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Leaving the EU: Economic Growth

Volume 642: debated on Wednesday 6 June 2018

2. What assessment the Government have made of the effect of the UK leaving the EU on the level of growth in the Scottish economy. (905613)

10. What assessment the Government have made of the effect of the UK leaving the EU on the level of growth in the Scottish economy. (905621)

The Government are undertaking a wide range of ongoing analysis in support of our EU negotiations and preparations. We want our future relationship with the EU to be a deep and special partnership, taking in both economic and security co-operation.

The UK Government’s own analysis shows how devastating Brexit will be for GDP. That has already been felt with crippling uncertainty—so much so that Mr and Mrs Mitchell of Allanhill farm in my constituency have written to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs wondering whether or not they should plant their crop for 2019, because of the uncertainty about seasonal workers. Will he give them certainty today?

The Government have already acknowledged that there will be an ongoing need for a seasonal workers scheme that will support the constituents of the hon. Gentleman, but I thought that he might focus on other constituents, given the report yesterday by the Scottish Government which said that, with Brexit, there will be a huge increase in the number of potential jobs in the fishing industry, which impacts on his constituency, with a £540 million potential boost to the Scottish economy.

Non-UK EU nationals in Scotland contribute around £4.5 billion annually to the Scottish economy. Both the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Prime Minister have failed to rule out an immigration skills charge on companies employing EU nationals in future. Will the Secretary of State oppose any such charge applying in Scotland after the UK leaves the EU—yes or no?

The hon. Gentleman knows very clearly that I oppose there being a separate immigration system in Scotland. Scotland has specific issues in relation to immigration, but those issues also arise in other parts of the United Kingdom. When the Government announce their new immigration policy in relation to leaving the EU, I want to see a policy that takes into account the concerns of Scotland and the whole of the United Kingdom.

Increasing trade is critical to the success of Scotland’s economy as we leave the European Union, and I was delighted that the first ever meeting of the Board of Trade in Scotland was held in Stirling just last month. It was a hugely successful day, not least for Stirling’s businesses. What lessons has my right hon. Friend taken from listening to Scottish businesses about their experiences in exporting?

I echo my hon. Friend’s comments about the suitability of the location of the meeting in Stirling and the beauty of Stirling castle as the setting for such an historic event. It is clear that businesses in Scotland want to get ahead with focusing on taking up the trade opportunities that will arise when we leave the EU.

Figures last month revealed that since 2007 the SNP Scottish Government in Edinburgh have missed five of their economic targets. Does this not demonstrate the incompetence of the Scottish Government in managing Scotland’s economy?

I agree with my hon. Friend that there are real concerns. My view is that the single greatest threat to the growth of the Scottish economy is a second independence referendum, which would put business on hold, disrupt our economy and drive away investment.

11. Given that all of Scotland’s projected population growth over the next 25 years is from migration, does the Secretary of State not agree that reducing net migration would be devastating to Scotland? Does he agree with the leader of the Scottish branch of the Conservative party that a tailored solution for Scotland must be the answer? (905622)

I am clear that we need an immigration policy that is right for the whole of the United Kingdom and that takes into account the very specific needs that we have identified in Scotland. However, we know that the Scottish Government have powers that have very significant effects on immigration, such as the powers on the level of tax, and that making Scotland the highest-taxed part of the UK is not a way to encourage people to come to Scotland.

Does the Secretary of State agree that what really matters to the growth rates and success of the Scottish economy is the Union of the United Kingdom? Does he agree that that is most demonstrated by the border area?

I absolutely agree. That is why I am astounded that the SNP now even disputes that there is an internal market in the United Kingdom; even by SNP standards, that is astounding. That internal market is worth four times as much to Scottish business as the whole of the EU put together.