Fact check: the difference between single market membership and ‘access’

There was a time when the Tories supported single market membership. They now appear to have changed their minds.


Instead of single market membership, they’re talking about ‘access’. It’s a con.
Here’s what you need to know.


There’s barely a country on earth that doesn’t have ‘access’ to the single market – from Albania to Zambia. But it is access at a price – sometimes a high price.

What matters are the terms of that trade. Full membership of the single market means firms from Scotland can trade on the same terms and under the same rules as all other single market members – without tariffs and quotas.

Put simply, the aim of the EU’s single market is to make it as easy to trade between Edinburgh and Dusseldorf as it is between Edinburgh and Dundee. ‘Access’ doesn’t allow for that.

Here’s what BBC ‘Reality Check’ has to say:

Any countries that are not subject to trade sanctions can trade with members of the single market…But there is a big difference between being able to trade with the single market and being a member of it. For instance, the United States sells into the single market but there are no common safety standards for goods such as fridges or cars and tariffs and quotas may be imposed on its products.


The single market is eight times the size of the UK market.

The single market has been achieved by removing barriers to trade and having a single set of trade rules across all member states. It’s a market of over 500 million consumers – that’s eight times the size of the UK market.


Leaving the single market would damage our economy, jobs, living standards and mean less money for our public services.

A hard Tory Brexit, outside the single market, would damage our economy, jobs and living standards.

The Fraser of Allander Institute estimates that after 10 years a ‘hard Brexit’ – outside the single market – could cost up to 80,000 jobs and see wages cut by £2,000 a head per year.

And, Scottish Government analysis estimates that a ‘hard Brexit’ would see public spending reduced by up to £3.7 billion a year. That’s more than double the annual budget for Scotland’s universities and colleges.

That’s not what Scotland voted for.


The Scottish Government is the only administration in the UK to publish a plan to protect Scotland’s Place in Europe.

The Scottish Government proposals seek to ensure Scotland continues to benefit from the European single market in addition to – not instead of – free trade across the UK.

If the Tories insist on a hard Brexit, cast aside Scotland’s interests and our voice, then it is right for people to have the opportunity to choose a better future for Scotland in an independence referendum.


The ball is in Theresa May’s court.

Read all about the Scottish Government’s plan here.