I beg to move,
That this House has considered the implications for Scotland of leaving the EU.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. I am delighted to have secured this debate and I thank my colleagues on the Backbench Business Committee for supporting my application. I begin this debate in the hope that we can have a measured, clear analysis of the facts and challenges that lie ahead, which are of material importance to Scotland and her prosperity.
The implications for Scotland of leaving the European Union are profound and significant. First, we need to consider the damaging effect that leaving the EU will have on Scotland’s vital interests both at home and abroad. Nobody can deny that the UK’s governing party is hopelessly divided against itself, as the UK faces arguably the biggest challenge and upheaval since the second world war. The Cabinet speaks not with one voice, but with several confused and contradictory voices. How can it enter into negotiations with the EU and inspire confidence from any quarter?
Does the hon. Lady accept that almost a third of Scottish National party voters also voted to leave the EU and that, therefore, the SNP is divided on this issue too?
That is quite an interesting point. I hope to maintain a respectful dialogue in this debate. I gently remind the hon. Gentleman that the former Tory leader and Prime Minister, John Major, has called the handling of Brexit “bad politics” and a “grand folly” dictated by “ultra Brexiteers”. He has also said:
“Many electors know they were misled”.
How people voted in the EU referendum, therefore, is beside the point. I want to focus on the damage that is being done to Scotland, because a lot of people have watched the unfolding of the Brexit process with horror and alarm.
The UK Government’s own leaked analysis has shown that Scotland’s GDP could face a hit of up to 9%, with analysis from the Fraser of Allander Institute showing that a hard Brexit could cost Scotland up to 80,000 jobs. The final figure could be higher or lower—we have no idea at the moment. The Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has revealed that Brexit has already cost each household £900.
The hon. Lady makes an excellent point: we do not really know at the moment. That is true of all forecasts in any context. We do not really know. What we need to do, however, is pull together our Governments, countries and peoples, to make a success of what will inevitably happen, given the passing of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. We are leaving the European Union, therefore we need to work together. No one knows what will happen, but we are responsible for making our own future. We are the masters of our own fate.
The hon. Gentleman is correct. We know that until everything is agreed, nothing is agreed. In that context it is hard to make final predictions. I say to him, however, that we have experts whose minds are more academic on this issue than his or mine, and their opinions matter. Independent forecasters, the UK Government’s own analysis, the Fraser of Allander Institute, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the Economic and Social Research Institute and the National Farmers Union have all expressed real concern about what Brexit means for Scotland. I direct the hon. Gentleman to those sources, not to what I am saying.
My hon. Friend is making a powerful speech and she makes the point, which Government Members cannot bear to hear, that business, the trade unions and all of civic society in Scotland are concerned about the impact of Brexit on Scotland. The hon. Member for Stirling (Stephen Kerr) said that we should be masters of our own fate. Does my hon. Friend agree that the whole point of this debate is that the people of Scotland are not masters of their own fate, because they are being taken out of the European Union against their democratic will?
My hon. and learned Friend makes an excellent point, which needs no gilding from myself. I wholeheartedly agree. I will come on to the people of Scotland in a few moments.
An HMRC report showed that in 2013-14, European economic area nationals paid £12.1 billion more in income tax and national insurance than they took out in tax credits and child benefit in the UK as a whole. EU nationals working in Scotland contribute an average of £34,000 to GDP. The rights of Scotland’s current EU community must be protected and guaranteed as a matter of principle. One in 25 GPs in Scotland is an EU citizen. Losing them would affect 226,000 patients. Regardless of whether those GPs are allowed to stay in Scotland, the fact is that Brexit has created something of a hostile environment for those who choose to live and work in the UK. That may create challenges with retaining EU citizens across the UK, who have contributed so much to our communities. Although not necessarily a large sum for some of our EU citizens, asking them to pay £65 per person—the principle of asking people to re-subscribe to their own lives in a country where they have already contributed so much—is something that shames the Government and us as a society. It should be scrapped.
I agree with the hon. Lady that we are asking EU citizens to do something unthinkable. Many of them have paid tax and national insurance in this country. If the SNP is so opposed to what is happening, why does it not back the people’s vote and be straight with the people of Scotland that it is just trying to churn up the argument for independence? It should be straight with the people and tell them that, or back the people’s vote.
Sir Roger, you will forgive me for tittering when a Lib Dem asks me to be straight with the people. We in the SNP are absolutely straight with the people of Scotland, who are waking up to the fact that they have been misled. You do not need to take my word for it; you just need to speak to John Major, your former leader and Prime Minister, who openly says that the people have been misled over Brexit. Of course, the people of Scotland were not misled, because we voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, but that appears not to matter to the constituents that you represent.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives conveniently choose to ignore the fact that the majority of Scottish voters in 2016 voted for Scottish political parties that said they wanted to hold another independence referendum in the event of Scotland being taken out of the EU against its will? Whether they like it or not, there is a mandate in the Scottish Parliament for that second independence referendum. It is time that they respected the democracy of that vote.
Order. I ask hon. Members to confine interventions to the length of a proper intervention and not to make speeches.
I will simply respond to my hon. and learned Friend by saying that that is why the Lib Dems are increasingly irrelevant in UK and Scottish politics.
Will the hon. Lady give way?
I will make some progress. We in the SNP believe that the Government should negotiate to stay in the single market and the customs union, not least to protect the exchange of citizens’ rights between the EU and the UK.
Another area of huge concern is the importance of the single market and the customs union to protecting our social, trade and investment partnerships with EU businesses and Governments. The Scottish Government’s impact analysis has shown that a failure to remain in the single market and the customs union, or to secure a free trade agreement, would see Scotland’s GDP around £12.7 billion lower by 2030 than it would be under continued EU membership. That would mean a loss equivalent to £2,300 per person in Scotland. In addition, the impact analysis shows that a so-called Canada-type deal with the EU would still leave Scotland’s GDP £9 billion lower by 2030, or £1,610 per head.
Scotland’s food and drink exports have reached £6 billion—the highest level ever—with the EU being the largest market. However, the Economic and Social Research Institute reported that a hard Brexit would result in up to a 90% fall in exports to the EU from Scotland. Those are important voices from industry, and everybody who cares about Scotland’s economic prospects should listen to them. A hard Brexit would leave the UK isolated on the world stage and expose the country to a regulatory race to the bottom, compromising our trading relationships and consumer standards.
The right hon. Member for Witham (Priti Patel) has said that Brexit was an opportunity for widespread deregulation. The Foreign Secretary has said, “Scrap social Europe”. Daniel Hannan, a Tory MEP, said that all contracts between employers and employees should be “free contracts” with no statutory protection. There is no question but that Brexit will see a bonfire of British workers’ rights, given that those words come from the governing party. I do not claim to speak for the people of England, and nor should I, but we in Scotland are alarmed by those comments, which go against the values and beliefs that the people of Scotland hold dear.
The Secretary of State for International Trade is on the record as being “relaxed” about the diminution of food standards post Brexit, although the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has said he is opposed to it. The Prime Minister simply responded that the questions were “hypothetical”. Food standards that are currently banned across the EU may become permissible in the UK post Brexit, which precipitates concerns about the proverbial race to the bottom. More relaxed standards have implications for animal welfare and raise potential environmental and public health concerns. Will Scotland really have to endure such standards post Brexit? Is that what was meant by taking back control?
The UK will seek to pursue new trade deals, particularly with the US. Since we already know that procurement and public contracts are important objectives for the US in negotiating a trade deal, as demonstrated by the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations, Scotland’s public services are at risk of being bargained off in new agreements. For the people of Scotland, that is simply unacceptable. Hon. Members across the House will know that, because they, too, will have received countless emails from constituents about it. If any hon. Member in the Chamber has not received any emails about the issue, they should feel free to intervene now.
A growing number of people in Scotland are bewildered. In Scotland, we had a referendum on EU membership, which there was no evidence that Scotland wanted. We in Scotland voted to remain in the EU by a convincing majority, but we are now being removed against our will from a family of nations of which we wish to remain part. To add insult to injury, Scotland’s voice in the UK negotiations has been summarily ignored. We all witnessed the farce on 12 June. Despite the implications of Scotland being dragged out of the EU, we were allocated a mere 19 minutes. Not one Scottish MP from any party was permitted to speak and there was no protected time for the debate. We witnessed an unprecedented ripping up of the devolution settlement, with Scotland’s voice silenced.
