Everything Has Changed

“Nothing has changed!” “Nothing has changed!” famously barked an exasperated Theresa May.  Now all of a sudden, like a burst dam, everything has changed. As the BBC’s Nick Robinson put it: “It’s over. The deal and perhaps May’s premiership.”

Despite hours of negotiation in Brussels and late night, last-minute spin in Strasbourg, Geoffrey Cox pronounced that the fundamental basis of the Irish backstop had not altered, and in making that statement, Theresa May’s premiership is over. The Dead will not rise, the numbers haven’t altered, and the implacable DUP have saying NO wired into their DNA.

Anybody who thought that there was reason, or compromise or guile or good grace amongst the Tory high command was kidding themselves. There is no sense of public duty, no sense of national interest (sic), none. This is, and always has been about self-interest and party interest.

The people of Scotland have been treated with complete contempt throughout the entire protest. While little more than a religious sect from within Northern Ireland has been awarded disproportionate power – despite being at the very heart of dark money swilling about the discredited Brexit campaign – the Scottish MPs have been treated with derision.

The contempt has not been reserved for recalcitrant Jocks and uppity Paddies.

For whilst much of the narrative about Brexit has swirled around some undefined populism it now looks as if Jacob Rees Mogg, who has been telling struggling people they might not feel economic benefits of Brexit for 50 years, has “trousered £7 million from his firm over the past two years whilst calling anyone who votes remain “the elite”.

This isn’t just a constitutional crisis within the UK, it’s an international crisis destabilising the Good Friday Agreement, a social crisis betraying a whole section of people who will be the ones most affected by the inevitable economic impact and an inter-generational crisis.

It’s an inter-generational crisis not just in terms of the huge demographic gulf between people voting for Brexit and people voting against it, but the economic consequences will be felt by many for decades to come.

None of this was inevitable. Not the Brexit vote, not the Brexit result, not the handling of the result, nor the catastrophic mismanagement of the negotiations.

Nor are the Northern Irish problems as intractable as is constantly made out.

As Anthony Barnett has pointed out: “The clear-cut solution that would allow the Westminster side to terminate the Backstop unilaterally is this. When the transition is concluded Westminster should propose its solution for the Northern Irish border. If the EU does not agree then the UK may give 18 months’ notice that the backstop will come to an end. Within one year, Irish voters on both sides of the border will decide by referendum on whether they support the Westminster solution or would prefer the North to stay in the Customs Union and Single Market.”

As he explains: ” … a vote by the Irish on whether or not they accept the proposed solution draws upon the democratic process embedded in the Good Friday Agreement. For it leaves it to the people on both sides of the border within the island of Ireland to decide if Westminster’s proposals work for them. ”

This solution is feasible, democratic and would ensure the GFA intact. It would go down well in Ireland and wider Europe.

But:

“The real problem for Westminster is that it is impossible to see how if this power was granted to the people of Northern Ireland it could be refused for those in Scotland. And Scotland voted by 25% majority for Remain when Northern Ireland did so with only a 14% majority. This is why that internal contradiction of British nationalism is so deadly when combined with the economic farrago of leaving the world’s largest free-trade area in the name of more free trade.”

So what now?

The government will collapse and the terrified Tories will have what they wanted most to avoid: their leader who has been proven to be an awful campaigner, now a broken and discredited PM presiding over an utterly divided party up against their worst enemy, the twin terrors of the Communist Incarnate Corbyn, and the Scottish Nationalist Hordes.

They will have to summons the dregs of the Brexit vote and swill about with forces they may or may not like to be allied with, as no doubt the “Brexit Betrayed” cohorts will be out in full regalia.

Barnett concludes: “Brexit Britain is like a super-nova. The great star of the old British state emitted a huge pulse of democratic energy in the referendum and is now collapsing in upon itself. Issuing toxic radiation in the process as Westminster becomes a black hole of negativity.”

I’m not sure that Brexit was a huge pulse of democratic energy as much as blast of mass propaganda and disinformation, but I do know that defending the British State, its institution and practices is now nigh on impossible.

In an election, the Conservatives and wider forces for Brexit will be consumed in the convulsions of English nationalism which erupt from this volcanic farce, but for Scotland there are other options.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, an opportunity arises to win a huge mandate for independence at elections at Westminster and Holyrood. The threats lie and promises of 2014 lie broken and exposed.

If we can waken enough people from the endless torpor of the mesmerising Brexit process we can still salvage some integrity and some future. Once again ‘England’s difficulty is Scotland’s opportunity’. All of the hard work’s been done here …

 

 

 

Comments (5)

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  1. Alistair Taylor says:

    “Endless torpor” is an apt description, but Spring is almost upon us and people are wakening quickly.
    Great article, Mike, and thank you for all the work you do at Bella.

  2. Willie says:

    A most accurate assesment of where we are together with the sound conclusion that we are at a point where we have the opportunity to secure a mandate for independence.

    A good well grounded commentary.

