Theresa May will have have to perform miracles if she’s to satisfy the Tory pro-brexit rightwing while also accommodating Scotland. But there is hope.
The SNP policy in government is govern as if you were already independent. It’s actually rather clever stuff. It frames the mood, defines the narrative. Never mind the pesky voters rejected independence by 55% to 45% less than two years ago. It’s the campaign that matters; a campaign which never ceases.
And it’s a modus operandi gaining fresh pertinence following the UK decision to withdraw from the EU (yes, UK decision – one collectively made in lieu of the fact we voted to maintain the British union)
How Mrs May confronts the new political landscape is worth pondering. How does she remotely accommodate the; abundantly clear; Scottish national desire to stay inside the EU? Her visit to Edinburgh was a start. It was the first time May & Sturgeon have ever met privately one-on-one. Their gamesmanship starts here, they’re trying to gain a measure on their opponent. One can dismiss the guff about ‘working together’, the SNP don’t care to do this. Remember always: govern as if we were already independent. This logic demands Nat-prime Sturgeon seek out fresh and dynamic ‘flash points’ with Scotland’s other government (Westminster).
Presumably Mrs May best approach is to find a ‘Brexit’ which minimises the fallout for pro-EU types (like myself), but also lives up to expectations of Brexiteers.
Britain meet CETA
The most obvious answer is to seek out a Canadian-EU style arrangement. Their relationship is defined by CETA. This trade and economic arrangement enables a broad-based ‘free movement’ while allowing Canada to maintain border controls. It isn’t what we had inside the EU, but it is one option to answer the question I posed earlier: how to accommodate Scotland? If May could offer up an arrangement which preserved some of the scale and scope of our ‘freedom of movement’ rights with the EU, while still ‘taking back control’ of ‘borders’ – she’d be fulfilling an almost biblical feat.
CETA does offer Mrs May a possible route-map down the middle between isolationist Brexiteers & their desire to clamp down on ‘them immigrants’ and outward looking internationalist Europhiles. It, frankly, is the only viable option which as any hope of undercutting Sturgeon & her determination to play politics with Brexit. Sturgeon wishes to exploit the divergent Brexit vote between Scotland & England to keep her mood music playing. The only way to undercut this is a CETA style arrangement with the EU.
Only problem is CETA took 6 years to negotiate. It took 300 dedicated trade negotiation experts from Canada working on it full time. Britain doesn’t have 300 trade negotiators in our civil service (to say nothing of ‘expert’ negotiators). And the race to save the British union doesn’t have 6 years. If May can’t deliver something meaningful to Scottish middle class pro-EU voters, there is a real risk they start drinking the Sturgeon cool-aide.
I love the smell of Indyref in the morning’
A chap saddles up beside me in a pub in China. He’s politically active, though not aligned to any one party. He likes to read his guardian and telegraph papers on his smart phone. He voted a couple of years ago ‘no’ to Scottish independence. He is my good friend. Now he turns to me before I leave China for the USA; ‘I love the smell of indyref in the morning’. This friend of mine has admitted, if he had to choose between being Scottish & British or Scottish & European; the Union would be over for him.
This is what unionists now face. Sensible, non-nationalist middle classers suddenly pondering whether remaining British really does represent the ‘safe bet’. This is perhaps why Mrs May really needs to kick-start Brexit negotiations only when a clear game-plan is ready. Only when Britain has hired from abroad the expert negotiators we need. And all before the end of this year.
She has the gameplan: CETA style agreement. She has the political support: Tory rightists have fallen in line following her ‘day of the long knives’ reshuffle. She has the desire: May really loves the British union.
In the words of my favourite MPop singer Bii she now needs to ‘find the way’. I wish her all the best. After all I for one detest the prospect of having to choose between being Scottish & British or Scottish & European.
I’m not my friend, it genuinely stumps me. I don’t relish ‘the smell of indyref in the morning’; for me it’d represent the death of my civic identity – regardless of how I’d vote. The IronMAYden really needs to find her way, and do it all fast.