On timing, does the hon. Lady recognise that in this Parliament, we have spent 252 hours debating Brexit, and we will spend several more, whereas the Scottish Parliament has spent only 25 hours on legislation that was rushed through on an emergency basis? It is not right for her to take a high hand when it comes to time.
The hon. Gentleman may not be aware of this, so I will enlighten him: Scotland did not vote for Brexit and the Brexit negotiations are being carried out by the UK Government. They are therefore duty-bound to allow Scottish MPs, who represent people who did not vote for Brexit, proper time to debate the implications of Brexit and the fact that the devolution settlement has been torn up, about which he appears to have no concern.
Let us be clear: in the democratically elected Scottish Parliament, every single party—the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, Labour and the Greens—save the Tories voted overwhelmingly against repatriating powers to London, by 95 votes to 32. During the Standing Orders debate in the Commons Chamber on 13 June, I was stunned to hear Scottish Tory MPs dismiss that lack of legislative consent—that power grab—by saying, to paraphrase them, “What does it matter? It is only powers over this, that or the other.” They may say that, but when you ignore the entire concept of consent and ride roughshod over democratic institutions elected by the people of Scotland, to which the Tory Government in Westminster have not listened, you do so at your peril.
On the issue of a power grab, last week the Scottish Government and the First Minister attempted a Government reshuffle, which created the biggest Scottish Government in history and reflects the Scottish Government’s expanding power base. How can the hon. Lady claim there has been a power grab when there are more Ministers and Cabinet Secretaries in the Scottish Government than ever before, and when 80 new powers are coming to the Scottish Government after Brexit?
It is interesting that a Tory Member is concerned about the expanding public purse in these times of austerity and the expanded Scottish Government. That is good. Perhaps he should take up those concerns with the ever-expanding, dripping roast that is the House of Lords. I am sure that the Prime Minister would be happy—
I am dealing with this intervention—one at a time! The hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (John Lamont) will find that the Prime Minister’s Cabinet has also expanded as she tries to hold together an unholy coalition of Brexiteers and people with a bit of sense, of whom there are increasingly few in the Cabinet.
I have a simple question for the hon. Lady: if there has been a power grab, why did Nicola Sturgeon expand her Cabinet? Is it not factually correct that it was because there are new powers now and there are new powers coming?
It is that kind of attitude that has seen my party’s membership soar by 10,000 people in a short period of time. The hon. Gentleman says “if there has been a power grab”, which suggests there has not been one—[Interruption.] If you make an intervention, you have to let me answer. That is how the game works. It appears that this is a game for some people, but it is about your country of Scotland and the people you represent. If you let me speak, we might get somewhere.
To dismiss the fact that there has been a power grab shows a breath-taking contempt for devolution and the Scottish Parliament. Under the Scotland Act—
Will the hon. Lady give way?
Can I finish my point?
You’re in charge.
It doesn’t stop people shouting.
Get some manners.
They are really lacking. You do not get this in the Scottish Parliament, Sir Roger.
The hon. Member for Stirling (Stephen Kerr) should go back and look at the devolution settlement. Anything that is not reserved is devolved, and should correctly come back to the Scottish Parliament. When you start to ignore legislative consent, which has served that Parliament well for the 20 years it has existed, you cross a Rubicon and get to a point where you do what you like and ignore the Scottish Parliament anyway. I do not think that treats the sovereign people of Scotland with respect.
Will the hon. Lady give way on that point?
I will make some progress.
Holyrood is not Westminster. In Scotland, sovereignty lies with the people of Scotland. Under the constitutional rules, the Government should not proceed with any measure that affects Scotland without the Scottish Parliament’s consent. For the record—there has been some perhaps wilful confusion about this—the kind of powers being clawed back by Westminster are in 24 areas where they want to retain power in the wake of Britain’s exit from the EU, including agriculture, fisheries, food labelling and public procurement. Public procurement is interesting, because that could constitute an attack on our public services. I have listened to Scottish Tory MPs rubbishing concerns about those powers being clawed back as though they do not matter, as we have heard today. They do matter and anyone who doubts it only has to look at the SNP’s soaring membership after the power grab was brought to public attention, as I have already said.
The SNP has been accused of effectively trying to veto Brexit. However, legislative consent was withheld by every party save the Tories, so the argument—
Will the hon. Lady give way?
I am in the middle of a point.
The argument that it is some kind of SNP plot simply does not wash. Let there be no mistake: the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament recognise that there may be times—this is the point that Conservative Members really have to listen to because I have heard them rubbish this in the past—when UK-wide frameworks are required post Brexit and when they would be in Scotland’s interests. However, the way to achieve such frameworks is through negotiation. That is what a statesman or stateswoman would do; that is grown-up politics. Achieving UK-wide frameworks should not be achieved by strangling the voice of those who were democratically elected to speak for Scotland.
The stand-off that we have is in no one’s interests and that is why it is important to bring forward emergency legislation to remove section 11 from the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. Devolution cannot operate on the terms of grace and favour. To take powers restricting the competence of Holyrood and to exercise those powers in the face of an explicit decision by Holyrood that they should not be exercised is, whatever way you look at it, a power grab.
Under devolution, that which is not reserved is devolved—it is as simple and as important as that. Make no mistake: this process is about being able to adjust the terms on which devolution operates through delegated legislation without the consent—and even against the wishes—of the Scottish Parliament. I am fleetingly reminded of the fact that we were told how important it was to have English votes for English laws. I wonder when we will have Scottish votes for Scottish laws.
Many who are hostile to the Scottish Parliament have tried to dismiss the concerns that it has raised about a hard Brexit and Scotland’s voice being silenced as a ploy to promote independence, but that is not the case. This is about something, Sir Roger, that some people in this Chamber would do well to remember—it is about standing up for Scotland, and it is supported even by those in the Scottish Parliament who do not support independence and who are not yet convinced of the case for independence.
I am finishing up.
I say today that those who value the Union should beware the next referendum on Scottish independence—and it will come—because the debate has crystallised. [Interruption.] There is chuntering from a sedentary position, Sir Roger. The debate has crystallised like never before. The people of Scotland will be asked simply, “Who do you trust most to govern in the best interests of Scotland: Westminster or Holyrood?”. Given what we have witnessed over recent weeks and months, it does not take too great a leap of the imagination to guess what the answer will be from the people of Scotland.
The matters that we are discussing today are not just about Brexit or devolution or Scotland’s economic interests; they are ultimately about trust. Every day, this Tory Government demonstrate just a little bit more that they cannot be trusted by the people of Scotland. We are not the “valued and equal” partners we were told we were when we were love-bombed during the 2014 referendum campaign, and the people of Scotland know it. I urge all who care about Scotland to be her voice now and to stand up for her interests. The people of Scotland are sovereign and will not have their voices overridden by Westminster without consequence. Dismiss them at your peril.
Before we proceed, I understand that in the Scottish Parliament, it is—[Interruption.] Order. I understand that in the Scottish Parliament, it is customary to use the word “you” when referring to another Member. In the Westminster Parliament, “you” refers to the Chair. The Chair has no responsibility for party political matters, so I would be grateful if all hon. Members respected that convention.
We have six Members seeking to make contributions. It should be possible to accommodate everybody, provided that a degree of self-restraint is exercised. That is in your hands, not mine.
Thank you very much, Sir Roger. It is a pleasure, as ever, to serve under your chairmanship, and to follow the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson).
As a Scottish Conservative and Unionist, I strongly believe in democracy. The Scottish people rejected independence in 2014, just as the British people voted to leave the EU two years later. Both referendums were massive exercises in democracy and in both many people voted for the first time, and we must respect that. If we are to retain that level of interest and keep people’s trust in our system, those results must be respected—both the independence referendum and the Brexit referendum.
While a majority of Scottish people voted to remain in the European Union, 1 million of them turned out to vote leave. More Scots voted to leave the European Union than voted for the Scottish National party in the last general election.
