On the day when Spain’s largest circulation newspaper – El Pais – accuses Theresa May of ‘shameful, xenophobic nationalism’ – and German politician Michael Fuchs said the Conservatives plan was “not possible” because “you can’t eat a cake without paying for it”, we gathered some responses from Scotland and beyond…
Guy Verhofstadt, a former Prime Minister of Belgium, said: “I think it creates an illusion that you can go out of the single market and the customs union and you can cherry pick and still have a number of advantages. I think this will not happen. We shall never accept a situation in which it is better to be outside the single market than be a member of the European union. If you want the advantages of a single market and customs union, you have to take the obligations.”
Jonathon Shafi, co-founder of RIC said:
“Far from sparking a renaissance, Theresa May has amplified the latest phase of British decline. Despite being its raison d’être, there is at this moment no coherent, sustainable strategy for British capital coming from the Tory party. May has a short-termist electoral and factional plan, but the British ruling class as a whole is disunited and ideologically asunder. In an attempt to arrest further damage, the Tories have entered a new era of punitive anti-working class measures. Workers rights, basic things like health & safety, holiday pay and, maternity leave are all dispensable bargaining chips. A huge backlash is brewing as the the future of a UK tax haven for the global elite comes into view. It won’t be forgotten that services like the NHS which Leave voters were told would be enhanced are being prepared for privatisation. Mays attempt at a National Conservatism that put the ‘British worker first’ seems already dated as it is likely the labour market will become a deregulated race to the bottom. Given this new context, we should expect ruthlessness in the form of both soft and hard power to hold Britain together. This may include deploying anti-democratic measures up to and including blocking a binding referendum. We cannot assume that the high politics of the 2014 referendum, where the Edinburgh Agreement was signed by David Cameron and Alex Salmond in a relatively convivial atmosphere, will maintain itself now. It won’t. The world has changed substantially since then. The fragmentation of the EU, Trump, the sidelining of NATO – there’s no reason the British establishment will play by the old rules anymore. The independence movement must get on the front foot – and quickly.
The whole international political and economic order is changing, and the post-cold war settlement and the 1990s consensus is not coming back. Neoliberalism has definitively failed. This is a moment in which we must transform our society completely to overcome the toxic build-up of injustice and deliberately stoked division. The old order is dying and the new one has not yet been born. We should be prepared for anything – and we can’t afford to blink.”
Michael Fuchs : “Look at the situation with Switzerland and Norway, at the moment they pay quite a lot money – actually, more than the UK per capita – to the EU and Britain doesn’t want to do anything. I think this is not possible. We have four freedoms and this is not negotiable – if you have one of them and you don’t want it, it is not possible because I call it cherry picking.”
Peter McColl of the Scottish Green Party said:
“Theresa May’s announcement on Tuesday was a perfectly finessed exercise in projection. She talked a great deal about uniting the British nation, while driving wedges between England and the other component parts of the UK. She implied that people had voted for a Brexit to stop migration, but offered nothing to those who voted in the hope of promised funding for the NHS. Since the vote I’ve believed we needed to make the case for a Brexit that protected immigrants, secured women’s rights and workers’ rights and maintained environmental regulations. It is now clear that these things are lost. The EU’s answer to the UK’s pugnacious demand for all the benefits of EU membership at no cost will be a resounding ‘no deal’. And that means that the UK faces a future low regulation haven for tax avoidance signalled by Philip Hammond at the weekend. This means it is game-on for another independence referendum. As the prospects for a fairer UK recede, so the need for independence advances. But there are important questions here too. We need to be clear about the structures we will need to build a new state. And the Common Weal White Paper Project is vital to this. The great strength of the first independence referendum was in the creation of a shared vision for a Scotland that did more to deal with the serious problems of inequality. We need to recapture that spirit – if we had run on this energised and energising platform from the start in 2014, I am convinced we would have won.”
Rosie Rogers of Greenpeace UK: “Whatever position people take on Brexit, it’s a fact that leaving the single market would undermine vital environmental and consumer protections we now take for granted. Many of the laws that keep our bathing water clean and control dangerous air pollution and toxic chemicals come from the EU. Without EU laws and courts to underpin and enforce them, they could be left at the mercy of ministers who may ignore them and scrap them with a stroke of the pen.”
Colin Fox, Scottish Socialist Party National spokesman said: “It is not difficult to see why the right-wing press is ‘cock a hoop’ over Theresa May’s speech. ‘Brexit’ is their project after all. And here was the classic free trade, British chauvinism they have been yearning for. Her opening gambit in the EU negotiations jettisoned UK membership of the Single Market and made clear Britain would not pay a penny to trade with Brussels nor abide by its rulings.
Whilst her ‘Red, White and Blue Brexit’ rejects the rules set by an unelected, neo-liberal EU bureaucracy it counterposes its own threats to worker’s rights, promising deregulation, further privatisation, tax cuts for the rich and human rights restrictions for the rest of us.
“…threatening INDYREF2 is not the same as winning it. And the polls show it will not be won on EU membership. The economic case remains crucial and that needs to be vastly improved if our movement is ever to persuade Scotland’s struggling working class majority they will be better off with Independence.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon meanwhile was left to limply threaten that IndyRef2 was now even more ‘more likely’. The SNP leader has repeatedly overplayed her hand however and allowed independence to become an EU bargaining chip rather than the key to a transformed socially progressive future. She insisted she could stop Scotland being ‘forced out’ of the EU, promised to get Scotland a special place at the negotiations and finally warned membership of the Single Market was her ‘line in the sand’. But threatening INDYREF2 is not the same as winning it. And the polls show it will not be won on EU membership. The economic case remains crucial and that needs to be vastly improved if our movement is ever to persuade Scotland’s struggling working class majority they will be better off with Independence.”