PETE Wishart's speech in the Commons picking apart the tragic Tory Brexit deal set out by Theresa May hit its mark.

He was leading the SNP's response in the debate on the meaningful vote.

Wishart described the "isolating ugliness" of Brexit, and showed how Scotland has been shamefully sidelined.

You can watch the full speech by clicking here, but below is the full transcript from Hansard.


Pete Wishart (SNP): May I start by saying to the Secretary of State that we were all distressed when we heard the news of his son’s accident over Christmas, and we wish him all the best for his recovery? We do, of course, enjoy the right hon. Gentleman at the Dispatch Box. That was a bravura performance—such a comedy turn. He referenced Tommy Cooper. I think of him more as a Frank Carson, because it’s the way he tells ’em, Mr Deputy Speaker.

The line that I enjoyed best—it was the way he told it—was the one where he said that the EU “will look on enviously at the UK with this Brexit.” That was the best killer line in that speech, because we can almost hear the shrieks of laughter coming across the North sea and the English channel as they observe the plight of this pitiful nation. They are not envious of us; they are feeling sorry for us because we have ended in this pitiful state. If any of them were even thinking of following the United Kingdom’s example, they will look at this chaotic Government and decide, “Never in a million years will we do that.” It is the best lesson to any other nation never, ever to engage in such an action.

I loathe the Government’s Brexit—I loathe it totally and utterly, from the self-defeating, isolating ugliness of the project to the all-consuming, chaotic cluelessness, to the disgusting way that they are treating the 3.6 million EU nationals who are among our friends, our colleagues and our family members. I despair at what we are doing. I will observe and look at their Brexit deal, but I see no redeeming qualities or features to what this Government are doing with this absurd Brexit. The fact that my country so overwhelmingly rejected this Brexit makes me despair even more of what this Government are doing.

The only reason, the Government tell us, that we should be supporting this paltry document is because it is better than a no deal. My big toe is better than a no deal; my broken finger is better than a no deal, but I am not asking the House to support either of these personal artefacts. What vision! What ambition! Vote for the Prime Minister’s deal because it is better than no deal! That is the only reason that we seem to be given, in successive speeches by Government supporters and Ministers, for why we should be doing this.

Huw Merriman (Conservative Party): That is a gross generalisation. The reality is that 52% of this country voted to leave, and that is what this deal does. But also, importantly, 48% did not, and this deal will actually see us continue with our relationship with the EU, and in fact deepen it in many regards. [Interruption.] Security.

Pete Wishart: It does not even start to—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman does not need to address his points to me. I am beyond redemption. He should turn his attention to some of his hon. Friends and colleagues on his own Benches, and I invite him to do that. I think they are all thoroughly looking forward to his speech. His efforts may be more fruitful with them than they are likely to be with me, because I shall go on to explain why this deal is totally, absolutely and utterly unacceptable to me, to my constituents and to the vast majority of the Scottish people.

I have never seen another example where it has been the main policy intention of a Government to intentionally impoverish, with such chaotic abandon, the people they are notionally there to serve. When the history books judge this little period of British history, in the late teens in this century, they will only ever conclude that this is the greatest example of political, cultural and economic self-harm that has ever been committed by a nation unto a nation.

The fact that we have got to this point will be forever remembered as the greatest single failure of any modern Government in post-war history. And you remember why we are doing this—remember why all this started? [Laughter.] They laugh. A referendum. It was supposed to heal the divisions within the Conservative party on the issue of the European Union. Ten out of ten for that, Mr Speaker. What an absolute and resounding success. Not only have they further divided their rotten party, but they have gone and divided a nation and then taken that nation to the very brink. And now, of course, we observe the abyss on the other side of that brink, in all its grotesque horror.

If we look at the Brexit clock—

Victoria Prent (Conservative Party): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Pete Wishart: I was going to move on, but yes, I will give way to the hon. Lady because I quite like her.

Victoria Prentis: I am slightly confused. Does the hon. Gentleman object to referendums, or just the results of referendums?

