Skip to main content

Leaving the EU: Effect on the Union

Volume 663: debated on Wednesday 24 July 2019

2. What discussions he has had with the Prime Minister on the effect of the UK leaving the EU on the Union. (912060)

The UK Government’s policy has been to strengthen our Union of nations; it is at the heart of all that we do and has guided our approach to our exit from the EU.

If the Secretary of State were to abide by his promises, it would be his last day in office, so I wish him well and thank him for his unstinting courtesy in that role. The new Prime Minister’s election yesterday means that the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party is now the Scottish Conservative and Brexit party, which means that it is abandoning Unionism. Is not the new Prime Minister now as big a threat to the Union, if not a bigger threat to the Union, than any nationalist, and what will the Secretary of State do about it?

That is a bit rich coming from the hon. Gentleman, whom I have always respected in my deliberations from the Dispatch Box. I think that he would agree with commentary this week that one of the biggest threats to the continuation of the United Kingdom is the total and utter collapse of the Scottish Labour party.

More than 100 powers that are currently held in Brussels are to be transferred to Holyrood after Brexit. Therefore, does my right hon. Friend agree that, far from removing powers from Scotland, leaving the EU will give the Scottish Parliament more power?

What my hon. Friend says is absolutely correct. We have been subjected again, as we have so many times during this Session, to hearing about a power grab, but not once have we heard the identity of a single power that is being grabbed. Instead, what is identified is the fact that more than 100 powers and responsibilities are coming to the Scottish Parliament.

What I am interested in is the conversations that the right hon. Gentleman has had with his soon-to-be Prime Minister, because what he has said in the past is that it would be “extremely difficult” to stay in a Cabinet under the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson). Will he ever develop anything approaching a backbone, or are Ruth’s Scottish Conservatives now the exclusive property of their biggest electoral liability?

I have always admired the hon. Gentleman’s consistency. Last week, when I appeared before the Scottish Affairs Committee, he said that he hoped I would not resign and that I would be in post for months and years.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that leaving the EU provides many opportunities for the businesses, communities and people across Scotland, not least for the fishing communities in places such as my constituency of Banff and Buchan when we leave the common fisheries policy and become an independent coastal state?

I absolutely do, and I always commend my hon. Friend for being such a champion of the fishing industry. Yesterday, I met the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, which remains excited and upbeat about the prospect of Britain leaving the EU and the hated common fisheries policy.

Politics is about principles. A few months ago, the Secretary of State told us that the threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom was “the principal issue” for him, but he also told us:

“Mr Johnson and I do not agree on a whole range of issues, and I do not see myself able to serve in this way.”

So how far will the Secretary of State allow his principles to be stretched in defence of the Union, just so he can keep his job?

I am not going to take any lessons on the question of leadership from the hon. Lady. Only yesterday, she said that

“we need a serious, mature politician who can be relied upon to keep his promises”

to be our Prime Minister. I am sure she was not referring to Richard Leonard or the leader of the Labour party.

I think that we would find more maturity in both those quarters than we might in the Prime Minister to be. However, those were the Secretary of State’s opinions, although he has obviously traded them in and got some new ones. He wants us to believe and that this Government are guardians of the Union, yet by pandering to the dog-whistle politics of English nationalism, the next Prime Minister has already abandoned the tradition of the Conservative and Unionist party. The Tory party is now a real and present danger to the integrity of the United Kingdom, so will the Secretary of State now confirm that he will not sell out the people of Scotland and that he will not be part of a no-deal Cabinet?

The hon. Lady has a nerve. Her position has been to sell out to the SNP. She told her colleagues that she would gladly give up her own seat to the SNP so that there could be a Labour-SNP alliance that would inevitably lead to another independence referendum. But to give her credit, she is doing a pretty good job of crashing the Scottish Labour party in the polls—losing two MEPs and finishing fifth in the European elections. Only the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party in Scotland will stand up for our United Kingdom, and I will certainly continue to do so.