19th October 2018
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Duncan urges pragmatic Brexit negotiaitions to avoid “pain” on both sides

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The European Union and the United Kingdom must approach Brexit negotiations in a pragmatic fashion in order to avoid negative consequences for both sides.

That was the view put forward by UK government minister Lord Duncan on Springbank during a flying visit to the isles this week.

Mr Duncan, formerly a Conservative Member of the European Parliament, was in Shetland on Thursday to meet with figures concerned in industries such as fisheries and renewable energy. The lord, whose appointment as a parliamentary under-secretary in the Scotland Office proved controversial following a failed attempt to be elected as an MP in 2017’s general election, also met with local councillors on his visit.

In a press briefing, Mr Duncan said that his trip to the isles had been both a fact-finding mission and one where he sought to answer the questions and concerns of those he met with.

“A lot is going on as you’ll know in terms of the wider Brexit world and [the visit is] to make sure there’s a real dialogue where people are able to ask the questions they want to ask.”

He added: “A lot of the key sectors up here are very much in the forefront of the emerging Brexit world and post-Brexit world… so it’s very much to be available and to answer as best I can questions that might be there, to learn what the issues are people are concerned about here and take them back down the road so that we have, as best we can, a better understanding of exactly how Brexit will unfold everywhere in the UK.”

It was key to hear what industry figures viewed as the problems and opportunities of Brexit in order to form policy and Shetland could offer important insights Mr Duncan felt.

One concern was that of the future status of migrant labourers who form a large part of the fisheries workforce within the UK. For Mr Duncan the assurances made to those people must now be ratified in law.

“The processing side is heavily dependent upon, at the moment, migrant labour. So you know, how do we ensure therefore that there’s a ready and steady supply of migrant labour?”

Currently, without a clear picture of what the final Brexit deal may look like, or indeed whether there will be a deal at all, the status of those workers is unclear. Mr Duncan said he wanted to see “legal certainty” for them, regardless of the final outcome of negotiations.

“There’s already been declarations of what that should look like but the point is to give legal certainty to migrants who wish to make a home in the United Kingdom.

“We need to make sure that we have offered to those who have committed to the United Kingdom, who’ve made a life here, who’ve put down roots, who have bought houses, put kids in school, all these different things, they need exactly the same certainty with or without a deal.”

But Mr Duncan said both sides had to collaborate to ensure a “common sense” outcome, or else both sides could suffer.

Taking fisheries as an example he said: “The one thing I’m always very clear on is that a no deal is bad for both sides so when I’m talking to fishermen right now, Scotland, Shetland, is a major fish exporting nation and our principal market is the EU so clearly the implications of a bad deal are very clear.

“However, putting that in context, the UK is the principal buyer of EU fish and when you look at the tonnages which are exchanged between the two both would feel the negative impact of a bad deal.”

He added: “There is no single area I can think of where the pain only falls on one side.”

Asked where he stood on the idea of another referendum, this time pitting the final deal against the option of remaining a member of the EU, Mr Duncan expressed general opposition to the concept of referendums.

“Making decisions by referendum is never the most straightforward way to bring about fundamental change… the answer to the delivery is never as straightforward as the binary option”, he said.

He added: “Imagine it was 52-48 the other way round, have we resolved the issue or are we now likely to have another referendum… the resolution rests outwith that democratic endorsement but rather by what has been our traditional method for resolving all our policy questions which is the parliamentary democracy where we have by elections individuals who are meant to be the lead respondents to the will of the people and to then determine a policy which is deliverable.”

Also up for discussion during his visit was the issue of renewable energy. The much talked about interconnector had proved to be the broad focus of those meetings, he said.

Mr Duncan spoke of an upcoming “contract for difference auction” and said that the rules of the auction would allow island wind projects to compete on a level playing field with mainland schemes.

“We have configured the rules of the auction to allow remote island wind to be a participant in that. Previously it would have been difficult for remote island wind to compete.

“Our purpose in creating these reconfigured rules is to ensure that the three island groups can compete in order to ensure that the connectivity of the interconnector is delivered.”

In the first of these auctions, set to take place in May next year, Mr Duncan said that he believed there would be “winners from the islands”.

Broadly summarising his visit, and its relationship in the wider questions facing the UK and Europe, Mr Duncan said: “My take home from here is that Brexit will affect every part of the United Kingdom whether it be in Scolloway, whether it be in Sheffield, whether it be in any part of Scotland.

