News | Published March 28 2019

SNP's Chris Law: Majority in the House would support a “soft Brexit”

Following last night’s series of indicative votes, we spoke to Chris Law, MP for Dundee West and prominent member of the SNP, about the next steps of the Brexit process and what the SNP would like to see moving forward. 

Speaking in the Central Lobby of the Houses of Parliament, Law told the Review that parliament is now in “new territory”, describing these developments as both “frightening and exciting at the same time.”

Law highlighted that during the series of last night’s eight indicative votes, two received greater backing than May’s Withdrawal Agreement: Ken Clarke’s amendment for a Customs Union and Dame Margaret Beckett’s amendment calling for a confirmatory public vote on any deal passed by parliament. 

Referring to what he called “the second phase on Monday”, in which further indicative votes are proposed, Law predicted “a narrowing down” of these options.

Referring to the defeat of Ken Clarke’s amendment by eight votes, Law stated that both this amendment, and the amendment calling for a People’s Vote, “are the two I would be watching going forward.”

Joanna Cherry of the SNP forwarded an amendment calling for the revocation of Article 50. This was defeated by 293 votes to 184. 

Describing the “reasonable support” this amendment garnered, pointing out it was far higher than support for a no-deal, he questioned whether it would be possible to achieve a “settled consensus” next week.

Reflecting the mood of the House, and indeed of many of the country, Law stated that the Brexit process had left him and his colleagues, “utterly frazzled.” 

He added: “it is exhausting, it takes the very the life existence out of you, its so tiring.” Despite this, he stressed the importance of the process and that “the game is far from over.”

The relative success of the Customs Union amendment has led to speculation that if May added such a proposal to the political declaration, the deal may be passed by House.

When asked if such a move would change the SNP’s Remain position, Law replied: “It is unlikely we would support the Withdrawal Agreement as a whole because ideally we would like to see us in the Single Market as well.” 

He did stress however, that “the Customs Union is a very important part of our relationship with the EU for a whole host of reasons,” specifically highlighting borders, tariffs and our “need” for medicines. 

He described the movement towards the Customs Union as a “positive step” but added the Single Market would “be a far better step.”

Encapsulating the Brexit negotiations up to this point, and the options currently on the table, he surmised that the Customs Union “was the best of a bad lot.”

Law strongly criticised May’s handling of Brexit and forwarded his opinion that there was a “majority in the House” who would support a “soft Brexit” or “loose union.”

Referring the possibility of further indicative votes to come, Law announced his support and argued, “This is so critical for the future for young people of the UK, not just Scotland but across the UK, and everything we do that we have taken for granted for so long: freedom of movement, freedom of travel and goods and services.” 

Describing how these norms would be “hugely disrupted,” he welcomed new votes, stating that both parliamentarians and the people need more time and want to “hear more from what’s going on here.”

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Authored by

George Salmon
Political Editor
March 28 2019

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