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Free Movement and Scotland

Volume 650: debated on Thursday 6 December 2018

3. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Scotland on the potential effect on the Scottish economy of the proposed abolition of the free movement of people between the UK and the EU after the UK leaves the EU. (908038)

19. What assessment the Government has made of the potential effect on the Scottish economy of the proposed abolition of free movement of people after the UK leaves the EU. (908059)

With your permission, Mr Speaker, I will take Questions 3 and 19 together.

The Secretary of State has regular discussions with his Cabinet colleagues. We also engage with the Scottish Government through the Joint Ministerial Committee and the ministerial forum, which I co-chaired on Monday. The political declaration makes it clear that free movement will end. We will design a future immigration system that works for all parts of the UK.

I had no previous notice of that intended grouping, but it is, as far as I can see, unexceptionable.

The average EU citizen living and working in Scotland contributes £10,400 a year in tax revenues. Does the Minister think it is acceptable to cut the Scottish tax intake by £2 billion by 2040?

We all recognise the valuable contribution of EU citizens in our communities. That is why we are looking to secure a deal that makes sure that EU citizens working and living in the UK, and UK citizens living in the EU, are fully protected under the terms of the withdrawal agreement.

Freedom of movement is fantastic for Scotland’s economy and provides amazing opportunities for our young people. To what extent would migration form part of negotiations on the future relationship, and why have we not seen the immigration White Paper?

I am sure the Home Office will be coming forward with details of future immigration policy shortly. However, it is also important that we set out in our White Paper—it is reflected in the political declaration—that important elements of labour mobility will form part of those negotiations. It is also clearly reflected in the political declaration that free movement will come to an end when we leave the EU.

I welcome the Secretary of State to his first Question Time. The Prime Minister listed the end of the free movement of people as the single biggest cause for celebration in her deal. The reality is that, every week, Fife is losing talented young families, who are leaving their home and the land where they belong because they do not want their children growing up in a place where they have been regarded as bargaining chips and queue jumpers. That is causing enormous heartache to thousands of my fellow Fifers and to hundreds of thousands of my fellow Scots. Will the Minister explain why I should celebrate that?

From the Prime Minister downwards, we have always been clear that we hugely value the contribution of EU citizens living all over our country; we want them to stay, and we will make sure that they can stay under any circumstances. However, the best way to do that is to secure the agreement we have negotiated and to secure citizens’ rights arrangements for 4 million citizens, including many UK citizens living in the EU.

It is very hard to reconcile the reassuring words from the Minister with the fact that the Prime Minister herself used the phrase “queue jumpers” to refer to thousands of my constituents and tens of thousands of my fellow Scots. The Government’s own analysis has shown that every single Brexit scenario they could think of—ending the free movement of people, cutting migration from the European Union to somewhere close to their ridiculous target—damages our economy in the longer term. As well as being morally repugnant and socially divisive, ending the free movement of people is economically stupid and violates the sovereign will of the people of Scotland. Does the Minister agree that anyone in this House who claims to stand up for Scotland has only one option next week, and that is to thoroughly reject this miserable deal and to get back round the negotiating table?

I do not think the hon. Gentleman will be particularly surprised to hear that I do not agree. I believe that the sovereign will of the people of Scotland he referred to was to stay in the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom has voted to leave the European Union and end free movement. However, every scenario in the Government’s analysis showed our economy continuing to grow.