With exports down and fish rotting in lorries, Johnson’s EU Deal is not a pretty sight – or a pretty smell! But the SNP should be helping to solve these problems, not pursuing a separatist agenda with more trade barriers and causing further hurt to the Scottish people. The focus for all the UK must be our recovery from the Covid pandemic.
Stephen Kinnock: The Government have described the current Brexit chaos as “teething troubles”, but for British businesses exporting to the EU it has been more like root canal surgery without anaesthetic. The Prime Minister could have opted for close alignment with the single market, which was promised by the leave campaign in 2016, but instead he opted for a hard Brexit that is wreaking havoc on our economy. In the Scottish food and drink sector, EU-bound exports for January 2021 were down 63% on the previous year, while those in Scotland’s largest food export category, fish and shellfish, were down a crippling 83%, and meat and dairy exports fell by half. Meanwhile, new border controls and red tape mean that the fish is rotten by the time it reaches the EU. That is not a pretty sight, and it is probably not a pretty smell either. As they say in Norway, “There is nothing that is in as much of a hurry as a fish on a lorry.”
However, none of that justifies the nonsensical arguments made by the SNP that somehow the best bet for Scotland is to walk away from its biggest market, the UK. The nationalists rightly point to the costs of walking away from the EU, but in the next breath they claim that walking away from the UK is the right thing to do. Two wrongs do not make a right. Let us not forget that the rest of the UK is Scotland’s biggest export market, with 60% of Scotland’s trade going to UK markets and just 19% going to the EU. The economic hit should Brexit and Scottish separation be combined could equate to an income loss of between £2,000 and £2,800 per person every year in Scotland.
The answer to Conservative failures cannot be to put up more trade barriers between Scotland and the rest of the UK. The separatists are making the same mistake that the Prime Minister made: they think separatism delivers sovereignty, but sovereignty in the deeply interconnected world of the 21st century is not a binary choice—just ask the Prime Minister. Despite having claimed to have “got Brexit done”, negotiations are still continuing. The UK is involved in myriad working groups and committees—more than 20 different ones—and desperately trying to resolve conflicts, and that is before we even get to the problems of the Northern Ireland protocol, under which the steel industry, for instance, is set to be hit by 25% tariffs once the quotas run out.
The Prime Minister has weakened our negotiating hand. Sovereignty has been diminished, not strengthened. We are not in the room on decisions affecting the huge 500 million-person market on our doorstep. Our country faces one of the biggest economic recessions in the west, with our businesses under increasing strain not just from the pandemic, but from new trading rules with the EU. The last thing any UK nation needs right now is more division. Only seven years ago, the Scottish people voted to remain in the United Kingdom in higher numbers than the number of Scots who voted to remain in the EU. Credit to them—they know that devolution, not separatism, is the way forward. They know that we are stronger together.