On Tuesday night I spoke in the debate on triggering Article 50 and beginning the process of leaving the European Union. I warned against giving "Presidential" powers to the Prime Minister who is asking for a blank cheque on Brexit while riding roughsod over the popular sovereignty of the people of Scotland.
The SNP put forward a reasoned amendment to try and halt the UK government’s attempt to railroad their EU Bill through Parliament. Theresa May has failed to set out provision for effective consultation with the devolved administrations, failed to publish a White Paper, has refused to guarantee the rights of EU nationals in the UK and has left unanswered the implications on key policy areas including - withdrawing from the Single Market.
"Parliamentary sovereignty has exercised and excited a lot of Government Members today. The hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) asked who governs this country and said that the Bill answers that question. The Bill does not give Parliament the power to trigger article 50; it gives power to the Prime Minister. It does not give power to Cabinet Ministers collectively or to the Crown in Parliament; it gives the person of the Prime Minister the power to decide, on her own initiative, when article 50 will be triggered. There is no sunset clause and no sunrise clause, and there are no further checks or balances. This is not a parliamentary power; it is almost a presidential power—I wonder where she might have got a taste for that from.
This is only a taste of things to come, because those Government Members who think that sovereignty is somehow being reinvested in this Parliament are kidding themselves—they should wait until the great repeal Bill is published to see that. All the hated regulations on straight bananas and electric lightbulbs that so frighten the Brexiteers on the Government Benches will not be amended by primary legislation. It will be the sweeping powers of statutory instruments and Henry VIII provisions that the Executive will take for themselves in the great power grab. The sovereignty that people thought they were voting for is going to disappear like the wick in a candle.
In Scotland, our tradition is one of popular sovereignty, so I accept that 22% of my constituents—we did get a breakdown by constituencies in Scotland—voted to leave the European Union, but they did not vote for the hard Tory Brexit that is now being proposed. At the same time, 78% of my constituents voted to remain in the European Union, which is why I will proudly support the Scottish National party’s reasoned amendment in the Division Lobby tomorrow evening. Nobody in Scotland voted to leave the single market; that was not even in the Conservative party’s manifesto.
Everything we were warned would happen if Scotland became independent now appears to be happening under the Tory Brexiteer vision of independence: the currency is collapsing; our holidays will be more expensive; and we will not get access to medicines. The Fraser of Allander Institute warns that 80,000 jobs are at risk in Scotland as a result of the hard Tory Brexit.
There is now a choice of two futures: the progressive, internationalist, outward-looking vision for Scotland that my party has always promoted; or Trident, Trump and the transatlantic tax haven that the Tories now seek to take forward. There is no White Paper, so we are being asked to sign a blank cheque. People might think that they are taking back control, but they should be careful what they wish for, because if this Government can ride so roughshod over Scotland’s popular sovereignty, parliamentary sovereignty will be next."
You can read the full debate including my contribution here.