Following the hon. Gentleman’s logic, the number of people who voted for independence was 60% higher than the number who voted to leave the European Union. What, then, does his logic suggest we should do about the 1.6 million people who voted to leave the United Kingdom?
I thank the hon. Gentleman very much for that question; I absolutely respect that point, and I covered it in the first line of my speech. People voted to stay in the United Kingdom, and we had a United Kingdom vote in the European Union referendum.
I will make some progress.
The Scottish people now expect politicians to carry out their wishes. I was disappointed to hear the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran take quite such a negative tone. Nobody on the Government Benches is denying the challenges that surround our exit from the EU, nor are we naive to the scale of the work still to be completed, and much work has been done.
However, the situation is not doom and gloom—far from it, in fact. Done correctly, Brexit can provide many exciting opportunities for Scotland. Overnight, the Scottish Parliament will become considerably more powerful as a result of our exit from the EU. Sovereignty and control over our own laws was a major driver of the leave vote, and I am delighted that the Government, through the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, have already taken steps to bring powers home to the United Kingdom. Brexit will give us the opportunity to bring decision making closer to people, not only through Westminster but through the devolved institutions in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Stormont.
As the hon. Gentleman was speaking, one thought occurred to me that I would like to ask him about, because I am sure he has thoughts on it. He talked about the importance of respecting democracy, and I am sure we all agree with that, but does he share the concerns that many in his party have about the lack of transparency regarding the funding for the EU leave campaign, the dirty money that appears to have been involved and the lack of ability to trace the source of that money? Does he have any concerns about how that might have influenced the result?
I thank the hon. Lady for the question, but I have an absolute respect for the institutions of this country, including the Electoral Commission, which will investigate funding, whether in Scottish elections or the EU referendum. I will respect its findings, because I have respect for UK institutions.
On day one after exit, more than 80 new powers will go directly from Brussels to Edinburgh—80 areas in which Scottish politicians can make decisions in the best interests of the Scottish people. The UK Government have rightly confirmed that they will presume devolution for all returning powers, meaning that only in exceptional circumstances will powers be temporarily held at UK level so that we can have some sort of framework, which Scottish industry and United Kingdom industry want. I believe that to be sensible and pragmatic. The UK Government travelled a significant distance from their original proposal, and we are now in a place where we can guarantee that Brexit will be to the advantage of the devolution settlement.
Of course, another upside of leaving the EU will be the ability to send more Scottish goods out to new markets, as we take control over our trade and chart a new course in the world. Scottish economic growth has been driven by exports, and the north-east of Scotland, where my constituency is located, is the largest exporting region in Scotland. In 2015, total exports from the north-east amounted to more than £8 billion—21.3% of total Scottish exports, in an area with 8% of the population. Leaving the EU will allow our exporting businesses to reach new markets and customers, and to grow those numbers further.
The hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran mentioned the food and drink sector and agriculture. It is a significant part of the north-east’s economy. It directly employs 22,000 people; 51% of those jobs are in agriculture, and a further 11% are in fishing. Leaving the EU will bring huge benefits to those people. We can finally design an agriculture policy that works for Scotland, and it will not be a DEFRA-centric, top-down policy. It will be a policy set by the Scottish Government for the unique needs of Scottish farmers— Members can see from my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests that I am one myself.
Fisheries policy will also escape the clutches of the EU, and I am delighted that we are already having conversations on that. It is amazing that the Scottish Government wish to receive powers and then immediately hand them back to the EU, particularly on the common fisheries policy, which would not go down well in our fishing communities.
Leaving, therefore, provides opportunities and hope to some of Scotland’s key industries. It will allow us to be part of an internationalist United Kingdom and to embrace new trading opportunities.
Apparently, the majority of sea fish caught at and off the coast of Scotland is sold into the European single market. Can the hon. Gentleman tell us where it is going to be sold after we leave the single market?
That is a good question. As the hon. and learned Lady knows, we are not leaving Europe. We are leaving the EU. We would hope to form a market in a frictionless free trade arrangement with the EU. Norway is also a huge exporter and is not a full member of the EU. We hope to negotiate a free trade arrangement with the EU.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Norway is a member of the single market, through the European economic area? Does he not even know that basic fact? Does he understand that the reason Norway joined the single market was so it could sell its produce into the single market? Will he answer my question—where will the fish caught in and off the coast of Scotland be sold after we leave the European single market?
It will go to Europe, with us outside the EU. It will go to Japan, America and the rest of the world. Those are the enormous opportunities that we have. It is incredible that the hon. and learned Lady does not realise that the common fisheries policy means that British fishermen catch only 40% of their potential fish catch. We cannot go to other countries in Europe and take their agricultural production, so it is important that more of our fish should be caught by Scottish and United Kingdom fishermen. I look forward to that happening. I am interested in how the Scottish Government explain to people on the coast why they want to hand fishing rights back to Europe immediately.
To move on to other industries, which I am sure Scottish National party Members will ask me about, last year whisky represented 20% of the UK’s food and drink exports—£4.4 billion. Diageo and Macallan, in the constituency next to mine, have made multi-million pound investments because they have confidence in our international future. Ardmore, Glen Garioch and Glendronach in my own patch predict huge improvement in sales, which is good news to me as a farmer, because hopefully that will happen with Scottish barley. The reason for the investment is confidence in an export future and not sharing the Scottish Government’s negativity. A free trade deal with India alone would massively boost whisky. We cannot actually grow enough barley in Scotland—and apparently not in the whole United Kingdom—to supply the Indian market, if we had full access to it.
Oil and gas in the north-east—a dollar-denominated industry trading around the world—is resilient after a massive price collapse: the industry still supports 300,000 jobs. Its international horizons are huge, and already the vast majority of its exports are outside the EU. It has no problems with taking on the opportunities of exporting outside the EU, and is investing vast sums in the north-east of Scotland. Financial services, from Aberdeen Asset Management to Artemis in Edinburgh, have global brands and huge international opportunities. They invest in international opportunities throughout the world, not just in the EU. The UK is the clearing bank of Europe and the world; it is the hub of mergers and acquisitions.
What is the threat? We do not have to go far to see bigger risks in Scotland than Brexit. INEOS, the largest private UK company, which has invested £2 billion in the North sea and Grangemouth chemical plant, plans to invest £2 billion in the north-west of Europe. Brexit? No, apparently: from listening to Radio 4 this morning it is about fracking gas—we have to be careful how we pronounce that—from the US. It is half the price of gas in Europe. However, the Scottish Government will not listen to science. They want to demonise fracking wherever it takes place—America, Scotland or England. High-tech companies will run a mile from an anti-business Government who believe in quasi-science and carry on peddling it.
Is it the policy of the Scottish Conservative party that fracking should be allowed in Scotland and that decisions about it should be taken by Westminster?
Order. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be creative enough to relate his reply to the matter under debate, the European Union. I am interested to hear his response.
I will only point out that my party, and this Parliament, will listen to science. I hope that the Scottish Government will also do so; on many things they do.
I want finally to mention farming, the oldest industry. Just under two weeks ago I was at the Royal Highland Show, as I am sure were many other hon. Members. I learned that the Scottish Government’s climate change ambitions pose a bigger threat to farming than Brexit—that is the view of Jim McLaren, chairman of Quality Meat Scotland and the former president of the National Farmers Union of Scotland. He has said that the Scottish Government setting a net zero carbon target in law means zero livestock production in Scotland. Members speak about the risk that Brexit poses to the EU, but there is a report out there saying that livestock farming in Scotland will no longer be viable if there is a zero carbon target. I did not write the report: I read it for the first time at the highland show, and it was remarkable. That situation is potentially devastating to Scottish farming.
My final point, and my overall point as a businessman, farmer and investor, is that whether we are talking about whisky, oil and gas, petrochemicals, finance or farming, investor confidence is paramount, and the Scottish Government are damaging it. Her Majesty’s Government are working for the best Brexit possible; the SNP would sabotage the Brexit vote and Brexit.
Order. I intend to call the Front-Bench speakers at 10.30 am. Do the maths—there are five Members waiting to speak.
That gives me five minutes, and I shall follow your instructions, Sir Roger. I thank the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson) for bringing the matter forward. I want to speak from the perspective of the relationship between Northern Ireland and Scotland, and the importance of maintaining it. It is essential to enhance and strengthen our centuries-old connection, regardless of how we all exit the EU.
