Scotland & the EU

Business not Brexit – Bill Rodger, The European Movement in Scotland

Written by Rhona Middler

Bill Rodger, Treasurer of The llmuropean Movement in Scotland writes in support of the Business for Scotland single market declaration. 
The European Movement in Scotland is cross-party and is Scotland’s oldest dedicated pro-Europe, pro-EU campaigning organisation. 

The Coal and Steel Community was formed in 1951 with the Treaty of Rome in 1957 widening its remit into the European Economic Community and then the European Union in 1993 with its broader social and geographical remit culminating, some would argue, in the creation of the Single Market that same year – largely, of course, a British initiative.

I want to underline the scale of what is about to be thrown almost thoughtlessly into the trash can on the back of a narrow majority of less than 2%, a rushed referendum with poor, not to mention dodgy, information and a clear rejection by 2 of the 4 nations which make up the United Kingdom.

We believe in a strong and united Europe. The fundamental question facing Scotland is what kind of society we want here. We believe that the answer, in a 21st century world, is inextricably bound up with being European.

Every indication since Scotland’s decisive rejection of Brexit by 62% to 38% spotlights a goodwill between Scotland and Europe that is stronger now than ever before – in both directions. That matters. The transactional, not to mention confrontational, approach of Mrs May’s administration completely ignores the importance of fostering relationships with every public statement appearing designed to provoke a fight rather than improve understanding.

And what about the lie that is being put about that Europe is done for? Yes, the EU has been through a very difficult time. Yes it has its problems. But doesn’t every institution created by human beings? Looking to the future the evidence points to quite different prospects

  • the Eurozone is now outperforming the US economy
  • every country in the EU as showing a positive growth rate with even troubled economies like Ireland and Spain growing. That looks likely to accelerate even as the UK turns down.
  • rationality beat hatred in Austria’s Presidential run-off, the Netherlands’ General Election and most recently France’s Presidential Election. The next confirmation that the EU is learning its lessons will come in Germany.

And indeed, some, including prominent MEP Elmar Brok in Edinburgh on 22nd May, argue that Brexit has bolstered the remaining 27 countries of the EU, by spotlighting the urgency of tackling the big problems like a common migration policy, terrorism, banking union for the Eurozone and a need to get closer to its citizens. Since the Brexit vote, across the Union, polls have shown an increase of 15% in the proportion of people expressing a favourable opinion of the European Union. That figure is 83% in Germany.

The EU is moving ahead to tackle problems while the UK is becoming ever more inward looking on the sidelines.

The EU has brought peace, prosperity and democracy across almost our entire continent, and to each of us, for 60 years. It has real solutions to the challenges our world faces today. Global challenges like climate change which need coordinated global action to tackle them. Indeed the big players that globalisation itself has produced make coordinated action essential.

The Brexit that is being unleashed will not going to improve the lives of the many. It will degrade our environment through a deregulated dog-eat-dog economic model and reduce the security and freedom of all of us to live, work, study and love across our own continent. Is that what we want for Scotland’s future?

A Scotland out of the EU Single Market is a Scotland that faces costly barriers to trade in the products and services that we are so good at – food and drink, chemicals, textiles, electronics, financial and professional services.

The very sectors which offer the brightest hope for Scotland’s economic future like renewable energy where the biggest investor is the European Investment Bank, or higher education where 15% of staff are EU nationals and we have an absolutely outstanding record in attracting EU research money from programmes like Horizon 2020. While accepting that by giving up EU membership we will inevitably lose funding, retaining membership of the single market would limit the worst of the damage.

This is not just about a few tariffs. Simplistic jingoistic hand waving about free trade and evoking the British Empire will not bring that back – even if it were a good thing.

Brexit is about being wrenched out of the world’s wealthiest integrated market – the barriers in modern global trade are about intellectual property, regulation and standards, tax and state aid regimes. That’s why trade deals are complex and take a long time.

Brexit is damaging us now and it will gather pace. Investment is already dropping, prices are rising and young productive Europeans are not coming here to study, to work in our health service and elsewhere or to start new businesses.

To chase trade deals with whoever is prepared to offer a desperate UK a quickie on whatever terms we can get will mean lowering our standards and protections to suit their exports. Chlorinated chicken? Weak safety standards for kids’ toys? This is not a good basis for the sort of high grade businesses we need to develop – businesses and high value jobs which have often benefited hugely from full and active participation in cutting edge EU research programmes.

And as products find their way into the UK that don’t meet EU standards we will pretty soon we find that we no longer align with the requirements of the world’s biggest available market – the EU and the 53 countries (and rising) with whom it already has trade deals – negotiated by the EU for all its members from a position of strength.

That divergence from the world’s biggest market – right on our doorstep will hamper our trade and mean fewer jobs. It will make us all poorer.

For what? – we already trade perfectly well with China, Africa, Australia. There is no pot of gold over the Brexit rainbow. 2% of our trade currently goes to Australia and New Zealand. On optimistic assumptions a free trade deal would, increase that by perhaps a tenth. So 2% becomes 2.2%. That barely scratches the losses at risk from barriers to EU trade.

We believe that Scotland and the UK should stay fully inside the EU but we understand the practical considerations that have arisen from the Referendum. For that reason the European Movement in Scotland is delighted to endorse Business for Scotland’s single market declaration. Membership of the single market is vital for Scottish businesses, jobs, prosperity and economic growth.

Let’s help build a strong European future with countries whose values we share so that together we can influence the entire world for the better. The European future for Scotland that the majority of us here have said that we want. We are European. Scotland is European. Let’s not give in to Brexit.

About the author

Rhona Middler

Rhona was Business for Scotland's Engagement Executive and Events Manager.

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