Scots Tories now support policy experts say will mean 100,000 job losses in Scotland – Lesley Laird

This week the Tory Party faithful, or at least what’s left of them amid the Brexit chaos, descended on the city of Manchester for their annual conference.

Lesley Laird agreed with Ruth Davidson about one thing: opposition to a no-deal Brexit (Picture: Getty)
Lesley Laird agreed with Ruth Davidson about one thing: opposition to a no-deal Brexit (Picture: Getty)

Despite the fact that Parliament voted against Boris Johnson’s proposal that the House of Commons should close while the conference took place, the conference went ahead and the nation was exposed once again to the ongoing Tory Party psychodrama.

Unlike Labour’s conference, there wasn’t much in the way of policy announcements. Instead, the focus seemed to be on hurling insults at the Labour Party as Boris used his conference speech to beat his chest while telling the nation about the wonderful new Brexit deal he was going to strike with the EU.

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Unsurprisingly, that positivity lasted about four hours until the EU began to pour cold water on the prospect of the deal being acceptable.

To put it bluntly, the proposal threatens the Good Friday Agreement. It advocates for the UK as a whole to leave the customs union while Northern Ireland remains in the single market for goods.

Every expert who has looked at the detail has said that there would need to be checks on these goods, yet Boris Johnson continues to tell everyone who will listen that there will be no new infrastructure of any kind. Quite how he thinks checks will be done without any new infrastructure is beyond me but as we all know, Boris does have a habit of being flexible with the truth.

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All of that leads me to the conclusion that this is a proposal that is designed to fail. Indeed, I’d go as far as to say that this is the first step in the blame game that we will inevitably be subjected to in the very near future.

Because I don’t think that Boris Johnson has any intention of striking a deal, and opposition to that outcome seems to be diluting within the Tory Party.

Scots Tories go from Remain to Brexit to hardcore no-dealLet's use the Scottish Tories as an example. During the referendum, they were emphatically pro-Europe, then they wanted to leave the EU with a deal and were explicitly opposed to no deal.

Yet now, at least if Jackson Carlaw is to be believed, they are relaxed about a no-deal Brexit. That is the very definition of being consistent about being inconsistent.

We need to be clear about what a disaster a no-deal outcome will be. The well-respected Fraser of Allander Institute estimates it could cost up to 100,000 jobs in Scotland and the Scottish Government has estimated it would cost every person in Scotland £2,263 by 2030 compared with EU membership.

No politician with the best interests of their constituents at heart could possibly accept that.

Perhaps the most worrying thing about Brexit is that it seems to be ripping up all political norms. Traditionally, the Tories are regarded as the party of business, but we know that a no-deal Brexit would result in a drop of over 10 per cent in business investment over the next decade.

How then do they justify a policy that every business organisation in Scotland has explicitly said would be a disaster?

Carlaw very different to RuthThe only explanation that I can think of is that a political calculation has been made. Over one million people in Scotland voted for Brexit, and I can only assume that Jackson Carlaw thinks he can sweep up these voters with a new hardline stance on Brexit.

If that is the case, the Scottish Tories will pay dearly at the ballot box because, of that one million people, I don’t believe many of them, if any, voted for a no-deal Brexit.

One thing is absolutely certain – Jackson Carlaw is taking his party in an entirely different direction from Ruth Davidson.

There isn’t a whole lot Ruth and I would agree on politically, but our opposition to no deal is one of the very few things we would agree on.

There was something quite comforting about knowing that every major political party in Scotland was opposed to no deal, but that is no longer the case.

All of this leads to one conclusion – the nasty party is back and it’s back with a vengeance.

Lesley Laird MP is Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland