I believe leaving the EU presents many opportunities for Scotland's economy. The UK Government is determined to ensure we maintain a close relationship with the EU, while allowing the UK to take back control of our laws and borders. We will also be able to pursue new and exciting trade deals around the world.
It is vital that we leave the EU as one United Kingdom. The rest of the UK is by far Scotland's biggest trading partner, accounting for 61 per cent of Scottish exports - over three times more than the EU. A separate deal for Scotland would break up the internal market of the UK, making it harder for Scottish businesses to trade with the rest of the UK. This would be deeply damaging for the Scottish economy.
I am deeply disappointed that the SNP-led Government in Scotland has sought to exploit Brexit to further their goal of independence. Being part of the UK is worth £10 billion in additional public spending - nearly £1,900 for every single person in Scotland. I believe it is therefore vital that we promote the promising opportunities for a Scotland outside the EU, but within the United Kingdom.
On a second referendum
I understand the strength of feeling on this matter but there will not be another vote and the UK is leaving the EU in 2019. I believe that when a decision of constitutional significance is made, it is important that democratic processes are followed. That is why Parliament gave the British people the final say on the UK's membership of the EU and why the result must be respected, even if it was unexpected by some.
On a customs union
I want to maintain a close economic relationship with the EU in the future. I believe that this is in the interests of UK and EU businesses and it is the best way of securing prosperity for both of our citizens.
As we leave the EU, I also believe that we should have more control over the UK's trade policy. The EU has predicted that 90 per cent of future economic growth will come from outside of Europe and I want to be able to take advantage of this in new trade deals. That is why I support the Withdrawal Agreement. This maintains the benefits of a customs union while also providing this country with an independent trade policy.
On the NHS and medicines
I am glad to hear that Ministers have had excellent engagement with industry and I have been assured that if everyone does what they are supposed to, the supply of medicines to the UK in the event of a no deal exit will be uninterrupted.
Following the change of EU exit date, the Department of Health and Social Care has written to all medicine suppliers asking that they continue preparations for all negotiation outcomes. I believe that this is important in order to minimise the risk of disruption. Work continues to ensure that medicines imported from the EU with a short shelf-live can be imported by air in a no deal scenario.
The Government has also been clear that it wants EU nationals currently working in the NHS to stay in this country after we leave the EU. After the country leaves the EU, the UK will set its own immigration policy but the Department of Health and Social Care will ensure that there is sufficient staff to continue delivering high quality services.
The precise detail on future healthcare arrangements will be a matter for the future partnership negotiations but the Government has been clear that there should be continued participation in the EHIC scheme after the UK leaves the EU. In the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal, my ministerial colleagues have proposed maintaining existing healthcare arrangements, including an EHIC type arrangement, until 31 December 2020 in order to minimise disruption.
On food safety
I can assure you that food and animal welfare standards will not be reduced in the pursuit of trade deals. Any future trade deal must work for British farmers and consumers. EU standards on food such as chlorinated chicken will come into UK law through the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018. EU regulations on hormone treated beef are already part of UK law. These prevent the use of growth hormones in imports and domestic production. These will continue after the UK leaves the EU.
On Northern Ireland
The UK as a whole voted to leave the EU. This means that all parts of the UK family, including Northern Ireland, will leave the EU together.
As the UK leaves the EU, the UK and the EU have agreed that the Belfast Agreement should be protected in all its parts and that there should be no hard border on the island of Ireland. The Common Travel Area will also continue. Both parties believe that a free trade agreement is the best route to avoiding a physical border because it removes the need for checks on goods. I wholeheartedly support this approach.
In the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal, my ministerial colleagues have been clear that they will do everything in their power to avoid a return to a hard border. They will be ready to engage with counterparts in the Republic of Ireland and the EU to do so and I wholeheartedly support this approach. The Government's commitment to the Belfast Agreement and the people of Northern Ireland is absolute.
Along with all political parties in Northern Ireland and the Irish Government, the UK Government will continue to work for peace, stability and prosperity in Northern Ireland.
On leaving the EU without a deal
It is clear that there would be short-term challenges to leaving the EU without a deal. The Government's own analysis has predicted that GDP could be around 7.7 per cent smaller compared to current trading arrangements over the next 15 years. While the UK would also not introduce any new checks at the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland it would have no control over processes applied to goods moving into the Republic. This could affect businesses and people on both sides of the border.
MPs have voted multiple times against leaving the EU with no deal but this remains the legal default at the end of the extended Article 50 period if no agreement is reached. That is why the Government is continuing to prepare for all possibilities. Departments are now making sensible choices about the timing and intensity of no deal preparations in light of the extension. The funds allocated for leaving the EU have been invested in preparations for all exit scenarios and not just in plans for leaving without a deal.
Over 17.4 million people voted to leave the EU in 2016 and I am determined to honour the result of the referendum. For too long people across the country have failed to make their voices heard and I believe that frustrating the UK's exit would damage the electorate's faith in the democratic process.
On a future fisheries policy
I am delighted that in withdrawing from the EU the UK will be leaving the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). From 2020 we will negotiate access to waters and fishing opportunities as an independent coastal state. The Fisheries Bill has now been introduced in the House of Commons and will enable the UK to control who may fish in our waters, and on what terms, for the first time since 1973.
This Bill delivers on the Government's commitment to sustainable fishing and conservation of the marine environment. It will end the automatic right for EU vessels to fish in UK waters, making fishing access a matter for us to negotiate and set terms, so any foreign vessels will have to follow our rules. It will allow us to set our own fishing quota and days at sea, negotiating independently in consultation with the Devolved Administrations. It will also enable us to protect the marine environment by ensuring fisheries management decisions are taken strategically for its benefit.
Accompanying these new powers, in the 2018 Budget the Chancellor announced an extra £12 million in funding over three years for fishing industry technology and safety measures.
Fisheries management is, and will remain, devolved. Leaving the EU will mean that that the Scottish Government will see a significant increase in its decision-making powers, such as allowing it to regulate fisheries resources to protect the environment, tackle disease and protect the fish farming industry.
The Bill also proposes ways for the UK Government and the Devolved Administrations to adopt common approaches to fisheries in areas where that makes sense, including preserving UK vessels' right to fish throughout all UK waters and managing any agreed access for foreign vessels. The four Fisheries Administrations will set out in a joint statement how they will work together to achieve the Bill's sustainability objectives.
The CFP may have damaged the UK's fishing industry and our precious fish stocks, but this Bill will deliver a sustainable fishing industry, with healthy seas and a fair deal for British fishermen.
Last reviewed October 2019