3 takeaways from Nicola Sturgeon’s speech on Scotland’s place in Europe

With less than six months to go before the UK is due to leave the EU, the Scottish Government has published a new paper outlining an alternative to the UK government’s damaging Brexit plans.

We know the UK government’s Chequers proposal is completely unworkable. That means we now appear to be left with the prospect of either no deal whatsoever, or a scenario where we leave the EU with very little detail at all, other than a vague commitment to future negotiations. Both of these options are completely unacceptable, not least for Scotland which voted to remain in the EU.

Scotland’s Place in Europe: Our Way Forward sets out an alternative plan. We believe that the best outcome, short of remaining in the EU, is for the UK as a whole to remain within the European Single Market and the Customs Union.

Here’s what you need to know.

1. The Chequers proposal is completely unworkable

The UK government’s Chequers proposal undermines the integrity of the European Single Market by demanding free movement for goods – but not services or people. This violates the negotiating position set out by the European Council in 2016, and will continue to be a red line for the EU.

In addition, the proposed splitting of goods and services poses significant risks to our economy. Services make up around three quarters of the Scottish economy and has enormous growth potential.

Similarly, ending free movement of people will jeopardise the success of many of our key economic sectors – from our farming and tourism sectors to our world class universities.

Latest research presents a stark picture of the economic shock a bad deal will have on Scotland – warning it will leave every Scot £2,300 a year worse off, wipe out 80,000 jobs and damage growth and business opportunities for decades.

Not only was this proposal roundly rejected by the EU, it has no majority in the House of Commons.

2. A no deal or blindfold Brexit would be disastrous

The UK government have published technical notes of their plans for a no deal Brexit. These notes have shone a light on the reality of a no deal Brexit.

Not only have companies been told to stockpile medicines, these technical notes have told us that flights could be grounded; businesses will face increased costs in importing and exporting; people who have lived and work in the EU could lose access to their pensions; and food safety will be jeopardised.

And just a few weeks ago, it was revealed the government has appointed a Minister for Food Security – someone whose job is to make sure we have enough food in the shops. A post we haven’t needed since since Winston Churchill was Prime Minister.

Leaving the EU without a deal, or a with blindfold deal, in which the UK leaves with no detail or guarantees on the future relationship, will be disastrous for jobs and living standards.

It is essential that the UK Government categorically rules out this prospect, and if more time is needed to avoid a no-deal Brexit or blindfold Brexit crisis then the UK Government should ask for an extension to the Article 50 process.

3. We have a realistic plan to protect jobs and the economy

We believe that the best outcome, short of continued EU membership, is for the UK to remain within the European Single Market and the Customs Union.

Analysis into the economic impact on Scotland leaving the EU shows that Scotland’s GDP would be £8.7 billion higher remaining in the Single Market than leaving the EU with no deal – confirming that if we are to mitigate the impact of Brexit we must stay in the Single Market and Customs Union. You can read more about the analysis here.

Our proposal would minimise the social and economic damage of leaving the European Union, while delivering a frictionless border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

If the UK Government does not take up this sensible and practical position, then given the strong desire of the people of Scotland to stay in the EU, the Scottish Government would pursue a differentiated approach for Scotland that would allow us to stay in the European Economic Area (EEA) as set out in Scotland’s Place in Europe.  

The SNP is strongly committed to giving Scotland a choice on our future at the end of the Brexit process. Our proposal on the European Single Market and Customs Union membership offers the strongest foundation – short of continued EU membership – should, in future Scotland choose to be independent and seek to rejoin the EU.