Brexit (Commercial Activity)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 18th March 2021.

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Photo of Alasdair Allan Alasdair Allan Scottish National Party

5. To ask the First Minister what the Scottish Government’s response is regarding the impact on Scotland of reported figures indicating that the barriers and uncertainty created by Brexit have had an impact on commercial activity between the United Kingdom and Europe. (S5F-04912)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

The recent UK trade figures from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs are a stark illustration of the unfolding costs of Brexit and the catastrophic impact of the UK deal on Scotland’s businesses. They confirm what exporters and stakeholders have been telling us since January, which is that what they are experiencing is not just teething troubles. The deal has created permanent new barriers to trade and places Scotland’s exporters in particular at a permanent competitive disadvantage. It is causing long-lasting damage to the economy.

The unilateral announcement last week to extend the grace period for customs and other checks on imports from the European Union effectively told our exporters that they no longer matter to the UK Government. Let me be clear: they matter to us and we will continue to do all that we can to help businesses to adapt to those unprecedented challenges.

The UK Government needs to re-engage in good faith with the EU to try to address all the barriers that are adding costs and causing exports to fall. To do nothing is not acceptable. Scotland’s export businesses deserve so much better.

Photo of Alasdair Allan Alasdair Allan Scottish National Party

Recently, I was contacted by a salmon smoker in my constituency who exports to the European Union via air freight, with items retailing at £150 on average. Post-Brexit, they have found that delivery and customs charges are now coming to about £100. That figure does not include additional costs relating to health certificates, the significant amount of time that they now devote to administrative work, or the fact that their deliveries are getting stuck in customs. Does the First Minister agree that, having recklessly placed Scottish food and drink businesses at a competitive disadvantage, the UK Government should now ensure that those businesses get the urgent support and compensation that they deserve?

The First Minister:

I very much agree. Alasdair Allan has narrated a sadly all-too-common example of the devastating real-world consequences of Brexit, particularly for our smaller food and drink producers. The Tory Government is currently refusing to get back round the table with the EU. When giving one of the UK Government’s many empty promises, Michael Gove said that it would pull out all the stops to help businesses, but it has completely failed to do that. The UK Government also promised that it would meet all the Brexit costs, and it is failing to do that, too.

Right now, just as many people predicted, Brexit is failing Scotland’s economy. Boris Johnson’s Government is refusing to even try to fix things, and our food and drink businesses and our rural and island communities are paying a heavy price. That is one more of the many reasons why the sooner Scotland is in charge of our own future, the better that is for everyone.