Brexit creating chronic labour shortages in Scotland, says UK minister

SNP says if a second referendum were to be held, majority voting to remain would be even higher

Mike Russell: ‘There is a misunderstanding of freedom of movement that is driving the process (of Brexit).’ Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Mike Russell: ‘There is a misunderstanding of freedom of movement that is driving the process (of Brexit).’ Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

 

Brexit’s cooling effect on immigration to Britain has already been felt in Scotland where there are chronic labour shortages in some areas, a senior minister in its devolved government has said.

The Scottish National Party’s Mike Russell, Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe, told a conference in Killarney on Saturday that Scotland has been facing continuing reductions in population and services as a result of Brexit.

He instanced the case of a company, Angus Growers, which posted a £600,000 (€675,000) loss as a result of Brexit, because of difficulty hiring employees from abroad during its short season.

“There are many example in the economy. There are no short or medium term advantages to Brexit,” he said.

Mr Russell was speaking at the inaugural Killarney Economic Conference at the Brehon Hotel, which is being held in conjunction with The Irish Times.

Remain vote

Mr Russell pointed out that Scotland had rejected Brexit, with 62 per cent voting to stay. He said if a second referendum were to be held, the majority voting to Remain would be even higher.

Given the reality of the process, the Holyrood government had three red line areas, he said.

It wants the UK’s Withdrawal Bill to be amended to reflect that some powers currently held in Brussels, should return to the devolved governments in Scotland and Wales, and not to central government, as is provided for at present.

Mr Russell said that it seemed the UK was leaving the customs unions and the single market for “no good reason”.

“There is a misunderstanding of freedom of movement that is driving the process (of Brexit).”

He said the remaining members of the single market and customs union was essential “and this is a minimum for us.”

The third issue reflected what he said was the sovereignty of the Scottish people, raising the possibility of a future referendum.

“There will come a time for people in Scotland that what they did not vote for is what they have to accept.”

He said that unlike the Scottish independence referendum there was no status quo.

“There is a choice between Brexit and another future which is membership of the single market.”

Mark Drakeford, the finance secretary with the devolved Welsh government, told the conference that Northern Ireland’s Executive was badly missed from the Joint Ministerial Committees (JMC). They are the committees which meet with British government ministers to co-ordinate the roles and responsibilities of the devolved administrations. With the executive suspended for a year, no Northern Ministers have attended the meetings.

The Welsh and Scottish administrations have argued the JMC could provide a vehicle that would allow the devolved governments participate in developing negotiating positions.

In similar comments to Mr Russel’s, he said that while the UK was leaving the EU, the view of the Welsh government was that the political relationships with Europe must remain as close as they have been.

He also stressed the importance of the road and sea networks that connect Wales to Ireland, saying they must not be negatively affected. Holyhead is the third largest port in the UK, he pointed out.