ON New Year’s Day, the curtain comes down on the UK’s long engagement with Europe’s noblest and greatest effort at collaboration and liberty, the European Union.

Our membership of a union that was forged out of the bloodshed of the Second World War, to seek to ensure that European nations would never go to war with each other again, has come to an end in a collective act of self-harm.

Our freedoms are to be slashed and an immense bureaucracy imposed on us as we enter these supposed new “sunlit uplands”.

Brexit is tinged with great sadness for many, especially north of the Border. Scotland did not vote to leave and the history of our nation is one that has seen strong relationships established with the continent. These were forged through extensive migrations at every level of society – including intellectuals, clerics, soldiers, traders, farmers and peasants – taking place over centuries.

For the UK and the EU, the near 50-year relationship has been good for both of us, despite the rancorous ending which has now been encapsulated in a 1246-page UK-EU free trade and co-operation agreement.

This, we were told, would give us all the benefits of EU membership without any of the obligations or financial costs. The deal which has been delivered has proved quite the opposite.

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Trade barriers will be erected – with increased red tape and regulations imposed on British companies – not eliminated as they were under the single market which allowed for the free movement of goods, capital, services and people.

Let us not forget, it was a Conservative prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, who was a key proponent of the single market, which ranks as one of the EU’s greatest achievements.

Goods will now be subject to new customs and regulatory checks, where previously our exporters were able to treat the EU as their home market. They will be painstakingly checked and controlled at EU borders. More than 200 million customs declarations will have to be filled in as lorries wait in new holding pens.

The economic costs will be huge. Limiting trade to this degree will be deeply damaging, with trade in goods and services set to be slashed. It will put a ball and chain around an economy already deeply damaged due to Covid-19 and slow down economic recovery. The Scottish Government has estimated that Scotland’s economy is facing a £9 billion hit by 2030 (compared with EU membership). Manufacturing, food and drink, agriculture and forestry all face a major risk of becoming uncompetitive.

The National: Manufacturing

In addition, it should be noted that our seed potato manufacturers are not protected by the free trade agreement. As a nation, Scotland prides itself on being one of the biggest exporters of potatoes for crisps and chips, amounting to around 80% of UK production, valued at around £112m a year.

And it is a deal that has drawn the ire of our fishermen, where it appears that the promise that they will “take back” full control of fishing waters is not all that it was cracked up to be.

Negative economic impacts are not a theoretical number, they are deeply damaging for individuals and communities, causing greater hardship and reducing opportunities. This all due to some outdated notion of sovereignty and “taking back control”.

This agreement, it should be noted, largely refers to goods, not services which make up 80% of the UK economy. Services are largely left out and there are up to 40 treaties affecting cross-border activities in the financial services industry alone that will need to be renegotiated.

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From New Year’s Day, UK citizens will lose their automatic right to work in the EU, one of the great benefits of the single market and will have to apply for a visa. British passport holders arriving at EU destinations will now have to queue with those from the rest of the world. Border controls will be far more intrusive and at some point in 2022 those visiting the EU will have to apply for a permit.

Students at universities in the UK will no longer be able to participate in the fantastic Erasmus exchange programme, which benefits 17,000 young people a year, and reduced EU migration will exacerbate shortages in key areas such as health and social care.

THE Brexit deal will also leave workers’ rights and climate and other environmental protections at serious risk of being eroded, with original commitments to maintain these considerably weaker than expected.

The EU, however, was much more than an economic project, measured in pounds and pence. It was an institution, which as highlighted before, was forged out of an idealistic objective to end the succession of wars that had wracked the continent.

Now more than ever, in terms of the global challenges we face, be it climate change, peace and security or global pandemics, no nation state alone can address these. They require collaboration, a level of co-ordination that was delivered though our membership of the EU.

As of New Year’s Day, we, as an example, leave the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, crucial in the fight against climate change co-operation. And our justice and security arrangements, including the European arrest warrant regime and access to relevant databases comes to an end, making our lives that little less secure.

Through Brexit our horizons have shrunk, we are now outside the forum where European states construct their alliances, thereby disabling ourselves from the great European game of balance of power politics we have played so well in a world of superpowers. The EU is not flawless, but the world is a better place for it and for the UK to turn its back on that is deeply damaging to our global influence.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen was right when she said, quoting TS Eliot, that in every end there is a beginning. The campaign for Scotland to rejoin the EU, to regain our lost rights and freedoms begins. Indeed, it has never stopped for organisations such as ours since we left the EU at the beginning of 2020, and it never will until we reverse this needless act of self-harm.

Alex Orr is policy adviser for the European Movement in Scotland