“So the point we have to be able to understand is what are the implications, what are the opportunities, where are the issues where we need to be looking at new ways of doing things, where are there ways where we just want to simply roll over and copy what’s been done by the EU?”

About Keegan Murray

Reporter for The Shetland Times. Interested in politics, literature and music. Born and bred Shetlander. Long suffering Newcastle United supporter.

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8 comments

  1. David Spence

    Regardless to what Brexit may or may not bring to the UK economy, the overall agenda, as far as I can see, is for the Conservatives to have a trade deal with the US without the interference of the EU. This will also put the conservative party in a strong position, politically, to take advantage of the UK being out of the EU.

    Whatever your political views are on the EU, you can be sure we will worse off without the EU.

    The IEA is the most prominent think tank in the UK. They are willing to broker access to ministers for foreign donors. An undercover reporter was posing as a representative of a US agribusiness donor, and was told they would be able to attend “intimate” meals and “get to know cabinet ministers.”

    Shadow Cabinet minister Jon Trickett said: “When big money uses underhand ways to influence political decisions, it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that democracy is being severely undermined.”

    The IEA does not reveal its donors. But they raise money from oil giant BP, gambling companies and US donors that support its push for a hard Brexit and a deregulatory US-UK trade deal.

    Reply
  2. John Oakes

    If the results were the other way, then we in a few years time be fully EU accepting all the packages.
    I for one would tell my local MP to sling her hook in Manchester as my MEP now represents my concerns being part of the NW region of Europe. I would be demanding all road sign being changed to EU standard my purchases in Euros only and all cars sold to Left Hand drive. If you want embrace EU fully then Remainer declare it so next time a Referendum is called for.

    Reply
  3. John Ridland

    “Pain” that’s a joke, The “pain” has been the last 40 years….!

    Reply
  4. David Spence

    Remember, the EU Ref. was only going to benefit the Tories and nobody else. Something most people are not saying because of their nationalistic, xenophobic and, dare one say it, Put Britain First, slogan reminiscent to our fellow partners across da loch.

    This is despite the voice of those who have said being part of the EU was beneficial in terms of trade, jobs and benefits for everybody in terms of rights etc etc; which will now be eliminated for the benefit of the UK becoming the slave nation of Europe, and where workers and civil rights will be abolished for the greater good of business, and nobody else.

    But hey ho, I suppose we can now say ‘ We are truly British now ‘. Role on the good times (whatever, if any, they may be).

    Reply
  5. John Tulloch

    Lord Duncan reportedly said: “Making decisions by referendum is never the most straightforward way to bring about fundamental change…”. He prefers to leave it to parliament.

    I beg to differ. As seen, daily, parliament is doing everything it can to maintain the status quo and prevent “fundamental change”.

    Actually, with bona fide democrats, the referendum method is very straightforward, indeed. You present the electorate with a “binary option”, say, “Should the UK leave the EU?” with two options “Yes or No”.

    The electorate votes, say, “Yes, we should leave the EU”. The politicians then implement the electorate’s decision. We leave the EU and all its trappings.

    Any deals on trade or anything else observe the electorate’s decision, leaving it ‘virgo intacta’. Democracy is fulfilled.

    Alas, that appears not to be the direction our politicians are heading. Quite the reverse.

    Reply
    • Brian Smith

      Hitler was very keen on referendums. As Attlee said, it is a device beloved of dictators and demagogues.

      Reply
      • John Tulloch

        Well, Brian, you’re a big fan of the SNP – you exhorted Shetlanders to vote for them, last time, against your old pals in Shetland Labour.

        So you’ll know all about why they are demanding another two referendums, one for Brexit and one for Scottish independence?

        As you say, “beloved of dictators and demagogues”. LOL 🙂

  6. John Tulloch

    It’s worth recalling that Britain entered the EU in 1973 with NO REFERENDUM. And following Harold Wilson’s 1975 referendum, there wasn’t another one for 41 years.

    This time, Remainers are insisting that we should have two, in order, they hope, to reverse the result of the one they lost in 2016.

    No. I’d say the Joiner/Remainers have had a damned good crack of the whip and now its Leavers’ turn to get 40 years of what THEY want – and won the referendum for.

    Reply

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