I read an interesting article about the history of our two nations. Long before the first plantation of Ulster in the 1600s, there was a very close connection between Ulster and Scotland. Lowland Scots speech was introduced to Ulster at the beginning of the 17th century, becoming Ulster Scots, which, according to the 2011 census, is still spoken by about 8% of the population of Northern Ireland, many of whom live in my constituency. I am proud to say that I am descended from the Stewarts of the Scottish lowlands. My maiden speech in this place was in Ulster Scots, which an important part of my heritage and culture. I am a proud Ulster-Scot. My wife sees my frugal ways and perhaps wishes that there was not so much Scots in me, because I can be very tight when it comes to looking after the purse strings.
We are looking forward to the Orangefest celebrations on 12 July, when we will have numerous Scots bands walking our streets, as well as our home-grown bagpiping bands. Bagpiping is another Scottish import that many in Northern Ireland excel at—a Northern Ireland band has won the world pipe band championships in five of the past seven years. My party leader, Arlene Foster, spoke at a 12 July parade in Scotland only this weekend.
Our nations have been linked for years. From Ballyhalbert, which is not far from my home, the coast of Scotland can be clearly seen—it is only 12 miles away. There is talk of building a bridge. I am not sure whether that will ever happen, but it underlines the important connection between the nations of Scotland and Northern Ireland. The bridge would be a way of supporting that, if the Government were minded to invest the money. The DUP has proposed a feasibility study of the business and tourism potential. Indeed, my local council recently passed a motion stating that
“as the Council’s vision is to promote the Borough as a key destination, it is recommended that the Council writes to the First Minister for Scotland, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and in the absence of the Executive the Permanent Secretary of the Department for Infrastructure welcoming these discussions and requesting the east coast of the Borough be considered in any feasibility study or business case as a possible connection point for a new bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland”.
The vision is clear. We should make the most of the ability to be more easily connected, but even without a bridge we can still be connected, and not just by culture and history but by a closer post-Brexit relationship. That is the desire of the people and businesses of Northern Ireland. It is my belief that our enhanced connectivity, after Scotland and the rest of us leave the EU, can be used for external opportunities and will be useful to our shared agricultural and fishing industries, and many other links. The hon. Member for Gordon (Colin Clark) referred to farming and fishing, which are two sectors that we want to build on in Northern Ireland. We can do that better working alongside our Scottish brethren and sisters, in a way that enhances our relationship.
As with Northern Ireland, the biggest part of Scotland’s trade remains with the rest of the UK. “Export Statistics Scotland”, the Scottish Government’s annual trade statistics, show that in 2016 Scotland exported more than £45 billion in goods and services to England, Wales and Northern Ireland, while exports to the EU totalled £12.7 billion. The figures speak for themselves. Exports to the rest of the UK make up 61% of Scotland’s total exports—nearly four times the amount of its trade with the EU market. Independent research shows that around 560,000 jobs in Scotland—nearly one in four of all jobs—are supported by demand for Scottish goods and services from the rest of the UK. It is clear that we are better off together. That is the fact of the matter. I sit alongside my Scottish National party friends and colleagues because I value their friendship. I do not agree with everything they say, as they know, and they do not agree with everything I say, but we are friends and colleagues and we try to do our best in the Chamber for our constituents.
Greater connectivity between Scotland and Northern Ireland would strengthen the business links that have already been built up and make it easier to attract inward investment. The implication of Scotland leaving the EU alongside Northern Ireland, Wales and England will be a closer relationship with Northern Ireland. That will be to the benefit of all four nations within the great United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. We will be better together, for everyone’s mutual benefit.
There is a Scottish comedic character, made famous by Rikki Fulton, by the name of the Reverend I.M. Jolly. He is famed because he is miserable. He can never bring himself to be upbeat, positive or optimistic. I am afraid that that caricature is one that the SNP seems to have voluntarily adopted. It is being so cheerful that keeps it going. It fits the SNP’s narrative to spread doom and gloom and to talk down our country’s future. As a Scottish Conservative, I insist that our best days lie ahead of us as part of the United Kingdom, the world’s most successful political and economic Union.
The SNP wants to create an air of constitutional crisis, but Scotland is not buying any of that talk, and people are sick and tired of the SNP’s obsession with a second independence referendum. Keith Brown MSP, who was sacked last week by Nicola Sturgeon as Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, was only recently elected deputy leader of the SNP. He now claims to be focusing all his energy on building up readiness for a campaign for a second independence referendum as early as next April. Yet at the weekend Andrew Wilson, the former MSP who produced the so-called growth commission report, the SNP’s blueprint for independence that promised only a generation of misery, said that he was interested only in the softest possible form of independence—presumably in name only. He recognised that people in Scotland were not interested in another independence referendum.
The hon. Gentleman is once again trying to make this out to be some kind of SNP plot. What are his views on the fact that the SNP, the Labour party, the Greens and the Liberal Democrats in the Scottish Parliament also withheld consent for Brexit? Are they involved in the SNP plot?
I can only imagine that Scottish Labour and the Scottish Liberal Democrats regret deeply ever getting into any kind of alliance with the Scottish National party, but it is not for me to speak for them.
What is important to Scotland and Scottish business? Liz Cameron, the chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, has said:
“The ability to trade freely between the constituent parts of the UK without additional compliance measures is absolutely vital to a large proportion of businesses, and we need to see both Governments co-operating and making decisions together, enabling the private sector to create jobs and grow the economy.”
To underline the importance of the UK single market to Scotland, it cannot be said too often that Scotland exports four times as much to the rest of the United Kingdom as it does to the EU. That is £46 billion going to the UK, and only £12 billion going to the EU. No one on the Government Benches is saying that trade with the rest of the European Union is not important—it is vital—but just because we are leaving the European Union does not mean that we are going to cease trading in any scenario. Other countries that are outside full EU membership, the single market and the customs union trade successfully with countries that are members.
We need to forge a new, deep and special relationship that is founded upon the principles of free and fair trade. That will inevitably include an arrangement on customs. Only in the minds of the obsessive and negative SNP is the answer to leaving the EU to break up a Union that is four times more valuable to Scotland. As my hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Colin Clark) said, just last week we saw that UK exports to India have grown by 31% year on year. That is just a sample of what we can achieve once we leave the EU in March 2019 and have the chance to strike our own trade deals. He also mentioned the Scotch Whisky Association and the opportunity there. In India, Scotch imports account for just 1% of total whisky consumption. There are massive opportunities.
Brexit is seen by too many as only being a challenge. We see it as an opportunity too. Leaving the EU will give more powers to Holyrood and Westminster, yet we have seen little imagination and creativity at Holyrood on how the powers will be used. Indeed, the Scottish nationalists would rather see those powers kept in Brussels. As was said earlier, why on earth would Nicola Sturgeon reshape her Cabinet and add Ministers if it was not to handle increased powers? Leaving the European Union needs to be treated as an opportunity.
In closing, I will quickly mention one thing. If there is one area of professional activity that can change the productivity landscape and enhance our prospects as a nation exporting to the world, it is sales productivity. We need to uplift our commercial proficiency and effectiveness in professional sales and be a nation that values its salespeople. I feel strongly about that. A few weeks ago I had the privilege of welcoming the Secretary of State for International Trade and his ministerial team to Stirling, alongside the Secretary of State for Scotland and other Government officials, for the first meeting of the UK Board of Trade in Scotland for hundreds of years. A reception was held that evening in the great hall of Stirling castle. The room was abuzz with anticipation and excitement for the export opportunities that lie ahead for businesses in my constituency and throughout Scotland as we leave the European Union.
In Stirling we have some fantastic businesses that are ready to take up the challenge and the new opportunities, including Fallen Brewing, which I will be visiting later this week. This brewery in the town of Kippen has been exporting across the UK, and like so many other local businesses, it needs only the slightest encouragement to push into the significant overseas markets for British beers. A great national effort is required to sell our products and services around the world. To summarise, I believe that Scotland’s professional sales talent and capability will be key to a prosperous post-Brexit global Britain.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson) on securing the debate. I say gently to my friend the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) that many of us in Scotland who come from the Catholic tradition find the marches he described that Arlene Foster attended last weekend intimidating, upsetting and quite offensive. There is no place for sectarianism in modern Scotland. Perhaps it was not a very good idea for his party leader to come to that Orange parade in Fife last weekend.
