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.
“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 …