Staying in single market the only sensible option, Nicola Sturgeon claims

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Keeping the UK within the single market is the “only option that makes sense” if Brexit is to go ahead, Nicola Sturgeon said, as she published a new report which claimed leaving the European Union (EU) without a deal could wipe £12.7 billion a year from Scotland’s economy.

If the UK were forced to revert to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules to govern relationships with Europe, Scotland’s GDP would be 8.5% lower by 2030 – the equivalent of about £2,300 for every person living north of the border, according to the research.

Over the same period, real disposable income would fall by 9.6% while investment in business could be 10.2% lower.

The figures, in a new report from the Scottish Government on the impact of different Brexit outcomes, present “new evidence of the importance of single market membership”, Ms Sturgeon said.

The First Minister claimed the research was “more detailed and extensive than anything so far provided by the UK Government”, adding it showed keeping Britain in the single market after leaving the EU to be “the least damaging option by far”.

Under this scenario, GDP would fall 2.7% by 2030 – the equivalent to £4 billion or just under £700 per head of population – according to the research.

Meanwhile, disposable income would go down by 1.4%, with business investment expected to be just under 3% lower.

Ms Sturgeon said: “It is clear from these figures that staying in the single market does not insulate us from the costs of leaving the EU but it will minimise those costs.

“Indeed, compared to a hard Brexit, staying in the single market will benefit us to the tune of £1,600 per head.”

Speaking in Edinburgh, the First Minister insisted: ” If Brexit is to proceed, staying in the single market is the only option that makes sense.”

The paper was published as the SNP and other opposition parties ramped up their campaign against a so-called hard Brexit, with Labour facing pressure to join.

Ms Sturgeon insisted it is “time now to make that case for continued membership of the single market even more loudly than before” as she criticised Jeremy Corbyn for his stance.

The UK Labour leader said on Sunday that being in “t he single market is dependent on membership of the European Union”.

The SNP leader said: “Either Jeremy Corbyn is still misunderstanding the position of the single market, which given how often it has been pointed out to him can’t possibly be the case, or he is now trying to deliberately mislead people with this line that you cannot be in the single market if you’re not in the EU. Norway stands as the living proof that that is just not the case.”

Some Tories support a “softer Brexit” with the UK staying in the single market, Ms Sturgeon said, adding there could be majority support for this across the UK.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s official spokesman said: “The Prime Minister has made clear her commitment to getting a good deal which serves the interests of all parts of the United Kingdom, and that we are confident of doing so.

“We have been clear that we are carrying out extensive preparations in relation to delivering Brexit and the will of the British people.”

Scottish Secretary David Mundell said the figures in the new report ” fail to acknowledge that above all we need to avoid anything that might fracture the vital UK internal market, which is worth around £48 billion to the Scottish economy – or four times more than trade with the EU”.

The Conservative added: ” They also do not recognise that we’re seeking a new deep and special economic partnership with the EU that works for Scotland, and indeed the whole of the UK, and is of greater scope than any existing agreement.

“We urge the Scottish Government to stop their pursuit of a second independence referendum and to work constructively with us to deliver a deal that works for Scotland and the whole UK.”

Scottish Labour Brexit spokesman Neil Findlay said: ” The Tories’ reckless and incompetent Brexit risks devastating our economy, jobs and public services.

“The Tories’ Brexit process has so far delivered nothing but uncertainty and attacks on hard-won workers rights and devolution.

“It’s the security of people’s jobs and the economy which should be at the heart of any deal to leave the EU, and Labour will get on with fighting for the best possible deal for the whole of the UK while respecting the result of the EU referendum; unlike the SNP, who seem never to accept the result of any referendum.”

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