My article for the Edinburgh Evening News on the impact a hard Brexit will have on Edinburgh.
You can also read the article on the Evening News website.
Cities with large highly skilled service sectors have the most to lose from Brexit.
That’s why Edinburgh will be among the hardest hit, and it’s why I’m fighting so hard to protect our city from the economic hardship that Tory Brexiteers are prepared to inflict on us and this city.
New research has revealed just how much it could cost the average worker in Edinburgh: £180 in 2020, rising swiftly to nearly £1,000-a-year in 2024.
By the turn of the decade it could be over £2,000-a-year – an astonishing cumulative total of around £13,000 for every worker in the capital. That’s because a ‘no deal’ scenario following the negotiations with Brussels would lead to average annual economic growth in the UK of just one per cent – 50 per cent lower than if the country remained in the EU.
Every worker in Scotland would suffer, but because average wages are higher and we have important sectors such as financial services and our world-class universities in Edinburgh, our city would fare even worse.
However, hope is not lost.
The Labour Party opposes the ‘no deal’ scenario that Theresa May has threatened, and it is very welcome that Jeremy Corbyn has committed to “a” customs union with the EU. The existing Customs Union abolishes all internal tariffs on goods and establishes a common external tariff on goods. That’s why business leaders have welcomed Jeremy’s announcement. We can maintain frictionless trade with our largest trading partner, the EU.
But by itself this doesn’t protect jobs and defend the hard-won rights for workers and consumers, such as sick pay and parental leave. Nor does it maintain the high environmental and safety standards we enjoy.
It’s the European Single Market that does that: the agreement between the 28 EU member states and members of the European Economic Area and others, which allows the free movement of goods, services, money and people. You don’t have to be a member of the EU to be a member of the Single Market, and membership does not prevent us from implementing our manifesto or policies. And it is the least worst option if we leave the EU. Along with longstanding MEP Catherine Stihler and local MSP Kezia Dugdale, I have set up a campaign group, Scottish Labour for the Single Market. This is a grassroots campaign to promote the benefits of taking this option as we leave the EU. Scottish Labour has a proud tradition of democratic debate, and I know that we would all welcome open discussion on the big issues facing our country – Brexit being the biggest political issue of our time. That’s what sets us apart from the SNP, which doesn’t allow its politicians to disagree with Nicola Sturgeon on any matter, despite their own principles or the views of their constituents.
There are less than 10,000 hours to go until Brexit. As the evidence of the cost of Brexit mounts up, we all have the right to keep an open mind about whether it is the right choice for the UK. Staying in the Single Market – along with the Customs Union – is the least worst option if we are to leave the EU. Let’s take it and protect the future prosperity of our country.
And just a thank you to everyone whose heroic efforts helped during last week’s dreadful weather. Our public and private sector workers who kept the wheels turning, the community spirit of everyone who helped neighbours, cleared playgrounds and salted paths, and, of course, our own Lothian Buses and Trams who went that extra mile to try and keep our city moving. Thank you everyone.