The Brexit clock is ticking down but at this critical point the Tories, unbelievably, are too busy tearing themselves apart to consider the future for ordinary people. The prime minister is content to play a reckless game of risk, while the internal plotting against her reaches fever pitch.
The latest debacle has seen Jacob Rees-Mogg calling on the Tories to use their conference in Birmingham to unite against the “pointless” Chequers plan. It follows Boris Johnson’s refusal to rule out a leadership challenge. It’s difficult to imagine Theresa May in a weaker position. The prime minister insists there is a binary choice between a no-deal Brexit or her Chequers agreement.
That is a false and foolish narrative. In fact, without a change of course, we are facing one of two disasters: a blind Brexit or a no-deal Brexit.
Right across the country, we have seen sector after sector point out that a no-deal Brexit would be disastrous to their industry. It is clear that the instability and uncertainty that has engulfed Westminster politics for two years is causing huge anxiety and economic destruction. The Bank of England has said that Brexit is already costing £900 per household, as UK economic growth is lower than forecast. We already know that a no-deal Brexit could lead to a loss of 8.5% of GDP in Scotland by 2030 — equivalent to £2,300 per individual.
What is even more troubling, is that this uncertainty and instability could be set to continue, as the UK government’s “no-deal” scenario technical notices show that the uncertainty and regulatory burdens around Brexit will increase significantly. However, no one should be fooled that the consequences of a no-deal Brexit make May’s Chequers plan in any way acceptable. The EU has ruled out the key economic proposals on customs and access to the single market, which are at the heart of the Chequers plan. Her own party are tearing lumps out of the plan and each other.
All this means that with six months to go, the UK government has failed to set out workable, credible proposals to protect our economy and the future of citizens across all parts of the UK. Without an urgent change of approach, the best that we can hope for is an offering which lacks any meaningful detail: a blind Brexit, laced with as much risk as a no-deal Brexit.
It is grossly irresponsible of any government to pursue such a course.
Brexit has brought unprecedented challenges and, unfortunately, the UK government is yet to carve out the path to stop economic chaos. For the SNP, it is unacceptable for Scotland to be removed from the EU against our will. But if Brexit is to happen, then only continued membership of the single market and customs union can minimise the damage. When it comes to a vote in Westminster, the SNP’s MPs will always stand up for Scotland’s best interests. Indeed, the SNP has continually tried to work constructively with the UK government throughout this process.
The coming weeks and months will be crucial for all of us. The SNP at Westminster will work to protect and stand up for Scotland and the interests of all citizens and our constituents. What we have at present is a Tory government that Scotland did not elect doing exactly the opposite and inflicting economic harm on our country.
The prime minister has a choice — she can continue to put the narrow interests of her party ahead of the country or she can face down the extreme Brexiteers within her ranks. That means ruling out both a no-deal and blind Brexit outcome and committing to staying inside the single market and customs union. This is the prime minister’s last chance to listen.
Scotland didn’t vote for Brexit, we all know that. But if the UK is to leave Europe, we want the best deal for Scotland. Unlike Labour or the Tories, the SNP has a plan on Brexit that would, as far as possible, protect jobs and our economy.
At present the UK government looks like they’ll get a bad deal, or no deal at all. We don’t want to risk that. Latest research presents a stark picture of the economic shock a bad deal will have on Scotland – warning it will leave every Scot worse off by £2,300 a year, wipe out 80,000 jobs, and damage growth and business opportunities for decades.
The UK government urgently needs to change tack. And Norway’s deal with the EU points the way forward. Norway is not a member of the EU but, in almost all areas, Norwegian businesses trade across the EU without extra charges or barriers. That’s because Norway, like Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein, is in the Single Market.
Norway is one of the most successful countries in the world. It regularly tops the table for wealth, equality and living standards. In contrast, all evidence points to the UK’s current approach to Brexit being bad for household incomes and our economy.
So if the UK government won’t fight for a deal for the whole of the UK that protects jobs – we want one for Scotland. To do so, we think Scotland should get a Norway-style deal after Brexit, even if the Tory government negotiates for a bad deal for the whole of the UK.
We’re working with other parties – and the devolved government in Wales – to convince the UK government that if the UK is leaving the EU they need to get the best deal possible.