Saturday 24 December 2016

Game over for the SNP

To give Scotland a different EU status to any other part of the UK would in effect be to give it independence.  It might be the case that the UK would continue to exist in some odd way still technically united, but for how long could such an arrangement last? There may be examples of tiny parts of EU member states having a separate status. You can find an anomaly to cover every situation. But this is all beside the point. The SNP’s argument remains give us a status that amounts to independence or we will ask for another independence referendum. But what is in it for anyone who wants the UK to stay united? Nothing whatsoever.

No matter what you give the SNP, they will still want independence. So what has your concession bought? Nothing of substance, only a little time perhaps. Meanwhile by making the bonds of the UK ever looser you have simply made it easier for the SNP to achieve independence in the end. A Scotland that remained part of the Single Market would in time become a rather different place to those parts of the UK that were outside. Different rules would apply in Edinburgh from those in Newcastle. Would it even be workable without monitoring the flow of goods and people at the border? It isn’t even worth looking at the complexities involved as the whole thing is obviously unworkable and designed to be impossible. The SNP just like Austria-Hungary in 1914 have given an ultimatum that they know will be rejected.

We don’t know what sort of trade arrangement the UK will have with the EU after Brexit. Whatever we want will depend on the agreement of the EU. Donald Tusk has suggested that being part of the Single Market requires being a part of the EU. This may be contradicted by the example of Norway, but who is to say that the Norway option is even open to the UK. The EU may not wish as large an economy as the UK to have such an arrangement. We just don’t know.

It should be possible to trade freely with other countries without being ruled by them. Free trade is in everyone’s interest. We are asking for no more than we are willing to give, but the EU is determined to punish us because we reject their rule. But the whole flaw of the EU, that is becoming ever more apparent, is that it went beyond trade and attempted to join hugely different European countries politically.  

It should be possible for similar numbers of Europeans and Brits to live and work in each other’s countries. Again we are asking no more than we are willing to give. But the EU wants to punish us because we think it is unreasonable to give every one of five hundred million EU citizens the automatic right to live in the UK. Moreover, given that the EU has no effective border control with the rest of the world, they want us in effect to give unrestricted rights of migration to practically everyone who can get into Europe. With regard to both trade and immigration the EU wants much more from us than we want in return.

Owing to the fact that Britain wants relatively little from the EU, it should be possible to come up with a deal that is in the interests of everyone. But the EU is determined to make an example of Britain, otherwise everyone would want to leave. It is for this reason that it is folly to tell the EU that we want this or that sort of deal, because they would immediately attempt to exact a high price. The only way to get what is best for the UK is to be willing to walk away entirely. If the EU knows that we are perfectly happy not to buy German cars and Italian prosecco and that the City of London would be perfectly happy not to provide the finance necessary for the Euro to keep stumbling along, then it is just possible that we may be able to find a compromise. In this way we might be able to keep trade more or less free and allow relatively unrestricted movement of people between the UK and the EU.

The attempt to make Theresa May tell us in great detail how she will negotiate simply undermines her ability to do so. It is as if Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP are determined that a general reveals his plans to the enemy. Hardly a single battle in history would be won under those circumstances. But then these parties have become so unpatriotic that they would prefer the UK to lose.

Gaining the best deal for Britain depends on secrecy, but it also depends on the whole of the UK leaving. We cannot take back control over UK immigration policy if a part of the UK allows unrestricted immigration from the EU. We cannot bring back power to the UK Parliament if a part of the UK still remains subject to EU control. For the UK to be able to make trade deals with countries all around the world, it is necessary for the whole of the UK to leave the Single Market.  How could the UK make a trade deal with the United States if it didn’t apply to the whole of the UK? If goods were freely shipped from New York to London, how would you apply tariffs if someone wanted to put them in a lorry and drive them to Edinburgh? This is not an arrangement that is compatible with Scotland being a part of the UK. It is an arrangement that amounts to independence in all but name.

