Devolved finance ministers call for Brexit clarity from UK

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Finance ministers from the UK and devolved governments met in Edinburgh

Finance ministers from the three devolved administrations have called for more clarity from the UK government about its approach to Brexit.

The Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish finance ministers met Treasury chief David Gauke in Edinburgh on Tuesday.

Following this “quadrilateral” meeting, the devolved representatives said they were “disappointed” not to learn more about the potential impact of Brexit.

Mr Gauke said he was pleased to discuss economic priorities with the ministers.

Prime Minister Theresa May has said the UK government had a mandate to negotiate on behalf of all its nations, but insisted she was committed to working with the devolved administrations.

The meeting in Edinburgh was attended by Mr Gauke, Scottish Finance Secretary Derek Mackay, Welsh Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford and Northern Irish Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir.

Following the meeting, the Scottish government said the ministers had hoped for more assurances from the UK government of “meaningful engagement” over its approach to Brexit.

A spokesman said the ministers had “underlined the economic and public finance challenges this lack of clarity presents”.

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Máirtín Ó Muilleoir / Twitter

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Derek Mackay and Máirtín Ó Muilleoir both voiced disappointment with the UK government approach

Mr Mackay said it was “essential” for the devolved administrations to be “at the heart of any decision making”.

He said: “We need clarity from the UK government as we have the right to have our say on how devolved budgets and our economy will be affected by a hard Brexit.

“We have been clear, keeping Scotland in the European single market is absolutely essential for Scottish jobs, investment and long-term economic wellbeing.”

‘Intensify discussions’

Mr Drakeford agreed that a so-called “hard” Brexit, with the UK leaving the single market altogether, would be “highly damaging” to the Welsh economy.

He said: “We have repeatedly called for full and unfettered access to the single market in our negotiations with the UK government. Our economy is closely integrated into the single market and our success in attracting foreign investment owes much to this access.

“The fact of Brexit is not in doubt but we need to ensure a good outcome for Wales. We will continue our discussions with the UK government through the Joint Ministerial Council but we need to see these discussions intensify over the next few weeks as the triggering of Article 50 approaches.”

Mr Ó Muilleoir added: “I have previously been on record saying that there is a lack of understanding of the calamitous effects that Brexit would have on our local economy and there has been no appreciation of the need for a special status for the North within the EU. Nothing I have heard today changes that.”

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Mr Gauke said he was focused on “creating the right environment for Scottish businesses to thrive”

Mr Gauke said ministers had also discussed the upcoming UK government budget and the economic outlook.

He said he was focused on “raising productivity and creating the right environment for Scottish businesses to thrive”.

He said: “The UK government and devolved administrations must continue to work together to maximise opportunities to boost the UK economy and support businesses across the country. I was pleased therefore to meet my ministerial counterparts today to look ahead to Budget and discuss our economic priorities.”

Mr Gauke also attended a round-table meeting with business leaders in Dunfermline, noting that “Fife’s businesses have ambitious plans for the future”, and toured the Edinburgh Gin Distillery in the capital.

Robin Walker, the UK government’s minister for exiting the European Union, also visited Scotland, attending events in Fort William, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

He said: “It’s vitally important that we get a deal that works for all of the UK, and Scotland’s voice will be heard loud and clear as we prepare for the upcoming negotiations.

“Over the past two days I’ve spoken to people across Scotland, many with extensive experience in their sector, ensuring their views are heard as they are hugely important to us as we continue to form our negotiating strategy.”

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