Leaving the Customs Union and Single Market: Scotland

Oral Answers to Questions — Treasury – in the House of Commons on 11th December 2018.

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Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Scotland on the economic effect on Scotland of the UK leaving the EU customs union and single market.

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

The Government are committed to delivering a deal that works for the whole of the United Kingdom—for every country and region within it, including Scotland—and Treasury Ministers of course have regular discussions with the Secretary of State for Scotland on just these matters.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

The Fraser of Allander Institute reports today that many firms are still ill prepared for a no-deal Brexit, that the worst-case scenario is the equivalent of making 100,000 people in Scotland unemployed, and that we face a recession double the size of that which Scotland experienced in the crash. Does the Minister not agree that the only way out of this Government shambles is to accept that staying in the single market and the customs union is the best compromise we can get?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

The best deal for the country, and indeed for Scotland, is the one that the Prime Minister has brought forward, and which she is now looking at with our European partners in Brussels: one that sees a free trade area right at the heart of our arrangements; that has no tariffs between ourselves and the EU27; that gives us control of our borders; that makes sure we put an end to sending vast sums of money to the European Union; that gives us control of our laws; and that enables us to conduct our own international trade affairs.

Photo of John Stevenson John Stevenson Conservative, Carlisle

Does the Minister agree that what is of equal importance are the economic relationships within the UK, and that initiatives such as the borderlands growth initiative are a priority for the people of the borderlands region?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

My hon. Friend is entirely right. That is why in the last Budget, Scotland benefited from £950 million in additional Barnett funding, and why we are investing £1 billion in up to six new city deals, including in the borderlands area—some of those deals have been concluded and some are under discussion.

Photo of Owen Smith Owen Smith Labour, Pontypridd

One of the many flaws in the Government’s analysis of the impact of Brexit on the regions and nations of the UK is that they did not tell us precisely what the GDP reduction would be compared with the status quo. Will the Minister now correct that and tell us how much worse off in GDP terms Scotland will be if we pursue the Brexit deal compared with the present day?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

These are estimates, of course, not forecasts. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that there would be no impact on output in Scotland in the long term—15 years from the end of the implementation period—if we compare the White Paper deal with the situation as it stands today.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp Conservative, Croydon South

According to the Scottish Government’s own website, 61% of Scottish exports come to the rest of the UK and only 17% go to the European Union. Does the Minister therefore agree that Scotland’s economic interests are best served by remaining part of the United Kingdom?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

My hon. Friend is entirely right. The Scottish National party would like the country to stay in the EU, which would, for example, severely disadvantage the Scottish fishing industry. We have negotiated a very advantageous situation in terms of having control of our fishing as an independent coastal state. The point my hon. Friend makes is also entirely right: if Scotland were to be independent there would be frictions at the border between ourselves and Scotland, which would not assist with trade.

Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Economy), SNP Deputy Leader

On 19 November, the Exchequer Secretary told us that the Government’s analysis would contain a comparison between the Prime Minister’s deal and the status quo, and that it would contain insight from external stakeholders. It contains neither of those things. The Treasury Committee this morning produced a report that expresses disappointment that the Prime Minister’s deal has not been analysed. Yesterday, businesses lost 2% of their value. UK firms have no sympathy for a UK Government who are feart to put their shoddy deal before the House. Will the Chancellor stand by the words he said previously that

“remaining in the European Union would be a better outcome for the economy”?

Will he find some backbone and make that case in Parliament?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

The cross-government departmental analysis shows clearly that the outcome of no deal would see the United Kingdom disadvantaged by 8% of GDP compared with the deal negotiated at the moment in the withdrawal agreement. The best option identified in the analysis is the current deal.

Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Economy), SNP Deputy Leader

The analysis does not model the deal. That is what the Treasury Committee says and that is what we are saying. It models Chequers; it does not model the Prime Minister’s deal. The Minister cannot stand there and make that case to the House.

Because the Prime Minister pulled the vote this week, businesses are accelerating their contingency no-deal Brexit plans. They are heightening their preparations for an emergency no deal. The legacy of this Government will be lost investment, lost growth and lost jobs. Surely the Chancellor cannot think it is acceptable that, just to save the Prime Minister’s job, hundreds of other people have to lose theirs?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

The hon. Lady suggests that the analysis does not model the White Paper deal. It does exactly that, but it does it in terms of the future relationship and the political declaration which, as she will know, is a range of potential outcomes—so that is entirely what the analysis does. As I say, what it shows is that the deal we have negotiated with the European Union is the best deal available for the things that she and I hold dear: growth across our economy, growth in Scotland, jobs in Scotland and even lower unemployment in Scotland. The Scottish National party should now row in behind this deal to make sure that we do the best for the whole of the United Kingdom.

Photo of Jonathan Reynolds Jonathan Reynolds Shadow Economic Secretary (Treasury)

Scotland, just like the rest of the UK, has a substantial and successful financial services sector that is heavily dependent on market access to the EU. Will the Financial Secretary confirm that under the terms of the Government’s Brexit deal the financial sector gets no greater degree of market access than the equivalence arrangements that are already on offer to any third country, including for sectors such as insurance where no comprehensive equivalence regimes exist at all?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

I can enlighten the hon. Gentleman, although it is contained in the documentation that has come out of the negotiations. There will be an enhanced equivalence regime in respect of financial services. It is there in black and white. I am very happy to speak to him after questions and take him through the relevant paragraphs.