Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Is it worth writing about politics?

It may be that we have been living in politically momentous times in the UK, but I have found them dull. Yet another vote in Parliament on Brexit, but can I be bothered to find out who won. A brand-new party wins a national election and sets in motion the possible destruction of the Conservative Party, but does it matter. If so, do I care who leads it?

I have found that there is nothing to write and so I have not written. There is only one question in UK politics and too much has been written about it already. We need action not words.

If Britain can completely leave the EU then there will be the chance to debate other things, but until that happens we are stuck with stupendous events that are sterile.

All that is left for the moment is to explain the logic of the situation and try to get to the essence.

1. The Conservatives need to be led by a Brexiteer. Jeremy Hunt voted to Remain, therefore they need Boris. All the rest of the debate is uninteresting. Going down the Remainer who is now an enthusiastic Brexiteer route has been tried already. We’ve “been through this movie before.

2. There is no point debating what a future Prime Minister will or will not do when these wonderful new things depend entirely on the Conservative Party surviving in Government, which depends entirely on that Government delivering a complete break from the EU.

3. The only interesting issue of the moment then is how a new PM can credibly explain to the EU that we are certainly going to leave on October 31st come what may. So long as Parliament undermines the UK’s negotiating position by taking “No deal” of the table, there is no chance whatsoever of reaching a mutually beneficial agreement with the EU. This of course is the whole point. The Remainers in Parliament are not so much trying to stop “No deal”. They are really trying to stop Brexit entirely. So, given the numbers in Parliament how does the new PM force through a “No deal” Brexit if necessary? We have all learned the word “prorogue”, but is it possible, is it legal, will it work?

4. If it becomes necessary for the Conservative Party to fight a General Election in the near future, either to get majority to force through “No deal” or to continue in Government after “No deal”, how can they possibly win? Millions of disillusioned Brexiteers have moved to the Brexit Party. Would enough of them come back if finally, the Conservatives were about to deliver a complete, clean Brexit? If not, there are two solutions. Offer Farage and friends a pact whereby his party gets a free run in those northern seats where the Conservatives have little chance of victory. Alternatively offer Farage and fifty other Brexit party candidates safe Conservative seats and some cabinet posts. Brexiteers have been divided from the start. It’s time to unite.

5. The SNP as usual are angry. Apparently a “No deal” Brexit would threaten the Union. Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t want Boris to be PM. Always do what your opponent least wants. The SNP are desperate for the UK to remain in the EU or alternatively for us to have Brexit in name only. The reason for this is that a complete break with the EU makes the SNP’s dream of independence much, much harder to achieve. A “No deal” Brexit would make some SNP supporters very angry indeed. But even if we stayed in the EU they would find something else to be angry about. In my view the condition for the possibility of Scotland remaining in the UK long term is that the UK leaves the EU. Otherwise at some point there is liable to be a second or a third referendum on independence and at some point, the SNP will win. No country can long endure with separatists allowed at any point to break it up. So, either take the supposed democratic right to secession off the table like Spain, or make secession so difficult that no one sensible would try it.

6. If the UK can completely leave the EU, then in order to become an independent nation state, Scotland face a horrible dilemma. Do we join the EU or do we not? If we join the EU, which apparently is the reason we seek independence, then we would be in a different trading bloc to our most important trade partner (the UK). Moreover, while the UK economy would be no longer a part of the EU’s Single Market, the Scottish economy would be regulated by Brussels. The present close alignment which Scotland presently enjoys with the other parts of the UK could not continue. If on the other hand the SNP chose for an independent Scotland to be outside the EU, then Scotland would face the prospect of doing free trade deals both with the UK and with the EU. Anyone who has witnessed the difficulty that the UK has faced trying to negotiate a deal with the EU will not look forward to these twin tasks with much optimism. Why shouldn’t both the UK and the EU present Scotland with a bill of billions just to begin talking?

7. We have learned that apparently invisible borders such as the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic are actually more problematic than the SNP led us to believe back in 2014. It’s all very well when, for example, Austria and Germany are both in the EU that they have a seamless border, but the border between the EU and the non-EU has turned out to be a serious issue. If Scotland were in the EU while the UK was not, then the border between Berwick and Gretna would be similar to the one between Northern Ireland and the Republic. The situation for Scotland would in fact be rather worse as a condition for joining the EU now is that a member state agrees to be part of Schengen. The Republic has an opt out.  It may be that with good will a solution to the border problem in Ireland can be found. Perhaps technology can do the job, but no one can now pretend that Scottish independence would have no border ramifications. If Scotland had different trade agreements to the UK or had different immigration policies, then some sort of border checks with regard to trade or migration would be inevitable.