Will the hon. and learned Lady give way?
I will make some progress. I just wanted to make that statement.
I want to speak about the implications of Brexit for security, judicial co-operation and law enforcement in Scotland, which the UK Government have overlooked to date. That is not my view; it is the view of the distinguished former judge at the European Court of Justice, Sir David Edward. He is also a distinguished former judge on the Scottish bench. When he gave evidence to a Select Committee at the Scottish Parliament last year, he said that so far in their negotiations with the EU, the UK Government have overlooked the significance of the separate Scottish legal system, the Scottish judicial system and the Scottish prosecution system in relation to justice and home affairs issues. He went on to describe the UK Government’s paper, “Enforcement and dispute resolution”, as
“an undergraduate essay that would have failed.”
He says that those writing such papers are not aware of the problems posed by the separate Scottish legal system and do not want to hear from experts who have offered to help.
I declare an interest, because in a former life I was senior advocate depute at the Crown Office. I worked in these fields, and I am well aware of how European Union law has become woven into the fabric of Scots law over the past 40 years. Serious organised criminality and terrorism do not respect national borders. If we leave the EU without securing continued participation in EU criminal justice measures, it could mean Scotland losing the common set of tools that allows law enforcement agencies in Scotland and across the EU to tackle international challenges effectively.
The Scottish Government have asked the UK Government on numerous occasions to share their planning on key issues that will have implications for justice and home affairs in Scotland, but they have failed to do so. Indeed, the UK Government’s future partnership paper, “Security, law enforcement and criminal justice”, which was published in September 2017, was prepared without any engagement whatever from the Scottish Government. It did not even acknowledge that Scotland is a separate legal jurisdiction with its own criminal justice, prosecution and police agencies. Just two months ago, the UK Government published presentation slides titled, “Framework for the UK-EU Security Partnership”. The slides cover internal and external security and were used in the EU negotiations, but they contain matters that directly affect Scotland, including operational matters that fall under the responsibility of the Lord Advocate, the head of Scotland’s prosecution system. The slides were prepared without any consultation with the Scottish Government or the Lord Advocate, nor were the Scottish Government advised of the publication of the slides.
Safeguarding Scotland’s independent justice system necessitates the Scottish Government’s full involvement in the negotiations between the UK Government and the EU. To date that has not happened. The Scottish Government have been cut out of any involvement in the negotiations, and the implications for justice and home affairs in Scotland are therefore not being recognised. I want to hear what the Minister is going to do about that.
Before I sit down, I will give way to the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon).
I thank the hon. and learned Lady for giving way. I understand her position, but I want to put on the record that we are not a sectarian organisation. We are there to encourage people to enjoy culture, history and tradition, and no one should—nobody does—feel threatened by that in Scotland. We do not feel threatened by it in Newtownards whenever we are parading there on 12 July, or across the Province on other days.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, but I can tell him that people from the Catholic community do feel threatened and offended by these demonstrations. I feel threatened and offended by them, and many of my constituents write to me asking how an organisation that traditionally marched to intimidate a section of the population can be allowed to continue to do so in a modern democracy. I realise the hon. Gentleman might like to change that, but that is the perception. Without doubt many people from the Catholic tradition will have cleared out of Cowdenbeath last weekend in fear of what they might experience if they remained.
It is a pleasure to serve under your direction this morning, Sir Roger. I congratulate the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson) on securing the debate. She started by saying she wanted a constructive debate, and I prepared my remarks on that basis. However, as she was giving her speech it was clear that I would not need those remarks, so I will speak off the cuff.
SNP Members made a lot of noise about how they are the voice of Scotland and speak for Scotland. I am not so arrogant. I was elected as the Member for Ochil and South Perthshire, so that is who I speak for—I do not speak for all of Scotland, but I speak for my constituents. It is time SNP Members started to be a little more modest and speak for their constituents rather than claiming to speak for the whole nation.
A point was made about GDP and business confidence; apparently, Scotland was doing really well before Brexit. In fact, it is clear that GDP and business confidence lagged behind the rest of the UK before 2016. Some 20 years after devolution and after 11 years of the SNP Administration, Brexit is not responsible for our below-par economic performance compared with the rest of the UK. It is not responsible for the fact that we are slipping in all the international education league tables or for the fact that we have not bucked the trend in the challenges that the NHS faces in Scotland, as it does in every other part of the UK. That is not down to Brexit; it is down to the SNP and its flawed Administration.
My next point is about scaremongering. The hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran and others talked about EU citizens. That issue has been clearly dealt with. It was dealt with in the December agreement and then in the March transitional agreement. They should not stoke up fears among EU citizens in my constituency when they know that an agreement is on the table between the UK and the EU. In fact, the UK has unilaterally guaranteed some rights, and I am sure the Minister will talk about people’s right to remain. Some people’s family members will even come to the UK to join them. I am sure the Minister will reiterate those points, but I ask the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran to reflect on her comments, because they do nothing but undermine the confidence of people who contribute so much to my constituency.
Another point was raised about a bonfire of workers’ rights, but how can that be? We have just passed legislation in the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill that bakes all the EU legislation into British law, which means that rights will be respected across the United Kingdom and we will not fall below them. If anything comes up in subsequent debates about reducing rights, I will certainly not vote for that. Again, the hon. Lady should reflect on the facts, not the fiction.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership was mentioned. For members of the audience who might not be so familiar with the TTIP negotiation, the European Union negotiated a specific clause to protect public health systems in the EU, so at there was no risk of United States companies coming and taking over our NHS or any of the other public health systems in Europe, unless those countries individually opted for that. That clause was part of the negotiation. If we are to have these fundamentally important debates, let us have them on facts, not fiction.
Finally—I am conscious of the time—we have to remember that this is not a zero-sum game. A power for Westminster does not mean a power taken away from Scotland. That is why we are all here. Like the European Parliament, the United Kingdom Parliament has directly elected Scottish constituency MPs. We are directly elected by our constituents to be in this place and have these debates. Several of my colleagues are proudly serving in the Government at the moment. I could go even further: Scottish MPs who have served the Prime Minister for the entire United Kingdom have led us forward in peace, in war, in economic arrangements and in international and domestic engagements, reforming the health service and education or looking at infrastructure throughout the United Kingdom. Scottish MPs should not be undermined. We are here to make a difference, to fight for our constituents and to make sure a good deal is achieved on Brexit. Let us stick to the facts, not fiction. We will be here defending our constituents and working for the whole United Kingdom.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. I appreciate your allowing me to leave a little earlier to attend to my commitments. I commend my hon. Friend the Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson) for securing the debate. Because of the time limit I have had to hack out most of my speech.
We know that 62% of Scots voted to remain in the European Union, and I was one of them. I did not just vote but proactively campaigned for the remain side. I have always been a passionate European; with a German surname it is difficult to be anything other than proud of my European citizenship. I say that as someone who has both lived and worked in Brussels and personally benefited from the principle of free movement of people and labour. I remain bitterly disappointed that free movement of people became a major issue during the campaign, that the issue of EU citizens settling in the UK was weaponised and that such xenophobic language was deployed and normalised. For far too long in this country we have tolerated right-wing rhetoric around immigration—some parties have even gone so far as to put it on the side of mugs—and it has led to swathes of society viewing EU migrants as somehow a negative thing, especially in the context of low-skilled jobs.
The reality is that leaving the European Union and pulling up the drawbridge will be deeply damaging to our economy. My first frustration relates to migration. All the EU nationals who pick our fruit, who work on our factory lines or who provide support in our care homes are now shamefully being asked to pay £65 each simply to continue their lives here. For most of us in this Chamber, £65 is not a lot of money, but it sends a fundamentally negative message to people to effectively ask them to re-subscribe to being citizens and a part of our society.
