Ash Denham: We need a seat at the Brexit table

Scotland voted decisively to Remain in the European Union. Picture: PA
Scotland voted decisively to Remain in the European Union. Picture: PA
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One year has passed since the EU referendum, when the UK voted to leave the European Union – but Scotland voted decisively to Remain.

It’s staggering that a whole year on, and after starting the countdown to leaving by triggering Article 50, the UK government is still floundering hopelessly.

Ash Denham is SNP MSP for Edinburgh Eastern

Ash Denham is SNP MSP for Edinburgh Eastern

Theresa May, once a Remainer, claimed that a narrow UK-wide vote to Leave was a mandate not just for Brexit but to leave the single market and the customs union – even though some on the Leave side argued for a Norway-style deal.

But after calling a general election to give a mandate to that hard Brexit position, Theresa May found herself returned without a majority – and now leads a Tory Party that is once again tearing itself apart over Europe.

Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Tories, who argued after the Brexit vote that remaining in the single market should be our “overriding priority”, quickly fell into line behind Theresa May’s agenda for a disastrous hard Brexit. That hard Brexit could cost 80,000 jobs across Scotland.

Edinburgh would be especially hard hit. Our hospitals, universities, and many businesses employ EU nationals, and their right to live and work in Edinburgh is currently in limbo. Financial services firms may lose passporting abilities that allow them to offer services across the EU. Despite representing part of Edinburgh as I do, the damage Brexit poses to the Capital is apparently lost on Ruth Davidson.

The promises made by the Leave campaign – we all remember the big red bus promising £350 million a week for the NHS – were quickly forgotten.

All we are left with is a confused and chaotic Tory Party, with a weakened mandate, intent on dragging us out of the single market and customs union.

Just this week, on day one of negotiations, the Brexit Secretary David Davis, having promised the “fight of the summer” over the negotiating timetable, capitulated immediately and backed the EU’s proposed timetable.

And their ongoing struggle to convince the DUP to prop up the Tories in government shows just how weak the Tories are as they enter the negotiations with Brussels.

How can anyone have confidence in the Tories to negotiate a good Brexit deal for Scotland on key issues such as our universities, immigration, culture, our rural economy, the possibility of travel visas, the future of fisheries and on trade?

Why should Edinburgh – which has been ranked a top place in the world to live and start a business – risk losing its prosperity at the hands of an incapable Tory government? The general election result means that single market membership should be firmly back on the table – and the Tories need to get out of their bunker and lead a cross-party, four-nation negotiating position.

That means giving the Scottish Government a seat at the negotiating table – allowing Scotland’s voice to be heard in these negotiations and giving us the chance to stop the Tories from trading away our jobs and industries in the Brexit process.

These negotiations are some of the most important that Scotland has ever faced – and it is only right that Scotland has a seat at the table.

Ash Denham is SNP MSP for Edinburgh Eastern