8. In my view Northern Ireland is simply part of the UK.  No foreign power has any more claim on it than any other part of any other European country. The borders of Europe are a result of accident, war and treaty. The fact that parts of Poland used to be German gives Germany no legitimate claim them, just as the fact that Crimea used to be part of Russia gives Russia no legitimate claim. It doesn’t matter if the people of Crimea want to Russian or even if they vote 100% to be part of Russia, it is still legally part of Ukraine. This is how sovereignty works. The UK however wished to have peace in Northern Ireland and made the Belfast Agreement with the Republic of Ireland. If the people of Northern Ireland vote to join the Republic, then it is up to them on the sole condition that the citizens of the Republic agree.

9. At present the Irish Taoiseach looks to be using the border issue to try to bring about a united Ireland. This has always been the goal of the Republic. It hasn’t gone away you know.  The UK could respond in different ways. We could attempt to change the demographic situation by encouraging more British citizens to move to Northern Ireland. Every British citizen after all has a right to live anywhere in the UK. Tax breaks could be given, jobs created. We could use education to unify the people of Northern Ireland and sever the link between religion and politics. But in the end, it has to be admitted that if the majority of Northern Irish people prefer to live in a united Ireland then the existence of the Belfast Agreement means that we can’t stop them. But what we can do is to make clear to the Taoiseach and the Dáil that if you want Northern Ireland you will have to pay for it and if there is any trouble you will have to deal with it. It will be your problem not ours.

10. We either live in a democracy or we don’t. If the UK does not properly leave the EU, why would anyone trust the result of any referendum in the UK ever again? What would prevent Parliament stopping Scotland from becoming independent even if the SNP eventually won a vote for independence? The danger is not so much that failure to leave the EU will destroy the Conservative Party, it will, it is that it will destroy all political parties, because it will destroy any sense that voting, or indeed writing about politics has a point.


  1. I am Scottish and have lived at least half of my long life in England and abroad. I have never experienced any hostility here. Sadly since the rise of the SNP and Ms Sturgeons contstant denigration of the English and promoting Independence I hear more and more if Scotland wants to go then good riddance. There was always a slight undergone of anti English feeling but mostly more humorous than serious. I was also once married to a Dubliner and in all the time we visited from the 60s, apart from some romantics, I met very few who wanted a United Ireland, too much trouble. I was there last year for his funeral and did not find any change in attitude. I have no idea where it will end up but any plans I had to return to Scotland where my family are won't happen while the SNP control everything.

    1. Could you give me an example of Nicola Sturgeon "denigrating the English"? I can't even think of one never mind a "constant" stream of them. Is this not an assumption on your part based on the witterings of a hostile and willfuly ill informed English media?

    2. I guess not. It was just another typical, unfounded unionist smear tactic.

  2. I posted a comment yesterday, don't know what happened to it?

  3. Some interesting points here. It may be possible to set Effie's mind at rest over one or two of them.

  4. Since the removal from the Irish Constitution of the territorial claim to the North, RoI Governments (including Dr. Varadkar and his colleagues) have used their best endeavours to protect the status quo. Although the UK Government governs the North like some vague kind of colony rather than as a normal part of the UK, their is no prospect whatsoever of the RoI's attempting to annex it.

    1. ... *there* is no prospect ...
      Mea culpa.

  5. There is no need for Mr. Boris Johnsn, or anybody else for that matter, to make it clear to the rEU (if I may be permitted this convenient shorthand for the other 27 Member States of the Union) that the UK will be leaving the Union on the date mentioned. It is, in fact, the rEU that have made it clear to the UK that this is the date for leaving. As things stand, they are not inclined to accord any extension without good cause.

  6. ... Mr. Boris Johnson ...
    Mea maxima culpa.

  7. There is no reason to suppose that not getting what they voted for will cause people to lose faith in the British political system. ('Constitution' is, I find, rather too strong a word in this context.) The system in fact functions on most people's not getting that for which they voted.


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