My second frustration when discussing Brexit is the complete denial of the calamitous impact of Brexit on our economy. We know from the British Government’s own leaked analysis that Scotland’s GDP could face a hit of 9%; we know from the Fraser of Allander Institute that a hard Brexit is forecast to cost 80,000 jobs in Scotland, and we know from the Bank of England that Brexit has already cost constituents, including in Gordon, Ochil and South Perthshire and Stirling, £900 per household. That is why it is imperative that our compromise position of leaving the European Union but remaining in the single market and the customs union is implemented.
The stark reality is that, when we all walked into the polling booths on 23 June 2016 to cast our votes, there was nothing—absolutely hee-haw—on the ballot paper about leaving the single market or the customs union. People did not vote for a Brexit that meant they would be poorer, but I am afraid that is the trajectory we are currently on.
So my message to the Minister today is absolutely crystal clear: he should stop listening to the Brexiteers on his Back Benches and instead listen to businesses and ordinary families who stand to lose so much as a result of our driving over the cliff edge to a hard Brexit. If the British Government will not listen to the warnings about a hard Brexit cliff edge, they might find that Scotland has unhooked the tow bar and taken a different path of independence.
I am pleased to begin the summing up in this debate. It has certainly been interesting. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson) on securing it and on the well-informed and comprehensive way in which she set out the social and economic impact that leaving the European Union threatens to have on our country. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) commented very knowledgeably on the potential legal and judicial impact and correctly pointed out that the UK Government have simply refused to acknowledge the issue.
We have had some interesting contributions from the Scottish Conservatives about Scottish independence; somebody forgot to tell them that we are actually talking about the European Union. I did not hear a single word from the Scottish Conservatives about why ending the free movement of people is a good idea for Scotland. We heard a lot of words about why the SNP is bad, why independence is bad, why the SNP is still bad, and why independence is even worse, but there was not a single word of justification for what the UK Government keep telling us was the single biggest reason for people voting to leave the European Union. I wonder why that might be. I wonder why they are scared to talk about the impact that ending the free movement of people will have on our nation.
My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow East (David Linden) made an excellent contribution about the huge benefits that the free movement of people creates for all of us. Those benefits cannot be measured just by counting how much people pay in tax or generate for the economy. The free movement of people and the exchange of beliefs and ideas is probably more important than the movement of labour, workers or anything else. People coming here from other places and cultures enrich our place and our culture. It will always be a negative, backward and regressive step to try to prevent people from doing that by asking them to pay to exercise rights that they already have, or by putting in place some completely arbitrary, picked-out-of-the-sky number to limit who is and is not allowed to come here.
The single biggest impact of Brexit on Scotland is the one that my hon. Friend the Member for North Ayrshire and Arran referred to her in her introduction. The Scottish Conservatives will try to hedge around it with the creative use of statistics, but it is an inalienable fact that 62% of people in Scotland voted to stay in the European Union. The hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (John Lamont) was muttering at one point, “Have you seen the opinion polls?” I have not seen an opinion poll since then that puts support for EU membership in Scotland at less than 62%. I have seen quite a few that put it significantly higher—75% in some places.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Ochil and South Perthshire (Luke Graham) said, we were elected last year on a manifesto commitment to take our country, the United Kingdom, out of the European Union, the single market and the customs union, and to do so in a way that protects jobs and our economy. That is why we are here. The hon. Gentleman can quote statistics about the cumulative referendum vote in Scotland until the cows come home, but we were elected on that manifesto and are here to see that the interests of our constituents in our part of Scotland are well represented and protected as we leave the European Union.
The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point on a United Kingdom basis, but I gently remind him that we were elected with a substantial overall majority of Scottish seats in this place. As has been pointed out, the Scottish Government were elected on a manifesto commitment as well, which they will put into practice. Incidentally, his party was elected in 2015 on a manifesto that said it would keep us in the single market, so I do not know what its manifesto will be in next year’s general election.
As I said, 62% of the sovereign people of Scotland voted to remain in the European Union. We ignore that at our peril. If Scotland votes a different way from other parts of the United Kingdom, or if the Scottish Government and the UK Government, or their Parliaments, disagree, that does not create a constitutional crisis. It might create a political crisis, but a constitutional crisis happens only when those in power refuse to accept the will of the people. Clearly the UK Government intend to ride roughshod over the demand—not the desire, request or plea—of the people of the Scotland that our voice will be heard and that our links with our European partners will not be sacrificed on some altar of far-right ideology in a vain attempt to keep the Conservative party together.
The hon. Gentleman makes a fine point about respecting the will of the people. Will he now publicly, for everyone in the Chamber, finally respect the will of the people in 2014, who voted by a 10-point margin, rather than by a four-point margin such as in the 2016 referendum, to stay in the United Kingdom? Here is your opportunity, sir—please take it.
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has noticed, but we are in the United Kingdom Parliament. That is a kind of acceptance that, for now, Scotland is part of the United Kingdom. However, there is a legal principle that subsequent legislation always trumps previous legislation if the two are incompatible. What about the mandate in 2016 for the Scottish Government to give the people of Scotland a choice if Scotland is threatened with being taken out of the European Union against our will? Nobody forces the Scottish people to do anything. The Conservative party want to deny the people of Scotland the right to set our own future. They want to deny the people of Scotland the right to remain in the European Union, which 62% of us have demanded. In percentage terms, the majority to stay in the European Union was almost 2.5 times bigger than the majority to stay in the United Kingdom.
The Conservatives do all this fancy footwork—I call it the Maradona trick. They take the vote on one side in one referendum, and to back up their argument they compare it with the vote in a different election on a different day on a different question. I call it the Maradona trick because it would mean that Argentina were still in the World cup—Argentina scored three goals and Brazil scored only two, so Argentina stay in the World cup and Brazil go out. Totally ridiculous, but no more ridiculous than the attempts of the Scottish Conservatives to set one part of the electorate against another based on an election or referendum held on a completely different day.
The fact that the Scottish Conservatives turn up to a debate about Scotland’s place in Europe and spend most of their time arguing for the lost cause of Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom says it all. They cannot argue the benefits to Scotland of leaving the European Union, because there are none. The damage done to Scotland by being forced to leave the European Union against our will is even greater than the damage that would be done if we left on our own terms and with the will of the people.
The people of Scotland are our masters; they are our sovereigns. There is no absolute parliamentary sovereignty in Scotland. There is no absolute sovereignty of the monarch, nor will there be of anyone who replaces the monarch in the future. The people are the absolute sovereigns, and our sovereigns have told us what to do. Brexit threatens to deny the people of Scotland the right to have the country that they have decided they want to have. Anyone who ignores the people in that context does so at their peril, because the people of Scotland will not be kept silent.
The hon. Member for Stirling (Stephen Kerr) shakes his head, with that smug smirk that he is so fond of.
We are so used to your threats.
It is not a threat to say that the people have spoken and will ensure that their voice is heard. If the Scottish Conservatives are afraid of the voice of the people, what are they doing here?
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
I will give way just once more, on the off-chance it is worthwhile listening.
I will try to make it worth the hon. Gentleman’s while. I am still caught on the Maradona comment; if only I could rival those skills. Does he not realise that not only Scotland but London, Manchester and Bristol voted to remain? Should all the different parts of the UK that did not vote the same way threaten to leave? I do not think so. There are different views across the United Kingdom. Everyone should be respected, and not threatened.
I am trying very hard to think of a way of saying, “The people of Scotland are sovereign,” in words of one syllable. The difficulty that some Government Members have is that the word “Europe” is more than one syllable, so some of the arguments seem to be beyond them. The people of London are not sovereign over London. I would argue that the people of England are sovereign over England—I am quite happy with that. England is a nation. What a fall from grace it is, in just over a year, for someone who came down here to stand up for Scotland to say now that Scotland is a city of England and has no more rights to self-determination than the great cities of England. Scottish Conservatives came down here saying that they would stand up for Scotland, and suddenly they are not speaking for Scotland, but talking about Scotland as some kind of equivalent to Leeds, London, Manchester or anywhere else.
Scotland is an “equal partner” in this Union of nations. Those are not our words, but the Government’s words from 2014. It is not an equal partner of a city, region or county council, but an equal partner of the other nations in the Union. The sovereigns of that equal partner have said, “We want to stay in the European Union.” If that choice is not made available to the people of Scotland within the United Kingdom, it will be made available to them by some other means.
