My message to Theresa May on Brexit: live up to your promises to Scotland

Today I’m in Cardiff for a crucial Joint Ministerial Council on Brexit with the Prime Minister and the governments of Wales and Northern Ireland.

After months of silence, it’s now becoming clear that Theresa May has thrown in her lot with the hard right of the Tory party, who want to sever all of the UK’s economic ties with Europe.
This isn’t some academic debate – what happens over the next few months will have enormous consequences for the economy, for jobs, for living standards and, indeed, for the kind of society we are going to be in future.
Although the Tories would love you to forget this, Scotland overwhelmingly voted to Remain in the EU – and we face being dragged out of the EU against our will.
Think about this: when the Article 50 Bill appears before the House of Commons, Scottish Secretary David Mundell will be the only MP in the whole of Scotland to vote in favour of it.
A Tory government that Scotland overwhelmingly did not vote for is trying to force upon Scotland a Brexit vote which we overwhelmingly didn’t vote for.


The Tories think they can do whatever they want to Scotland and they’ll get away with it.
But I’ll be delivering a very clear message to Theresa May today – they can’t.
There is little doubt that a hard Brexit will be economically disastrous.
For example, the independent Fraser of Allander Institute recently estimated that leaving the single market – the world’s largest – would cost 80,000 jobs in Scotland and see average wages reduced by £2000 over a decade.
That’s why, in December, the Scottish Government put forward detailed compromise proposals which would allow Scotland to remain in the single market even if the rest of the UK withdrew.
Having assured me that she would consider our proposals carefully, the Prime Minister needs to demonstrate that she has done so.
This is becoming all the more pressing when we learn about what exactly the Tories plan to do when they get out of the single market.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the Chancellor said that if the EU did not give the UK its own way in trade talks, then the Tories would seek to undercut the EU with aggressive cuts to taxes and business regulation.
This may be music to the ears of the many hard right Brexiteers who have taken over the government – but for the rest of us, it means a race to the bottom on workers’ rights, wages, and wider social and environmental protections.
Let’s not forget that former Tory Chancellor Nigel Lawson recently boasted that Brexit allows the Tories to – in his words – finish the job that Margaret Thatcher started.
So I’ll be asking Theresa May to categorically rule out turning the UK into some kind of tax haven in which ordinary working people will be the big losers.
The last time the Joint Ministerial Council met, I left feeling it had been a waste of time, with no answers given by the Prime Minister to the many very pressing questions about Brexit.
I will not accept the same outcome today – time is running out for the Prime Minister to live up to her promises to Scotland.
This article originally appeared in the Daily Record.

Read more about our plan to keep Scotland in the European Single Market here.