'Real impact' of Brexit vote will take years to assess, says Scottish Government

Assessing the “real impact” of the vote to leave the European Union will take many years, the Scottish Government has said five years on from the Brexit referendum.

A new report says “many of the negative impacts which were envisaged” at the time of the vote in June 2016 are only now “starting to crystallise”.

The Scottish Government paper claims Brexit is damaging business, migration and even devolution itself, with external affairs secretary Angus Robertson insisting “Scotland has to consider its future path” when the coronavirus pandemic is over.

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Assessing the “real impact” of the vote to leave the European Union will take many years, the Scottish Government has said

The report states: “We can already say with confidence that across a wide range of areas, Brexit is having a tangible and harmful impact on the quality of life of the people of Scotland and on Scottish businesses.

“It is not yet possible to describe the full impact that decision will have on the people of Scotland.

“Some consequences, such as parts of the new rules on trade into the UK, are not yet fully in force. For those that are, assessing the real impact will take many years.”

The Scottish Government has already warned the “basic” trade deal agreed between the UK and EU could result in Scottish GDP being £9 billion lower by 2030, compared to if the UK had remained part of Europe.

Meanwhile exports from the UK to the EU for the period January to April were down almost a fifth (19 per cent) this year compared to 2018, with the report citing: “The difference is Brexit.”

While Scotland sent more than 70 per cent of seafood exports to the EU in 2019, worth more than £770 million, the report notes total UK exports of fish this year are “27 per cent lower than in the first four months of 2018”.

Looking at the impact on migration, it found the number of EU nationals registering for a National Insurance number in Scotland in the first three months of this year was 70 per cent below pre-pandemic levels.

The report went on to warn “businesses planning to recruit from overseas are likely to face challenges”, citing research that said the lack of interest was “likely to be a consequence of the ending of freedom of movement for EU citizens in 2021 rather than the pandemic”.

Mr Robertson said: “Five years ago Scotland did not vote for Brexit. As this review makes it clear – Scotland is now enduring an ever-lengthening catalogue of harms, inflicted on this country against its wishes.”

He added: “From trade and business to education, to the futures and livelihoods of our fellow European citizens, from our farmers, our security, and devolution itself – all have been negatively impacted.

“It’s also increasingly apparent the trade deals being struck by the UK Government are simply not compensating for the loss of EU markets for Scottish businesses.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: "We have established a new points-based system for immigration, overseen the fastest vaccine roll-out anywhere in Europe, and negotiated trade deals with the EU and 68 other countries - opening up fantastic new opportunities for Scottish businesses.

“As we build back better from the pandemic, and level up across the UK, we will seek to maximise the opportunities of Brexit and utilise our new freedoms”

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