Carol Monaghan MP has spoken in the House of Commons ahead of the Brexit vote on Tuesday, saying the Prime Minister’s deal will have a “devastating impact” on Scotland.
You can watch the speech below:
I was able to speak this week on the economic dangers facing Scotland with the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal.
This deal will have a devestating impact on our universities and our research collaborations, and we have not had any answers about the medical radioisotopes that are currently supplied by Euratom.
Finally, I cannot support the removal of freedom of movement which we hold so dear – we are not interested in being part of a xenophobic society that pulls the drawbridge up behind us.
Posted by Carol Monaghan – MP for Glasgow North West on Friday, 11 January 2019
A full transcript of Carol’s speech, including interventions, can be read below:
Carol Monaghan: The public, frankly, are fed up with this, but they are also worried. I have been overwhelmed with correspondence from my constituents, 69% of whom voted to remain, and many of whom have since changed from leave to remain supporters. They have raised concerns about the treatment of EU nationals and the impact that it will have on the NHS, and they are angry at the tone of the negotiations. Today’s carry-on after Prime Minister’s questions does nothing to restore anyone’s faith in the Government or the Tory party.
Patrick Grady, SNP MP for Glasgow North: My hon. Friend says that many of her constituents are moving from leave to remain. Is it not the case that many of them are also moving from no to yes on the question of Scottish independence as they watch this play out?
CM: That is exactly what many of the emails say—they voted no in 2014 because of their concern about European Union membership, and now their worst concerns are coming to pass.
I was in Romania last year as part of a parliamentary delegation. Everywhere we went, there was a celebration of Europe and its membership of the European Union. People showed great pride in the country having been a member since 2007. It was notable that one issue raised fairly regularly with the delegation was the brain drain that Romania was experiencing. It was seeing its most talented and very best young people moving to other parts of Europe. We gain benefit from that, and we should continue to.
Let us compare that with the UK. We joined a trade organisation very reluctantly in the early 1970s because we were being economically disadvantaged by not being a member of it. Almost immediately afterwards, there was a referendum to see whether that had been the right decision. Had we really done what we should have done? Throughout that time, we heard about European bureaucracy and about how things were being done to us. There was lots of comedy about it. I remember episodes of “Yes, Minister” in which people talked about sausages and bendy bananas. It is rather ironic that we are talking about the bureaucracy of the European Union and European Parliament when, just along the corridor, we have a whole pile of unelected bureaucrats sitting in this building.
The nature of the arguments in the referendum campaign also caused me deep concern. There were stories about millions going to the EU that could be spent on the NHS instead. There was scaremongering about swarms of migrants. A lot of this was stoked up by the right-wing media, and it was received by a public who were looking for leadership. EU nationals were blamed for the strain on schools, the health service and social housing, but let us be clear that the majority of EU nationals in the UK are of working age and are contributing. Three to 18 is the age of education, but the majority of EU nationals here are not in that age group. The biggest strain on our health service comes from those who are over 70, and that does not generally include EU nationals.
When I first came to London to sit in this place, I had a flat in a building where more than half the flats were empty, because they had been bought up and banked by foreign money launderers who used them as a place to keep their investments. Those flats were empty when homeless people were sleeping out on the streets. That was not the fault of EU nationals. If we want to deal with the housing crisis, we need to build houses for social use—for people who need houses. We need to stop building houses that are going to sit empty in the centre of London.
Alan Brown, SNP MP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun: On that theme, is my hon. Friend aware that the UK is currently most unequal country in the EU? The people who financed Vote Leave are the very ones who are going to do their best to make the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. That will be the Brexit dividend.
CM: We know that a no-deal Brexit is going to be economically disastrous. We also know that when an economy is wrecked in such a way, people with money, power and connections are in a position to exploit the situation for their own ends. No doubt we will see that happening if we are stupid enough to leave without a deal.
