Uniting to mitigate the effects of Brexit is better politics than talk of break up in these islands.

In the absence of any clarity about the terms for Brexit, it’s no surprise that some Remain supporters are dreaming about  reversing the result and nationalist politicians are weighing up the chances of the break-up of  the UK.  They may have to decide soon  how realistic are their ambitions for constitutional change if a snap Westminster election is sprung soon.

The SNP are the only major party to have anything like a stable negotiating position at the moment. It  looks like win:win once again for Nicola Sturgeon in any early general  election.  On the eventual outcome  for all of us in these islands long after the election has been won and lost, a lot hangs on on the terms of the UK’s future association with the EU, the performance of the UK economy and sterling.  If the UK as whole supported by Ms Sturgeon were to succeed in winning association with the EU single market combined with some restrictions on immigration, that could actually weaken the case for Scottish independence, according to one argument.

One the other hand, it would remove the downside of a hard border between Scotland and England and so make independence even more attractive.

A third option, a negative one, is that she may be setting herself up to fail by demanding full involvement in the UK’s Brexit negotiations. If the EU were to reject  the initial  UK terms, the choice between membership of the UK and the EU might favour the EU. But whatever the Brexit options, they will take longer to clarify with the EU than three to six months.

Despite all excitement over the Brexit chaos, there are other factors deterring an early commitment to a referendum including  the abiding factors of the low oil price and Scotland’s choice of a currency. Sterling still seems the no-brainer. The volume and balance of trade is formidable. Not including oil and gas, show Scotland sold £50.5bn in goods and services to the rest of the UK in 2013. The rest of the UK sold £62.7bn in goods and services to Scotland.

It seems clear that the financial advantages of EU membership do not outweigh membership of the UK for as long as the block grant – i,e. transfers from HM Treasury- continues. This applies to Scotland and in spades to Northern Ireland. The EU may be planning to spend 118 euros to 2020 but UK spending on NI is £20 billion a year. The block grant would survive only within the UK.  True, an independent Scotland would stop contributing to the UK Treasury but she is likely to remain a net beneficiary indefinitely.

In NI politics the rhetorical gap is widening but there’s a ritual quality to   the exchanges . It’s intriguing to see Sinn Fein taking their cue from Nicola Sturgeon.  Once she had pronounced that a second indyref was “likely”, they could hardly lag behind her. But the prospects for constitutional change as between Scotland and NI are quite different. Gerry Adams may claim that with NI voting for Remain it  “could not be bound” by the UK vote but the underlying realities haven’t changed.

Stormont minsters clearly have yet to grasp the details of the Brexit implications and are right to commission briefs on the issues – like the impact on foreign direct investment and  tax and spending (considerable according to George Osborne)  the extent of  the loss of EU structural and peace funding and CAP payments.

The DUP’s puzzling support for Brexit may look slightly better if the Conservatives are returned with another small or even smaller majority, But we are all in flux at the moment and future scenarios have never been less clear.

In the Dail doom-laden rhetoric about a fundamental change in relationships is  understandable in view of the shock of the result, but overblown. All parties and governments in these islands will come together to mitigate the effects and apply the results however imperfect, with  maximum goodwill.

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  • Kevin Breslin

    What if you genuinely believe breaking up these islands is the only way to mitigate the effects of Brexit? It’s a perfectly legitimate desire to dismiss anyone’s rhetoric.

    Unity and Nations cannot be made on rhetoric, it won’t keep the boat afloat.

  • LiamÓhÉ

    “If the UK as whole supported by Ms Sturgeon were to succeed in winning
    association with the EU single market combined with some restrictions on

    There it is. The big IF with two dependencies:

    1) That other EU states will agree to Free Trade without Free Movement. That is not the case with Norway, and bear in mind that Norway has not damaged goodwill like the UK has (sparing a thought for NI and Scotland).
    2) Scotland would settle for no MEPs, no commissioners, and no seat in the European Council. I also consider this highly improbable.

    Your best gamble, from a Unionist perspective, is a second ref with full membership on the cards again and a few token safeguards, which will keep the UK intact yet also risk civil unrest and the definitive entrance of UKIP in the House of Commons.

  • Purple Red

    The opportunism of nationalist parties is irresponsible politics. The situation is currently unstable enough without further disintegration.

  • Reader

    On point 1 – Norway is a far smaller market than the UK
    On point 2 – With a population of 5,000,000 Scotland would have no real leverage in the EU either way. Those trinkets would only be for “the optics”

  • murdockp

    The Scots got a standing ovation in Brussels earlier today, that says it all for me.

  • Kevin Breslin

    1. The EU is still a larger market than the UK. Many of these fabulous free trade deals didn’t happen while the UK was outside the EEC, and with a trade deficit and sovereign deficit with the EU on whole the leverage is probably worse than it was in the 1960’s.

    What the UK want is a unilateral free trade deal that works only in their favour and by its own design, the EU won’t offer that.

    2. The EU President Junker who is virtually the face of evil for the Leave side in terms of the optics comes from little old Luxembourg.

