THE BLOG
17/05/2018 15:51 BST | Updated 17/05/2018 15:51 BST

There's No Such Thing As A Good Brexit - But Staying In The Single Market Is The Least Worst Option

I urge Labour colleagues from every corner of Britain to stand up for your constituents and vote to protect jobs and defend workers’ rights

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In Edinburgh South, over 78% of voters backed Remain in the EU referendum.

In Redcar, only 32.5% of voters said they wanted to stay in the EU: two different parts of the country with very different economies.

In my constituency, the financial services and higher education sectors are major employers and there is a widespread recognition that continued growth depends on the EU.

What cities like Edinburgh lose, cities like Dublin, Paris and Frankfurt will gain.

In Redcar, the local steelworks closed in 2015 with the loss of 3,000 jobs, delivering a devastating blow to a community that has suffered decades of post-industrial decline. The youth unemployment rate is more than double the national average.

Wonderful local MPs like Anna Turley in Redcar work around the clock to represent and improve their local communities, but these battles are not helped by Brexit and her successes are much more difficult to achieve as a result of Brexit.

Around 100,000 jobs in the North East are linked to exports to Europe, while European funds are injecting more than £437million into the region.

But the way I see it, and from talking to hundreds of people who voted Leave, resentment at the lost opportunities for a generation of people and anger with the London establishment fuelled the Leave vote - and who can blame them?

I can’t speak for other areas of the country, but perhaps we didn’t do enough in 2016, and over decades, to promote the benefits of the EU.

I don’t believe that anyone, no matter where they live in the UK, voted to be poorer as a result of Brexit. Yet that’s the reality we now face under Theresa May’s reckless plans for a hard Brexit that would tear us out of the Single Market and the Customs Union.

This week, Anna Turley was joined by four other Labour MPs from the North East to warn of the risk of quitting the Customs Union and the Single Market. They pointed out that the region is an export powerhouse with 60% of its trade with the EU.

Anna and I represent constituencies which made very different choices in the 2016 referendum. But we are united in our determination to stand up for the workers we represent – that’s why we’re in the Labour Party.

In Scotland, this week I was joined by the MP for East Lothian, Martin Whitfield, to make a similar argument. In Scotland, 80,000 jobs depend upon the Single Market.

Let’s be clear: there is no such thing as a good Brexit. There is also no such thing as a ‘jobs first’ Brexit without the Single Market and Customs Union. But if we are to leave the EU, then we must choose the least-worst option for our economy to protect jobs – jobs in Edinburgh, Redcar and across the entire UK.

Thanks to pressure from Labour peers in the House of Lords, Theresa May will soon be forced to hold a vote in the Commons on membership of the European Economic Area, effectively a way to keep us in the Single Market.

This is the Labour party policy that was agreed at our UK conference by members, yet the signals from our frontbench are deeply concerning: the Labour Lords were this week whipped to abstain.

Abstaining on this issue in the Commons, when so many livelihoods are at stake, should be unthinkable for the party of the working class.

I urge Labour colleagues from every corner of Britain to stand up for your constituents and vote to protect jobs and defend workers’ rights.

But ultimately, I believe the final deal that will be put before the Commons this autumn is simply too important for 650 MPs to decide. It must be decided by the people.

Already the UK economy has fallen from the top to the bottom of Europe’s growth league as the reality of Brexit starts to become clear.

Choosing to lower the living standards of families throughout the country wasn’t on the ballot paper in 2016.

That’s why we need a People’s Vote to choose our country’s destiny and we need brave, principled, hard-working and conscientious local MPs like Anna Turley to stand up, make the case, and do all they can to protect their local communities. 

Ian Murray is the Labour MP for Edinburgh South