Last night the Labour Party abstained on a crucial vote aimed at protecting the UK’s place in the customs union. I find this particularly difficult to understand given that the amendment the House voted on was in the name of the Labour Member for Edinburgh South, Ian Murray.
The UK Government has said that they would like to ensure that UK-EU trade in as frictionless as possible and I am sure this is an objective all of us across the House share.
We currently enjoy tariff-free access across the EU and the other countries that form the EEA. As the Government’s white paper highlighted, this has benefited businesses and consumers all across the UK and is essential for sectors like the automotive or food and drink industries that have highly integrated supply chains and rely on this ease of trade.
This is particularly true for time-dependent supply chains, such as fresh foods, medical goods, e-commerce, or just-in-time manufacturing, that do not have to go through routine customs controls.
In Scotland, international exports are up 41% between 2007 and 2015. We also know that our exports to the EU ultimately support over 300,000 jobs across Scotland. Our continued membership is absolutely critical not only in protecting jobs but ensuring the economic stability our SMEs need to flourish.
Your Shadow Treasury Minister stated that Labour’s position is to leave all options on the table. Last night’s vote was a chance to take a no-deal scenario off the table, something which would give businesses clarity and would send a positive message to our partners in Europe.
Passing the amendments would have paved the way to stay in the EEA, as that would have been the only practical way to achieve what was proposed. From there, the UK Government could have negotiated from a position of strength and removed the uncertainty of a no-deal scenario. If it then wished to exit the EEA and create new trade and customs arrangements with the world largest single market, it could still propose a new Bill to Parliament for these purposes.
Can you clarify that Labour’s decision to abstain on the vote last night was an instruction from yourself as Party Leader and that your position is for the UK to leave the customs union?
SNP Westminster Group Leader