Leave vote offers ‘great opportunity’, says culture secretary

Leave vote offers ‘great opportunity’, says culture secretary

The vote to leave the EU provides “a great opportunity”, culture secretary John Whittingdale told the British Hospitality Summit yesterday as he promised industry leaders: “You’re going to have a voice.”

Whittingdale, who campaigned for a vote to leave, said: “Britain can do better looking outward than inward to Europe while maintaining close relations with our European allies.”

He said: “This is a time of change but also of great opportunity. We have so much to offer – extraordinary heritage, beautiful landscapes, great sports events, art and music. That was the case last week and it will be the case next week. What has changed is that we have new opportunities.”

Whittingdale acknowledged: “This is a period of uncertainty [and] I understand the concerns about the process.”

But he added: “The pound has fallen, which makes visiting Britain more attractive than going abroad.

“A lot of regulations to come out of Europe have been completely sensible and we’ll keep them. But there are regulations we have never supported and we could now remove.

“If we wanted to abolish VAT on accommodation now we could do so. I’m not promising to do it, but we now have the freedom.”

Whittingdale said: “The process is going to take a bit of time.” But he told UK tourism leaders: “You are going to have a voice – that is why we strengthened the Tourism Industry Council which feeds into the tourism inter-ministerial group.

“In the next year or more, while we have these discussions, I want you to have the maximum opportunity to make clear your priorities and we’ll try to deliver those.”

He also insisted: “We’ll continue to welcome visitors from Europe and we in Britain will continue to visit other countries in Europe.”

However, Fiona Hyslop, Scottish Government cabinet secretary for culture, tourism and external affairs, told the summit: “The Scottish Government is deeply disappointed in the outcome of the referendum.

“Our objective is to protect Scotland’s interests and we’ll look at all options to do that, including the right to call a further independence referendum.”

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