Two years on: Has Brexit benefited Midlothian?
Local MSP Christine Grahame has criticised the Tory government's Brexit plans, after two new YouGov polls on the second anniversary of the UK's exit from the EU on January 31 2020 revealed that a majority of people believe Brexit has not benefited the UK. It will be six years this June since the vote on Brexit, which saw 62 per cent of Scottish voters vote to remain in the EU.
The YouGov poll found that 65 per cent of those asked think that the UK has not benefited at all or by very much since the UK left the EU. In Scotland, that figure rises to 75 per cent.
A separate YouGov survey also revealed that 47 per cent of people asked, across the UK, think that the UK got a bad deal from Brexit - with only seven per cent believing it was a good deal. In Scotland the figures suggest 59 per cent of those asked thought the UK got a bad deal - with only two per cent believing it was a good deal.
Ms Grahame, SNP MSP for Midlothian South said: “I can entirely understand why the polls show what they do and it’s something replicated when I speak to my constituents and local businesses. It is not only those who voted remain, but a number of people who voted leave on the basis of what was promised to them – remember that promises of £350 million a week to the NHS? – that feel cheated by what’s transpired since.
“Brexit, carried out against Scotland’s democratic will, was always going to be hugely damaging for Midlothian. Boris Johnson's extreme Brexit deal has been nothing short of an unmitigated disaster, piling on the hardship for families and businesses with shortages in workforce across hospitality and the care sector for example. There was never any “oven ready deal.”
"Households across Midlothian are grappling with a cost-of-living crisis, and the UK government's response has been to increase National Insurance contributions, cut £20 a week from Universal Credit and in the same breath publish a so-called 'The Benefits of Brexit' report which boasts about blue passports, Crown stamps on pint glasses and a return to imperial measurements – it is obscenely out of touch.
"I maintain my view that the only way to escape the long-term damage of Brexit is to become an independent country and rejoin the EU and the biggest single trading bloc – one which is seven times as big as the UK market."
Responding, Scottish Conservative Lothian List MSP Jeremy Balfour said: “It is hardly surprising that an SNP MSP is rehashing the same old arguments to pursue another bid for independence because they can’t accept the democratic results of referendums.
“It is time to move on from constitutional debate and make the most of our new working relationship with the European Union.
“Leaving the EU means that the UK has not had to directly contribute to the EU Budget, meaning we could press ahead with our own vaccine procurement programme, which has allowed us to ease restrictions on the lives of people in Midlothian.
“And we can go beyond the limitations of EU funding in order to level up our communities, including through the Levelling Up Fund and Community Renewal Funds.
“As we recover from the pandemic, both of Scotland’s Governments should be working together to accelerate our recovery, rather than pursuing another reckless and divisive independence referendum.”
Meanwhile, a Midlothian Council spokesman said: “Businesses are being updated and assisted by our Business Gateway and environmental health teams on changes as a result of the EU exit and we update our council and Locate in Midlothian websites with relevant information, as required.
“As we would do as a matter of course, we also continue to work with our wider resilience partners to make sure, if any local benefits or challenges do arise because of the EU exit, we have plans in place to address these.”