Theresa May got one thing right in her speech.
“More trade means more jobs” she said towards the end. But she had just made clear that Britain was leaving the single market, and probably the customs union too.
That means less trade and less jobs. The single market eliminates ALL barriers to trade.
It ensures member countries follow the same rules to prevent undercutting – something enforced by the European Court of Justice, which May will ditch.
The Fraser of Allander Institute have already said the loss of trade from leaving the single market will cost the UK 80,000 jobs and reduce the value of wages by £2000 if there is a “hard Brexit.”
The speech made clear the Tories are headed that way – into a wall. Don’t be fooled by data suggesting the economy is doing better than feared. Brexit hasn’t happened yet.
The sting was in the tail of her speech – a clear threat that Britain would walk away from Europe if May does not get what she wants.
She claims she wants to get a “free trade deal” which gives special treatment to certain sectors, such as the car industry and the banks.
But trade experts who gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Europe Committee – of which I am convener – made it very clear that this was not possible.
The rules set by the World Trade Organisation say free trade deals have to treat all sectors the same. A special deal for Nissan, for example, would break the rules – as would subsidies for particular industries.
Free trade deals take a long time to negotiate – the CETA deal between Canada and the EU took seven years. May has two years to get agreement after triggering Article 50.
Nobody thinks she can negotiate the deal she promises in that time, and many argue the Article 50 process doesn’t allow it.
Read the rest of my column here.