Pete Wishart: This is where we are with the Conservatives, when they ask banal, stupid questions such as that. The hon. Lady asks me about the referendum. Let me tell her about referendums. We have had two referendums in Scotland. In the first referendum, the people of Scotland voted to remain in the United Kingdom. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] They like that. Scotland is still part of the United Kingdom. We then had a referendum on EU membership, where the nation—the nation—of Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain. We have not got what we wanted in this referendum, and that means that we have a nation completely and utterly alienated from what the Brexit Tories are doing to us. That is a difficult issue that, at some point, they will have to confront, just as, at some point, the Scottish people will have to make some sort of constitutional assessment of it, because this cannot stand. We cannot have a nation being taken out of a Union that it values and cherishes, against the national collective will of the people of that nation.

John Redwood (Conservative Party) rose—
Vicky Ford (Conservative Party) rose—
Paul Masterton (Conservative Party) rose—
Pete Wishart: I give way to the chief Brexiteer, the newly sirred John Redwood.

John Redwood: Can the hon. Gentleman explain why a decision to withdraw from the European Union is nasty and inward looking, yet a decision to withdraw Scotland from the United Kingdom is the opposite?

Pete Wishart: I say candidly to the right hon. Gentleman that the EU referendum had at its very core—at its cold, beating heart—the case of isolationism and immigration. It was about stopping people coming to this country. That defined every single case for rotten Brexit—every reference was about ending freedom of movement, which is presented as the great prize of this deal and this Brexit. What Scotland wants to do is reach out to the world and be part of an international community, to demonstrate our internationalism and what our sense of community is about. There is the right hon. Gentleman’s type of nationalism and then there is my type of all-encompassing international solidarity.

Rachel Maclean (Conservative Party): My area, the west midlands, is massively diverse. I have spent 10 years knocking on doors all over the midlands and all across Birmingham. The issue has nothing to do with immigration—it is to do with sovereignty. That is why people voted to leave. Come with me to the black country, Coventry or Birmingham, and speak to voters on the doorsteps. That is what they will tell you.

Pete Wishart: I almost wish that was true—that the debate had been about sovereignty and the great things this country could do. All I ever saw was the disgusting and nauseating posters about immigration; all I saw in the right-wing press was about that issue. Every time I went on a hustings with a Conservative Member of Parliament, it was all about ending freedom of movement and controlling immigration. That was all I heard. That was the repeated message, again, again and again.

Peter Grant (SNP): Like me, and I presume everyone else in the Chamber, my hon. Friend got a begging email from the Prime Minister shortly before the first attempt to push this through. It listed the benefits of her deal and No. 1—top of the list of the Prime Minister’s reasons for supporting the deal—was, was it not, ending freedom of movement. Did my hon. Friend get a different set of priorities? Is it possible that the Prime Minister gave us a priority that we could not support at the top of the list and gave something different to those who now deny that the referendum was about ending freedom of movement?

Pete Wishart: Absolutely; I did get that correspondence from the Prime Minister. I do not know why we are even trying to debate and contest the fact as it has been said by the Prime Minister and everybody on their feet, including the Secretary of State: the great prize of this deal, of this Brexit, is ending freedom of movement. I will briefly come to the consequences of that; they are dire for my nation and for the businesses that depend on freedom of movement. This is absolutely appalling for the young people who will have their rights restricted.

I want to talk about the Brexit clock, which is interesting. Not only are we now at the cliff edge—the front wheels are actually starting to dangle over, yet the clown shoes are still pressing on the accelerator—but a no-deal Brexit is now a real possibility and the consequences are becoming reality as the Government try to run the clock down.

We know about the food shortages, the running out of medicines, the turning of the south-east of England into a giant lorry park and all the real possibilities of leaving without a deal, yet the Government casually prepare for it. They apply millions of pounds to try to deal with it. They talk about it as if it were a realistic prospect—“Don’t worry your little British heads about it. You’ll be absolutely fine if we leave without a deal.” A no deal may be the life’s work and ambition of some of the extreme Brexiteers in this Chamber, but there are dire consequences for the constituents we serve. Those Brexiteers may be indulging in their European Union departure fantasies, but our constituents will have to pay.

