Brexit not to blame for slump in Scottish exports, UK minister insists, as he criticises Humza Yousaf for meeting Turkish president

Lord Offord condemns First Minister Humza Yousaf’s dealings with Turkish president

A senior UK government minister has rejected claims that Brexit has had a deleterious effect on exports to the EU from Scotland, insisting the country is “tilting to where the growth markets are” by striking a series of new trade deals.

Exports minister Lord Offord claimed global factors such as the pandemic, supply chain disruption, and unrest in the Middle East had led to a “difficult” five-year period. But he stressed Scotland was well placed to be at the forefront of UK plans to significantly ramp up the sale of goods and services abroad.

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The latest export statistics published by the Scottish Government estimate the total value of goods and services sent to the EU fell by £1.98 billion between 2019 and 2021. The slump of 11.7 per cent is steeper than the 11.2 per cent decline in exports to international non-EU markets.

In the wake of the publication, Dr Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said the statistics “clearly indicate we need to look again at ways of improving trade with the EU”. But Lord Offord said it was wrong to pin the blame on Brexit, and that export markets around the world had also gone through a period of contraction.

“We’re now in 2023 versus 2018, which was the last year before we had this five-year difficult period, whether it was Brexit, Covid, Ukraine, interest rates, energy prices,” he explained. “Our exports in the UK are now, taking out all inflation, 1 per cent ahead of where they were in 2018. In other words, we’re back to where we were after five very difficult years.

“Our economy in the UK and Scotland is 80 per cent services, 20 per cent manufactured goods. But our exports are 50/50, because our goods are very good, and go around the world. Manufactured goods are down 13 per cent to the EU, and down 12 per cent to non-EU. Our services are up 15 per cent. What’s interesting is that the difference between our manufactured goods going abroad to EU and non-EU is marginal.

“Brexit actually has not been the factor. The factor has been massive disruption to supply chains, the whole China effect, Covid, and obviously now, the trouble in the Middle East with the Red Sea. You’ve got a contraction in manufactured goods around the world. You see it in Germany, Australia, the US, and the UK. It’s not a Brexit impact.”

Lord Offord of Garvel. Picture: John DevlinLord Offord of Garvel. Picture: John Devlin
Lord Offord of Garvel. Picture: John Devlin

In an interview with The Scotsman, the former Scotland Office minister also chastised First Minister Humza Yousaf for meeting with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and inviting him to Scotland.

“Turkey is a very important trading partner for the UK, but it’s a complex political relationship, and a complex political relationship with the president of that country,” Lord Offord said.

“This is a country that’s part of Nato that wants to join the EU, but is not yet qualified to join, which has strong ties with Russia, but also has strong ties with the US. It’s a complicated picture, and stumbling into conversations on one particular pet topic, when we don’t know what was said, with minutes not taken – that’s not how the Foreign Office operates.”



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