I received so many emails about Article 50 with so many different points of view and covering different topics that I have written down my own opinion and a few brief points below.
I think our interests are best served inside the European Union - I campaigned for a Remain vote in June and I voted Remain in the referendum. I acknowledge that not everyone shared my view - I have friends who voted to leave - but my conviction remains that it would be better for us to remain in the EU. I think that everyone has a right to their opinion and a right to vote whichever way they want and I do not think that anyone should be criticised for their opinion or their vote; nor do I think that the judges who made a ruling in the Brexit case should be criticised unless they made an error in law. From what I understand of their ruling and the way they reached the decision I do not think that anyone who understands the workings of the law thinks that the judges made fundamental errors or that their judgment should be regarded as suspect. I think it important that people who work in the justice system should have a degree of respect afforded to them for the office they hold - they shouldn't be free of scrutiny but their work should be respected.
Likewise, I believe that newspapers and other non-broadcast media outlets should be free to offer an opinion on current affairs, including the judgment in this case but they should not stray into incitement to criminality. I fail to understand why anyone would think that a judge's area of particular expertise, sexual orientation, political allegiance, former sporting ability, previous clients, place of birth or religion would influence their decisions. I also note that some newspaper reports described these judges as the most senior in the land but that they are English and Welsh judges - not Scots nor Northern Irish and we have three equal jurisdictions in the UK. We must have a free press, free to criticise and examine public life, but we must also have the right to criticise the press when we feel they are wrong and we should expect the media to respect the society they operate in, too.
There is no guidance from the European Treaties about how Article 50 should operate; it simply says that EU Member States have the right to leave the EU and, given the traditional attitude of the EU that the internal politics of Member States is a matter for each Member State, I cannot see how there could be an appeal to any European court on the Brexit ruling (or appeal). The UK Government has made it clear that it intends to appeal the judgment to the UK Supreme Court but I'm not sure that it matters much either way. In the House of Commons on Monday (7th November), Labour's Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Keir Starmer MP, said:
"Labour has repeatedly made it clear that we accept and respect the outcome of the referendum—[Interruption.] I have said that every time I have stood at this Dispatch Box. There is a mandate to leave. We will not frustrate the process by voting down article 50, but we cannot have a debate in a vacuum."
You can find the debate online at https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2016-11-07/debates/C59A3B55-6FB3-455D-B704-F8B1BF5A5AF5/Article50 or see the press coverage but I think it's clear from that quote that Labour will vote to leave the EU if the issue ever comes to a vote in the House of Commons. I'll vote to stay - or not to invoke Article 50 - but it will be exceptionally difficult to find enough MPs to vote with me to defeat the motion, given that the position of the Conservatives and Labour will both be to vote to leave. I appreciate that I will be accused of seeking to 'oppose the will of the British people who voted to leave' but I will be voting for what I actually believe in and with the majority of Scots voters and voters in my constituency who voted to stay - I won't forget the two fifths of Scots who voted to leave but I'll do what I believe to be the right thing for the people I work for; people who live in Edinburgh North and Leith.
Before the referendum I began to suspect that those leading UK politicians who were saying we should leave had not thought it through so I started asking Parliamentary Questions and I continued to ask them after we knew the result. I've attached a word document with the written questions I've asked on Brexit and you can find my contributions in the chamber online. I now think I was too generous with assuming that they never thought it through - I now don't think that it ever crossed their minds to consider the implications of a Leave vote and that this was justa political game for them. I can respect people whon thought about it and came down on the side of Leave because they thought that was best but I think that politicians have a duty to think through the implications of any policy they suggest to the people. Anyone who remembers the Scottish independence referendum will probably remember the tome that was produced laying out a possible future for Scotland - there was none of that with the European referendum.
We have a difficult time ahead of us and it may last for quite some time and we'll try to get the best deal we possibly can for Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon is wily and determined and will dig in and I'll support her in that. Meantime, I'll do what I can to advance the case and I'll do what I can to protect the rights of EU citizens living here - we have some movement on that but not enough - and I'll keep asking questions about Brexit. I have always considered the freedom of movement of people to be the most advantageous of the freedoms of the EU - particularly for Scotland - and I find myself a little bemused that the referendum appears to have been lost mainly as a result of opposition to that freedom.
I would like to protect the four freedoms of the EU - the free movement of people, the free movement of goods, the free movement of services and the free movement of capital but I don't yet know what will be possible and I suspect that the one I cherish most of all - free movement of people - is not a favourite of the Conservative or Labour parties at Westminster. If all turns out as determined by the
The issue is in the political grinder now and it will be some time before anything is clear but that doesn't mean that it has to be dormant. I hope, and I expect, that we can make EU citizens feel welcome here and that we can do it loudly enough that it is heard. I hope we do that in my constituency and in Edinburgh, in Scotland and right across these islands. I'd like the UK Government to hear that we value our neighbours wherever they come from and that we want them to stay - if that comes from a community it means far more than any speech I can make and if you mean it you can change what's happening.
Some people have told me that I will lose their vote if I support the rights of EU citizens to stay here or if I do anything to keep us in the EU. That doesn't matter; I'm going to do what I believe to be right.
I hope I've covered all the points people have raised with me but please let me know if there's anything I've missed. I can't promise to answer quickly but I'll do my best.