My Brexit update – April 2019

Over the past few months MPs inboxes have been overflowing with emails about Brexit. Over the course of the next few days, I will be writing out to those constituents who have contacted me offering their views with an update as to how I voted and the thoughts behind my choices.

A copy of this email is here on the public record –

Thank you for your communication. I am writing to you with an update on the Brexit process to set out the recent decisions I have made and the reasons why. 

Can I first of all say that the interests of the people of Perth and North Perthshire will always come first for me, and I will be guided by the wishes of the majority in my constituency who voted to remain in the EU. I have, though, been prepared to compromise and work with others in Parliament in order to try and secure a majority in the House for a deal being progressed.

Let me try and run through the decisions that have been made and my position. First of all I have voted against any measure that would take the UK out of the EU with no deal reverting to World Trade Organisation arrangements. This is simply the worst Brexit option and the impact on Scotland’s economy and trading arrangements would be significantly detrimentally impacted. Because of votes in the House this threat has diminished but still exists. I will continue to vote against any measure that brings that back. 

On compromise motions I voted to reject any proposal that did not ensure a customs union combined with membership of the single market. Both of these aspects are required to ensure that our vital economic interests are protected. It is as a member of the single market that freedom of movement can be maintained. Our population growth in Scotland is almost entirely predicated on freedom of movement and our demographic issues would be raised to unacceptable levels if vital sectors did not have access to the pool of labour provided by freedom of movement. 

I have also led the call and provided the first amendments in the House of Commons to simply revoke Article 50. This would stop the process of leaving the EU at all and fall into line with the position of my constituents and nation of Scotland. I have supported all measures that have proposed this. 

I have been unable, thus far, to support the motion that proposes that a deal is put to the British people in a confirmatory vote. Supporting this motion would mean that the Prime Minister’s deal (or some undefined version of Brexit) would be allowed to pass in return for some sort of unspecified confirmatory public vote. It is a measure in which we would be asked to allow a Brexit deal to proceed through Parliament with the hope that those throughout the rest of the UK would then reject it. It greatly concerns me that it does not contain a commitment to have a remain option on any future confirmatory vote ballot paper. It also concerns me that we have not secured any guarantees for Scotland’s position for our unconditional support for this confirmatory vote. However, if this emerges as the only chance to stop Brexit I am prepared to consider it. 

Lastly I supported the bill to secure an extension to the departure date. This is now imperative to stop the risk of leaving with no deal and provide a space for alternatives.

It remains the case that in spite of our best efforts and arguments we may not be able to save the UK from itself. If Brexit does come to pass the people of Scotland will need to consider carefully what options we have open to us to protect our interests and move on to a more positive destination.

1 thought on “My Brexit update – April 2019

  1. P Rattray

    Is there a reason why a ‘people’s vote’ in Scotland can’t ask a different question to that asked in England, Wales and NI?

    The whole EU membership debate has become toxic, opinions in England are so polarised – reflecting political rhetoric, and not vice versa as some MPs try to claim – it seems pointless. In the main, in Scotland people can still have a healthy discussion on constitutional matters (my theory is that we are so used to all disagreeing with each other we tend to be more circumspect in discussing such matters). Until an independence referendum is announced we cannot open serious discussions with each other on this far more important matter – though I am sure it is on everyone’s mind, no one will discuss it much with those of, perhaps, opposing views until the question is being asked.

    Another EU membership referendum in Scotland is a bit pointless at this time – there was enough of a majority to keep it for now, though that is not to say we should not reevaluate in the future – and Scotland will be ignored whatever the outcome, yet again, and forever more. Can’t we have a different referendum at the same time as the EU one elsewhere?

    I understand the difficulties in starting out as an independent country when the UK as a whole is out of the EU, but in reality if the EU didn’t exist we’d have to go through the process of customs borders and such anyway so it was just that EU membership made things easier. We could do with some well set-out guidelines on a rough timetable of how negotiations should proceed and when each of our own institutions should be in place, and which are dependent on other factors (e.g. If England is out of the EU etc, then customs border checks will be needed by,,,). I also understand there are many things to be done, and done quickly and as smoothly as possible, and it won’t be easy. Do we know who will be on a negotiating team? In the event of a positive vote for independence, obviously.

    I vote for starting to develop aesthetic ideas for border infrastructure – things that could be used as tourist attractions in the event they are not needed for that purpose & might bring more money into border areas.

    I also vote to make somewhere like Perth, a more central city, the capital of an independent Scotland. My favourite idea is to have a roving capital – so that any town or city can apply to become capital every, say, 90 years or something, and thereby each area of Scotland gets the kind of investment and infrastructure development that a capital gets (eventually, sometime in the future). I’m getting ahead of myself there.

    We need to throw off the shackles of Westminster rule. Forget easy, pretend the EU never existed, and ask what would you have done then? The EU is a handy extra – trade deals already made and a say in how things are done will be good for giving Scotland a start (again). We need a tough negotiating team to separate the UK or we end up with nonsense situations like the Chagos Islands. Practicalities need to be set out, prioritisation, some solid ideas for more effective electoral systems; overwhelm those that can’t see beyond ‘but there’s no oil left’ and ‘you can’t use [whatever the current favourite is] currency’ endless rhetoric. Meaningless empty political statements aren’t going to cut it for setting up an independent Scotland. It needs planning, hard and fast rules of engagement, but nothing set in stone. The SNP have a tough job, you need to be more than politicians or administrators. The MPs have done extremely well in Westminster, learning the systems and rules in a largely hostile environment. That knowledge can be used.

    Who, or what group, will be put in place, when, to enable each stage of the process of becoming independent – independence isn’t just a way out of Brexit, Westminster has made that the overwhelming narrative, that’s their choice – it’s a way out of us never having a choice ever, a way out of always being treated like a waste of space – you need to give us confidence the economy can be run, and that businesses will know what is happening and feel confidence, show us that we have the right to feel confident in ourselves – suggest something like the first Scottish general election will be a hardcore one with policies on electoral systems, economic systems, tax systems, with solutions for a mixed bag result – forget the ‘we won, they lost’ ideology of Westminster, we either all win or all lose in any vote, because the result affects us all. The SNP does not have to say specifically how they will run the economy – that is party political – but should put forward how the structures will be put in place to enable an economy to be run, taxes to be collected, laws to be made. Structures. Baseline institutions that ensure smooth transitions. Not easy, but needed. Change the narrative, throw in non sequiturs, keep pushing, don’t follow their lead.

    Independence is the normal thing to want for your own country. Brexit is a byplay to far more important matters, probably in more ways than one, but has illustrated to many people how truly bad the current set up in the uk is.

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