Keith Brown: Retaining single market access while rUK leaves would bring "huge" opportunities
Keith Brown says the whole of the UK would benefit from Scotland retaining single market access, even if jobs moved from London to Scotland
A Brexit deal which saw Scotland stay in the single market while the rest of the UK leaves would bring “huge” opportunities to Scotland, according to Keith Brown.
Speaking to Holyrood, the Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work argued the whole of the UK would benefit from Scotland retaining single market access, even if jobs moved from London to Scotland.
The Scottish Government’s Brexit strategy paper calls for the UK to retain access to the European Economic Area (EEA).
But with Theresa May recently hinting she may be willing to give up single market access in return for ending free movement, the Scottish Government has also outlined plans for Scotland to retain access to the EEA, even if the UK as a whole left.
In an interview with Holyrood, Brown was asked whether such a deal would see companies move north of the border to access the European market, with the Cabinet Secretary replying that “we are always interested in companies moving to Scotland”.
He said: “Our preference is for the whole of the UK to stay in, but if it doesn’t, then we believe our proposal to stay within the European Economic Area will benefit the whole of the UK. Even if it is only Scotland that stays in, it will help increase access to the European market for the rest of the UK as well.
“But Scotland would become, as we are just now, an English-speaking part of the EU, which many companies around the world are very keen to tap into. It would be very attractive, I think, to investors in Scotland. But also, it would give more certainty to companies in Scotland about being able to access that market with no tariffs and no barriers, as they do currently. So I think it would be to Scotland’s substantial advantage if we had that outcome.”
Pressed on whether the arrangement would see tension between Scotland the rest of the UK if jobs moved north of the border, he said: “Well, we are always interested in companies moving to Scotland. In relation to London, I think the biggest challenge is that some large financial institutions are now looking at whether they will invest in London because the EU itself, compared with some Asian markets and others, is not as prominent as it once was. That is a bigger danger to London than Scotland.
“But we have, of course, upped our activity in London. We have upped our activity in Dublin, with the establishment of a hub, and the same in Berlin. So we are trying to attract jobs wherever we can, and I don’t think there is any reason why the rest of the UK, not just Scotland, should not be able to benefit from jobs that London attracts in the first place.
“It is true in terms of investment as well, much of the investment in Scotland and the rest of the UK comes first through London, and I think that is perfectly legitimate and reasonable in the interests of a more balanced economy generally. But my job is to promote Scotland, and we will do that wherever we can.”
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