Brexit impact on West Lothian two years on

Two years after leaving the EU, the real costs of Brexit are becoming clear to many West Lothian businesses.

By Stuart Sommerville, LDR
Tuesday, 8th February 2022, 3:00 pm
File photo of an EU and Union flag held aloft in Westminster, London.
File photo of an EU and Union flag held aloft in Westminster, London.

SNP group leader Councillor Janet Campbell has told how Brexit costs are adding to every facet of daily life, from medicines to door locks. In her work as a community nurse, she said she had witnessed real difficulties in obtaining vital wound dressing and medications. There was also a heightened anxiety about the supply of insulin, she told a meeting of the council’s Partnership and Resources Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel (PDSP).

Brexit has also started to hit many of West Lothian’s small businesses in both their import and export trade and with extra costs. And difficulties could loom with even fundamentals such as electronic door systems and lift parts – many of which are manufactured in Germany .

Giving a horizon scan report on the national, Scottish and West Lothian economies to the PDSP, the head of finance Donald Forrest detailed effects which had hit since Brexit. The UK economy is currently around the same size as it was in early 2015, after Covid-19 and possibly Brexit wiped out five years of economic growth in little more than a year.

His report said: “Official UK figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) in July showed the UK recorded a record fall in trade with the EU in January 2021, as the economy struggled with post-Brexit rules and the Covid-19 pandemic; they were still lower in July 2021 compared with pre-Brexit figures.”

And Mr Forrest answered a question from Cllr Campbell about the impacts on small West Lothian businesses due to disruption, agreeing that there is still uncertainty. He added: “There are a number of issues which businesses have experienced as running deeper than teething troubles.”

Cllr Campbell said that smaller businesses were experiencing a “double whammy” because they had to rely on combined shipping export methods which was proving even more difficult and time consuming to export than sending a full container of one specific item.

Councillor Lawrence Fitzpatrick, chairing the meeting, agreed with a request from Cllr Campbell asking economic development officers if they could circulate figures for the cost impact of Brexit on local businesses.

Councillor Campbell asked how confident council officers were that they could maintain supplies of parts for infrastructure such as lifts and door entry systems much of which are manufactured by German engineering firms.

Mr Forrest said: “ We have done quite a lot of work around building resilience. We have ordered in spares to make sure we have some stocks of really critical parts.

“We have built in a bit of resilience and work very closely with our supply chains to maintain stock that will prevent service outage.”​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​