Harsh reality of Brexit is on the horizon, says Isles MP Angus MacNeil

The concerned countdown to Brexit is on, states Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil who says we must brace ourselves for the major impacts this will have on day to day life and the economy. 

People must also understand that neither Deal or No Deal is a good option and puts the UK in a worse trading position than any major European nation.

Speaking ahead of crunch meetings between UK PM Boris Johnson’s final round of talks with President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, Mr MacNeil says he is pessimistic for what lies ahead.

He has had talks with many bodies across industries in his capacity as Chair of the International Trade Committee of the House of Commons and none have outlined the benefits of Brexit, whether the outcome is Deal or No Deal.

He said: “I have had many conversations about Brexit over the last couple of years, they have got worse and more intensely concerning as time goes on.

“Industries are actually complaining that the UK Government is not listening to them.

“Many people will have heard the news that Honda have stopped manufacturing due to a lack of parts. This is no major surprise, manufacturing in the UK is going to be severely impacted by Brexit, especially just in time manufacturing relying on truckloads of components daily arriving at factories.

Haulage

“The most pivotal news comes from the Road Haulage Association who have an overview of traffic coming in and out of the UK and I think it is worth repeating some of things they have told me.

“85% of haulage to the UK is from EU lorries, 35% of those are Polish, 16% Spanish, with Slovak and Lithuanian being the next biggest groups.

“These carriers are paid by the kilometre; they have debt on tractor units, so they need to keep moving to be earning. Clearly with border friction and talk of tailbacks of up to 70 miles with two days to be cleared – in a worst-case scenario – does not make the UK an attractive destination for them.

 “The Road Haulage Association estimates that traffic between this part of Europe across the English Channel to continent of Europe will be between 65 and 85% if there is a deal and between 40 and 65% if there is no deal.

“The reality is that there is plenty of work for these lorries across Europe so to pay the debts on lorries, they don’t need to be parked up in Calais or Dover and not earning money. This is one of the likely coming harsh realities.”

Poultry

“Speaking to the British Poultry Council – deal or no deal, the price of chicken is going up. It will go up 5% in the case of a deal or 25% if No Deal as they find cost inputs rising as they lose part of their Euro markets for some of the meat that would have been sold.

 Animal medicine

“81% of animal medicines come from EU, this is a concern for sheep producers. That was been brought to my attention by those in animal veterinary services. This could become problem in the New Year as well.

Tariffs

“Tariffs may or may not be there depending if there is Deal or No Deal, but there will certainly be border friction, due to the many non-tariff barriers. The UK will be about the only sizable country in Europe outside both the Customs Union and Single Market.  Even traditional outliers of Iceland, Norway and Switzerland being in the Single Market will have more developed relationships with the EU than the UK, this is clearly going to impact trade.”

Transportation costs

“The cost of pallets is also going up, transportation of goods which have to be heat treated for travel at certain temperatures and their cost may double per wooden pallet.”

Driving permit and insurance

“For those who wish to travel to EU they will need an international driving licence, an international driving permit which is available at Post Office’s because the UK driving licence will no longer be acceptable in the EU anymore.

“Drivers may also need a “Green Card” to show car insurance abroad is valid if they are taking their own car abroad.”

Passports

“Passports will need at least 6 months validity. It is EU law for the Schengen passport area, coming in from outside the EU, you need 6 months validity. This will be the case for deal or no deal.”

Health Insurance

“European Health Insurance card is not valid from January 1 and travellers will need to have their own travel insurance and make sure it includes coverage for pre-existing conditions.

He added: “Essentially the easy right to free movement is gone and its evaporation is creating a lot of difficulties, a lot of form filling, a lot of costs are all going to be in the way and this is all thanks to the stupidity of Brexit hidden by the misinformation of leading Brexiteers.

 “I did note also in the news in the last few days, one of the leading Brexiteer voices, Jim Radcliffe, Chief Executive of INEOS, who is developing an off road vehicle, unbelievably he has chosen to construct it in France which is in the EU, as opposed to constructing in the UK.

 “It just about sums up the crazy situation the UK finds itself in now.

“The best advice would be to abandon Brexit at this stage but unfortunately that doesn’t look to be happening.

“Now more than ever it makes sense for Scotland to be a normal independent nation, we in Scotland voted against this crazy choice but the expected worst impacted area in all of the UK and Europe from Brexit will be the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

“In short, food prices are going up, haulage is more difficult and general everyday hassles will be increasing.”

Isles MP writes to First Minister for clarification on Christmas travel dates

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has today written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon for clarification on travel rules over the festive period.

Families are permitted to create a family bubble for the Christmas holiday period for five days from 23rd to 27th December. This does not, however, permit travel days on the 22nd or 28th. This is in contrast to Northern Ireland where travel to and from the bubble is permitted on those dates.

That means that families in or from the islands would lose two days for travel. Mr MacNeil is asking the First Minister to look at this matter again.

