EU committee chairman says Brexit is ‘great mistake’

The chairman of the EU Committee of the Regions has said that leaving the EU would be “a huge mistake” for the UK and Shetland.

Speaking after a meeting of the committee in Mareel today (Friday) Raffaele Cattaneo, who is president of the Lombardy region, also pinpointed proper broadband provision throughout remote regions as the most important development for such areas.

Mr Cattaneo said: “Let me be very clear on Brexit, in my opinion Brexit has been a great mistake for the United Kingdom. But, till now, in absence of an agreement between the negotiators, under the actual legal framework, the United Kingdom is completely part of Europe.

“The Committee of the Regions is and will be completely committed to co-operate with the UK authorities. So I think we have to show the best face of Europe, not the worst face. One of the reasons of the seminar here today is to show the Europen Union has been, could be, and will be a help for the development of the remote islands in the United Kingdom too.

“Concretely speaking we are looking to the European budget in the cohesion fund period 2014 to 2020. This budget was approved by the UK government in 2013 so we expect the UK government will respect the agreement and our opinion is to use this period to support the policies for the United Kingdom and most of all for the places like Scotland the Shetland Islands that support to remain and not leave.”

Committee of the Regions member and Shetland Islands Council leader Gary Robinson, who was hosting the meeting, said there was still not clarity on where Brexit was going or indeed what leaving the Uk would mean.

Mr Robinson said: “I don’t think at this stage that we know what Brexit is going to be, or indeed if Brexit itself is going to be. We heard the Brexit minister speaking in parliament this week and the following day Theresa May came back from China and said ‘no Brexit isn’t what the Bexit minister said it was going to be, it’s something different’.

“I think it is something that is going to run for a long time but it is certainly my hope that we can, if not remain in the European Union, ultimately certainly retain very strong links within Europe because I think it would be an absolute disaster for any other scenario to come about.

“We have traded with Europe historically going back hundreds of years so to suggest that we can cut ourselves off from Europe and start trading with the Australians instead, is to my mind ridiculous. It is madness.”

“I think there is a very clear message from people in Scotland that they want to remain within the European Union and to remain critically within the Common Market. They say that 44 per cent of the UK’s exports are services and 40 per cent of our exports of our exports in services goes to the EU. It is very, very significant. I couldn’t consider anything that would leave us with access to the European market.

“Brexit is looming but I take the view that we are in the EU until such time as someone tells us we are not. If that day ever comes, I don’t know.

Raffaele Cattaneo and Gary Robinson.

“But we have to consider that there are other options being looked at.”

One such option that has been rejected is the “Norwegian option”, according to Mr Robinson. “Even in the Norwegian situation they participate in some aspects of cohesion policy and they have to respect many of the regulations that Europe puts in place. The unfortunate thing in Norway’s position, is not being a member, they have to accept these without having any say in what the European Union decides.

“What the European Committee of the Regions is there to do is make sure that the voices of places such as Shetland and all the other local and regional authorities right across Europe is heard at that level.”

Mr Robinson said that the fact the European delegates had to travel o Shetland had given them an insight into the challenges that come with remoteness. Mr Cattaneo hadsuffered delays to his travel on Thursday.

Mr Robinson said: “Transport has been a fairly consistent theme through our discussions this morning.”

Mr Cattaneo, making his first visit to Shetland, said: “I have seen some similar problems in Europe but today have seen some specific problems for places like the Shetland Islands. We need to recognise at European level the existence of these remote areas.”

He said that there were 1500 small islands in the EU with half a million population “so it is not so small. We must recognise them recognise their existence and recognise the challenges.

“This morning I understood that we have some well-known challenges; the weakness of the economy, the structure of the economy; the ageing population and the accessibility and transportation problem.

“The purpose of our visit today, of our seminar, is precisely to understand the existence of these problems, face the challenges and to find solutions, then propose a complete solution to the European institution. In this sense it has been a very useful meeting.”

Mr Cattaneo said that that broadband provision was the most pressing issue facing Shetland and remote areas. He added: “Physical distances are not so easy to close and if you live in an island in the middle of the sea, you need ferries and an airport but the problem for the commuters remains.

“It is possible to close the gap of the technologies, but this morning I had no wi-fi connection here and it is more easy to solve the problem of the wi-fi connection than the ferries – it costs less and it’s easier.

“To create better conditions for future development the good quality of the connections to broadband facilities is in my opinion a starting point. The contribution of the EU funds must be directed most of all to that issue.”


Add Your Comment
  • leslie sinclair

    • September 9th, 2016 16:00

    Without the eu in future maybe closer ties with Norway and Denmark?

    • David Spence

      • September 11th, 2016 0:09

      If only we were part of Norway, Les.

      Norway has around £900 Billion in the bank, whilst we in the UK, are £1.61 Trillion in debt.

