A new campaign group, Scottish Labour for the Single Market, has been launched to protect jobs, oppose austerity and defend workers’ rights. The organisation will fight for the party to support permanent UK membership of the European Single Market and Customs Union.

Scottish Labour for the Single Market will be a grassroots campaign co-chaired by Kezia Dugdale MSP, Catherine Stihler MEP and Ian Murray MP. With the support of members across the country, Scottish Labour can join forces with the trade union movement, Welsh Labour and London mayor Sadiq Khan in persuading the Labour Party to back permanent UK membership of the Single Market.

The campaign believes it is Labour’s duty to stop the Tory government from putting jobs at risk, prolonging austerity, and tearing up our rights at work or as consumers. The new organisation will work closely with the existing Labour Campaign for the Single Market and other pro-EU groups across the UK.

The European Single Market is an agreement between the 28 EU member states and members of the European Economic Area (Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland). It allows the free movement of goods, services, money and people. To ensure that Labour can fund its anti-austerity manifestos, the country can’t afford the multi-billion pound hit to the public finances of leaving the Single Market. That would leave the governments in Holyrood and Westminster with less money for schools and hospitals in Scotland and across the UK.

Several Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) have submitted contemporary motions backing permanent Single Market membership for debate at this week’s Scottish Labour annual conference in Dundee.

Labour MSP for the Lothian region, Kezia Dugdale, said:

“When the EU referendum took place, nobody voted to put jobs at risk, prolong austerity, or tear up our rights at work or as consumers. But this is precisely what the Tory Government is now doing. The Labour Party has to stop them.

Jeremy Corbyn’s welcome decision to support a customs union puts clear blue water between us and the Tories, however – if we are to leave the EU – the least-worst option for limiting the damage caused by a Tory Brexit is to also remain in the Single Market. This is the only way to tackle austerity, protect jobs, and defend our hard-won rights for workers and consumers.

Scottish Labour can lead the way and help persuade our party to ensure the UK permanently remains in the Single Market.”

Labour MP for Edinburgh South, Ian Murray, said:

“With the Tories in turmoil, it is the duty of the Labour Party to set out a clear direction for Britain’s future. Scottish Labour can help persuade our party to use the majority that exists in the Commons for remaining in the Single Market.

The Tories want the UK to leave the Single Market with our largest trading partner, the EU, which would be an economic disaster for workers. And the SNP wants Scotland to leave the single market with our largest trading partner, the UK, which would trigger even greater austerity.

We need to remain in both single markets, and only Labour will fight for workers in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.”

Labour MEP for Scotland, Catherine Stihler, said:

“The economic impact of leaving the Single Market would hit the most vulnerable in our society hardest. “We cannot put vital employment and environmental protections at risk.

Labour must work with our sister parties and others across Europe to improve workers’ rights, increase trade union membership and put an end to the exploitation of workers. This would send a powerful message of solidarity to the millions of EU and UK nationals living here and across the continent.”