Carmichael: ‘Keep an international view on the world, post-Brexit’
A handful of people brought their questions on the referendum, and the UK’s decision to leave the EU, to Alistair Carmichael at a specially arranged meeting.
The isles MP was in Islesburgh Community Centre to hear views on Brexit and what it might mean for Shetland in the future.
Much of the attention focused on Britain’s relationship with the EU once negotiations to end links with the union have taken place.
Mr Carmichael said he hoped to see a “hierarchy of priorities” develop over the next three to six months which would help bring real and substantial benefit to the isles.
He said he wanted to see a deal with Brussels negotiated that would provide the very best for Shetland. He made repeated references to structural funds which are used to support economic development in EU countries.
The meeting heard there was a concerted need for local politicians to work together with Westminster and Holyrood governments in order to ensure the best possible outcomes during the two years of negotiations with Brussels which will now follow.
“Structural funding programmes brought money here which probably would not have come otherwise. It has been enormously good for us,” said Mr Carmichael.
“The continuation of something like structural funds is going to be important.”
“If we just take that money that we currently contribute to the EU and say, ‘we’re not going to put it to Brussels,’ …If we just leave that sitting in a pot in the Treasury I don’t believe, for a second, it’s going to come back to pay for a new ferry to Fair Isle, for example.”
The meeting heard that the “social globalisation” now being forged, particularly by young people with typically international outlooks, was “unstoppable”.
Mr Carmichael reiterated his concerns that the Brexit vote was leading to a growth in xenophobia or racism, although he had not seen evidence of that in the isles.
“Withdrawing from the EU is one thing – withdrawing from the rest of the EU is quite another.”
The meeting heard of genuine concerns from EU nationals living in the isles over what the future would be for them in a post-Brexit Britain.
It also heard of an open letter by local NHS chiefs putting on record how much their contributions were valued.
Mr Carmichael concluded: “It is essential we keep the flow of funds coming that have come through the mechanisms in Brussels until now, but also on keeping an international focus on our politics.”