the football, and, of course, things always go very well for the Scots where Argentina and football are concerned.

It seems clear that the Conservative party is on the verge of electing a new leader and Prime Minister whose primary purpose will be to deliver a no-deal Brexit. Is the Secretary of State prepared to be part of a no-deal Cabinet that will shrink our economy by up to 7% and put 100,000 people in Scotland out of a job?

Obviously, I am answering questions on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government and not on behalf of the leadership candidates, but I am clear that those aspiring to the leadership of the Conservative party want to leave with a deal. Throughout this process, I have voted on every occasion to leave the EU with a deal. The hon. and learned Lady has never done so.

According to every piece of the Secretary of State’s own Government’s analysis, there is no version of Brexit that fails to harm Scotland. New YouGov polling shows that Tory members would prefer Scotland to be an independent country, rather than stopping Brexit. Which choice should the Scottish Secretary make: a devastating no-deal Brexit Britain, or giving the people of Scotland the choice to be an independent European nation?

Mr Speaker, it will not surprise you to hear me say that Scotland has already made its choice on whether to be independent or part of the United Kingdom. The poll to which the hon. Gentleman referred was based on a false premise. This Government are about delivering Brexit and keeping Scotland at the heart of the United Kingdom.

Will the Secretary of State tell us how much money the Scottish Government have given to local authorities in Scotland to prepare for our exit from the European Union?

As far as I understand it, the UK Government have made more than £100 million available to the Scottish Government to help to prepare for Brexit—and, indeed, a no-deal Brexit—but precisely none of that money has been allocated directly to local authorities or to Police Scotland.

Further to the reply that the Secretary of State gave a few moments ago, does he agree that the majority of Scots voted in the 2017 general election for parties that were committed to delivering the 2016 referendum, and that it would be a dereliction of our democratic duty not to do so?

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. That is why this Government are committed to respecting the outcome of both the referendums that have taken place in Scotland: the 2014 independence referendum, in which people voted to remain in the United Kingdom; and the 2016 EU referendum, in which people across the UK voted to leave the EU.

10. Given that the Scottish Government and the Welsh Assembly have both said that the economies of Scotland and Wales would fall by between 7% and 8% on no deal, what has the Secretary of State said to the five leadership candidates about the impact of no deal and why they should avoid it? (911396)

This is not just about the five leadership candidates. Both in this House and elsewhere, I have been clear that a no-deal Brexit would be bad for Scotland, and we want to avoid that. We want to leave with a deal and, as I understand it, the leadership candidates are all setting out how we could leave with a deal.

9.   Brexit is already having an impact on East Dunbartonshire’s major employers. Aviva has announced that there will be job losses in the coming years, and a major engineering firm—an award-winning exporter—has told me about the negative impact Brexit is having on its business. Knowing what he does about the devastating impact on Scotland, how can the Secretary of State possibly countenance the no-deal or hard Brexit being offered by his colleagues in his party’s leadership election? (911395)

I thought for one moment that the hon. Lady was going to refer to her own leadership campaign, and if I did not think it would stymie her chances I would wish her well. She knows that the current uncertainty is the more serious problem for businesses in Scotland and elsewhere, but we could have ended that uncertainty much earlier by voting for a deal.

My right hon. Friend spoke about the £100 million being given to the Scottish Government to tackle Brexit. Will he confirm that Scottish nationalists have chosen to spend £10 million of it on plugging holes in their own budget?

I fear that there are so many holes in the Scottish Government’s budget that a mere £10 million will not fill many of them.

I join the Secretary of State in congratulating and sending our best wishes to Scotland’s women’s team, particularly to Leanne Crichton. She is from Dennistoun in my constituency, and it was a pleasure to meet her just a couple of weeks ago.

Speaking of team players, the Secretary of State has refused to rule out working with the calamitous former Foreign Secretary, who is prepared to see the United Kingdom leave the EU on disastrous no-deal terms. A majority of Conservative party members would rather see the economy crash, the United Kingdom fragment, and their own party destroyed to secure Brexit. The party is now better described as the “English nationalist party” rather than a party that wishes to preserve the unity of the British people. Has it now dawned on the Secretary of State that he may not have left the Conservative party, but the Conservative party has certainly left him?

I am sure that that read better as a press release. This Government’s position is quite clear: we are about honouring both the 2014 Scottish independence referendum and the 2016 EU referendum. I will take no lessons from the hon. Gentleman on party affairs when his colleague Neil Findlay used his resignation letter to describe the Scottish Labour Party as having a “toxic culture” and “eternal” infighting.

The Secretary of State has been consistent, if nothing else, in denying the Scottish Parliament’s aspirations to offer the people of Scotland a choice between remaining in a Brexit Britain or taking control of their own affairs. Indeed, he made it a central plank of his party’s election campaign last month. In that election, the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party received 11.6% of the votes. Given that only one in nine people support his proposals, is it not time to demonstrate some grace and humility and stop behaving like a colonial overlord?

If anyone requires grace and humility, it is the SNP, which still fails to recognise that in the 2017 general election, in which Brexit was a key issue, its vote fell by more than 500,000 and it lost 21 seats.

Many of us appreciate that this may well be the Secretary of State’s last outing in this Chamber in his current role, so his mind may be somewhat distracted, but he must surely recognise that the circumstances have now changed. His party is about to elect a leader and force upon us a Prime Minister hellbent on a no-deal Brexit. If that happens, will he continue to refuse the right of the Scottish Parliament to consult Scotland’s people on their own future?

I understand that the Scottish Parliament will consult via a people’s assembly process, although I do not agree with it. When we have a Scottish Parliament and 129 elected representatives, I feel that is the forum in which these matters should be discussed.

The hon. Gentleman is wrong in how he characterises the Conservative leadership candidates, who have made it clear that their preference is to leave the EU with a deal.