The House is absolutely right not to allow that. The vote on Monday evening was very important. It indicates to the Government, lest they did not know, that no deal is unacceptable to the vast majority of this House. I am looking at some of the Scottish Conservatives—not one of them voted for stopping a no deal and against exposing their own constituents to the prospect of the appalling things that would follow. For that, they will pay a heavy price.

Colin Clark (Conservative Party) rose—
Pete Wishart: I give way to the hon. Gentleman. Perhaps he will tell me why he is prepared to expose the constituents of Gordon to the prospect and possibility of no deal.

Colin Clark: Companies in Gordon are actually making preparations for Brexit. If the hon. Gentleman really wants to avoid no deal, he should get behind the Prime Minister and support her deal. That would be in the national interest. Let me ask him: what preparations are the Scottish Government, as a responsible Government of Scotland, making for the possibility of no deal? Are they doing anything?

Pete Wishart: I share an office with the Deputy First Minister; I have seen some of the things he has had to deal with and some of the consequences there would be for Scotland. I do not think the hon. Gentleman fully understands what is at stake. Does he understand the idea of food shortages or civil unrest? Police forces have been activated in this country to ensure that that will be contained and dealt with. Those are the prospects for his constituents, yet he is prepared to expose them to that.

I want to talk a bit about my nation; it is great that some Scottish Conservatives are here and so engaged in this conversation. My country wanted absolutely nothing to do with this.

David Duguid (Conservative Party) rose—
Pete Wishart: I will make a bit of progress, then give way to the hon. Gentleman because I quite like him too.

We returned one Member of Parliament with a mandate to fulfil an EU referendum. Nearly every single one of Scotland’s Members of Parliament voted against the EU (Referendum) Bill; nearly every single one of Scotland’s Members of Parliament voted to ensure that we would not trigger article 50. When we were eventually obliged to have that referendum in Scotland, Scotland voted emphatically and overwhelmingly to remain in the European Union—62% to 38%, which is the most emphatic result in any of the nations of the United Kingdom.

David Duguid: I was waiting for the famous 62% figure, which is often repeated, to come up. Does the hon. Gentleman also recognise that in the 2017 general election, 56% of Scottish voters voted for either the Conservatives or Labour, which, at the time at least, was committed to delivering on Brexit?

Pete Wishart: I have heard Conservatives do this before: they include the Labour party in the figures. If the hon. Gentleman knows what the Labour party’s intentions are with Brexit, he is a lot further down the road than I am. It is a bit disingenuous to include a clueless Labour party in those numbers.

We had the most emphatic vote in the United Kingdom, so we might think—as part of the family of nations and being asked to lead, not leave, the United Kingdom—that that vote would have been taken into account and acknowledged. In fact, the exact opposite has happened. Our remain vote has been contemptuously ignored and every effort to soften the blow to a remain nation has been dismissed, with every proposal binned before the ink was even dry. In the process, we are witnessing the undermining of our political institution with a power grab and the binning of conventions designed to protect the integrity of our Parliament. Then the Government had the gall to tell us four years ago that the only way Scotland could stay in the European Union was to vote no in our independence referendum. We now see the consequences of that.

We look at the example of independent Ireland where the weight of the EU has stood in solidarity and support of one of its members and backed it to the hilt. Compare and contrast that to dependent Scotland within the UK, whose views and interests have been ignored and whose institutions have been systematically diminished as a junior partner in this chaotic Union.

This is an exclusively Tory deal. This Brexit crisis was designed, administered and delivered by the Conservatives. Even with all the last-minute overtures they have made, they have taken no interest in working with others or properly consulting and considering the views of other parties or Governments across the United Kingdom. This chaos is theirs to own, and it will define the Conservatives for a generation. It is a Tory Brexit—forever and a day, they are now the Brexit Tories.

