Cry Freedom! and Keep Crying Freedom!
For those who used to complain about a ‘Neverendum’ in Scotland, they may have noticed that the Brexit campaign itself never seems to have an end point. The FT tells us that: “Johnson will this week publish a 100-page “benefits of Brexit” paper highlighting plans for future deregulation, including areas such as gene editing of crops, artificial intelligence and data, as he seeks to shore up his leadership.”
This new Brexit frenzy comes as the ‘UK’ stumbles into a new clutch of constitutional crises.
Two weeks ago the Prime Minister unveiled a three-tier structure for discussions between the UK Government and the devolved administrations. It is to replace the Joint Ministerial Committee, which was rarely convened and frequently ignored by Mr Johnson.
The top tier will see Mr Johnson chair a council attended by the three devolved first ministers known as the Leaders’ Forum. They will “discuss issues that affect people across the UK, particularly when they cut across reserved and devolved policy or are of shared responsibility”. The second tier includes two standing committees, one focused on finance and another chaired by Michael Gove, the intergovernmental relations minister.
The new leaders’ forum caused glee amongst the commentariat. The Times Kenny Farquharson heralded it as a breakthrough saying: “The new UK council of nations, or whatever it will be called, is well thought through, formalising co-operation at three tiers of government. A good first step.”
But the new spirit of co-operation has been exposed as a sham if there is no real RESPECT between the governments. The reality beyond Farquharson’s “council of nations” is here a Minister calling devolved governments ‘territorial offices’.
Brexit Freedom Frenzy
This week – as we ‘celebrate’ two years since we were evicted from the EU – a new Brexit Bill and a new Levelling-Up Bill are to be published, as a pile-up of constitutional arguments emerge.
First up the Brexit Freedoms Bill – said to be to reform EU laws and ‘cut red tape’ but widely seen as an attempt to sidetrack the public from Johnson’s own recent problems and continue the evergreen ‘fight against the EU’ and the never-ending Brexit campaign. The UK government we’re told are ‘seeking a joint approach’ across the whole of the UK.
But the devolved administrations were only told of this – by the Attorney General – on Saturday. The first opportunity for the Leaders’ Forum to operate was completely ignored.
As Angus Robertson pointed out: “Within days of the UK government promising more respectful ways of working, we were informed of what is clearly a rushed exercise over the weekend with nothing more than a vague verbal briefing.”
“If these proposals involve changing the law in devolved policy areas, then pressing ahead without the consent of the Scottish parliament would demonstrate yet again the UK government’s intent to undermine devolution.”
A red flag should also always be noted whenever Tories talk of ‘cutting red tape’, this almost always means attacking regulations designed to make people safe. The ‘freedoms’ are likely to include: the freedom to exploit workers; the freedom to evade tax laws; the freedom to profit from unregulated markets; the freedom to pollute land and sea. These were and are the driving force behind Brexit. Plus, as Femi points out, Brexit is creating massive bureaucracy.
The Tories say their new Brexit Freedoms Bill will cut £1 billion in red tape for UK business, after already admitting that Brexit is adding £7 Billion in red tape.
The maths ain't mathing guys. 😬 pic.twitter.com/kRhZ8FpVyS
— Femi (@Femi_Sorry) January 31, 2022
The new ‘Levelling-UP’ legislation is becoming more and more essential to the defence of the Union as the social and economic crisis of food and energy prices hits hard and large sections of the population face poverty and destitution. Unfortunately – and this will inevitably be caught up in the Tories own internal civil war – “Everyone, including Michael Gove thinks its shit”.
— Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) January 31, 2022
The Prime Minister appointed Gove to take over the levelling up brief in his Cabinet reshuffle back in September. Announcing the plans to provide 20 areas of England with regeneration funding, Mr Gove said: “This huge investment in infrastructure and regeneration will spread opportunity more evenly and help to reverse the geographical inequalities which still exist in the UK.”
Levelling-Up is about England, it’s not about the territories. This is a problem for the narrative of UK benevolence.
But the constitutional friction isn’t just about the ongoing sado-populism of Brexit.
As all this unfolds we have the spectacle of Ian Murray – Labour’s solo Scottish MP – trying to undermine the democratic process by urging Britain’s most senior civil servant to halt taxpayers funding a second independence prospectus containing SNP policy pledges.
At some point the Scottish Labour Party will have to deal with the Murray problem or see him further destroy them.
The problem with the fantasy that the UK is engaged in a harmonious dialogue of partnership is contradicted by the realities of the Internal Market Bill and the daily relations between Edinburgh and Johnson’s disgraced government.
This week Boris Johnson’s Brexit Freedom Frenzy will do little other than create a diversion from his own personal crisis and throw meat to the party and the country still acting out the culture wars and fighting the imaginary enemies that hold them back from their historic goals as World King and Britannia Unleashed.
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