Scotland needs to stay in both the UK’s and the EU’s single markets, writes Labour MP Ian Murray.
Well, what a year that has been. The last 12 months at Westminster have been completely dominated by the issues around Brexit.
Nothing much has really moved on, in fact the UK Government couldn’t have made more of a mess of the last 12 months if they tried. They even called snap election and failed. Next year will be crucial for the UK as the EU divorce agreement and a framework on the future relationship will have to be in place by October to allow the individual parliaments of the 27 remaining members states to ratify the arrangements. The clock is ticking fast towards these deadlines and many of the biggest issues are unresolved.
There is an easy solution to these problems: negotiate staying in the single market and the customs union. That way the economic stability of the UK is assured and problems with the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic and the Good Friday Peace agreement would be avoided.
The UK Government has taken this option off the table and I can’t fathom why. They want “all the same benefits” of the single market and the customs union but don’t want to be part of the very things that would give them those benefits.
The important aspect is how it affects people. Inflation is at its highest level for six years which means everyday goods will be more expensive than last year. Wages continue to stagnate as standards of living fall. Interest rates are increasing to combat inflation.
A report out this week calculates that pretty much every Brexit scenario leaves the UK worse-off, with a no-deal Brexit being the worst outcome of all. The real tragedy is the economic damage being wreaked by Brexit will fall largely on the shoulders of those least able to bear it. For everyone, the sunlit uplands of Brexit promised by the Leave campaign look increasingly like a mirage.
Then comes the disingenuous nature of the debate. The SNP argue, rightly, that the EU single market is good for Scotland. It is. But they also argue the UK single market is bad. They are wrong. The Conservatives argue, rightly, that the UK single market is good for Scotland but the EU single market is bad. They are wrong. The fact is both single markets benefit Scotland.
These contradictory arguments are compounded by the ludicrous claims by the Conservative Government that there will be no border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, with “frictionless” trade and regulatory harmonisation. This is essentially a description of the customs union. It can’t be achieved.
Remember in 2014 the argument that Scotland being independent would mean a border between Scotland and England? This is correct. You can’t have different regulations on goods, services and people without having to check them at the border. The Conservatives are now arguing the opposite for the island of Ireland in the context of Brexit. These intellectually incoherent arguments only go to show that the Conservatives ideological drive towards a harmful Brexit are as grave a threat to the future of Scotland in the UK as the SNP.
The only way to resolve these issues and protect the UK union is to stay in the single market and customs union. To argue that you can have your Christmas cake and eat it is not being honest with the public. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.