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Douglas Ross MP branded 'heartless' over EU withdrawal bill voting

By Staff Reporter

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Brexit remains a contentious issue ahead of the EU withdrawal date at the end of the month.
Brexit remains a contentious issue ahead of the EU withdrawal date at the end of the month.

MORAY'S MSP has branded the area's MP 'heartless' following scrutiny of the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

The SNP's Richard Lochhead MSP criticised Douglas Ross MP for voting with his Conservative colleagues at Westminster to scrap guarantees of workers’ rights, stop refugee children re-uniting with their families and clamp down on young people’s chances to study abroad.

Mr Lochhead said: "Moray’s Tory MP showed his true colours in Parliament when the Withdrawal Agreement Bill came before the House of Commons - he should be ashamed.

"Ending our membership of the Erasmus programme is dreadful news for young people in Moray, who will lose the opportunity to study abroad and to expand their horizons experiencing other cultures. And it is bad news for Moray College UHI and local employers, who benefit greatly from having young European students coming here to study and to work as part of the programme."

He added: "As for voting against protecting the rights of child refugees to be reunited with their families, it is incomprehensible how Mr Ross could be so completely heartless. It shows a real lack of humanity and compassion."

Ten amendments to Boris Johnson's Withdrawal Agreement Bill were defeated as the law passed through its final Commons stages but opposition MPs did raise concerns about how vulnerable groups will be protected when Brexit takes effect on January 31.

Among the amendments defeated by the 80-seat Conservative majority in the House, was a bid to force more accountability on Ministers over whether there would be an agreement to let child refugees join family in the UK.

The Government also defeated bids to match future EU laws on workers' rights.

However, Ministers, including Douglas Ross, insist they are already committed to helping these groups and will bring forward a separate Employment Bill to deal with workers' rights issues.

Mr Ross said: "As is common practice at the UK Parliament, amendments are lodged by opposition parties to make political points, rather than specifically improving the legislation they are attached to.

"The Erasmus amendment is an example of this as it wasn’t required given participation is protected under the Withdrawal Agreement and the Lib Dem MP moving the amendment accepted in Parliament it would only require the Government to do what it had already committed to.

"I’m also aware of a lot of concern about the child refugees amendment, but again, this will form part of the Immigration Bill which will be coming before Parliament, so it didn’t need to be added to the EU Exit Bill."

He added: "I understand the desire for opposition parties to use amendments in this way and why it can be viewed on social media as a vote against certain things, but in fact, the truth is these areas will either be covered by alternative legislation or are in fact are already on the statue book in Bills previously passed by the House of Commons."

Mr Lochhead claimed Mr Ross was simply making excuses for his actions.

He said: "This is a poor excuse to try and mitigate the damage these votes have done to his reputation, as well as being patronising to the public.

"Normally the UK Government makes a statement outlining its policy position when rejecting amendments like these, but no statement committing to full membership of Erasmus was given by the Tory Government, hence the alarm being expressed not just by politicians but the education sector."

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