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Leaving the EU: Support for Businesses based in Scotland

Volume 654: debated on Tuesday 12 February 2019

11. What recent discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on fiscal support for businesses based in Scotland to prepare for the UK leaving the EU without a deal. (909152)

The Chancellor and I work closely together to support businesses right across the United Kingdom, but as I said before, the best option for Scotland in facing Brexit is to provide certainty to business by supporting a deal that has been proposed with the European Union.

I am not entirely convinced by that answer. With the risk of red meat facing tariffs of around 40%, the president of the National Farmers Union of Scotland, Andrew McCornick, described a no-deal Brexit as “catastrophic” for Scotland’s farmers and crofters. In the event that the Prime Minister is unable to get her deal through the Commons and opts for no deal instead of extending article 50, and given what the Secretary of State has said about no deal, will he resign?

The solution is in the hon. Gentleman’s own hands. The NFU has been clear about this in Scotland and every part of the United Kingdom—it said that we should back the deal that has been negotiated. He has the opportunity to do that.

I am delighted to say that we work closely with the Scottish Government and universities and businesses across Scotland. One example is the sector deals that we have struck, including the life sciences sector deal, in which Scotland is strong, which means investment going into Scottish institutions and creating good jobs now and in the future.

A recent survey by Ernst & Young found that 92% of Scottish firms do not feel fully ready for Brexit. They are being left adrift by this Government. Given the calamitous collapse of the phantom deal for the ferry company with no ships—the Seaborne Freight fiasco—does the Secretary of State stick by his comment that the contract was “prudent and responsible”?

The Secretary of State for Transport gave a statement on that yesterday and was clear that no Government money had been put into that. When it comes to building confidence for businesses in Scotland, which I hope the hon. Gentleman and I want to do, he will know that the way to allay businesses’ concerns is to ensure that we conclude an agreement. There is one that has the support of businesses in Scotland and across the country, and I hope his party will back it.

That answer is simply not good enough. Even the former head of the civil service, Bob Kerslake, said that the fiasco will

“just confirm the view of many that this country is in a mess”.

If the UK Government cannot put in place their own services, will the Secretary of State support the SNP’s demand for the Chancellor to use the spring statement to provide firms with the fiscal support they need to put in place their own measures to get them through this Tory Brexit mess?

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman would raise fiscal matters, when some of the fiscal decisions taken in Scotland recently have further diminished investors’ confidence. For Scotland to be the highest-taxed part of the United Kingdom is a terrible signal to not only workers but businesses.