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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

There is a Profound Absence of Brexit Benefits

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Today Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson commented on the UK Government’s publication ‘The Benefits of Brexit: How the UK is taking advantage of leaving the EU.’

He said:

“The UK Government on Monday published its Benefits of Brexit document to mark the 2nd anniversary of the UK leaving the European Union.

“The simple truth of the matter is that there is a profound absence of Brexit benefits, whereas the dis-benefits are all too evident.

“The proclaimed benefits of iconic blue passports and crown markings on pints glasses is small beer that does nothing to redress the significant step backwards Brexit has had on our trading position within the EU and the wider benefits of membership.

“The paper celebrates an ‘ambitious export strategy’ – but the truth is, Scotland’s total trade with the EU fell by 24% in the year to September 2021 compared to 2019.

“For example, Scotland can no longer export the 20-to-30,000 tonnes of seed potatoes we used to sell to the EU and Northern Ireland.

“The paper boasts of securing trading deals – but even the UK Government’s own research shows there is little or no economic benefit from the new agreements that have actually been signed.

“The paper boasts of a ‘highly-resilient food supply chains’ – with no acknowledgement of the significant labour shortages being experienced across the sector, especially in rural Scotland.

“The paper celebrates ‘taking back control of our waters’ – neglecting to mention that total UK fish exports in the first four months of 2021 were 27% lower than in same period of 2018.

“And because of new UK immigration rules an average of 20 to 25% of vacancies are unfilled throughout the seafood industry.

“The paper trumpets new initiatives to ‘tackle criminal activity’ – but the reality is that post-Brexit we are outside key tools such as the Schengen information system, and the European arrest warrant, and this makes things much harder for Police Scotland to combat criminality and for prosecutors to bring people to justice in Scotland.

“The paper claims it will ‘cut £1 billion red tape’, ignoring that UK Government officials estimated that British companies trading with Europe will have to fill in an extra 215m customs declarations at a cost of about £7bn a year.

“It also ignores that ‘cutting red tape’ usually simply means undermining environmental standards, undermining workers’ rights or undermining quality standards – bad in itself but something that would foreshadow significant further dispute with the EU under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

“The UK Government promised that the UK Shared Prosperity Fund would, at a minimum, match the size of EU Structural Funds in each nation, each year – but current spending plans fall far short of replacing EU funds.

“The reality is that the Levelling Up announced yesterday, for Scotland, actually means Losing Out.

“It is unacceptable that the UK Government seems ready to unveil sweeping measures that will have profound consequences on Scotland, on the Government, on the Parliament and on this Committee, with such little discussion, or indeed respect for, this Parliament and Scottish Government.

“The manner in which we were informed about the document makes a mockery of the UK Government’s recent commitment to reset relationships with the devolved governments.”

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