Mr MacNeil said: “I have written to Nicola Sturgeon to clarify this. The Scottish islands are further away from the Scottish mainland than Northern Ireland is for instance and it would seem anomalous that a day’s travel would be given to Northern Ireland and not be given to the Scottish islands.

“I imagine this is something that has been overlooked but it is causing some anxiety for people and clarity is urgently required on this by the First Minister.

“I would expect alterations to be forthcoming and it would be brought in line with the Northern Irish situation.

“Some people face long ferry journeys from the Scottish islands to and from the mainland and often it is weather dependent as well.

“I look forward to this being clarified very soon.”

Arnish concerns and hopes

Don’t give up on hopes of a future for Arnish yard, says Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil, as yard operator Bifab enters administration.

Mr MacNeil has been in regular contact with the local workers, HIE, the Scottish Government and the UK Government regarding the future of Bifab regularly over the last three years when concerns first arose.

He has been disappointed by the actions of the UK Government over Contracts for Difference (CfD) and unfortunately there is no legal route for the Scottish Government to assist.

Mr MacNeil said: “It is a huge pity that this has happened but for as long as the UK Government didn’t ensure these Contracts for Difference (CfDs) contracts remained here, they were allowed to go overseas. This difficulty was always on the cards. 

“I have no doubt that people will be interested in Arnish yard, as many quarters have told me of the quality work and the good work culture there.

“However, such interest will be at a very early stage and people understandably have to remain tight lipped and we can hope things develop well for the future.”

MP reiterates support for efforts to retain Air Traffic Control in the islands

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil has reiterated his support for Air Traffic Control staff who are continuing their battle against the plans by HIAL to move forward with the Remote Towers project.

Prospect union, representing staff across the Highlands and Islands, state the HIAL’s assertion that there will be no redundancies is misleading given that the plan is to close workplaces and relocate jobs to mainland locations.

Mr MacNeil said: “From the beginning, HIAL have had an agenda of trying to undermine the economic prospects of the islands. They are not Highlands and Islands Airports but Inverness Airports. It has not been good enough. The Scottish Government should step in and take control of this and protect our islands.”

Prospect are currently balloting members about future industrial action and they state that this will cause as little disruption to local communities as possible starting after the holiday period.

It is also stressed that any industrial action with have no impact on emergency cover.

Isles MP backs staff call to prevent Remote Air Traffic Control

Isles MP Angus MacNeil is backing calls by Prospect Union to protect island jobs by opposing the centralisation of Air Traffic Control functions to Inverness.

Prospect members in Air Traffic Control at Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) are to be balloted on industrial action over HIAL’s plans to push on with its remote towers project.

Commenting Mr MacNeil said: “This is an inevitable consequence of HIAL’s high handed approach to people’s jobs and livelihoods and damaging the island economy by taking critical, well paid jobs out of the area.  It is time now for the Scottish Government to step in.

“HIAL’s answers have not been good enough. Air Traffic Control staff and the public deserve better. The Transport Minister needs to get involved and our Air Traffic Control services need to be kept in Benbecula and Stornoway.”

Prospect have stressed that any industrial action will have no effect on emergency services and if action is taken it will be after the Christmas holiday period.

MP calls for local Covid testing for offshore workers to avoid unnecessary travel

MP calls for local Covid testing for offshore workers to avoid unnecessary travel

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus MacNeil has written to Jeanne Freeman MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Health regarding offshore workers who require to take a Covid-19 test prior to returning to work.

Many islanders are employed across the world working offshore and their employers are routinely asking their staff to be tested prior to returning to their place of work.  NHS Western Isles will only test people with Covid symptoms. 

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:

“NHS Western Isles will only test people who show Covid symptoms and this means that workers are having to make needless journeys during this pandemic to all corners of Scotland to get a Covid test, potentially exposing themselves to the risk of catching the virus.

“These workers are getting tested at their own or employers’ expense and I know that there is capacity available in the Western Isles to carry out these tests. I have suggested to the Health Secretary that perhaps some arrangement could be reached that would be satisfactory to the companies, the staff and to the Scottish Government that would end the needless and risky travel across Scotland.   

“At a time of travel restrictions it seems counter-productive to expect people to do additional travelling to get a Covid test.  I would say the solution would be to enable NHS Western Isles to test these workers and a financial arrangement probably entered into. This would benefit the workers, employers and particularly public health.”

Isles MP contacts SFA regarding Scotland Team Kit Sales

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus MacNeil has written to the SFA Chief Executive, Iain Maxwell to clarify the exclusive rights JD Sports have on the sale of Scotland national football team kits.

This issue was brought to Mr MacNeil’s attention after a constituent had tried to purchase a Scotland top in the local sports shop.

Commenting Mr MacNeil said:

“Scotland qualifying for Euro 2021 is a fantastic achievement and it is good news that people are interested in buying the Scotland team kit, but I am disappointed to hear that it is not possible to buy Scotland merchandise in independent shops.

