In this report, Arran and Ayrshire MP Patricia Gibson gives us her views on the political happenings in Westminster over the last few months. With the Brexit deadline extended again and an impending general election, the Voice for Arran wondered what our MP’s perspective is on all that is going on at this very unusual political time.
Since the ill-advised referendum on the UK’s relationship with the EU some three and a half years ago, the UK Government has fallen into utter disarray. We now stand three Tory Prime Ministers and two Brexit deadlines down the road, and no closer to a resolution on the matter.
The last three months have probably been the most fraught, following the decision of 92,153 Conservative Party members to put a Prime Minister in charge, not just of their party, but the whole of the UK, despite the fact that many of his own MPs simply do not trust him, never mind MPs from other parties. Since Westminster returned after the summer recess, Boris Johnson has lost his parliamentary majority, has been found to have acted unlawfully when he tried to shut down Parliament, and has failed to deliver on his much-promised ‘no-ifs, no-buts’ exit from the EU by Hallowe’en.
He has, however, managed to succeed in ramping up the inflammatory rhetoric in both parliament and the country, describing the Bill which forced him to request another extension from the EU, as a ‘surrender bill’, and stating he would rather ‘die in a ditch’ than ask for that extension.
He has, in fairness, manged to renegotiate a Brexit deal with the EU. Unfortunately, it is little more than a re-heated version of Theresa May’s failed proposals, with the added spice of the introduction of a border in the Irish Sea.
While his plan to ram through his new EU Withdrawal Bill in three days to avoid scrutiny by parliament fell at the first hurdle, it was hugely disappointing to see the folly of Labour MPs helping this Tory Prime Minister to pass its Second Reading stage, ignoring Scotland and the need for the legislative consent of the Scottish Government and Welsh Assembly.
For Scotland, these proposals will take us out of the European Union, the single market and the customs union against our will, and put us at a competitive disadvantage with our Northern Irish neighbours, who will continue to enjoy these benefits. Brexit goes directly against the wishes of the majority of people in Scotland, 62 per cent of whom voted to stay in the EU, and yet while a compromise can be reached for Northern Ireland, there is no question of a similar solution for Scotland.
My colleagues and I have consistently argued that if we are to leave the EU, we should stay in both the customs union and the single market. For us, this Bill does not deliver anything remotely like that.
Instead it paves the way for hard Brexit Free Trade Agreement that could wipe billions from the Scottish economy and cost each person in Scotland £1,600 compared with EU membership. According to the UK Government’s own analysis, ‘getting Brexit done’ will slash up to 100,000 Scottish jobs, cost every person up to £2,300 a year, and weaken Scotland’s economy in the long term.
The extension has now been granted, with a new deadline set for 31 January, but at the time of writing, it is unclear what will happen next. The deal proposed by the PM is deeply flawed and squabbling about it for another three months is not going to change that. Even if this withdrawal agreement is passed, undoubtably without the consent of the Scottish Parliament, Brexit will still not be ‘done’. The UK is facing many more years of difficult negotiations on our future relationship with the EU, and it leaves open the door for a ‘no deal’ at the end of any transition period.
That’s why putting this issue back into the hands of the electorate seems to me the best way forward, given that there is no majority in the Commons to support a People’s Vote. The people need to be part of this conversation, especially as the Tory Government has failed to build any consensus on this issue. That seems to me to be the only route out of this mess for the UK.
Of course, for Scotland the best solution for the long term is to become an independent nation, a nation able to take crucial decisions for ourselves. The fact is this UK Parliament is and will remain broken, and the best way for Scotland to protect her own interests and ensure we get what we vote for, is to take responsibility for our own future.