On September 18th, 2014, the Scottish people voted to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom; and on June 23rd, 2016, the British people voted to leave the European Union. As a Scottish Conservative, I believe that the will of the people, as expressed in both referendums, must be respected, and that is why I support the UK Government’s policy of leaving the European Union as one United Kingdom.
Likewise, I believe that there must be no second referendum on independence, and no second referendum on Brexit. The people have made their views clear on both issues, and it is the UK Government’s duty to carry out their instructions.
For Scotland, and for the United Kingdom as a whole, Brexit will pose both challenges and opportunities, and the UK Government is seeking a Brexit deal that will allow us to deal with those challenges while making the most of those opportunities. This involves maintaining free and frictionless trade with the EU, and participating in EU schemes where it is mutually beneficial to both sides; and it also involves giving the UK the freedom to forge its own trade deals, and the ability to diverge from the EU where it does something that is not right for this country or our economy.
The UK Government is also working to provide businesses and individuals with as much certainty as possible about the Brexit process. This includes an implementation period after exit day, allowing people time to prepare for the new arrangements, and legislation like the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, which ensures that there is continuity in our laws immediately after Brexit.
In Scotland, my primary focus is preserving the internal market of the United Kingdom. 61% of Scotland’s trade goes to the rest of the UK, almost four times as much as goes to the EU, and so it is vital that we leave the EU as one United Kingdom, without any discrepancies emerging that make it more difficult for Scottish businesses to trade in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland.
Brexit will mean many powers currently held in Brussels, but relevant to devolved issues like agriculture, being devolved to the Scottish Parliament. The UK Government has been negotiating with the devolved administrations over how best to do this – all sides agree that while most of these powers should go straight to the devolved administrations, there will also need to be some common UK-wide frameworks to ensure that the UK internal market is preserved.
Recently, the UK and Welsh Governments came to an agreement on this, with the vast majority of devolved powers automatically going from the EU to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The EU (Withdrawal) Bill has been amended to reflect this deal. The Scottish Government has not yet agreed to this deal, but the UK Government’s door remains open, and I hope they come on board.