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Impact of Leaving the EU

Volume 725: debated on Wednesday 11 January 2023

1. Whether he has made a recent assessment of the impact of the UK leaving the European Union on Scotland. (902927)

11. Whether he has made a recent assessment of the impact of the UK leaving the European Union on Scotland. (902937)

There are many benefits of leaving the EU for Scotland. They include: the ability to agree new trade deals and strategic partnerships, controlling our borders, ensuring that regulation fits the needs of the United Kingdom, control of our fishing waters and the ability to improve the competitiveness of our economy while maintaining high standards.

Statistics from His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs show that Scottish exports have plummeted by £2.2 billion over the two years since Brexit, which has already cost Scotland’s economy around £4 billion. The consequences of Brexit have been invariably harmful. What is the Secretary of State for Scotland doing to protect Scotland from this Tory-imposed act of economic self-harm?

The hon. Lady quotes statistics for the two years following Brexit, but those of course are two years where we had other factors to take into account, not only covid and many lockdowns across Europe, but the illegal war in Ukraine. In the first two quarters of 2022, the United Kingdom did more trade with the European Union than it did in any quarter when we were members of the European Union.

Brexit has cost the UK £40 billion a year in tax revenue. That would be enough to fill the black hole caused by the Tory mini-Budget, along with yet another round of Tory austerity. Scotland did not vote for Brexit, for this Government, the last one or the one before that, so does the Secretary of State think it is right that Scotland should suffer due to his party’s extreme Brexit ideology?

This Government respect democracy. We respect the outcome of referendums. There was a referendum in 2014 on Scottish independence. We respected the result; the Scottish National party has not. In 2016, the United Kingdom, which we are all part of, voted to leave the European Union, and we delivered on that.

A report from the Nuffield Trust has found that Brexit is worsening NHS workforce challenges, particularly the recruitment of specialities. Trade barriers have driven up costs and made shortages of medicines and medical devices worse in the UK than in Europe. Why should the people of Scotland suffer worse health outcomes as a consequence of a Brexit they did not vote for?

I would say that the people of Scotland are suffering worse health outcomes because of the incompetence of the Scottish Government to run the health system. Regarding NHS recruitment, I further add that we have a points-based system. It creates flexibility and allows us to deal with the skills gap, and a points-based system was the former policy of the Scottish National party.

Brexit has demonstrably been a disaster for the Scottish fisheries sector. The catchers and the processors are having a dreadful time, but even these trading arrangements are due to end in 2026 under the trade and co-operation agreement. What thought has the Secretary of State given to the future trading arrangements after 2026, or will it be just another betrayal?

We have taken control of our waters. We have left the hated common fisheries policy. We have seen our quota increase by 30,000 tonnes this year in negotiations. We are going to take full control of our waters at the end of the five-year period, and with the other things we are putting in place to support industry, we will increase the processing business, as well.

It is interesting to follow the previous question. Does my right hon. Friend agree that additional UK fishing opportunities totalling about £750 million—that is on top of the TCA agreement—have been secured in recent end-of-year negotiations? Does he agree with me and the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation that Scottish industry and Scottish Government Ministers and officials have a stronger voice in the annual negotiations since leaving the EU, and the hated common fisheries policy, than ever they would have when we were still in the EU?

My hon. Friend is a great advocate for the fishing industry, and I agree with everything he says. We have a stronger voice. We have increased our tonnage by 30,000 tonnes, and we will continue to increase it. Everything he does to support that industry is laudable.

This Government seem hellbent on destroying the Scottish seafood sector. Some £60 million has been spent on additional Brexit paperwork alone, while export delays and exclusions undermine our export potential. What has happened to the Brexit sea of opportunity that was promised, and does the Minister accept the assessment of the Scottish White Fish Producers Association that Brexit has

“failed to deliver any benefits”

of a coastal state?

I do not accept that assessment. Certain sectors of the fishing industry have made much progress and seen many benefits. On the processing sector, we are looking at what the shortage occupation list could do to help the sector and at further investment in the north-east. I am confident that there is a sea of opportunity, which we will see over the five-year period, and that, at the end of those five years, the fishing sector will not be jumping up and down saying, “Let’s get back into the common fisheries policy.”

The brilliant EU citizens who contribute to Scotland’s communities, public services and economy include more than 100,000 people who currently have the precarious pre-settled status. The High Court in England recently ruled that the requirement of a further application to preserve their rights here was unlawful and contrary to the withdrawal treaty. Will the Secretary of State agree that the judgment is welcome and should be respected—providing, as it does, security for those EU citizens and protecting their ongoing contributions to Scotland and the UK?

We welcome all EU citizens with settled status and think it is absolutely right that those systems are in place. If the hon. Gentleman has any further questions regarding the matter, I suggest he raise the matter at Home Office questions. I think the system that we have is working and is fair.

When conducting his assessment, did the Secretary of State include figures for the impact of implementing the Schengen borders code between Scotland and England, including the requirements for border infrastructure, that would be required if we listened to the SNP and implemented its policies?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. There is not just the issue of freedom of movement of people across the United Kingdom, but the fact that while 20% of Scotland’s trade is with the EU and 20% with the rest of the world, 60% is with the rest of the United Kingdom.

My colleagues have highlighted just some of the negative impacts of Brexit on individuals, businesses, universities and public services in Scotland. There simply are no real Brexit opportunities or sunlit uplands. Does it therefore come as a surprise to the Secretary of State that a poll last year showed that 69% of Scottish voters want to rejoin the EU?

I welcome the hon. Lady to her new role, and thank the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire South (Mhairi Black) for her positive engagement in the role previously.

Opinion polls come and go; we have seen that. Last week, we saw that 59% of Scots want to remain in the United Kingdom—I notice that that opinion poll was not quoted. As for the benefits of Brexit, we can make our own trade deals, and we have made 71 to date. The SNP has never seen a trade deal it liked—it has never voted for a trade deal in the European Parliament or in this Parliament. There are further benefits: we have left the hated common fisheries policy; I know the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford) is very keen on the health sector, and we had an accelerated vaccine programme roll-out; we had a fast and decisive response to the war in Ukraine; and we are able to make our own laws, one of which is precision breeding, which, again, we would like the Scottish Government to support.

I thank the Secretary of State for his warm welcome, but I must point out that June Raine, the head of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, has said innumerable times that the accelerated roll-out was under European Medicines Agency legislation. With the Labour party having now lashed itself to the mast of the floundering Brexit ship, does the Secretary of State at least recognise that the only route back to the EU for Scotland is as an independent country?

The deficit in Scotland is considerably higher than 3%, which is the Maastricht criteria, so that is not the route back. The currency is a problem as well—as we know, the Bank of England is the bank of last resort, and there would have to be a new currency in Scotland following membership of the EU. There is no desire in Scotland to have membership of the EU. I believe that when Scots stop and look at the detail, whether it is on their pensions, trade or currency, they know that their home is the United Kingdom.