Written by Kirsty Blackman

In The News

Why I’m voting against Article 50

SNP MP for Aberdeen North Kirsty Blackman tells us why she wishes more MPs would do their research ahead of the biggest decision the Westminster parliament will make for generations.

The Move for Europe demonstration in London, July 2016. Photo by Jwslubbock, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).

I keep getting all these lovely emails thanking me for being brave enough to vote against Article 50. But really, it’s a no-brainer. I mean, I didn’t support having a referendum in the first place, my constituency voted against Brexit (as did 62 per cent of Scotland) and I’m not particularly keen on screwing the UK economically, culturally and politically.

It’s all very bizarre in the Houses of Parliament these days. Tory MPs are falling into line, backing Brexit and denying they ever expressed the view that calamity would befall us if we didn’t have EU single market access.

Labour MPs have managed to become even more divided than they were previously – something I didn’t think was possible. Many of them genuinely do not know what to do. They don’t want to abandon the UK to a future without the EU, yet they have a strong interest in trying to retain their seats.

The Lib Dems are so few in number since 2015 that they rarely make much of an impression.

And one of the most concerning aspects of all this is how little many MPs seem to know about the issues. Surely it would be sensible, given this is the biggest decision the Westminster parliament will make for generations, to do as much research as possible into the issues? I wish more MPs would.

Politically, I suppose the SNP could make a great deal of capital out of this situation, and we are to a certain extent. But we have no desire to see normal folk screwed over and so we’re also trying to highlight to the UK Government the areas that they will need to prioritise during the negotiation process.

torn EU flag
Pretty much every meeting I go to with intelligent, educated people involves much hand-wringing and worry about the effect Brexit will have. Trade unions are worried about workers’ rights. Farmers are worried about the likely influx of foreign agricultural produce. Financial institutions are worried about their right to provide services in other countries. Universities are horrified at the potential effect on their academic research and on the international students who study here.

And goodness knows what will happen to Scotland. Our Scottish Government has proposed that Scotland could stay within the single market. We’re now awaiting Theresa May’s comments on our proposal. If she knocks us back then many people in Scotland will likely be considering whether it’s time to leave the UK.

None of this is scaremongering: there are incredibly few certainties about the UK’s future post-Brexit. The biggest issue is probably the right to trade tariff-free with other countries (both EU countries and those countries the EU has a trade deal with).

“The more I learn about the possible implications of Brexit, the more depressed I become. It’s so easy to assume with the rise of alt-right, Brexit and Donald Trump’s election that the future is irredeemable.”

The free movement of labour is a real issue for many industries that rely on low-paid EU migrant workers to keep their margins profitable. Guy Verhofstadt, the EU’s Brexit negotiator has expressly said that, “We shall never accept a situation in which it’s better to be outside of the EU, outside the single market, than to be a member of the EU.”

The 27 member states and the EU institutions have an interest in making sure the European project continues to be envied across the world and the UK will have to lose out to keep this reputation untarnished.

I pretty much spend my time being depressed about the future these days. The more I learn about the possible implications of Brexit, the more depressed I become. It’s so easy to assume with the rise of alt-right, Brexit and Donald Trump’s election that the future is irredeemable.

To end on a more positive note though, here’s a story I tell school children all the time. It’s what’s keeping me going right now.

starfish
There’s an old man who walks on the beach every morning. One night there is a huge storm and there are thousands of starfish washed up on the beach. In the morning, when the man is walking, he comes across a young girl and watches her as she picks up a starfish and puts it carefully into the sea, then returns to the beach to do the same again.

The man asks the girl why she is bothering. She can’t possibly save all the starfish. What difference is she making? The girl says, “I know I can’t save all the starfish, but I can save this one.”

None of our individual deeds will fix all the problems with the world, but they might make all the difference to one starfish.

@KirstySNP

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Written by Kirsty Blackman

Kirsty is SNP MP for Aberdeen North. Aberdonian to the core. Loves coffee. Can't sing.