“I have written to Iain Maxwell, Chief Executive of the SFA to clarify why they have given JD Sports exclusive rights to the sale of these goods.

“I know of many Scotland fans in remote areas who would welcome the opportunity to be able to buy official Scotland merchandise in the run up to Christmas and particularly during this period of travel restrictions when people would not wish to or are not allowed to travel to more populous areas where JD Sports Shops tend to be located.

“I have asked Mr Maxwell if allowing independent shops to sell the tops is something the SFA would consider.”

ENDS

Brexit set to hit Outer Hebrides hard – but Scottish Independence could be rescue plan says Isles MP

Brexit is on course to be hugely damaging to the Outer Hebrides, warns Na H-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil who says the only route of escape is through Scottish Independence.

Latest statistics from the CNA Competitiveness map of Europe show the Highlands and Islands of Scotland will be the most adversely affected part of Europe.

Production costs may rise up to 4.5% and industries such as agriculture are expected to be impacted negatively. Currently 90% of medical supplies for sheep are imported from the EU.

The UK will leave the European Union in just 44 days and Mr MacNeil warns again that the repercussions of Brexit with or without a deal will be hugely negative for the economy.

He said: “Brexit looks to be very damaging for the Outer Hebrides.

“On the CNA Competitiveness map of Europe, the most damaged part by Westminster’s Brexit is the Highlands and Islands.

“It is again frightening to see that the most damaged part of Europe by London’s Brexit is going to be the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

“Ireland of course escapes as much damage because it is independent. Other parts of Europe will of course be damaged but nowhere is damaged as much as the UK and nowhere in the UK as much as the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

“Our only escape from this nonsense – walking out of a trade block and erecting barriers to trade and damaging the economy –  is of course Scottish Independence when like Ireland we can make our own decisions and not be damaged by crazy fantasies emanating from Westminster and the Tories.

“As Chair of the International Trade Committee I’ve spoken to many sectors of UK business and nobody is looking forward to Brexit. Many foresee difficulties and shortages – from animal medicines, from increased food prices – such as UK produced chicken being more expensive regardless of whether there is a deal or no deal. It is quite shocking that UK chicken will be more expensive in the UK because of Brexit but these are the problems Brexit is creating.

“The only hope Scotland has in the midst of this is to become independent and it is heartening to see that a growing number of Scots are joining the 58% of Scots who already want the country to be independent.

“The majority of Scots want independence and no wonder, when we see the mis-governance and the ship heading for the rocks that is Brexit, coming up very soon.”

ENDS

MP welcomes SSE plan to engage with community organisations on impact of power cable failure

Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) have confirmed to Isles MP Angus MacNeil this week that they are taking action to assess the scale of impact of the subsea power cable failure on community organisations.

Mr MacNeil said community wind farm developers such as Point and Sandwick Trust in the islands had been hit hard by the loss of power cable, leaving them unable to export energy and therefore unable to financially support local charities and organisations.

He wrote to SSE last week asking what compensation could be offered to wind farm developers and received a response stating that they are now undertaking an analysis. He has a scheduled meeting with SSE later this week and has also written to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Strategy Alok Sharma seeking detail of any compensation which might be available.

Mr MacNeil said: “I wrote to SSE to express concerns regarding the effect of the cable failure on community wind farm developers. They replied to confirm that they are aware of the issue and are gathering further information at this stage.

“They are conducting an impact analysis and as part of this, they will be contacting community organisations to assess the scale of impact on revenue for community services.

“I hope to have more detail on this in due course.”

MP commends NHS staff and community for strong efforts to contain local Covid-19 outbreak

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil has today (Friday) written to the Chief Executive of NHS Western Isles to commend the local NHS staff and communities of North and South Uist, Berneray, Benbecula and Eriskay for their efforts to supress the spread of Covid-19 during the most recent island outbreak.

NHS Western Isles have confirmed that the outbreak has now officially come to an end as more than 14 days have passed since confirmation of the last positive case associated with the outbreak.

In a letter to Chief Executive Gordon Jamieson, Mr MacNeil said: “I am writing today to thank you and your staff for all the work done to end the outbreak of Covid-19 in South Uist.

“It is testament to the work of NHS Staff, Test and Trace and to the community of South Uist that this outbreak was contained in the way it was and very pleasing to read that we have now had 14 days without a further case.

“The speed of the outbreak and the sad death of the Care Home resident reminds us all of the dangers associated with this virus and as you have said we must all remain vigilant. I would be grateful if you would pass on my thanks to the Staff of NHS Western Isles and their partner agencies for their work in dealing with this outbreak and the ongoing work of the current pandemic.”

To access testing in the Western Isles, contact the COVID-19 Response Team on 01851 601151 or email: wi-hb.covid19queries@nhs.net The phoneline will be staffed from 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday with an answering machine available out with those hours.

Alternatively you can complete the online COVID-19 Testing Programme Referral Form (NHS Western Isles) https://www.coronavirus.wi.nhs.scot/?page_id=2195 ocked0 L