MSPs vote against consent for Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal

The Scottish Parliament has voted to refuse legislative consent for the Prime Minister’s Brexit agreement with the EU.

After Holyrood was recalled from the winter recess to discuss the deal, all parties except the Scottish Conservatives backed a Scottish Government motion expressly denying consent to the European Union (Future Relationship) Bill.

MSPs voted by 92 to 30 to say the deal would “cause severe damage to Scotland’s environmental, economic and social interests”, following a debate on Wednesday.

Nicola Sturgeon opened the debate, urging MSPs to vote on principle against a “rotten Brexit that Scotland has rejected all along”.

She said: “This Bill will pass regardless of how Scotland’s MPs vote because that’s what the Westminster establishment has decided.

“The fact is, Scotland’s voice has been ignored on Brexit all along, every single step of the way.

“We deserve better than a dismal choice between a terrible deal and no deal.

“We deserve the right to choose the best deal of all, a future as an independent European country.

“It is only through independence that we will ever get to choose the future we want.”

First Minister’s Questions
First Minister’s Questions

But Scottish Conservative Holyrood leader Ruth Davidson said the vote was not about EU membership as the UK had already left the bloc on January 31.

She said: “The only options on the table are the deal or no-deal, and if you vote against the first one then you’re inescapable voting for the second one.”

Business groups including the CBI, the Federation of Small Businesses and the National Farmers Union had welcomed news of the deal, she said.

Ms Davidson accused the SNP of “contortions” and “hypocrisy” over its opposition to the Brexit deal.

She said: “Never once were they thinking about practical delivery, but always focused solely on their own, narrow political game-playing.

“For the SNP this was never really about the substance of leaving the European Union because they don’t want to go there.

“This is after all the party that espouses separation from one union as a betrayal but from another, deeper, more valuable one as a necessity.”

Ms Davidson also attacked Scottish Labour, saying the party is a “feckless, useless SNP tribute act” for opposing the deal “even as (UK Labour leader) Keir Starmer does the right thing”.

Coronavirus – Tue Nov 17, 2020
Coronavirus – Tue Nov 17, 2020

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said the agreement is a “bad deal for Scotland”, claiming national income will be 5% lower than inside the EU according to UK Government estimates.

Addressing his party’s opposition to the deal at Holyrood despite Labour MPs being whipped to vote for it in the House of Commons, Mr Leonard said there is no split because they are voting on different propositions in the two legislatures.

He said: “A vote against the proposition in Westminster today is to risk the chaos and damage of a no-deal outcome.

“And you can’t say by voting against it, as SNP MPs will do today, that wasn’t what we meant.

“That’s what will happen, which is why Labour MPs will reluctantly vote for the deal because the alternative would be chaos.”

Scottish Government’s tax and spending plans for 2019-20
Scottish Government’s tax and spending plans for 2019-20

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie also outlined his party’s opposition to the deal.

He criticised the “perverse and vindictive” decision to leave the Erasmus student exchange programme and said the impact on young people from exiting the EU is the “greatest tragedy”.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “When our children look back at this time, they will be astonished that the UK Government voluntarily pursued this big bang change in the middle of a global pandemic with the biggest economic and health crisis this country has ever faced.”