As always, it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. I congratulate the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson) on securing this debate on what is a fundamentally important issue.
We are leaving the European Union—that much is clear. The discussion that we should be having now—although it has not been entirely possible due to the inability of the Tories to come to an agreement in their own Cabinet—is how we leave, on what terms we leave and how we ensure that when we leave, we do not suffer economically or socially as a result.
Before we get into the detail of today’s debate, I would reflect on one thing: if Brexit has taught us anything at all, it is just how difficult it is for the UK to leave a political and economic union that we have been part of for just 40 years. That should be cause for concern for not only Members of the Scottish National party here today, but also the Scottish Government and the First Minister. As the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran said, she and her colleagues have a desire for Scotland to leave a political and economic union that we have been part of for more than 300 years. I can only begin to imagine the difficulties that would be thrown up were people in Scotland to decide that they agreed with that proposition—thankfully, they do not. The SNP’s own confusion over the matter is laid bare by its recent growth commission, which ironically proposes to leave the UK but to surrender all control of interest rates, inflation and capacity to introduce fiscal stimulus in Scotland. What an absurd, worst-of-all-possible situations that would be.
There are three main areas I want to focus on: the constitutional, social and economic implications. It is undeniable that there are constitutional implications for Scotland arising from the decision to leave the EU. The Scottish devolution settlement was written in 1998 and our membership of the European Union is integral to it. A couple of weeks ago, we saw the UK Government shut down debate in the Commons, leaving a mere 15 minutes to discuss devolution. Not allowing one single Scottish Member of Parliament to speak was disgraceful; it showed nothing but contempt, not only for Scottish Members, but for those we represent.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
I am happy to give way on that point.
But to which one of us?
I give way to the hon. Member for Stirling (Stephen Kerr).
I point out to the hon. Gentleman that it was the insistence of his Front Benchers on holding 11 pointless votes that led to that 19 minutes of debate. We agree that it was shameful, but it was because the Labour party insisted on those 11 stupid votes.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that point. It is important that we scotch that myth once and for all—
It is not a myth.
It is a myth. Labour proposed to extend the time allowed under the programme motion to provide ample time to discuss all the amendments. I tell the hon. Gentleman that all 11 votes were necessary and vital. He might dismiss them as ridiculous, but they were essential.
Order. I would be grateful if the Front-Bench spokesperson would stick to the subject in hand, which is Brexit and Scotland.
On the topic of the Scottish devolution amendment—
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
I am happy to give way.
The hon. Gentleman is making a point about how fundamental the issue is and how important it is for the UK Parliament and for debates in this place. Does he not feel that the strength of feeling in his party is accurately represented by the number of attendees in this debate?
It is a matter of logistics. My hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Danielle Rowley) was an observer at the Mexican elections and is still in Mexico. The shadow Secretary of State is at shadow Cabinet. Other hon. Members are at the Scottish Affairs Committee. They are all working hard in other forums for the people of Scotland, and the hon. Gentleman’s accusation is entirely unfair.
The Opposition realise that that incident of shutting down debate is not likely to be the only time that Scotland’s voice is shut out of the Brexit talks. It is definitely not the only time we will witness a fight between the UK Government and the Scottish Government. I would be surprised if we did not see the same approach taken by both Governments when it comes to the Trade Bill, the customs Bill, the agriculture Bill and the fisheries Bill. Each and every one of those pieces of legislation will have implications for people in Scotland and for our constituents, and we must not forget that. What people want is not for the Governments in different parts of the UK to be at each other’s throats, arguing about technicalities; they want the Governments to work together in a collaborative, respectful manner and to find solutions to problems. That is why we see the need for a dispute resolution mechanism to be formally agreed. I refer Members to the speech by the shadow Secretary of State for Scotland in this place on 20 June if they are struggling for ideas on what those mechanisms might be.
Constitutionally, we are in this mess because of the Tory Government. Their complete and utter lack of understanding about devolution has been quite astounding and astonishing to witness. From the original drafting of clause 11 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, all the way through to the shutting down of debate, it is clear that they neither care about nor respect people in Scotland.
Moving on to the social implications, in December 2017, 150,000 European Union nationals were working in Scotland—5.7% of all people in employment in Scotland. Some 18,000 of those EU nationals work in the public sector, predominantly in our education system and our national health service, yet it took the UK Government more than a year to guarantee that they would even be allowed to remain in the UK. Even now, we know that they will have to pay £65 a head to stay in their own homes and continue to work in the vital public services upon which we all rely. It is an utter shambles. I ask the Minister a simple question: what happens to our public services if the EU nationals decide that they no longer want to be subjected to this country’s hostile environment and return to their country of origin, because without them, our national health service would crumble and our schools would grind to a halt? Have the Government made contingency plans for every eventuality?
We have not even got to the economic implications of Scotland leaving the EU. I made clear in my opening remarks that the Labour party respects the result of the referendum and accepts that we will be leaving the European Union. That does not mean that we are giving the Government a blank cheque or a free hand to negotiate any kind of deal they see fit. While we accept the result of the referendum, we must now focus on what our relationship with the European Union will look like. We have been clear throughout that the relationship must be a close and collaborative one that affords us the benefits of membership of the single market and also keeps us in a customs union.
There are many Tory Members who want to have a clean break from the European Union, but the Scottish Government’s analysis shows that Scotland could see its GDP fall by 8.5% by 2030 in a no-deal scenario. If Government Members do not like that analysis, they just need to look closer to home: the UK Government’s analysis shows that Scotland could see its GDP fall by 9% in the same timeframe if we have a no-deal scenario. I am not entirely sure what planet Members on the Government Benches live on, but that would be absolutely devastating for the Scottish economy. I cannot for the life of me see how anyone could advocate that as a policy.
I use this opportunity to issue a plea to Scottish Tory Members: it is time for them to stand up and use their leverage on the UK Government to ensure that the madness is stopped, and that we have a reasonable and logical approach to addressing the shortcomings of negotiations as they currently stand with the European Union. We have heard rhetoric about a deep and special relationship with the European Union for more than two years now, but the timeframe we have left amounts to a mere six weeks of negotiating time. I ask the Minister one question: when will we know what the UK Government’s plans are, from an economic point of view? Time is fast running out and the whole country cannot wait until after the Prime Minister’s Mad Hatter’s tea party at Chequers to get some answers.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. I congratulate the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson) on securing this important debate. It is an important opportunity to reflect on a wide range of matters relating to EU exit and the implications for Scotland. I congratulate my many hon. Friends who have contributed powerfully to the debate, as well as those who have spoken from parties across the House.
I turn first to our negotiations with the European Union. The Government are clear that we want a deal that works for the whole United Kingdom. We have built on the significant progress we made in March by locking down the text of the majority of the withdrawal agreement. Taken with the agreement that we reached in March on the implementation period—something that Scottish businesses have been very clear in meetings with me that they want to see—on citizens’ rights and on the financial settlement, we have now reached agreement on many of the most important issues. That provides certainty for businesses and individuals across the UK, including in Scotland.
The hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran spoke passionately about the impact on EEA nationals. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ochil and South Perthshire (Luke Graham) pointed out, we have reached agreement on the crucial areas of citizens’ rights. The agreement is fully reciprocal between the UK and the EU. The Prime Minister has said consistently to those people that we want them to stay. We have now reached an agreement that means that we are providing the certainty and the mechanism for them to stay.
Whether an agreement has been reached or not, the point is that the hostile environment that has been created will drive EU citizens, who contribute so much to our communities, to simply leave the UK. Does the Minister not accept that that is an issue and that there is evidence of it?
I disagree with the hon. Lady completely. I think the environment has been welcoming. The Prime Minister’s own words were that we value the contribution of EEA citizens to the UK and we want them to stay—she has repeated that time and again.
The hon. Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Sweeney) referred to 150,000 EU citizens who work in Scotland. Just like those who live in my own constituency, we want them to stay and we want them to enjoy the same pensions, healthcare and social security benefits. We have reached agreement on the legal text to ensure that that will be the case. The Government will continue to work closely with the devolved Administrations to ensure that the future arrangement for co-operation with the EU in this area takes account of the distinct justice systems in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and delivers legal certainly and clarity for everyone in the UK.
