Scotland wants to retain full access to the Single Market and the Customs Union after Brexit at all costs. But the right of free movement for the EU citizens that reside in the country is the real prize, participants at a debate in Brussels heard this week.
Migration is therefore among the top priorities, considered as a key to Scotland’s plans to increase its population.
“We have an ageing population and without migration, we will really struggle to fill that gap,” Mairi Angela Gougeon, a member of the Scottish Parliament and of the EU’s Committee of Regions (CoR), said during a debate about Brexit’s regional perspectives, held in the CoR in Brussels on 10 April.
Currently, the immigration system focuses on the UK as a whole, which increases pressure on Scotland, especially in agriculture and public services. By maintaining the current system, and without free movement of people, Scotland is expected to lose £10 billion by 2040.
Scottish farmers remain deeply concerned about the economic situation facing them and the country’s fortunes in the coming years.
Gougeon underlined that working with the UK government during the Brexit process has proved difficult.
“Initially we were told there were not impact assessments. Today we found that impact assessments had been done, but the UK government didn’t want to share them, because they said that it was commercially sensitive and that it could harm the negotiations”.
According to Michael Murphy, Councillor, Tipperary County Council and CoR member, Irish regions will be the ones most affected by the relationship between the EU27 and the UK post-Brexit. Agri-food, tourism and medical and pharmaceutical products are already among the sectors to be considered at risk.
Mitigating Brexit’s impact on regions “will be a process of substitution effects that will affect local entrepreneurial activities. It is going to take a long time and will be really costly for many industries”, said Prof. Raquel Ortega Argilés of the University of Birmingham.