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Department for Exiting the European Union

Part of Ministry of Defence – in the House of Commons at 8:44 pm on 26th February 2018.

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Photo of Angus MacNeil Angus MacNeil Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment and Rural Affairs), Chair, International Trade Committee 8:44 pm, 26th February 2018

The other referendum was actually in 2016, but in both referendums—of 2014 and 2016—the Scottish people voted clearly to remain in the European Union, so, yes, I do respect the two referendums. I want that opinion to be checked again in the further referendum on Scottish independence within the European Union that, as the hon. Gentleman knows, is coming down the tracks in jig time.

A customs union, as currently suggested by the principal Opposition, can have myriad or infinite permutations. Have no estimates at all been made for that? All in all, this is one of the areas where the estimates are huge, the variabilities are massive and it is very unclear where the chips will fall.

The overall message that should be going out is that when boardrooms and when the people of Scotland look at the two parties in this Chamber—the Government and the principal Opposition—they have to start thinking and, particularly in the boardrooms, they have to start speaking. They do not have to enter into political debate, but they have to start to become very strident indeed in what they are saying. I meet too many of those from companies who come to me with their fears and their estimates of what might happen. In reality, they have to start saying what they want, because otherwise it will be too late.

I am reminded of the book, “On the Psychology of Military Incompetence”. In a number of military events that occurred, whether in Crimea—the charge of the Light Brigade was in Crimea of course—with the Boers in South Africa, in Mesopotamia or in Afghanistan, the common theme running through them all was the fact that the rank and file could not believe their commanders could get it so utterly wrong, and it was only when hot lead ripped through bare flesh that people then understood. There are companies that are too afraid to move and that, for one reason or another, will not say a word, but when they are taken down by the 2%, 5% or the 8% damage of Brexit, I tell those companies now that it will be too late to do anything about it then, so speak now.

Recently, my Committee went to the USA and Canada to look at the possibility of trade deals. The farmers lobby asked us why. Ford said a UK-US deal would be incremental, but that a UK-EU one would be existential. Certainly, when I saw the border with other Committee members, it was not as fast as the border at the moment between Ireland and Northern Ireland or as the border between France and Spain. These are some of the realities that are coming our way.