Following the vote to leave, where was the political leadership? Who was countering the right-wing media? Who was reaching out to the EU nationals here? The answer is that Scotland was. On the very first day after the vote, the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, stood up and said, “You are welcome. We want you. We value you. Please remain. You are our friends, our family and our colleagues.” That is powerful. I and many of my colleagues wrote to every EU national in our constituencies. The majority of them cannot even vote for us in this place, so there was no personal gain for us in doing that. We did it because it was the right thing to do. But what did we see from the Prime Minister? We saw her talking about “queue jumping” by EU nationals, implying that they were cheating their way into jobs, and we now see them being asked to pay a £65 fee to apply for settled status. How can they feel valued with that sort of action?
The biggest issue for me is the position of EU nationals and the loss of freedom of movement—[Interruption.] The deal does not protect freedom of movement—not for EU nationals here or for our people moving elsewhere. It does not support that. My husband is an EU national. He spent 17 years in the Royal Navy as a commissioned officer, with two and a half years of that time spent under the ocean, yet he has British nationalists telling him to go home if he does not like things here, and he is not unique in that. The worst thing is the patronising manner in which people have been dealt with. He has been told, “You should be okay.” What? Because he is white and speaks English? We are not interested in being part of a xenophobic society that pulls the drawbridge up behind us.
Our universities have expressed concerns about Brexit. They are concerned about the loss of EU funding, both in Horizon 2020 and in successor programmes. They are concerned about the threat posed to the rich collaborations that are supported and underpinned by freedom of movement. Universities UK has said that over half of all UK-based European Research Council funding is received by non-UK nationals living in the UK. That accentuates the risk that we could lose out on talented and highly mobile researchers.
With the immigration White Paper, the Government said, “Well, if you’re skilled, you’ll be okay.” I have asked a series of written questions about what is meant by high, medium and low-skilled jobs. I have been told that high-skilled is degree level, medium is A-level or HND level, and low-skilled is GCSE level. However, that is at odds with the salary thresholds that will apply. For early-stage researchers and post-docs or for early-career nurses, teachers and even medics, the definition of skills does not match the salary threshold.
Stephen Kerr, Conservative MP for Stirling: The reality is that what the hon. Lady is describing is actually up for consultation. I am sure that she and other Members, including Conservative Members, will make representations to ensure that Scotland’s interests are looked after in our new immigration laws. She is making a valid point, but she is talking about what will happen, when this is in fact a consultation document.
CM: If the hon. Gentleman looks at the contributions from SNP Members over the past couple of years, he will see that when we have talked about salary thresholds, the message we have sent has been strong, clear and consistent. Salary thresholds do not work, and they specifically do not work in Scotland, where people earn less than in parts of the south-east of England. It would be good if the hon. Gentleman joined us in calling for the scrapping of these salary thresholds.
Alison Thewliss, SNP MP for Glasgow Central: My hon. Friend makes an excellent point about the salary thresholds. My experience of dealing with many constituents, who are treated very shabbily by the Home Office, is that they work all the hours God sends and still cannot reach the thresholds to get their families to come over from other countries. I have a constituent who missed out by a matter of pounds and was not able to bring over their family.
CM: My hon. Friend confirms the point that I was making.
I want to move on to Euratom. Since the vote in 2016, I have regularly raised issues about Euratom. When I have asked about the arrangements for importing radioactive sources for medical scans and cancer treatments, I have been accused of scaremongering. Let us be clear: Euratom regulates nuclear facilities and materials. Outside Euratom it is still possible to carry out such regulation, but Euratom also guarantees a supply of medical radioisotopes. There are only a few reactors worldwide that actually produce them. They have short half-lives and have to get from production to use point very quickly, and Euratom guarantees that. What arrangements is the UK putting in place to make sure that we can get them here very quickly? If we do not have them, the 500,000 diagnostic scans and 10,000 cancer treatments that take place every year will not be able to happen. That is fundamental, and we have not had answers. Articles 79 to 85 of the draft agreement talk about Euratom, but there is nothing in it about future supplies and no answers about future arrangements.
I will not be voting for this deal because of the impact on our universities and our research collaborations, because we have not had any answers about the medical radioisotopes that are currently supplied by Euratom and because of the economic dangers to Scotland in being removed from the single market and the customs union but, ultimately and fundamentally, because of the removal of freedom of movement, which we on the SNP Benches hold so dear.