UK Government ridiculed as Brexit memo shows Scots industries run low priority

Industry and Scottish politicians blast Tory Government for betrayal over low priority memo

THE UK GOVERNMENT has come under fire for ranking industries including steel, construction, oil and gas, telecoms, environmental services, water and medical sectors as “low priority”.

After a leaked memo was passed to the Times today (Friday 10 February), Scottish MPs demanded assurances about the integrity of the oil and gas sector in Scotland.

Other sectors such as steel and construction have also voiced their concern that contracts that are negotiated at European level such as defence related projects will be de-prioritised.

“And staying in the single market would avoid the need for this damaging sector by sector approach completely.” Callum McCaig

Commenting on the leaked memo, the SNP energy spokesperson, Callum McCaig MP said: “It is appalling the UK government would deem some industries as more important than others during Brexit talks, but to give the oil and gas sector a low priority is a real betrayal. 

“There is no need to prioritise some industries over others- last year the CBI produced a major report on the Brexit challenges facing several sectors which avoided any prioritisation of one over another.

“And staying in the single market would avoid the need for this damaging sector by sector approach completely.

“If Theresa May’s government doesn’t focus on vital support for our industries and recognise the common sense of staying in the single market instead of trading off key sectors to protect her preferred interests then she will be guilty of perpetrating one of the most shameful betrayals in the history of Scottish industry."

The government document obtained through a Times source in the civil service highlighted high priority industries as the automotive and banking sectors, medium-priority industries were electronics, fisheries, chemicals and furniture, and the lowest were listed as steel, construction, oil and gas, telecoms, environmental services, water and medical.

“We ask Government to do all it can during the negotiations on leaving the EU to ensure that the UKCS remains competitive and attractive to investors.” Deirdre Michie​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

When contacted by CommonSpace, the UK Government said that it could not comment in detail on any “partial leak” that emerged in the media but did suggest that the categories of low and high priority industries where more a list of sectors they felt would need more help post-Brexit.

It also stated that since some sectors had “greater links with the EU, they would require special focus during the Brexit process”, and this could come at the expense of others.

However, Scottish politicians have been quick to state that this would not be necessary if membership of the European single market had been maintained.

Deirdre Michie, chief executive of Oil & Gas UK, told CommonSpace that although there was concern over the leak it was vital for all industries to be protected rather than preference given.

“One of our biggest challenges today is bringing new investment into the basin,” she said

“It is appalling the UK government would deem some industries as more important than others during Brexit talks, but to give the oil and gas sector a low priority is a real betrayal.” Callum McCaig

“We ask Government to do all it can during the negotiations on leaving the EU to ensure that the UKCS remains competitive and attractive to investors.

“This means that the outcome should support the Government’s policy of maximising economic recovery of our oil and gas resource, safeguard access to global markets with the least friction possible, and preserve the sector’s ability to source skills from its globally mobile workforce.

“The Government must also ensure that the UK continues to have a strong voice in EU policy discussions which will continue to affect the UKCS throughout negotiations and beyond.”

The fact that banking is placed as a high priority has caused concern among campaigners and opposition MPs who worry that Brexit will turn the UK in to an “offshore tax haven”.

The UK economy is heavily reliant on fianicial services, and the collapse of manufacturing in recent decades has left the UK highly unevenly developed and with a large balance of international payments deficit.

Picture courtesy of Nathanael Burton

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