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[3rd Allotted Day]

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 3:26 pm on 6th December 2018.

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Photo of John McNally John McNally Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment) 3:26 pm, 6th December 2018

I would like to focus my comments on the practicalities of transporting and storing products and goods.

No one could disagree that the more we have learned about Brexit in the past couple of years, the more complicated leaving the EU has become. Falkirk voted remain. The real issues that will impact on my communities have become self-evident. This country is clearly unprepared to leave the EU, whether one was a remainer or a leaver. In other words, fail to prepare; prepare to fail. The Government are responsible for this confusion and uncertainty, and no one else: not the EU; not even the people who voted to leave. I do not believe that the Government or the people who voted to leave were fully informed or aware of what we were all letting ourselves in for. But the impact, as usual, will end up with the poorest in society, once again paying for the mistakes of the wealthiest in society.

I have had correspondence from many businesses in Falkirk, Scotland and the UK, particularly from a business that supplies food to millions across the UK. It has highlighted an absolutely critical issue—that the cold storage facilities it uses for its products are at capacity and there is no space left. The products in that cold storage system will certainly include perishable goods such as those of, as we heard earlier, the highly successful Scottish shellfish industry, which supplies all the major capitals of Europe with the highest-quality langoustines, mussels and so on, as well as the soft fruit industry, which is being hit from all sides. What will happen if these goods do not make it to market? The producers simply will not get paid. They will have to pay for the discards—and no doubt, in turn, their insurance premiums will absolutely rocket.

These storage facilities are used for goods and products in many other industries, such as the pharmaceutical industry. In business questions this morning, my hon. Friend Dr Whitford expressed her concerns about vaccines. There will also be the storing of chemicals. The just-in-time trading system using these cold storage facilities will indeed run out of time. The system is creaking at the moment, and it simply will not able to cope with the strains demanded of it. That concern of my local business in Falkirk is echoed across the UK.

There have been so many unfounded assumptions—for example, about how this Government would tell the EU the UK’s terms of business. That assumption has sailed down the Forth. The chemical industry, which is one of the UK’s biggest industries, has legitimate concerns. It has huge responsibilities and safety issues. Some examples of the difficulties faced by the chemical industry were given to the Environmental Audit Committee, on which I sit. We received evidence from a variety of stakeholders for our inquiry, and one of the principal conclusions about the impact of leaving the EU was that it would be difficult to transpose into UK law the chemicals regulation framework established by the EU through REACH. Companies face significant uncertainty over the validity of current REACH registrations after the UK leaves the EU. The Chemical Industries Association and the Chemical Business Association indicate that a sizeable proportion of their members are already considering moving or have moved out of the country.

For the coatings and paint industry—a just-in-time industry—any border delays make industry less competitive. Delivery to a car plant incurs a penalty of £800 per hour if the line stops, but of course the biggest penalty is that business will simply go elsewhere.

In September, the National Audit Office reported that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was still to present its business case for the UK’s new chemical regulation regime to the Treasury because it did not have detailed cost estimates. How on earth can DEFRA have a database comparable to the European Chemicals Agency’s on day one of Brexit?

How prepared are the businesses running the UK’s utilities? Some ports have not gained the authorised economic operator accreditation, which is recognised by all international trade authorities, including the EU. Forth Ports in Scotland, which owns Tilbury docks, has that accreditation, but I believe that other major ports do not. It took years to make REACH the recognised gold standard worldwide in the chemical industry. That will be broken. We could put Humpty Dumpty back together again easier than this mess of a so-called plan.

For too long, Scotland has been overlooked in these discussions by the Prime Minister and the Government. It is almost as if they think that ignoring Scotland will make it go away. Scotland will not be ignored, but I certainly hope we are going away.