New Times,
New Thinking.

  1. Politics
  2. The Staggers
16 November 2017updated 09 Sep 2021 4:35pm

David Davis should take his own advice and respect Parliament on Brexit

The government must accept that it is the servant and not the master of Parliament.

By Stephen Gethins

Those looking back on this Brexit debate in the years to come might do so with a sense of bewilderment. Not only is Parliament set to approve a Bill that most members seem to disagree with, but they are proceeding despite being left in the dark by the UK government about the true impact of Brexit.

We are yet to see the impact assessments Parliament demanded. Brexit secretary David Davis’s boast to the Brexit Committee that they could expect plenty of detail was later corrected by his junior minister who told us that, er, we had better not expect much after all.

Good governance rests on accountability – that is what Parliament is for. That is why I make the long journey from my constituency of North East Fife to Parliament each week.

It should be Parliament and not the government in the driving seat of this process. And MPs know when they’re being fobbed off. Davis’s botched efforts last week to please some of his colleagues by providing Parliament with a vote on the final deal were rightly derided as insulting. We will effectively be asked whether to approve a really bad deal or a really, really bad deal.

Ironically, scrutiny and accountability were some of the principles on which Davis’s backbench reputation were established. Ironically, if his 1999 Parliamentary Control of the Executive Bill had passed, no government could sideline parliament as this one has tried to.

Select and enter your email address The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

I wonder what would have happened if it had passed. Perhaps it would now be liberating the government from its present chaos by forcing it to come to its senses.

The Leave campaign promised Scotland lots of new powers, including over immigration. It was also promised that the UK would have full access to the single market and, as the Foreign Secretary recently repeated, £350m a week for the NHS.

Though we do not usually agree on much, Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson summed up the cynicism of these claims during the BBC Referendum Debate on 21 June 2016, when she said: “You deserve the truth. You deserve the truth.”

The public still deserves the truth. The promises made by Vote Leave have failed to materialise, yet current UK ministers who made commitments during the campaign must stand by them.

And what is the point in demanding the return of a sovereign parliament unless the claims of those elected are subject to robust scrutiny? Another virtue lacking in our politics is compromise.

Almost a year ago, the Scottish government published its compromise document that would have conceded Scotland’s EU Membership in return for our remaining in the single market.

Unfortunately, the UK government and its Brexiteer backers have refused to meet us even half way.

And it is clear what no compromise on a Hard Tory Brexit means. The Fraser of Allander Economic Institute estimates 80,000 jobs lost over the next decade in Scotland and, on top of this, cities like Aberdeen and Edinburgh are expected to lose £3.8bn and £5.5bn respectively from their economies. A Hard Tory Brexit will leave no-one unaffected.

Having already seen more than 500 days pass since the EU referendum, it is now time for the government and those who supported Brexit to come clean about its impact.

The government must accept that it is the servant and not the master of Parliament. Instead of forcing us into a Deal – No Deal game of chicken, allow the House of Commons to work together to challenge, debate and, crucially, amend the Brexit legislation going through the House in the spirit of compromise. This is the only way we can let the country escape the disastrous chaos of this UK government’s Hard Tory Brexit.

Stephen Gethins is the SNP MP for North East Fife and the SNP’s EU and International Affairs spokesman. 

Content from our partners
The power of place in tackling climate change
Tackling the UK's biggest health challenges
"Heat or eat": how to help millions in fuel poverty – with British Gas Energy Trust