As for Labour, I am not even yet sure whether it is a party of Brexit or against Brexit. I know it has a new position today. [Interruption.] The Secretary State has actually scarpered off, as he usually does when the third party is on its feet. That is a massive disrespect, isn’t it? The third party is on its feet, and the Secretary of State scampers out of the House. That is so consistent with this Government.

Let me return to my friends in the Labour party, because I think this is the 17th position they have taken on Brexit. They have tried to create a policy of constructive ambiguity, and I am constructively ambiguous about their position. I presume that their view is still to respect the result, and that it is still their intention to take the UK out of the EU. I know I often refer to my Scottish Conservative friends, but if that is the case, it will be dire for Scottish Labour, which has been shown that if Labour supports Brexit, its support in Scotland will fall to 15%.

I have already mentioned immigration, and we know that ending freedom of movement is the big prize in this country. The sheer dishonesty of the immigration question means that the Government cannot even bring themselves to acknowledge that what we do to EU nationals with restricted freedom of movement, the EU will do to the UK. I have tried to get the Prime Minister to accept that that is the case, because it means that the rights that we across the House have all enjoyed to live, to work, and to love across a continent of 27 nations, freely and without any restriction, will be denied to our young people, our children and future generations. The Government cannot bring themselves to acknowledge that, and to look the young people of this country in the eye and tell them that this change will apply equally to them. If any Conservative Member wishes to say that they acknowledge that, I will happily take an intervention—they were rushing to intervene earlier on.

James Cartlidge (Conservative Party) rose—
Pete Wishart: There we go.

James Cartlidge That is an important point, and I genuinely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way as I share some of those concerns. Does he accept, however, that parts of England had extremely high levels of EU immigration, and although I always welcomed EU immigration—particularly from eastern Europe and so on—it is legitimate for any community faced with such high numbers to express concern about that, and we as politicians should never be deaf to those concerns?

Pete Wishart: I do not think I heard the hon. Gentleman say that this change will apply to young people in his constituency as they try possibly to make their lives in Europe. That was all I wanted to hear. I know that he has concerns about immigration, but our population growth in Scotland depends on immigration, and if we end freedom of movement, every single business in our economy will take a massive hit. Things are different in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency and in my nation of Scotland—we require different things. That is why we have called, repeatedly and consistently, for the devolution of immigration so that we can look after those interests, just as he looks after the interests of his constituency.

James Cartlidge rose—
Pete Wishart: I have already given way to the hon. Gentleman. I am conscious that I am taking up a lot of time, so I will make a bit of progress.

What happens next? That is the really intriguing question. Like a trapped beast, the Government might lash out and try to take the whole House down with them in an attempt to punish the country for its insubordination. Compromised by contradictory tensions within their own ranks, it is rare that we get a glimpse of a Government and party collapsing so spectacularly as we have seen over the past few weeks. They have lost all right and authority, and their ability to govern is almost gone. They have lost successive debates on important issues.

The Government will lose the vote next week—it seems there is nothing they can do to avoid that. As a result of the vote yesterday, they will have to come to the House with alternative options for how to deal with the situation, but there are two things that they could do to immediately to respond to that defeat. First, they could revoke article 50, which they can now do unilaterally because of the work done by some of my hon. Friends and colleagues. The second thing is a bit harder: ask the European Union for an extension to article 50 so that something can be cobbled together to try to keep the issue alive and open for debate. The Government have to do one of those two things, and the important point is how they deal strategically with their position.

I have considered all the different outcomes possible for the Government, and none of them are good—none of them work for this Government because each ensures that some massive constituency will emerge in opposition—but one thing that we have in Scotland is our own particular solution. We have a way out of this Brexit crisis. We do not have to go down with this Tory ship. We can make our own decisions and relationships with Europe. Increasingly, as this Government continue to collapse, as the Brexit options continue to fall in on them and as we see the disaster that is emerging, the choice of independence for our nation becomes more and more appealing. As we go forward into this year, it will soon become the majority option in our country, and soon we will have the opportunity to foster our own sustainable relationship with the European Union.