For Britain ‘taking back control’ from Brussels must mean exerting control over Edinburgh and Belfast argues Mike Small.
As Tristram jogs on to the V&A and Amber Rudd has her speeches registered as Hate, it’s been a bad week for Labour and the Tories. But it just got much worse. Since Sir Ivan Rodger’s resignation the Prime Minister has been engulfed in internal dissent within her own party about her shambolic Brexit plans combining widespread contempt from our neighbours across Europe and growing hostility within the UK.
This has forced her to make a statement next week.
I expect it will be a busy weekend.
The Irish dimension already banjaxed by the hypocrisy of saying one thing for Scotland (“a hard border would be essential”) and another for Ireland (“no hard border is required”) fell further into chaos this week with the collapse of the Stormont government. The peace process over the past 25 years has resulted in the Irish border becoming virtually invisible with few restrictions. But if Brexit meant they renounce this commitment to an open border they also risk sacrificing the Good Friday Agreement.
“To remove Northern Ireland from Europe without its consent is not only morally wrong and politically risky; it is also a rejection of the fundamental bilateralism of the peace process”.
No doubt senior Conservatives and Unionists here will sneer that this matters little, you voted No, you’re still part of Britain etc etc. That’s fine – but it’s a high risk strategy, as they drive Ireland towards unification and Scottish voters shift from disdain to contempt. The fallacy of a “partnership of equals’ lies in the wreckage of the Brexit omnishambles.
In the Irish Central Kevin Meagher wrote this week (“Why Brexit means Irish unity is now inevitable”) that: “”There will be no armies of British MPs and campaigners making the journey across the Irish Sea, determined to keep Northern Ireland in the UK. There will be an audible sigh of relief that it’s going. And it’s entirely possible that Scotland goes first.” While Britain is desperate to keep Scotland they’d probably let Northern Ireland go at the first opportunity.
This isn’t wishful thinking or Celtic Twilight revival, it’s the cold hard reality of the Brexiteers hubris, ignorance and disregard. But the challenge for those scripting the PM’s Brexit speech gets worse. As Angus Robertson pointed out in the House of Commons: ““It stands to reason if there is no Northern Ireland Assembly and no Northern Ireland Executive for much of the time before the March timetable that she has set for invoking Article 50, she will be unable to consult properly, to discuss fully and to find agreement on the complex issues during this period.”
May’s reply was that she “she hoped over the next week a solution would be found which would see the Assembly continuing.” Good luck with that. She has no traction, nothing to offer and few allies. Theresa Villiers isn’t a player. Having ‘solved’ the ‘Irish problem’ Britain with its fantasist political elite have the real potential to recreate out of nowhere the mayhem of the past.
Meanwhile the Commonweal researchers have been working on an innovative ‘Smart Borders’ policy and point out that, if the UK erects a border it will be at their own cost. We, like the Mexicans aren’t paying for any wall. None of this will have registered with the Conservatives and surely all will be dismissed.
The British Governments tactics, such as they exist at all, is to slowly shut down the options and oxygen supply to the recalcitrant Celtic fringe, politely but firmly denying any route map to a devolved settlement. For Britain ‘taking back control’ from Brussels must mean exerting control over Edinburgh and Belfast. But thre problem is these bloody Europeans. As quickly as BoJo and Mayday slam a door shut pops Johnny Foreigner with a cheeky ‘Bonjour”
Philippe Lamberts intervention is only the most recent. Lamberts, a Belgian MEP, said the individual heads of state who make up the European Council could prolong the two-year period of Brexit negotiations. He said there was political will to extend the spring 2019 deadline for exiting thereby accommodating any constitutional changes taking place in the UK.
“Paragraph 3 of Article 50 says that the treaty ceases to be applicable to states that leave from two years after the date it is invoked unless the European Council decide to prolong that process. It all comes down to political will and there is very strong political goodwill towards Scotland among Euro- pean politicians,” he said. “I am certain that goodwill towards Scotland will continue over the longer term.”
He concluded: “Why should an independent Scotland not fulfil the conditions? To me it is quite obvious that if a new situation is created to change the constitutional order of the United Kingdom, Europe would not stand in the way of an independent Scotland being in the European Union.
“I believe it would inherit the UK’s membership. Primarily that is a political decision. If there is a political will, and I think it will be there, lawyers will find a way to make it legally happen.”
Finally – if Tristram Hunt’s resignation triggers a by-election in Stoke and Labour lose, it will be a death-knell to Jeremy Corbyn’s beleaguered, disastrous reign. Of the Unionist Twins, Labour and Conservatives now face a pivotal time. The only way out and back for Kezia Dugdales’s troubled party was to somehow, against all the odds and all of the experience, successful regurgitate the Federalism plans that they’ve been re-launching for a century. The widely discredited Home Rule re-hash that gets a run-out every few months in Brownhog Day now lies, once again in complete tatters.
With Jeremy Corbyn’s rejection of Dugdales’ latest wheeze – grandly unveiled by the IPPR only last month, the fate of Labour, north and south, seems at best perilous.
Corbyn told BBC Scotland first that a second independence referendum was not needed and second that he rejected Nicola Sturgeon’s proposal for some immigration powers to be devolved, saying this would require “regional borders” within the UK. In doing so he showed both lack of political nous but an inability to think beyond a rigid set of ideas. This is not a revelation but is is a disaster.
But Corbyn’s rejection of a “new Act of Union” is particularly damaging for Scottish Labour. Only last week Kezia Dugdale said that her leader backed the proposal. If Dugdale’s disastrous flip-flopping now looks terminal, its a death pact that is forged in Labour’s southern HQ and its northern ‘heartlands’.
Now Brexit sits, not just as a complex deeply damaging irrational political farce, but as the last in a long line of Unionist lies. It will cost them more heavily than they are remotely aware.