  3. Lorna Campbell says:

    I think that the question for us all now is this: regardless of party political allegiances and affiliations, regardless of whether we are on the left or the right or in the centre, can we stand back and let Scotland go down with the sinking ship? This is the question that the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon need to answer very soon. When does late become too late? When does maximum pain for those who are least able to bear it, become too much? When do the minutiae and details of independence, almost impossible to pin down before independence, in any case, become more important than independence itself? Why have we come to a stage where the two-sided political coin of NO and Leave now totally dominate Scottish political thinking? Why are independists not saying to the Scottish Unionist/British and English Nationalist Alliance: you have brought us low with your NO vote in 2014, and we no longer will pay homage to your deep and fundamental misjudgement? When are we going to state that the NO vote was what it was: first and foremost, whatever it was after that, it was a vote to keep Scotland in a Union which, itself, is deeply and fundamentally unjust and destructive – a neo colonialist vote that satisfied several strands of social and economic selfishness and self-centredness long before it ever addressed political realities, if it ever did?

    I think we have come to the point now where Scotland’s people’s (as a whole, not as sub groups) future well-being and good mental health rest on taking a decision that might appear, prima facie, to be undemocratic. That is, the SNP leadership and the wider independist movement must ask themselves whether they have the basic human right to allow Scotland to be dictated to any longer by almost wholly self-interested groups whose overall feelings of community are sadly lacking? It seems to me that we are more than prepared to let that NO vote dictate our future in all and any circumstances, even where the danger to Scotland’s and her people’s future well-being is under threat. This is probably a philosophical question, and where, perhaps, Benthamite Utilitarianism comes into its own. So long as we insist that only a S30 Order-sanctioned second referendum or even a second referendum that is brought as advisory, by the SNP, these same self-interested elements are going to ensure that we lose because their arguments are flawed at a fundamental level, and, in turn, that is because, essentially, they rest on a form of colonialism that should be dead. The obvious contradiction between the economic arguments against independence and the economic arguments against Brexit clashed thunderously in 2016, when the largest Leave group was the NO/Leave sub group, making its stance supremely illogical. YES/Leave at least makes some sense politically, and NO/Remain at least defers to the potential loss of EU citizenship and community, but NO/Leave is totally irrational unless you still believe that an independent Scotland is a worse bet than Brexit, in which case you are not just irrational, but must be at least slightly unhinged.

    It is only in breaking down the NO vote into its constituent parts that one can see the self-interest and the contradictions. I would never claim that the older vote was not fearful of losing its pension or that those with mortgages and bank loans, etc. were not right to be worried. We all are. However, they should be even more worried now, with Brexit, but they do not appear to be. The only shift that there has been is where fearful, and, often previous Leave, voters, appear willing to tolerate an independent Scotland if it saves them from the NO Deal scenario. Mrs May’s Deal appears to be acceptable to many before independence. The non-shift in the YES vote (or, very marginal shift) is alarming in these circumstances, but does re-inforce the idea that the essential nature of the NO vote was neo colonialist before it was economic. The 2015 Edinburgh University Study showed that very conclusively for those with eyes to see and who are not blinded by sentimentalism and a fear of being accused of anti Englishness. The truth is, of course, that 25% of rUK voters did not vote against independence, but that very many Scottish Unionists did, so it is not black-and-white. I believe that an internalized anti Scottishness (Political Stockholm Syndrome) and a border-line racism drove that NO vote in 2014. If I am expelled from these threads for saying that, then so be it, but, until we recognize how badly served we have been by that NO vote, we are going nowhere. They deserve to be told exactly what that vote cost Scotland, and why they never had any moral case for enforcing their views on the rest of us, even though they appeared to be a discerning majority, and are still kow-towed to on that basis, when they were as self-interested as it is possible to be, and as blind to the consequences of their vote as it is possible to be. We have no need to single out anyone or any group, revenge is not on the agenda at all; we all need to move forward out of this stasis; we just need to get the message across that we are not prepared to accept their, frankly, ante diluvian idea of a Bitter Together that fools no one, least of all themselves. Just like the majority who voted for Brexit, they knew exactly what they were voting for, and voted for it anyway. Turkeys and Christmas springs to mind, but, unfortunately for those of us who voted differently, knowing that we were walking into disaster, Brexit or no Brexit, we are their Brussels sprouts and their oatmeal stuffing. Well, this Brussels sprout is no longer willing to be stuffed by those who care not a jot for Scotland, and her people’s, real problems.

  4. Don Johnstone says:

    I can never really understand this request for permission to hold an ‘Indepedence’ referendum.I’m pretty sure we entered a Union and were not made a colony.Admittedly it seems like one now but as a Union one partner,as in a marriage,can say it is over.There is no requirement for the other partner to say that they are giving permission for this.
    I’m pretty sure International Courts would agree with this as we were an independent country before the union and never submitted to any rule.We merely entered a union which we now feel we need to leave.

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