The SNP think that the Scottish electorate has the right to undermine the choice of the UK electorate as a whole. It is vital that we put a stop to this once and for all for it is becoming ever more clear that people throughout Britain are getting thoroughly sick of the SNP and with it Scotland. If we are not careful, the ties of sentiment and family feeling in the UK will be undermined by the SNP’s deliberate attempt to act in a way that is intolerable to the majority.

As always the Scottish electorate must be treated with care. We are delicate and we don’t like people saying “No”. This strikes me as rather infantile, but fair enough we must do what we can not to inflame Scottish public opinion. It wouldn’t do to give us another grievance we haven’t got over the poll tax yet and the closing of Ravenscraig some of us haven’t got over the execution of William Wallace and the rough wooing of Mary Queen of Scots.

But it is vital for all our sanity over the next few years that somehow SNP threats whether empty or not should be nullified.

The best thing to do with the SNP’s demand for a special EU status is to look at it carefully, put it before committees, show it around the crowned heads of Europe and promise to do our best to reconcile Scottish wishes with EU and UK needs. Meanwhile, when we actually get down to negotiations with the EU we may find that we have rather more important issues to deal with than Scotland’s wish to be turned into Greenland.

The deal with the EU is going to be a UK deal. Let’s hope that it is one that satisfies both the EU and the UK as much as possible. But it will be the only deal available. Scotland can frankly take it or leave it.  Future trade with the EU will depend on the deal that the UK makes with the EU. If Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t like it, she can try to do better by herself. But she would have to wait until and unless Scotland actually became independent.

We have nothing to gain from making concessions to Scottish nationalism and everything to lose. But let us do so quietly and without fuss. Promise to look carefully at what they suggest and then quietly find that no-one in the negotiations was much interested in the status of the regions of the UK.

What are we to do about SNP threats? I think Theresa May is doing very well here. The issue was settled in 2014. But in the end she has to be willing to say “No”. It isn’t necessary to actually say “No”, but she must tell the SNP they have to wait. There need be no definition of how long they must wait.

No country can long endure with a continual threat to its existence from within. Make no mistake, the United Kingdom would cease to exist if Scotland became independent in just the same way that the United States would have ceased to exist if the Confederacy had won the Civil War. You could hardly have called it united. The UK would be supported by the vast majority of members of the international community if Nicola Sturgeon was quietly informed, unofficially of course, that there is no point her making any more threats because they will never be listened to. She has made enough mischief in the past few months. It is undermining the UK’s unity, which is vital to our long term national interest. In the present circumstances at an important historical junction this is quite simply unacceptable. Nicola Sturgeon struggles to understand long words so a short one must be repeated until it is understood. We told her it in 2014, but it hasn't yet penetrated. I'll spell it out for you Nicola. It begins with an "N" and it ends with an "O".

The SNP cannot complain about our being undemocratic, for that would be to suppose that the foundation of Western democracy “the GettysburgAddress” is undemocratic and that there is hardly a democracy in the Western world. There is scarcely a nation state in the world that would allow itself to be dismembered from within. It is precisely the fight against secession that means “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

The task for the UK Government must always be to do what the SNP least wants. We must hinder them and do that which makes their goal of achieving independence as hard as possible. The SNP wants the UK to stay in the Single Market because that makes Scottish independence possible without damaging trade between Scotland and   England.  It also guarantees an open border and a lack of customs controls. Leaving the EU’s Single Market means the SNP would have to take Scotland out of the United Kingdom’s Single Market, while at the same time at least initially being outside of the EU’s Single Market.

The UK Government should explain carefully to Nicola Sturgeon, that she will never gain independence with the permission of the UK Government and that the UK Government would do all in its power to hinder such a goal diplomatically. All of our allies would then be against the SNP and most of the rest of the world too.  Of course this message can be conveyed with nuance and with subtlety and without quite saying it. But it amounts to saying the issue has already been decided and your threats are as nothing. We will not allow another referendum. You agreed that the last one was decisive and when something is decisive it decides the issue. That's what the word "decisive" means. We do not have to play the SNP’s game. It is time to tell them that the game is over.