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End of the Transition Period: Preparedness

Volume 685: debated on Wednesday 9 December 2020

What discussions he has had with the Scottish Government on their preparations for the end of the transition period. (909875)

What recent discussions he has had with the Scottish Government on preparedness for the end of the transition period. (909876)

I have regular conversations with the Scottish Government on preparedness for the end of the transition period, including meetings of the EU Exit Operations Cabinet Committee and the Joint Ministerial Committee on EU Negotiations.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. I know he will agree with me that the Scottish Government have failed to prepare for the end of the transition deal and are letting the Scottish people down, in particular by failing to recruit the required number of environmental protection officers to assist our fishing industry as we leave the transition deal at the end of this year. Will he confirm that the British Government stand ready to assist the Scottish Government, should they require it, to get the required number of protection officers in place to support our fishing industry?

As my hon. Friend knows, it is the Scottish Government’s responsibility to ensure adequate certifier capacity for exports to the European Union. The UK Government have been engaging closely with the Scottish Government, Food Standards Scotland and Scottish local authorities to clarify the capacity in Scotland for certifying export health certificates, and with them, we have determined the level of additional capacity that is needed. That is the sort of boring answer. I would add that we have provided the Scottish Government with £138 million of Brexit preparedness support for this purpose.

Dearie me, Mr Speaker. Let me try this one. NHS Tayside has stated that a hard Brexit could

“lead to an inability to deliver safe and effective care”,

and NHS Lanarkshire says that Brexit poses a “very high” risk to the delivery of healthcare services. We also know that the Ministry of Defence is putting plans in place to fly the Pfizer vaccine into the UK to avoid the Government’s entirely self-inflicted border ports chaos. Given that we did not vote for any of this and that 15 polls in a row now show support for independence, does the Secretary of State still believe that the Union is “firing on all cylinders”, as he wrote at the weekend?

The Union is absolutely firing on all cylinders, whether it is the support of over 900,000 jobs in Scotland, the UK Government procuring, supplying and paying for all the vaccines for the United Kingdom, or the armed forces helping with the roll-out. As regards the scare story the hon. Gentleman is trying to start over the MOD flying the vaccine into the United Kingdom, all good Governments have robust contingency plans. That is No. 5 on the list of contingency plans, and they are not just for the transition period outcome. Those contingency plans are made for potential strikes, weather events and so on. It is entirely responsible to plan that way.

The end of the transition period has been described by Scottish businesses as a “catastrophic” situation. Some have argued that if they cannot trade with the EU, they are out of the game—it is an existential threat. Can I ask the Scottish Secretary to actually show some authority in the Cabinet and insist on a minimum six-month grace period, so businesses do not fall foul of regulations which are not yet developed for a deal that is not yet agreed, but which is supposed to be in place in barely three weeks’ time? This needs to be done; it needs to be done today. Otherwise, businesses will struggle dreadfully on his watch.

There has been a major public information campaign running for businesses and citizens, telling them exactly what they need to do. We have always been clear that, whether it is deal or no deal, there are steps that have to be taken when the transition period comes to an end. We are not going to delay the end of the transition period, because it is only by sticking to that date that people can prepare responsibly, and it also holds the EU’s feet to the fire in getting a deal. We have been clear what measures they need to take. They need to look at the UK Government website, where they can see very clearly what preparations they need to make for the end of this month.