Believe it or not some clarity has emerged regarding Brexit at the Scottish Parliament’s meeting of the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee.
David Mundell the secretary of state for Scotland stated quite clearly: “If we are leaving the EU, we are leaving the single market.”
That is significant as now all parties in the Scottish Parliament have officially been told that there will be a hard Brexit. Now they need to step up and join the SNP-Green alliance and attempt to negotiate a special deal for Scotland to stay in the single market. Will they stand up for Scotland? We know the Conservatives won’t, a hard Brexit triangulates the Ukip vote in England, promising them generational dominance at Westminster, so they will put party before country. However, Labour and the Liberals have a chance to redeem themselves in the eyes of the Scottish electorate.
This is not asking them to support independence, just to request a special deal for Scotland within the UK, like the one being offered to Northern Ireland (to have open borders with Eire) and the one touted for the London finance sector. If the Lib/Lab MSPs don’t see that as an opportunity then what on earth is the point of them? Sure they may think the SNP and Greens just want London to say no, but failing to fight for Scotland’s interests and always siding with Westminster even in the face of billions in lost GDP, up to 80,000 job losses and a £2,000-a-year average reductions in wages would be politically irresponsible and possibly even threaten the continued existence of both parties in Scotland.
Further clarity on the UK Government’s trading plans did emerge so I assume Nicola Sturgeon missed this when she claimed the UK Government didn’t have a plan for trade post-Brexit. Andrea Leadsom, the one-time candidate to be our prime minister, the Brexiteer who wanted to lead us out of the EU, claimed jam would be key to our exporting strategy. She claimed: “Japan has a growing hunger for classic British products like afternoon tea.” She claimed that “British classics like tea, jam and biscuits could provide a major boost for the economy”.
Hold on, tea? In what way is tea British? Unless she means we smuggled tea plants from China and planted them in our Indian colony to steal China’s main export? I don’t think we will be exporting much tea to be honest, but don’t worry she did elaborate by listing some food products that were famous the world over “Scottish salmon”, fair enough, “Welsh beef”, hold on, is that a thing? Is that not just beef? and “Northern Irish whiskey” wait, what? and “English cheese”. Thus managing to insult the Scottish food and drink industry in the process.
And with the greatest of respect (although I like English cheese) outside of a few rounds of Stilton there is no export market waiting for English cheese, the French don’t want Red Leicester and the Italians don’t eat much Wensleydale, again if there is an opportunity to export speciality cheeses then Arran and Orkney and other fantastic island cheeses are the more likely beneficiaries.
I see a couple of problems with her trade strategy, not least that if Japan really is experiencing a surge in demand for high teas, someone there will surely figure out how to make jam – after all I have been to a Scottish factory that made sushi. The Westminster Government’s approach to Brexit isn’t just disjointed, they literally are promising us jam tomorrow.
Contrast that with the Scottish Government’s four-pronged response to the exporting opportunity offered by the fall of Sterling (especially to the food and drink sector). There will be new innovation hubs to increase trade in Berlin, Brussels and Paris, a doubling of the Scottish Development International presence internationally, a new Board of Trade to promote internationalism and advise Scottish trade and business minsters on policy, and, finally, a dedicated trade envoys for key markets.
That’s all really good news but it’s not enough, I would liken it to the Scottish economy suffering from a Brexit-related heart attack and the UK Government refusing to devolve any defibrillators, leaving the Scottish Government with only sticking plasters, but God bless them they are sticking them everywhere they can.
We are faced with two governments, one without a clue and without a mandate for the hard Brexit they plan to deliver and the other with a workable plan, a mandate to keep Scotland in the single market but no power to do what’s best for Scotland.