Skip to main content

Leaving the Customs Union: Scotland

Volume 644: debated on Tuesday 3 July 2018

1. What recent assessment he has made of the financial implications for Scotland of the UK leaving the EU customs union. (906189)

Scotland exports almost £30 billion of goods and services, including its iconic whisky, and we want to make sure we have as frictionless trade as possible with the EU as well as the ability to strike independent trade deals with the rest of the world.

Alexander Dennis is a strong, world-leading bus-building company employing 1,000 people in my constituency, but its chief executive officer, Colin Robertson, has expressed serious concerns about a hike in costs within the supply chain should the UK leave the customs union. Given that the Chancellor has so far failed to stop the Prime Minister’s hard Brexit, what are we to expect from him at Friday’s Cabinet showdown on Brexit—action or evasion?

Of course we want trade with the EU to be as frictionless as possible, but I point out to the hon. Gentleman that the UK market is worth £46 billion to the Scottish economy, and his party wants to leave that market.

Given that Scottish businesses export more to non-EU countries than to EU countries, does my right hon. Friend agree that the opportunity for Scottish businesses from new trade deals is potentially that much greater?

My hon. Friend is right. Outside the UK, the No. 1 destination for Scottish exports is the US, which accounts for 16% of exports, and of course part of the opportunity of leaving the EU is the ability to negotiate new trade deals, such as with the US.

It is getting completely ridiculous now. When either the Chancellor or the Chief Secretary to the Treasury is finally allowed to have a look at this mythical third customs plan from No. 10, will they at least have the integrity and honesty if it does not deliver the exact same benefits for Scotland—or, for that matter, England, Wales and Northern Ireland—to come to this House and actually say so?

As I have said, we want to secure as frictionless trade as possible with the EU as well as those opportunities with the rest of the world. It would be helpful if the Labour party, rather than trying to reverse the result of the referendum, was instead more positive about the opportunities in the future.

Does my right hon. Friend welcome with me the news that foreign direct investment project numbers are up 7% in Scotland compared to last year and have broken records every year for the past three years, and all this despite a Scottish National party Government in Scotland who are constantly talking down the prospects of the Scottish economy?

Those are fantastic figures for Scotland. We have seen good figures across the UK and the lowest unemployment for 40 years. The Labour party wants to overthrow capitalism; we want great businesses that will do well for our economy.

Could the Chief Secretary to the Treasury reassure the House and the people of Scotland that they will not be paying more in fuel and alcohol duty after Brexit in order to fill the post-Brexit hole in our public finances?

I am afraid to tell the House that the people of Scotland are having to pay more income tax thanks to the SNP Government. Everyone earning more than £26,000 is paying more tax under the SNP.

Would the Chief Secretary to the Treasury not agree that the people of Scotland and the United Kingdom will be better off if we leave the customs union and invest in state-of-the-art technology to ensure that we have frictionless trade and pursue the trade opportunities that lie ahead of this nation around the globe?

I know that my hon. Friend has done a lot of work at the port of Dover making sure it is ready for all eventualities. We want to have the best possible trade with both the EU and the rest of the world. That is the opportunity we have got.

22. The Financial Times is reporting that both Ministers and Bank of England officials fear a Brexit assault on the £8 trillion asset management industry, so the stakes at this Friday’s Brexit Cabinet bunfight could not be higher. Will protection of Scottish financial passporting rights be a red line for the Chancellor? (906212)

The financial services industry is a very important industry for the whole UK and we want it to do as well as possible, which is why we are working on getting the best possible deal. It is in the interests of EU countries that rely heavily on UK financial services to get a deal that suits both sides.

According to EY’s recently released Brexit Tracker, a third of all financial services companies have confirmed that they will move staff or operations outside the United Kingdom. Most are going to Dublin, Frankfurt and Luxembourg, and they are going because this Government cannot give them the basic assurances for which they, and we, have been asking for 18 months. After eight failed years of Conservative government, we simply cannot afford this. What are the Government going to do to stop it getting any worse?

I am amazed that the hon. Gentleman did not mention the fact that the City has yet again been rated the top financial centre in the world. We hear nothing but doom and gloom from the Labour party about the future of our economy. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that the solution to our problems is calling business the enemy and overthrowing capitalism, he is seriously mistaken.