SNP attempts to thwart the EU Withdrawal Bill show they’re only ‘Stronger for Brussels’

SNP attempts to thwart the EU Withdrawal Bill show they’re only ‘Stronger for Brussels’

Last week was a historic one for Parliament. The vote on the Second Reading of the EU Withdrawal Bill was a major milestone on the journey to the UK exiting the EU and delivering on the result of an open, free and fair referendum last year.

It was an honour to participate in such a debate. From all sides, there were robust contributions, forensic contributions as well as some very passionate ones too. However, I was also struck by the tactics of the opposition at this stage in the process – particularly their use of political smoke and mirrors. Instead of indulging in alternative facts about “power grabs”, let us be crystal clear about what this Bill sets out to do.

For the last 40 years, the UK has ceded its sovereignty to the EU and its institutions with literally thousands of pieces of legislation being imposed on the UK with our Parliament having no ability to scrutinise them, amend them or reject them. On the day we leave the EU in March 2019, we need to be fully prepared for taking back control of all our laws and regulations. It’s crucial that we have a smooth and orderly transition. To achieve this, the Bill will give us a working statute book on the day we leave by converting EU law into UK law. This provides continuity and certainty to our businesses, our workers and our consumers. Most importantly, however, by ending the supremacy of EU law in the UK, it gives our Parliament the ability to decide on what should happen to EU legislation after Brexit.

Fundamentally, this Bill enables us to carry out the express will of the people, following through on their instruction to end our membership of the EU. To oppose the Bill now simply constitutes an act of betrayal against the referendum result and the will of the people, who, let us bear in mind, Parliament overwhelmingly trusted to decide on our EU membership.

I was in no way surprised that SNP MPs wanted to use the Withdrawal Bill to thwart Brexit altogether. True to their nationalist politics, the SNP hailed the votes of 1.6 million Scots as meaning that Scotland as a whole voted Remain—that they were Scotland’s voice. Meanwhile, the votes of over 1 million Scots were simply airbrushed out of the picture altogether.

This is despite 400,000 of those Scottish Leave voters being SNP supporters. The SNP have been undone by their arrogant dismissal of Brexit. They have tied themselves in knots, and in rushing to use the issue to divide the UK by bringing forward a second independence referendum, they alienated unionist Remain voters as well as their very own independence supporting Leave voters.

This was evident in the General Election result in Scotland where the party lost 21 seats and are clinging on by the skin of their teeth in Perth and North Perthshire and North East Fife, as just two examples of many. Notably, they lost Angus Robertson in Moray, Eilidh Whiteford in the predominantly fishing constituency of Banff and Buchan, and the biggest scalp of all, Alex Salmond, in Gordon.

Despite their benches being decimated, the SNP have still not learnt their Brexit lesson from the public. This was so clearly demonstrated by the confused logic of Scotland’s junior Brexit Minister Mike Russell who, in evidence to Holyrood’s Europe and External Affairs Committee, made comments attacking Leave voters. He claimed that people who were “hostile” to the EU would feel the same way about devolution, and view the process as “an irritant”.

Following that logic, the 400,000 SNP Leave voters, not to mention SNP Leave MSPs, are somehow hostile to devolution. Coinciding as they did with the twentieth anniversary of the referendum to create the Scottish Parliament, Mr Russell’s remarks are yet another incredible attack, although this arrogant dismissal of the one million Scottish Leave voters follows an SNP pattern of trying to portray them as just not existing.

Leaving the EU will make Scotland’s Parliament inherently more powerful, with new powers over areas in which the EU currently legislates. Not only does the SNP position on new powers show how truly brass their neck is, it also shows the shameless depths of scaremongering that the SNP will delve into to play constitutional tricks, fuelled by their politics of division. By voting against the Bill, the SNP are voting against more powers for Holyrood — and Nicola Sturgeon and her Government’s making more decisions in Scotland.

To be fair, though, I cannot blame Nicola’s Westminster colleagues for not wanting more powers for Scotland, given the Scottish Government’s dreadful performance on education, health and the economy after nearly a decade in power. Given that track record, I can see why those on the SNP benches are “feart” to give Nicola Sturgeon more power.

As powers are returned to the UK, it is imperative that we do not create barriers to trade within the UK. We need some common frameworks because the UK single market is one of our greatest assets and we need to maintain it. We sell goods to each other. Workers move about freely. We work to the same rules and enjoy the same levels of protection. So where a framework is needed to underpin the work of companies and individuals across all parts of the UK, we will make a case for frameworks.

For example, regarding food labelling, it would make no sense whatsoever to have four different sets of food labelling rules as this would simply add to the costs of companies and cause confusion for customers right across the UK.  Or if we look to agriculture, having four different sets of laws on the use of pesticides would make it harder to protect our UK environment and our UK consumers as we want to know that crops grown in one part of the UK can be used or sold in another part of the UK.

A golden opportunity presented by Brexit is our ability to strike new bilateral free trade deals as the UK opens its eyes to the rest of the world. It makes sense that trade agreements are negotiated at a UK level rather than doing things four different ways which would only make it difficult for us to meet our international obligations and agree and implement UK trade deals across the world.

For those of us who believe in the strength, power and benefit of the UK single market, it makes absolute sense for us to have common UK-wide frameworks to protect this asset. We should in no way be surprised that the SNP want to agitate and disrupt such an approach. As nationalists, they do not want to have a UK single market. They want to wreck it. The people of Scotland rejected the idea of independence yet the SNP every second of every day are still working towards that end.

Having failed to convince the public in an open and fair referendum, the SNP will work to undermine the UK from within, to set up new barriers, to make the operation of the UK harder, to slowly and gradually break the country up. The recent inflamed rhetoric from the SNP over new powers is simply to undermine these UK-wide frameworks and their attempts are blatant. Bear in mind the SNP do not even genuinely want these powers as they would still much prefer to see Brussels maintain control over these areas.

During the EU Withdrawal Bill debate, I listened to the SNP MP for Glenrothes, Peter Grant, rail about the people of Scotland being sovereign and that the Scottish Parliament needs to be protected against some imaginary Westminster power grab. Where was the SNP’s belief in sovereignty over the last 40 years, when laws were imposed on the people of Scotland by the EU without debate in the House of Commons or, in the last 20 years, at Holyrood?

There was no option for debate, no opportunity to amend, no option even to reject these laws — where was the SNP’s concern for sovereignty then? Given that the SNP still wants the EU to retain those powers, its current argument is utterly absurd. The EU Withdrawal Bill delivers our exit from the EU and it will make Scotland’s Parliament stronger. The decision that the SNP face is: will they be Stronger for Scotland or will they maintain their stance of only being Stronger for Brussels?