Commons could back staying in single market and customs union, Sturgeon claims

Nicola Sturgeon, Brexit, Single Market
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

Scotland’s First Minister believes there is a potential Commons majority for remaining in the single market and customs union.

Addressing an economic forum in Dundee, Nicola Sturgeon warned Theresa May’s EU withdrawal plan risks putting Scotland at a “real competitive disadvantage” due to the potential for a differentiated deal for Northern Ireland.

She said neither a bad deal nor no deal is inevitable and leaving the single market would do “considerable damage” to jobs and living standards in Scotland.

Ms Sturgeon told delegates: “We must have a concern about in future being in a situation where companies can choose Belfast and will secure unfettered access to the European single market which they wouldn’t get in Dundee, Glasgow or Edinburgh.

“That would be a real competitive disadvantage for Scotland and is something that is uppermost in the Scottish Government’s mind.”

The SNP leader added: “The Scottish Government’s view is that we should continue to press for – and I believe there is the potential for – a majority in the House of Commons around this, for the UK to stay in the single market and the customs union.

“That would be a solution that respects the outcome of the referendum, largely resolves the Irish border issue and mitigates the worst economic consequences of Brexit.”

She will press this position on a visit to London and attempt to build a coalition supporting it, having earlier confirmed SNP MPs will vote against the British Prime Minister’s withdrawal plan.

The First Minister said the draft agreement kicks most of the difficult issues further down the line and “long-term uncertainty is hardwired” into it.

The Scottish Government’s National Economic Forum is a regular event attended by ministers and senior figures from business, the public sector and trade unions to discuss how best to grow Scotland’s economy.

Ms Sturgeon also addressed the future of the closure-threatened Michelin tyre factory in Dundee, saying she had discussions with trade unions on Monday morning.

“We noted that finding a way forward for the plant will not be easy but nevertheless we agreed that it is important that we try to make sure that we explore every option,” she said.

“The Government, I hope, has already demonstrated in other situations that when it is necessary we are prepared to take a very active approach to helping to save jobs and preserve manufacturing bases.

“In the case of Michelin, none of us can guarantee success and it would be wrong to give workers a false expectation but we can promise that we will do everything we possibly can and I think there is reason to have a degree of optimism about the future of that site and about the future of those who work in that site.”

Michelin has announced plans to cease production at the site, which employs 845 people, blaming a reduction in the market for premium smaller tyres due to a rise in cheap imports from Asia and a shift to larger car tyres.