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Scottish Industry Bodies React to Brexit Draft Withdrawal Agreement

Ross Kelly

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Brexit Draft Withdrawal Agreement

Scottish business bodies have pledged their support for the Prime Minister’s Brexit Draft Withdrawal Agreement, however, there could still be significant challenges for Scottish industry. 

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce and CBI have backed the Brexit Draft Withdrawal Agreement after Prime Minister Theresa May’s announcement yesterday evening.  

While there have been mixed reactions throughout British politics the two organisations have branded the agreement as a “positive step forward” for Brexit.  

The Prime Minister announced the agreement last night outside 10 Downing Street. Shortly after, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier confirmed a number of controversial agreements.

Brexit Backing 

In a statement, the Scottish Chambers said: “After two and a half years, business communities across Scotland and the UK will welcome the Cabinet-backed draft Withdrawal Agreement. 

“Today’s agreement is a positive step forward, but not the end of the process.”

The organisation underlined the need for clarity and transparency throughout the process so that businesses can understand its implications. 

“The assessment of these proposals and understanding the implications for business is a priority for the Chamber Network and must be for politicians on all sides of the debate,” the statement read. 

CBI Director-General, Carolyn Fairbairn, echoed the Chambers’ message, stating: “After 20 months of debate, this agreement by Cabinet is progress.”

Fairbairn also underlined the need for more clarity during the withdrawal process and insisted the “frictionless trade” is a key requirement of any future success for Scottish industry.  

She said: “More clarity on the final relationship is needed, and uncertainty remains high, but this is an important step forward. Transition and the backstop are not the intended permanent solutions for either side but should pave the way for more work on the future deal.  

“This must secure frictionless trade, ambitious access for our world-beating services, and a say over future rules.”

Cross-Party Condemnation 

A number of figures from across the political divide have criticised the draft with Pro-Leave Conservative MPs accusing the Prime Minister of “breaking promises.” 

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a prominent figure within the Leave camp, wrote to Tory MPs urging them to vote against it.  

The Conservative backbencher told ITV that the agreement had “dented his confidence” in the Government’s ability to secure an appropriate deal for the UK, while adding that the 585-page document is “shattering to trust”.  

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also condemned the Brexit deal and said she “wouldn’t put money” on the Prime Minister remaining in office by the time Britain leaves the EU.  

Speaking to ITV’s Peston programme, she said: “The Prime Minister has proved to be resilient over the last months, so let’s not count her out in that respect. 

“I thought her language about the collective decision of the Cabinet – not a unanimous decision – said something. 

“I cannot see how she gets this deal through the House of Commons.” 

The draft agreement and Britain’s succession from the EU will threaten jobs in Scotland, she added. In a phone call with the Prime Minister she questioned whether Scotland’s interests had been acknowledged. 

“I pointed out that there isn’t a single mention of Scotland in the agreement, that it disregards our interests and puts Scotland at a serious competitive disadvantage,” she told ITV. 

“This proposed deal would be a bad one for Scotland, taking us out of a single market eight times the size of the UK market alone and posing a huge threat to jobs, investment and living standards. 

“If this deal is indeed rejected by Parliament, then the UK Government must return to the negotiating table to secure a better one. 

“Our bottom line – short of continued EU membership – is continued, permanent membership of the single market and customs union.”

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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