Brexit: Listen to the facts, not Boris Johnson's lies – Lesley Laird

While once a Prime Minister's word was regarded as their bond, MPs, even Conservative ones, do not trust Boris Johnson
While once a Prime Minister's word was regarded as their bond, MPs, even Conservative ones, do not trust Boris Johnson
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A no-deal Brexit would cost Scotland 100,000 jobs, it would knock eight off of our GDP and it would mean tariffs on exports, with beef being hit with a 65 per cent tariff. It would mean medical supply shortages, food shortages and potentially 48-hour queues at major ports.

Every one of those assertions is a fact corroborated by evidence. Their sources range from the well-respected Fraser of Allander Institute, the National Farmers Union, the British Medical Association, the CBI and (my personal favourite) the UK Government.

Yet if you were to listen to Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees Mogg, who have somehow found themselves at the top of the Conservative political food chain despite being frighteningly out of touch with what we would previously have understood as mainstream Conservatives, you would think a no-deal Brexit will lead to sunny uplands. No wonder Ruth Davidson got out – when she looked Mr Johnson straight in the eyes – she knew exactly what was coming.

Because according to them, there is nothing to fear from a no-deal Brexit. For years, they have been telling us that no deal is better than a bad deal, but now they have started to spin their latest lie that people actually voted for a no-deal Brexit in 2016.

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It has all culminated in another tumultuous week in Westminster. At Prime Minister’s questions last week, Johnson was an embarrassment to this high office. At times his performance was what one colleague called deranged, unable to withstand scrutiny, bumbling and blustering on every question. But MPs of all stripes, including his own, were not prepared to let him off so lightly, especially when the country faces such a national crisis, and a moral one, as so powerfully highlighted by my colleague Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi.

By the end of the week, it ended with the Prime Minister losing every single vote he put to the House of Commons. On top of losing every vote, he lost his majority and is now effectively being held captive in Downing Street at the behest of a Parliament bereft of sympathy and determined to ensure that he is not allowed to inflict his reckless plan for a no-deal Brexit on the country.

In ordinary times, a Prime Minister’s word would be their bond. However, these are far from ordinary times and we simply cannot trust a word that Johnson says. The only consistent thing about Johnson is that he will not tell the truth. He assured us that he would not shut down Parliament, and then he shut down Parliament and he assured us he did not want a General Election, before announcing he would call one less than an hour later.

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It is that lack of trust that leads us to where we are now. MPs have passed legislation mandating the Prime Minister to seek an extension to Article 50, something he has said that he would rather "die in a ditch" than do. We must be cognisant of that approach and we must not fall into his trap of an early General Election – to do so would risk facilitating a situation where Johnson refuses to comply with the legislation (something his key advisor has indicated he would be willing to do) and the UK crashes out of the EU with no deal.

This is not about running away from a General Election like Johnson and his Etonian clique would like you to believe – far from it. At this critical stage of the Brexit process, it is about the Opposition holding Johnson to account because, just as he did in the Leave campaign, he has yet again made promises that he simply cannot keep.

So yes, I do want a General Election but I do not want a General Election at a time of Johnson’s choosing; that is a luxury reserved for a Prime Minister who can command a majority in Parliament and if this week is anything to go by, he is a million miles away from having that authority.

After his brutal purge of long-serving Conservative MPs who dared to go against his orders, something he consistently did to Theresa May, he is in no position to try and dictate the terms of a General Election to Parliament and Parliament certainly will not be bullied into allowing him to do so.

The opposition parties and those rebel Tories are united in disdain for Johnson and everything he stands for.

His behaviour in recent weeks has been straight out the Donald Trump playbook. We are also united in our determination to remove the threat of a no-deal Brexit before we will agree to a General Election.

It is a matter of time before we enter that General Election period. When we do, the Labour Party will campaign to ensure that we never accept a no-deal Brexit. We will also campaign for a confirmatory vote on any Brexit deal; and we will make the case for the much-needed investment in our economy, our people and our communities.

Returning vital utilities and public services to public ownership will be a cornerstone of our economic offer and we will certainly campaign for an end to the callus, cruel and brutal austerity programme inflicted on the most vulnerable over the course of the past decade.

Labour is focused on addressing the real-life issues that will vastly improve the lives of the many in this country. Boris Johnson’s ideological obsession with a no-deal Brexit will do nothing for the many while lining the pockets of the few.

Lesley Laird is Shadow Scottish Secretary and MP for Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath