As the UK government moves into the critical second phase of the Brexit negotiations, and with just ten months to go before a deal is due to be in place between the UK and EU, time is running out to prevent the unprecedented economic catastrophe of an extreme Tory Brexit.
We know that Tory plans to drag Scotland and the UK out of the world’s largest single market and customs union would destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs, and damage the incomes, livelihoods, and living standards of millions of people across the country.
Analysis from the Bank of England, Fraser of Allander Institute, London School of Economics, and many others, has revealed the devastating extent of a hard Brexit or ‘no deal’ scenario for Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
In Scotland alone we stand to lose 80,000 jobs and £2,000 per head under a Tory hard Brexit – a huge blow to the Scottish economy that would cause lasting harm to industries and communities across our nation for decades to come.
Earlier this week I organised a cross-party summit at Westminster – inviting the leaders of the opposition parties to hold talks, and coordinate our efforts, to protect Scotland and the UK’s vital place in the single market and customs union.
Short of remaining in the EU – as Scotland voted for by an overwhelming majority – protecting our single market membership is by far the best compromise, the least damaging option, and the only way to safeguard people's jobs, incomes, and living standards.
With the Brexit clock ticking it is now more important than ever that we have a united and effective opposition, putting differences aside, and working together in the national interest, to hold the UK government to account and retain our single market membership.
The Liberal Democrats, the Green Party, and Plaid Cymru joined the SNP at the summit, and together we committed to providing that strong opposition to a hard Brexit. It was, however, deeply disappointing that Jeremy Corbyn refused to attend and ruled out Labour’s involvement.
We know that a parliamentary majority for remaining in the single market is within touching distance if only Labour would get off the fence and get behind cross-party efforts.
Labour have claimed they want a “jobs-first” Brexit that somehow protects our economy, jobs, incomes, and living standards but, the reality is, there is no such thing as a “jobs-first” Brexit that involves terminating our single market membership – these outcomes are incompatible.
It is families, workers, businesses, and farmers that will ultimately pay the price for a hard Brexit - with a drastically restricted international market, lower wages, higher food and fuel prices, and a poorer standard of living.
The Tories and UKIP might be the driving force behind a hard Brexit but by refusing to join cross-party efforts Labour will be just as culpable for the lasting damage it would do to UK jobs and prosperity.
In the remaining weeks and months I hope the UK government, and Labour Party, will think again, and come to support the only sensible solution to preventing the biggest threat our economy faces.
Ian Blackford MP is leader of the SNP group at Westminster.
- The “Single Market” explained
- Nicola Sturgeon: A spirit of Scottish assertiveness will fight an extreme Brexit
- Scotland’s Brexit plan: what you need to know