No-Deal Brexit 'Disaster' Could Hit Food And Medicine Supplies, Warns Sturgeon

14 February 2019, 05:55

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon has warned a no-deal Brexit "disaster" could damage supplies of food and vital medicines, as she confirmed the Scottish Government was to "intensify" contingency plans ahead of the UK's departure from the European Union.

The UK is due to quit the EU in just over six weeks' time, on March 29 - with the Scottish First Minister warning if no agreement is in place by then "the availability and the price of food and drink are likely to be significantly affected".

This would have the greatest impact on the most vulnerable Scots, she added, as she repeated calls for Theresa May to immediately rule out leaving without a deal in place.

Ms Sturgeon spoke after the Scottish cabinet and the Scottish Government's Resilience Committee met in Glasgow to discuss Brexit preparations.

Earlier, a report from Scotland's chief economist had warned that a no-deal Brexit would see a "major dislocation" to the Scottish economy.

In his latest State of the Economy report, chief economic adviser Gary Gillespie indicated that disruptions to logistics, supply, trade, investment, migration and market confidence could cause a "significant structural change in the economy".

The analysis suggested that although the country had experienced a "positive year" economically, with growth in areas such as exports and high labour market performance, uncertainty around the UK's withdrawal from the EU remained a "live risk".

And while Scotland's economy is expected to grow by between 1% and 1.5% over 2019, the report stressed this would need to be reconsidered if the UK fails to agree a departure deal with the EU.

Ms Sturgeon indicated the "reckless approach" of Mrs May's Government to Brexit negotiations meant leaving without a deal in place "increasingly appears to be the most likely outcome".

In these circumstances she warned: "There will be severe impacts on Scotland - on food supply, on medicines, on transport, on jobs, for our rural communities, all of which are completely unnecessary if the UK Government acts now.

"It is expected that the availability and the price of food and drink are likely to be significantly affected, with a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable in our society."

The First Minister added: "With less than 50 days to go until Brexit, there is still no clarity whatsoever about the future relationship with the EU.

"We will continue to call on the UK Government to immediately rule out the possibility of a 'no-deal' Brexit and extend the Article 50 process.

"However, as a responsible government we will also continue, and indeed intensify, our work to prepare for all outcomes as best we can."

A UK Government spokesman said: "The best way to avoid no deal is for Parliament to agree a deal.

"Our deal is the best deal available for jobs and the economy across the whole of the UK, allowing us to honour the referendum and realise the opportunities of Brexit."

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said the State of the Economy report "shows the urgent need for Theresa May to take the threat of a no-deal Brexit off the table".

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: "The Scottish economy is fragile, with low growth and businesses and consumers worried about the future.

"Conservative neglect and Labour compliance has taken us to the brink of a no-deal Brexit which would devastate the Scottish economy. It's clearer than ever that we need a People's Vote and an exit from Brexit."