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UK-EU Agreement: Scottish Exports

Volume 688: debated on Wednesday 27 January 2021

What discussions he has had with (a) Cabinet colleagues and (b) industry leaders on the effect of the UK-EU trade and co-operation agreement on Scottish exports. (911216)

We regularly speak to ministerial colleagues and industry leaders on this matter. We are beginning a new chapter in our national story, one of great opportunity. This is an unparalleled chance for us to do things differently and better, increasing businesses’ access to new markets and boosting our national prosperity.

Scottish exporters need clarity and certainty on how long it will take the UK Government to resolve the calamitous situation that has been created at the UK-EU border, so my question to the Minister is: has anyone in the Scotland Office worked out how long a piece of string is yet?

I repeat to the hon. Gentleman the reply I gave a few moments ago: we are engaging directly and providing very practical support to exporters who have encountered some short-term difficulties as they adjust to the new system. In the case of the fish and seafood sector, we have provided them with compensation for any losses that they encountered.

The Minister will be fully aware of the chaos that Scottish fishing exports have been thrown into over the past few weeks because of his Government’s broken promises on Brexit to the industry. I understand he has already said that the Department has announced an injection of funding for the hardest hit, but this is about timing and reputation as well, so how is he working with potential buyers of these world-class fishing exports to promote the sector? How is he ensuring that extra support reaches those hardest hit as quickly as possible, given the absolute devastation that these businesses have faced in this year so far?

First, may I wish the hon. Gentleman and his family every success and good fortune in the arrival of the new addition to their family?

As I have said, we are providing very practical support. This is not affecting the whole industry. The industry faces many challenges at the moment, not least the loss of some of its markets because top-end restaurants, at home and abroad, are having to close because of covid. In addition to that short-term compensation, we are providing a £100 million fund to grow and boost the capacity of our seafood sector. We have not broken promises to it. We were taking back control of our waters. We are out of the common fisheries policy and British fishermen will land more stocks year on year.

The EU is still our closest and most important trading partner, but Scottish businesses are suffering because of this disastrous Brexit we did not vote for, and the inability and unwillingness of the Minister’s Government to effectively use the transition period. Will he now push for the grace period that businesses are urgently calling for? If not, why not? What is his answer to them?

As I have said repeatedly, we are engaging with all sectors to help them prepare for this transition. I respectfully point out to the hon. Lady that she voted for a no-deal Brexit, and she and her fellow separatists want to impose additional trade barriers within Britain.