Scottish businesses continue to be held back by the United Kingdom Government’s disastrous Brexit policy. The latest business insights and conditions survey shows that 44 per cent of the Scottish businesses facing challenges with exporting in April blame Brexit directly. Red tape, bureaucracy and uncertainty have become the hallmarks of Brexit, with the UK experiencing the worst exports recovery in the G7. What is more, Brexit has also contributed to labour shortages and recruitment challenges in key sectors such as healthcare, transport and hospitality. Study after study finds that Brexit is bad for trade, bad for productivity, bad for the cost of living and bad for business.
Brexit is failing businesses and damaging our economy. Even the old Brexit Party leader, Nigel Farage, has said that it has failed. Does the cabinet secretary share my concern that leaders of the new Brexit party, Keir Starmer and Anas Sarwar, do not even have the courage or vision to abandon Brexit? Given that 70 per cent of Scots think that Brexit is a disaster, they do not even need to lead. They should just follow and reverse Labour’s support for Brexit.
Neither the contenders to be leader of the next Westminster Government, Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak, nor their Scottish counterparts, Anas Sarwar and Douglas Ross, are willing to admit the extent of the Brexit disaster. While Labour and the Conservatives try to sweep the mess under the rug, violating the will of the people of Scotland, this Government understands that the only way to repair the damage is to change course and rejoin the European Union. If the UK Government, of whichever stripe comes next, does not do it then an independent Scotland will.
Border effects reduce trade by as much as a third. That is what a 2015 meta-analysis conducted by the University of Michigan concluded. Indeed, there may be empirical evidence to that effect from Brexit, which we did not support. Has the Scottish Government asked the chief economist to form a view on the impact of border effects? Sixty per cent of Scotland’s outward trade, which is worth more than £50 billion, is with the rest of the UK. How much of that would we lose if a border was imposed between Scotland and the rest of the UK?
In that report, Mr Johnson can see the plans that we have for cross-border trade. Of course, those are being hampered right now because of Brexit and the barriers that have been put up by the UK Government. We are looking to tear down 27 barriers to trade with the rest of the EU. Only independence can deliver that.
No—there are huge opportunities that come from independence. I have spoken about the 27 barriers to trade that are currently in place because of Brexit. Of course there would be challenges in terms of cross-border trade with the rest of the UK, but we have an opportunity with the market in the European Union. That is currently being held back and, as I have already said, 44 per cent of businesses cite Brexit as the reason for that. We want to reverse that. We know that Labour and the Tories are on the same page regarding Brexit and our relationship with the European Union. Only independence will deliver us the reversal of Brexit and an independent Scotland rejoining the European Union.
T hat concludes portfolio questions on wellbeing economy, fair work and energy. There will be a short pause to allow the front-bench teams to change position before we move to the next portfolio questions.