I listened closely to the points made by the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry). My Department and the Home Office have engaged with the Scottish Government on security and judicial co-operation, and we routinely share papers with the devolved Administrations prior to publication. Indeed, we discussed civil judicial co-operation with them last week at the second meeting of the ministerial forum, which I will return to in a moment. We recognise that Scotland and Northern Ireland have distinct legal systems, and that the Scottish Government engage directly with EU agencies such as Europol.
A couple of weeks ago, the former Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson, to whom I pay tribute, and the new Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Humza Yousaf, published a paper entitled “Scotland’s Place in Europe” on justice and home affairs. It clearly states in the foreword that there has not been engagement of the kind I described in my speech. Does the Minister accept that the first paper that I mentioned does not deal with Scotland at all, and that there was no engagement on the slides that were produced in May?
There has been engagement—I have just referred to engagement at the ministerial forum—and I assure the hon. and learned Lady that there will be more. Although some questions about the withdrawal agreement remain to be resolved, our negotiating teams are working hard to ensure that they are finalised. We are confident that we will reach an agreement by October.
The most important issue for us now across the UK is to focus on negotiating the right future relationship. Jointly with the Commission, we published the topics for discussion on the future framework. They incorporate economic and security partnerships, as the Prime Minister outlined, the institutional framework that will underpin them and other cross-cutting issues. The joint publication reflects both sides’ determination to achieve a broad partnership that stands the test of time after the UK leaves the EU.
We have committed to engaging the devolved Administrations on the negotiations, and they have had input into the development of the UK’s negotiating position. I have appeared before three Committees of the devolved legislatures to give evidence on the UK Government’s preparations for EU exit. The Joint Ministerial Committee on EU negotiations has now met 10 times, most recently at the British-Irish Council in Guernsey a couple of weeks ago, which I attended to provide an update on the negotiations.
Following our commitment to increase our engagement with the devolved Administrations, the UK Government established a ministerial forum on EU negotiations to discuss regularly a range of issues relating to the EU negations and the UK’s future relationship with the EU.
Does the Minister accept that the most genuine way in which the British Government could show that they are engaging with the Scottish Government and Parliament would be to acknowledge that the Scottish Parliament withheld legislative consent to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill and, as my hon. Friend the Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson) said, to introduce emergency legislation to deal with that issue? All this talking and engagement means nothing if that single fact is not acknowledged.
I will come back to the hon. and learned Lady’s point about the withdrawal Bill and the debate about legislative consent, but there is constructive engagement between the UK and Scottish Governments. I welcome the input we have had from the Scottish Government, both at a ministerial level and an official level, into the work of the new ministerial forum, which I co-chair with the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich North (Chloe Smith). The conversations we have had so far with the devolved Administrations have been constructive and useful. The inaugural meeting of the forum was held in Edinburgh on 24 May, and the second meeting was on 27 June in London. We use the meetings to have in-depth discussions about the proposed content of the UK Government’s forthcoming White Paper. Sections of the White Paper have been shared with the Scottish Government and the other devolved Administrations confidentially. I want to express my gratitude for the hard work of the Scottish Government officials who have worked with us on the White Paper and on other issues.
Discussions at the Joint Ministerial Committee and the ministerial forum have covered a wide range of areas. It is clear that we and the Scottish Government agree on much, including the need to ensure that Scottish universities and businesses have access to the best of European talent. We have also addressed other issues relating to attracting talent and skills. I note that the issues that have been raised in conversations I have had with growers in Scotland, including the Fife growers, about the importance of seasonal work are similar to the issues that have been raised with me in my own part of England—Worcestershire—by growers in the vale of Evesham.
Crucially, Scotland’s two Governments agree that EU exit should not create any new barriers to living and doing business in our Union. That has been one of our guiding principles and is a key priority for Scottish business. I have heard directly from Scottish business on many visits to Scotland of the issues and opportunities that EU exit creates for them. I have met representatives of a wide variety of Scottish businesses and business associations, including a number of chambers of commerce, the Scottish Retail Consortium, the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, the Scottish Seafood Association, and of course the world-famous Scotch Whisky Association, which, as a number of my hon. Friends pointed out, is very excited about the international opportunities to be pursued as a result of the UK’s having an independent trade policy.
The Scottish Retail Consortium said:
“Scotland’s businesses benefit enormously from the existing and largely unfettered UK single market”.
Its interests and those of sectors across Scotland are actively informing our negotiating position. As the Prime Minister set out in her Mansion House speech, we want to remain part of bodies such as the European Medicines Agency and the European Chemicals Agency, which are vital for organisations in areas such as the Scottish life sciences sector and the oil and gas sector, representatives of which I met in Aberdeen in April. I have also had detailed discussions with Scottish businesses about the global opportunities for them. In any deal that we negotiate, we must ensure that we have the flexibility to take these opportunities.
The hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran spoke about food standards and animal welfare. The Government and I are clear that we want the highest standards of food and animal welfare for the UK, not just to ensure that we can continue to sell into European markets, but so we can make the most of the opportunities in the wider global market and ensure that British and Scottish products reach the widest range of markets and represent quality.
However, it is essential to remember that four times as much of Scotland’s business is with the UK as with the rest of Europe, as a number of hon. Members said. Indeed, the worst thing for Scottish jobs and businesses would be to split from our United Kingdom. As the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) said, we are better together. We want to continue working together now to deliver EU exit for the UK in a smooth and certain fashion. That includes designing and implementing replacement frameworks, which the Scottish Government agree we will need, where we have a significant opportunity to work together to improve policy making across the UK.
As hon. Members know, EU exit will result in a significant increase in the devolved Administrations’ decision-making powers. New responsibilities will transfer to Edinburgh, Cardiff and, once a new Executive is formed, Belfast. We have published our provisional frameworks analysis of the 107 returning EU powers that intersect with devolved competence in Scotland across a wide range of policy areas. It shows that there are only 24 policy areas, such as food labelling, that are now subject to more detailed discussion to explore whether legislative common framework arrangements are needed in whole or in part.
At the moment, foods placed on the market across the EU have common labelling requirements that are set by EU legislation. If we do not agree to continue a common legislative approach to labelling, it is possible that different requirements will spring up, which would increase production costs for Scottish businesses and discourage cross-border trading within the UK. Divergent food labelling requirements would make it more difficult to enter into trade deals. That is why we are working together to consider a future food labelling framework.
Our frameworks, which will be designed together, can be lighter touch and UK-specific, offering bespoke policy arrangements that will ensure that power sits closer to the people than ever before. As we set up those arrangements one thing is clear: the success of each framework will rely on the strength of our relationships. It is vital that we work closely together to put arrangements in place that will stand the test of time and provide certainty for people and businesses living and operating up and down the UK.
A number of Members have mentioned the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill—now the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. I remind them that the UK Government made substantial and reasonable modifications to provisions in the Act during its passage. Those changes were the result of joint working that we undertook with the Scottish and Welsh Governments.
As the Welsh Government acknowledged, the legislation respects the devolution settlement. We are, of course, disappointed that the Scottish Parliament did not choose to give consent. We will continue to offer the full provisions of the intergovernmental agreement, which was agreed with the Welsh Government, and to meet all of the UK Government’s commitments on frameworks. Those are open to the Scottish Government and Parliament. We believe that, throughout this process, the UK Government have acted in line with the Sewel convention. We worked with the Scottish Government to reach agreement in the hope that we would be able to achieve consent for the Bill.
I again thank the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran for securing this debate, to which there have been many valuable contributions. We recognise that Scotland has two Governments, and that the interests of the people of Scotland are best served when they work together. We will proceed in that spirit. The hon. Member for Strangford spoke powerfully about the deep links between Northern Ireland and Scotland, and a number of other hon. Members spoke powerfully about the importance of this United Kingdom.
As the hon. Member for Glasgow North East pointed out, we have been members of the European Union together for 45 years, but for more than 400 years Scotland has worked with England on our international relations, and for more than 300 years we have been part of a United Kingdom that has served the people of Scotland and all other parts of the United Kingdom well. The implications of our EU exit mean that we must work more closely together in the years ahead.
Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 10(6)).