‘overwhelmingly negative across all areas of the UK economy’
The think-tank ‘UK in a Changing Europe’ jointly with Ipsos MORI recently (2 December) published a report entitled: ‘What do MPs think? – expectations, issues and identities’.
It presents the findings of a ‘representative survey’ of the views of MPs conducted by telephone interview between June and August 2021. Its intended purpose is to set out ‘where the House of Commons stands on key public policy issues for the country and its expectations for the future’.
We learn in the introduction to the report that: ‘Our analysis is focused particularly on the sample of Conservative and Labour MPs …’. And that’s eminently sensible of course! As things stand Tory and Labour MPs from English constituencies, in some numerical combination, do and always will dominate UK policy making and dominate UK parliamentary decision making. Therefore it is their views which have substantial impact on the people and businesses in a still dependent Scotland: what ‘they think’ remains most relevant for now.
A sub-set of issues addressed in the report are summarised below.
Future impact of Brexit on sectors in the UK economy
The difference in view amongst Tory and Labour MPs on this is stark. For almost all sectors, Tory MPs are, perhaps unsurprisingly, positive and bullish. This extends to agriculture and fisheries: 87% of Tory MPs consider Brexit will have a positive impact on these sectors despite concerns expressed by sector stakeholders.
Labour MPs are overwhelmingly negative on the impact of Brexit across all sectors of the UK economy despite, as the report puts it: ‘ultimately voting to back the deal in the House of Commons’ .
Relative economic impact of Brexit and Covid-19
Almost all Tory and Labour MPs think that the impact of Covid ‘overwhelmed’ everything else in the first half of 2021. However, looking ahead, the views on relative impact diverge. Some 87% of Labour MPs see Brexit as having the bigger economic impact on the UK over the next 5 years: just 38% of Tory MPs agree.
Effect of Brexit and Covid on regional inequality
On the Tory side 49% of MPs think neither Covid or Brexit will have a significant effect on regional economic inequality over the next five years. Whilst just 21% of Tories believe that Brexit will have a significant effect, 77% of Labour MPs think this.
Exercising democratic choice?
Taking together the three issues above – (i) the economic consequences for different sectors; (ii) the legacy of the two economic ‘shocks’ (one imposed on the UK by England’s voters); (iii) the effect on regional economies – a very large majority of Labour MPs hold the view that Brexit will have a significant negative economic impact across the UK over the longer term.
It is in the context of this overwhelming pessimism expressed by its MPs that it’s relevant to recall the policy position of Labour in Scotland. The party here can still seem in denial regarding the significance of Brexit and its negative outcomes for Scotland.
Despite a majority in Scotland by some margin NOT supporting the political party and NOT voting for the Westminster governments that brought about Brexit – and not forgetting Scotland’s ‘remain’ vote in 2016 – Labour’s position on the agency of Scotland’s electorate is unchanged. Officially at least, the party still wishes to deny voters here the opportunity to exercise democratic choice over how to address the very same Brexit consequences that its MPs view so negatively. Unionism trumps all?