Skip to main content

Scottish Economy

Volume 630: debated on Tuesday 24 October 2017

The UK internal market benefits all the nations and regions of the United Kingdom. It is essential that no new barriers to living and doing business in the UK are created. Exports to the rest of the UK are vital to the success of Scotland’s economy, generating £50 billion in 2015. That compares with £12 billion of exports to the EU and £16 billion to the rest of the world and it accounts for 63% of Scotland’s total exports.

Small and medium-sized enterprises make a vital contribution to local economies, so I am delighted that in East Renfrewshire the number of registered enterprises has gone up by 18% since 2010. Does the Chancellor agree that as those businesses look to expand from being local to national players, it is vital to maintain the integrity of the UK internal market? Any moves to fragment it would damage the Scottish economy, place huge barriers to trade on both sides of the border, and put that vital contribution he just outlined in jeopardy.

I strongly agree with my hon. Friend that the fragmentation of the UK internal market would be damaging for the Scottish economy, particularly small businesses. This is not just an issue for Scotland, though. We all agree that protecting the UK internal market is in our shared interests, and the Government will work to make sure that there are no new barriers to doing business across the UK.

Staying in the UK internal market while the UK crashes out of the EU is set to cost Scotland £30 billion over five years, according to research by the London School of Economics published today. Aberdeen is set to lose the most, at 7% of gross value added. Will the Chancellor be clear on behalf of his Government that no deal is not an option?

As I have already said, the Government are preparing for all possible outcomes of the negotiations with the European Union, as any prudent Government would, but the Prime Minister has made it very clear that our strong preference is to achieve a deal, which is good for Britain and which protects British jobs, British businesses and British prosperity—by which I mean the jobs, businesses and prosperity of all of the United Kingdom.

On that note, 56% of EU nationals in FTSE 250 companies are highly likely, or quite likely, to leave the UK before the conclusion of the Brexit negotiations. What is the Chancellor’s assessment of the impact on the Scottish economy of all of this talent leaving the UK?

I am very confident that, whatever the outcome, all of this talent will not leave. The Prime Minister made it very clear yesterday that her top priority remains giving assurance to EU citizens living in the UK, which is why she is working hard to deliver a deal on citizens. It is the area in which our discussions with the European Union are most advanced. The hon. Lady has the Prime Minister’s personal commitment on the importance that she attaches to that area.

Financial and accounting services amounted to Scotland’s most valuable export service in 2015. Of the £8.8 billion they were worth, £7.6 billion, or 86%, went to the rest of the UK. Does my right hon. Friend agree that conserving the UK internal market is vital to protect such an important sector of the Scottish economy?

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the important role of financial services and insurance in the Scottish economy as a subset of the broader point that the internal market works extremely well for Scotland and is very important to Scotland’s exports. It would clearly be catastrophic for the financial and insurance services sector if businesses based in Scotland were no longer able to operate across the border into England.

If I understand this correctly, we have Scottish National party members who understand the benefits of the European single market, but not the UK single market, and we have fanatics in the Conservative party who extol the benefits of the UK single market but who would happily drive a coach and horses through the European single market. Perhaps, in his characteristic fashion, the Chancellor can set out a slightly more grown up position and tell us how he will protect both in the interests of the British economy.

The Government’s position is very clear: the benefits of the UK internal market are absolutely clear to all of us and we will not allow it to be compromised. In our negotiations with the European Union, we hope and expect to agree a deal that will allow British businesses to continue to enjoy the benefits of access to the European marketplace and European companies to continue to enjoy the benefits of access to the UK market.