THERE is something intensely irritating in Conservative MP for East Renfrewshire Paul Masterton’s latest letter to constituents, in which he seems to rather gloss over the economic impacts of Brexit.

Mr Masterton, instead of addressing the Conservatives’ full-on Brexit shambles, tries to point the finger at the SNP. He declares: “For the past 12 years, the SNP have obsessed over separation to the detriment of everything else.”

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The Scottish Government would, with good reason, no doubt object to this critique, given a raft of innovative policies that take advantage of the devolved powers at its disposal. To take just one of many examples, it has steered clear of the Conservatives’ move down south to limit and skew access to higher education, with the Scottish Government realising the importance of free university tuition to society and the economy in terms of opportunity for all. The Scottish Government has also worked hard to mitigate the worst of the Tories’ savage welfare cuts, albeit with very limited powers.

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While the SNP has inevitably pressed the case for a second independence referendum, the Scottish Government has seemed far more interested in pursuing a broader agenda than the Brexit-obsessed Tories at Westminster.

It is worth noting that Mr Masterton, like the vast majority of his constituents, voted to Remain in the European Union in summer 2016. The result in East Renfrewshire, for anyone who has forgotten, was that 74.3 per cent voted Remain and 25.7% opted to leave, on a turnout of 76.1%. That is pretty emphatic.

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However, while Mr Masterton has opposed a no-deal Brexit, he has expressed his support for the withdrawal agreement between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the EU reached last month.

Mr Masterton has said he has done this to avoid a no-deal exit. However, it has been pretty clear that Parliament, in its current form, was always going to rein in Mr Johnson and his adviser Dominic Cummings on this front, in spite of all of the money wasted on no-deal preparations and on banging the drum about an October 31 deadline that was thankfully not met.

Mr Masterton’s letter this week coincided with an assessment by a leading independent think-tank of just how much damage Mr Johnson’s deal will do to the UK economy.

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research estimated the UK economy would be 3.5% smaller in the long term under Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal, compared with continuing EU membership. That is a very big amount. The NIESR also noted that already, as a result of the Brexit vote and before we even get to the impact of Mr Johnson’s deal, the UK economy is 2.5% smaller than it would have been otherwise.

Of course, if Mr Masterton wants a second opinion about the effects of Mr Johnson’s deal, he need only look at the Conservative Government’s own forecasts of the economic impact of leaving the European single market. They make grim reading.

In any case, the economics relating to the UK’s membership or otherwise of the EU are fairly basic common sense.

Even those without a basic grasp of economics would surely realise that being part of a powerful trading bloc such as the EU, in times of rising protectionism around the globe, would be a good idea.

Some Tories appear to continue to pander to US President Donald Trump over a new UK-US trade deal. In the meantime, we have the reality of global trade conflict writ large in big US tariffs on Scotch whisky. And Walkers Shortbread this week highlighted the major impact of US tariffs on its business. The loss of global clout that would arise with the UK’s exit from the EU would seem likely to ensure the country would be significantly more exposed to such troubles in future.

The huge boost to the UK economy from frictionless trade with the rest of the EU is also as plain as day. The importance of this has been highlighted again and again by the huge car manufacturers, which have big operations south of the Border. Sadly, their appeals about the importance of the single market have fallen on Tory cloth ears.

Most important of all, we must recognise the benefits to the UK economy, which faces major demographic challenges in terms of an ageing population, of strong net immigration from other EU countries.

These workers can help the UK economy to reach its potential, whether they are at the lower or top end of the pay scale or in between and whatever sector they are in. This is particularly important given the Tories’ dismal economic record. These EU workers provide tax revenues to fund public services and pensions, something that will be increasingly important in years and decades ahead. And they enhance society, making a great contribution to caring professions and to academia and tourism and technology firms, to cite just four of myriad areas.

Of course, net immigration from the EU has already plunged in the wake of the Brexit vote. And adoption of Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal would, after the transition period were over, no doubt hit it even harder.

Scotland, given its particular demographic challenges, would be hit very badly by the impact of Mr Johnson’s hard Brexit on immigration. As an outward-facing economy, Scotland will also see trade hit by a Brexit it never voted for in the first place.

Against this backdrop, not to mention the impact on Scotland’s economy and society of grinding Tory austerity that has prevailed for nearly a decade, it is hardly surprising the constitutional debate is in full swing.

Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, Principal of the University of Glasgow, summed up the Brexit situation well in autumn 2018.

He declared that a hard Brexit that took the UK out of the single market and customs union would be “the most unhinged example of national self-sabotage in living memory”.

Mr Masterton claims in his letter to have, since being elected in 2017, made sure that the interests of his constituents are “at the heart of everything I fight for”.

It is difficult to see how this can possibly square with his support for Mr Johnson’s hard Brexit, given the inevitable impact of such an exit on the economy and living standards for years and decades to come. Especially given the clear view of his constituents on Brexit.