SNP says independence support will be boosted by Labour and Tory Brexit stance

Caitlin Logan

Labour accused of failing to oppose hard Brexit as MP claims there is “no such thing” as the single market

THE SNP has lambasted Labour for failing to take a strong enough stance against Tory plans for a hard Brexit and have suggested Scottish voters are likely to turn to independence as a result, after Scottish Labour MP Paul Sweeney argued that there was “no such thing” as the single market.

Quizzed on Good Morning Scotland about his party’s position on the single market and customs union after leaving the EU, Sweeney said: “It’s inevitable that the UK as a member state of the European Union will have to withdraw from the single market and customs union as a first step.

“The question is then what structures do we negotiate our access to? Is it going to be a new bespoke relationship, or is it going to be through other structures such as the European Free Trade Association, the European Economic Area?”

READ MORE: Explainer: Breaking down the Scottish Government’s Brexit impact study

Sweeney failed to be specific when questioned on Labour’s “ultimate aim”, while stating that they would wish to maintain “maintain maximum benefits of the single market and customs union”.

However, Sweeney would not agree that the ideal would be to remain in “the single market and customs union”, arguing instead that it would be “a single market and customs union”.

He said: “There’s no such thing as ‘the’. It’s not a single membership organisation, the membership organisation is the European Union. But what we can do is maintain benefits of participation within the single market that exists.”

SNP MSP George Adam said that by failing to make the case for maintaining membership of the single market, Labour was effectively “aiding and abetting right-wing Tory plans for an extreme Brexit which will do huge damage to the Scottish economy, jobs and living standards”.

He added that Sweeney’s remarks “underlined the vacuum at the heart of Labour policy on the biggest single issue facing the country”, and suggested that if Labour and the Tories fail to prevent a hard Brexit, support for independence will increase.

READ MORE: Every Brexit option will harm Scotland, says new Scottish Government study

He said: “If the only option for Scotland is being dragged out of Europe against our will, with all the massive economic harm that would do, then more and more people will see the value of taking decisions for ourselves in an independent Scotland.”

Figures leaked on Wednesday revealed that UK Government analysis of the economic impact of Brexit largely mirrors the bleak picture presented by the Scottish Government’s own analysis last month.

The leak indicates that economic growth in Scotland would be nine per cent slower as a result of leaving the EU, compared with the Scottish Government’s projection of 8.5 per cent.

A free trade agreement with the EU would mean Scotland’s growth would reduce by six per cent, according to the Treasury document – compared to 6.1 in the Scottish Government analysis – and if the UK remained within the single market, Scotland’s growth would slow by 2.5 per cent, compared with the 2.7 per cent projected in the Scottish report.

Describing Labour’s stance as “an utter disgrace”, Adam continued: “Scottish Labour’s position – in line with that of their London bosses – is utterly bizarre and inexcusable.

READ MORE: Leonard delivers first major speech as Scottish Labour leader

“They are doing literally nothing to fight the Tories’ chaotic Brexit plans, even now that we know from the UK Government’s own analysis how much economic damage will be done by a hard Brexit outside the single market.

“That will only see more and more people across Scotland, including Labour supporters who oppose Brexit, realise just how feeble the party is. It’s time for both Labour and the Tories to stand up to the hard Brexiteers and put jobs and the economy first.”

Responding to the leaked Brexit document on Wednesday, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard tweeted: “The leaked Brexit document confirms that we can’t trust the Tories to secure a good deal for Scotland and the rest of the UK.

“The sooner we have a snap election and elect a @UKlabour Govt and @JeremyCorbyn as PM the better for all involved.”

In his first major speech as party leader last month, Leonard was critical of the SNP’s proposals for Scotland to remain within the single market, saying: “Currently they argue for permanent membership of the single market without being a member of the EU.

“This would lead us to a position of being rule takers and not rule makers. We believe Scotland and the rest of the UK deserves better.”

Picture courtesy of Paisley Scotland

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