IAN BLACKFORD:MP for Ross, Skye & Lochaber

LABOUR LEADER TO BE EMPTY-CHAIRED AS REAL OPPOSITION UNITE ON SINGLE MARKET

SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford has hit out at Jeremy Corbyn for “failing millions of working people” by siding with Tory extreme Brexiteers, after the Labour leader ducked out of a crucial cross-party summit on protecting the UK’s place in the single market.

As the UK government prepares to enter the critical second phase of the Brexit negotiations – and with just over a year to go before the UK is set to leave the EU – the Westminster leaders of the SNP, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru, and the Green Party will meet in the House of Commons on Tuesday morning to coordinate efforts to ensure the UK remains in the single market and customs union.

Labour, who were also invited, instead rejected the chance for cross-party talks on the biggest issue facing the country. In a letter sent to Ian Blackford on Friday night, Jeremy Corbyn declared “Labour will not attend” – despite the news this week that 87% of Labour Party members support remaining in the single market, alongside support from MPs and trade unions.

The SNP MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber said that the summit will go ahead regardless of Jeremy Corbyn’s absence – with an empty chair waiting for the Labour leader should he “come to his senses, back our single market membership, and join this crucial cross-party coalition in the national interest”.

Commenting, Ian Blackford MP said:

“Extreme Tory plans to drag Scotland and the UK out of the single market and customs union will take a wrecking ball to our economy – destroying hundreds of thousands of jobs, and damaging people’s incomes, livelihoods, and living standards for decades to come. 

“As we move into the critical second phase of the Brexit negotiations, and with just over a year to go before the UK is set to leave the EU, it is now more important than ever that we have a united and effective opposition – holding the UK government to account, and doing everything within our power to prevent this Tory economic catastrophe.

“It is unbelievable – and frankly, utterly pathetic – that on the single biggest issue facing the country Jeremy Corbyn has failed to show any leadership whatsoever, and is now rejecting this crucial chance to build a cross-party coalition in the national interest. His absence from this meeting is deeply disappointing but it is not surprising given his absence from the EU referendum campaign and the national debate on Brexit ever since.

“This is not the ‘straight talking, honest politics’ we were promised. Time is running out, and by sitting on the fence the Labour Party is failing millions of working people. Instead of protecting the jobs, incomes and rights that families depend upon, Jeremy Corbyn has chosen to stand by and allow hardline Tory and UKIP Brexiteers to have their way – beckoning the biggest threat to our economy in modern times.

“On Tuesday, the real opposition parties will meet to coordinate our efforts to remain in the single market – short of retaining our EU membership, that is by far the best compromise and the least damaging option. There will be an empty chair waiting should Jeremy Corbyn come to his senses, back our single market membership, and join this crucial cross-party coalition in the national interest.”

ENDS