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Given the time available, I shall restrict my brief remarks to two issues that are impacted by Brexit: EU nationals; and the single market in aviation, which is an important issue in my constituency.
The 3 million EU nationals and their families living in the UK are understandably extremely concerned. Instead of getting straight answers from the UK Government, EU nationals living in the UK have heard only empty rhetoric and weasel words from the Tories. Johanna Kettunen is one of my caseworkers in my constituency office. Born in Finland, she has lived in Scotland for over seven years, studying at Glasgow University, and she has made Scotland her home. She is extremely upset that she is being used as a bargaining chip by this callous Government in a Tory Brexit game that gey few in Scotland wanted to play in the first place.
As with many other Members, a large number of my constituents have been getting in touch with me to allay their fears that Brexit might rip their families apart. This is a clear indication that the ongoing uncertainty about EU immigration and the right to remain are already harming the UK, and it will continue for as long as the Tories refuse to confirm the right of EU nationals to stay in the UK.
Article 50 and exiting the EU will impact not only on EU nationals, but on businesses across these islands. One sector that has not been given the attention it deserves throughout the Brexit debate is the aviation sector. This vital part of the economy contributes £1 billion a week to UK gross domestic product and £9 billion in taxation. The UK has the third largest aviation sector in the world, which is largely the result of the European single aviation market and the open skies agreement between the US and the EU.
By leaving the EU and the EEA, the UK walks away from these hugely important agreements—agreements that account for a clear majority of UK aviation traffic. Regional airports are vital for connectivity within Scotland, but the Tories’ reckless gamble with our EU membership has caused serious uncertainty for these airports, which could cause a serious detrimental impact on the Scottish economy.
In contrast, the SNP Scottish Government are working hard to ensure Scotland’s aviation sector is a success, despite Brexit, committing to halve air passenger duty by the end of 2021. So, not for the first time, we know what the Scottish Government plan to do with the powers within their remit, but what of the UK Government?
Will the Minister tell us in his summing-up whether the UK plans to remain part of the European aviation single market? If not, can he guarantee that transitional arrangements will be agreed to ensure that UK airlines and airports are not put at any competitive disadvantage as regards their European counterparts? Will he further assure us that the UK will remain part of the open skies agreement with the United States? The 5,200 people in Renfrewshire in and around Glasgow airport, and the 1 million across the UK whose jobs rely on a thriving aviation sector are watching and expect an answer.
The Prime Minister needs to act now and give UK businesses and EU citizens living in the UK a cast-iron guarantee that their status and rights will be protected. If she does not, she will leave us no choice but to offer a different path to those living and working in Scotland through “voting yes”—yes to be an outward-facing member of the international family of nations; yes for our children’s future; yes for Scotland; yes to independence.