      In a capitalist society, the banks control, literally, everything……….and the tragic thing about it, the banks have zero money, but they dish out loans, mortgages etc etc (at no risk to them, as such) at force people to pay the interest on a fictitious loan……………regretfully, in a society driven by profits, greed and all the negative traits of human behaviour (lying, cheating, deceiving, dishonesty, murder, killing and destruction (via the lucrative arms industry (100% supported by the banks) etc etc) debt is the only way in which they keep control.

      In today’s western world, the banks have become far, far too powerful……….as 2008/2009 proved 100%.

      • Gordon Harmer

        • September 11th, 2016 18:17

        David all is not rosy in Norway, a capitalist country if there ever was one with their fair share of bankers. Talking of bankers; Norway which was Salmond’s Utopia during the lead up to the referendum has been affected by global activities which have also shown an independent Scotland would be dead in the water now had we voted yes.

        Figures released by Statistics Norway (SSB) show that the state’s total revenues in the second quarter of this year totaled 328 billion kroner, which is 2.3 percent less than in the same quarter of last year.

        Expenditures increased by eight percent over the same period last year, rising to 333 billion kroner. That gave Norway a deficit of around five billion kroner in the second quarter of 2016.

        “Reduced income from petroleum taxes and reduced surplus from the State’s Direct Financial Interest in petroleum activities (SDFI) account largely for the continued decrease in total revenue in Q2 2016,” SSB wrote.

        “Tax revenue from petroleum has halved from 46 billion kroner in the second quarter of 2015 to 23 billion kroner in Q2 2016. Total tax revenues have been reduced by 8.3 percent,

  • Robert Sandison

    • September 9th, 2016 22:27

    Brexit will mean the UK regaining control of its fishing grounds once more . This will be a huge boost to the Shetland economy as more fishing opportunities become available once the vast EU fleet is removed from UK waters .

    • David Spence

      • September 10th, 2016 15:55

      Robert, can you please tell me what waters (greater than 12 miles from the UK coastline) the UK has overall rights, and where no other fishing fleet either from the EU or Scandinavia has no rights too? The UK, may have broke away from the EU, but it does not give British fishermen the right to decide what their fishing limits are without negotiating with other countries……..I presume?

      Britain may be an island, but it does not have the right or control to dictate to other countries by saying ‘ The North Sea or 100, 200 miles or whatever from the UK, west out to the Atlantic Ocean is ours. ‘ I am pretty sure many countries would object to such arrogance.

      Time may tell, but I do not think the British Fishing Industry will be any better off by demanding what waters it controls before the UK, joined the EEC in 1974.

      plus, the mentality of ‘ Lets make the quick buck, and screw the long term consequences ‘ will surely be the nail in the coffin for the British Fishing Fleet any way?

  • Ali Inkster

    • September 9th, 2016 23:04

    Excellent communications, excellent and affordable transport links all this and much much more are ours for the asking but not by asking the EU. Not far from here is an independent island with all these things and they are very much outside the EU. Spikin a Faroe, booking last night fir da 23/9 returning 2 weeks later, Edinburgh ta Faroe £260, Edinburgh ta Sumburgh £354, It’s no joost reliable fone and internet dat a peerie independent isle in da nort atlantic can deliver it’s reliable low cost travel too. Imagine whit a peerie independent isle in da nort atlantic could dae if it also had oil.

    • Brian Smith

      • September 10th, 2016 19:23

      I didna ken Icelandair wis Faroese.

    • Stephen Johnston

      • September 11th, 2016 9:22

      Edinburgh to Reykjavik, same dates, £231.46, via Gatwick! We do get a coffee and free biscuit though! Taking the Mickey

  • Robert Sandison

    • September 10th, 2016 8:00

    The chairman of the EU committee of the regions one Raffaele Cattaneo says Brexit a huge ”mistake ” well what a surprise . He obviously has no respect for democracy and see’s it as a problem to be overcome by some means or another .

  • ian tinkler

    • September 10th, 2016 15:52

    Raffaele Cattaneo collects £100,000s plus for his work for The EU. Our £ millions and millions in contributions the EU enable this handsome salary, no wonder he moans so about Brexit..Raffaele Cattaneo, forwarded the need for high-speed broadband and the vital importance of transport links to island communities (affordable?), both of these the SNP/SG and the EU, has manifestly failed to provide for Shetland people, for the many, many years.. Not a word of criticism or protest has ever been uttered by our political leader, Gary Robinson about these failures. I can only speculate as to why Gary remains so very meek and very silent. The very personification of the “Yes man.” Gary Robinson is becoming an embarrassment to Shetland, must he cosy up so to the EU and SNP/SG autocrats. Will he ever speak out against or man up enough to fight, the bureaucracy, strangling these islands.


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