THE SNP candidate for the upcoming Rutherglen by-election has accused Labour of “sticking their head in the sand” over Brexit, with figures showing the area has lost out on millions of pounds in EU trade.

Katy Loudon, who is bidding to hold the seat for the SNP, challenged her Labour rival to outline his position and what other principles he is “prepared to sell out on”.

Michael Shanks previously quit Labour over the party’s stance on Brexit, describing its approach to EU membership as “bankrupt”, but rejoined and is standing for the party in Rutherglen and West Hamilton.

Last week he tried to distance himself from UK leader Sir Keir Starmer (below) by saying he still sees the UK as “having a place in the European Union” – but added it’s “not a question for just now”.

The National: LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JULY 25: Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party delvers a keynote speech on the economy at The Spine Building on July 25, 2022 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images).

Starmer has said that under a Labour government, Britain will not go back into the EU – including ruling out any return to the single market or customs union – and will aim instead to “make Brexit work”.

The SNP said figures obtained from the House of Commons Library show that South Lanarkshire has lost £146 million on EU imports and exports since Brexit, as well as almost £10m in direct EU funding.

Since leaving the EU, exports from South Lanarkshire to the European Union are down by 36% – £108m – and imports are down by 12% – or £38m.

Loudon said: “I see the damaging impact Brexit is having on the people in Rutherglen and Hamilton West every day – yet Starmer’s man in Rutherglen is opting to pick and choose his principles and stick his head in the sand.

“It seems to have escaped his memory that he left Labour over their ‘bankrupt approach to Brexit’ – choosing instead to trot out the HQ-approved line on EU membership from his pro-Brexit bosses down the road.

“People are suffering right now as a result of the Brexit that Labour fully support – it’s drained millions from our community in lost exports and direct funding, piling more misery on households already struggling to make ends meet in this Westminster cost of living crisis.

“Brexit was roundly rejected by 63% in South Lanarkshire. Voters here deserve a candidate who will stand up for what they believe in – not abandon their principles.”

She added: “A vote for the SNP in Rutherglen and Hamilton West is a vote to reject the failure of Brexit, tackle the cost of living crisis in full and rejoin the world’s largest single market with EU membership.”

In an interview last week, asked if he would like the UK to rejoin the EU one day, Shanks said: “I think it’s not a question for just now, but I still see the UK as having a place in the European Union.

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“So yes, if it got to a point where there was clearly a public appetite for the conversation again, I wouldn’t be against us rejoining the European Union. Of course not.

“Because I have not changed my principles or the idea that the European project is good for all of us.”

He added: “But I do think even that conversation becomes just such a distraction from actually making what we’ve got work just now.”

Shanks has also faced criticism for claiming that he will go against Starmer’s stance on keeping controversial policies such as the two-child benefit cap and bedroom tax.