A leading business group has insisted UK Government plans for the internal market post-Brexit “must protect and respect the devolution settlement”.
Responding to a consultation over the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s White Paper on the UK internal market, the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) urged Westminster to agree “common frameworks” with the devolved administrations to protect “seamless trade and devolution”.
SCDI called on the UK Government and Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish administrations to work together to prevent new barriers and costs for business and consumers, and agree a path forward.
It also demanded “respect” for Scotland’s devolution settlement and “clarity and transparency” for businesses on how existing and future devolved policies would be affected by the proposals.
Yesterday, SCDI chief executive Sara Thiam said: “We’ve welcomed the opportunity to meet UK and Scottish ministers to discuss their respective positions and the views of SCDI members.
“We’re not convinced the legislative approach proposed in the white paper is the right one.
“That’s why we’re calling on the UK Government to agree common frameworks with the devolved administrations which protect seamless trade and respect the devolution settlement.
“It’s essential that all four nations work together to prevent new barriers or costs, as well as to provide greater clarity and transparency for Scotland’s businesses, consumers and communities.”
Westminister has said a new UK-wide rules framework is needed in order to administer powers that will return from Brussels at the end of the year.
This month, the Scottish Government warned that the post-Brexit plan for a UK internal market would see Westminster “taking back control from Scotland”, with Constitution Secretary Mike Russell describing it as a “major power grab”.
SCDI warns against barriers to trade within Britain post-Brexit
Seamless trade and the exchange of goods, services, capital and people between the four nations of the UK is “vital” for the Scottish economy, SCDI said in its white paper consultation response.
It added: “The UK internal market underpins the shared prosperity of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“SCDI members would be highly concerned by the creation of new barriers to trade within the UK.
“A wide range of sectors of the Scottish economy are clear that those which could result in additional difficulties and delays in the flow of goods and services across the UK internal market could disrupt their supply chains, increase costs and restrict market access for Scottish businesses.”
Any such barriers could raise prices and reduce choice for consumers, SCDI said, adding: “This would be a damaging scenario for the Scottish economy which the UK Government and Scottish Government should work together to avoid, especially as it would compound the loss of the benefits to Scotland and the UK of membership of the European single market.”
The business group said issues of “mutual recognition” in the UK internal market and international trade were closely tied, but warned: “SCDI is not convinced the legislative approach proposed in the white paper is the right priority.
“The path forward must protect and respect the devolution settlement, recognising the competencies and responsibilities of the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament.
“The capacity of Scotland’s devolved institutions to pursue and achieve their own policies should not be undermined.
“These policies should, of course, be evidence-based and the subject of full and open consultation and scrutiny, including with business and civic organisations, as well as the UK Government and other devolved administrations wherever appropriate.”