  • Keith

    Timing could be crucial for Scotland. If the UK EU exit happens before Scotland can become independent, then Scotland will have to join the EU via the front door. In other words, join like any other new member. Even if Scotland became independent before the UK exits the EU, it’s still unlikely that Scotland could inherit the UK’s membership.
    I think this makes a crucial difference: if Scotland have to join through the BAU route, it means no opt-outs, and having to accept the Euro. I think this would be a deal-breaker for many Scottish voters.

  • Jollyraj

    The nationalistic parties, especially the fundamentalists like SF, thrive on instability and division.

  • chrisjones2

    Yep ,,, and Tusk has refused to see wee Nicola

  • chrisjones2

    What goodwill?

  • chrisjones2

    Its also incongruous that

    * we seek independence by becoming a vassal state of the EU where we have even less say

    * we abandon the pound for a failing currency

    * we dont want a nuclear deterrent but when we join the EU will have one anyway and a European Army with no control of where our troops are used or what for. And who will they want to fight for?

    We will be left with just ourselves, a fleck of tartan and the bloody midges

  • chrisjones2

    Aye but the Titanic was ok when she left Belfast whereas the Good Ship EU is holed below the financial waterline, has a crew that dont all speak the same language (literally and figuratively), a collective in charge not a Captain no idea of how many passengers it has on board, no sense of direction and intermittent war between some of the Mess Decks for crew

    Aside from that ……………………

  • Kevin Breslin

    As I said rhetoric is quite meaningless … It is the action, or thereby lack of action that people are judging the UK by. If Scotland wishes to trigger its own Tartan version of the Velvet Revolution, it will be as much about Westminster’s ineptude and move to the right as it would be issues like the EU and Trident.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Scotland survived as a nation on its own before ye know. The SNP’s success has largely been down to England treating it as a mere vassal state that homes their Cold War relic in. One of our local people who served the country he loved with courageous integrity described the relic as more of a threat to the UK from accidents and terrorist sabotage than anything it deters. The costs quadruple every 25 years, and to me it’s completely unjustifiable for a radioactive museum peice.

    As for the currency, if the Scots wanted to they can peg their currency to the pound as the Swiss did to the Euro recently. Ireland pegged its punt to the pound for around two decades after independence.

  • Jollyraj

    “then Scotland will have to join the EU via the front door. In other words, join like any other new member.”

    Something worth thinking about for all those hollering for a border poll and (they hope) subsequent new country comprising the former nations of Ireland and NI, respectively. A new country would in all probability have a apply for membership via the front door. Only logical. Otherwise what would stop, say, Turkey from joining -only to later merge with some portion of Syria and demand that said portion of Syria also become Europe – citing the Irish precedent. Can of worms.

  • austin mcclafferty

    It is incredulous, the narrowness of some commentary, opinion and dearth of vision hanging around this blog. Never mind the almost zombielike collective negativity.

    I am glad the author finds SF intriguing, but please bear in mind that they have no strategy for getting a border poll, when they try desperately to grasp onto the first crisis to stir the troupe to attention with sounds of unity by the back door blowing through their sails. What this tune will sound like to the Unionist. I knew the blackguards were playing me false. Come on SF, it has been a hundred years since the Somme. Please don’t send them back to the trenches, I say the same to Mr Eastwood.

    Mr walker, uncertainties that exist in wider society could do with hearing a message that carried a more uplifting tune. Using words like brexit chaos does not paint a true reflection of what is actually occurring. Orderly transition is the new process that besieges the tax paying public, but only because it requires time, when that process has ran its race, everybody will be ready to embrace the change. It is no longer a question. I did approve the last sentence of the last paragraph, it seemed more feet on the ground vocabulary.

    Hopefully the wider mood lifts soon, maybe when folk realise that when enough sunrises have come and gone, that it don’t mean much at all, the utility bills will keep sucking the life out of you through your bank account.

    It must be quite difficult at times, trying to convey a script of misery, would make me feel as if I were suffocating my own soul. Unless your reflections in word are a conduit to hope, they will be at risk of being cast into the annals of obscurity.

  • Paddy Reilly

    “These Islands” are already broken up, with Man, Jersey and Guernsey lying in a special EU-free zone. What we need to do now is increase the EU-free zone, and bring it to parts of England and Wales.

  • Paddy Reilly

    A new country would in all probability have a apply for membership via the front door. Only logical.

    Not how East Germany got in.

  • Reader

    I found both of the headline speeches excruciating. One Tosser and one Crawler.

  • Reader

    1) I don’t know what you mean by a “unilateral free trade deal”. The Brits almost certainly want Free Trade, the EU will want to swap it for Free Movement. Germans will want free trade, Poles will want free movement. Fun, eh? Battle of nerves. So it depends on who does the negotiations.
    If there’s no deal, the EU will put tariffs on UK goods, the UK will put matching tariffs on EU goods and close down free movement. Germany and Poland, finally on the same side after two years of negotiation, will rip Junker a new one…
    2) Is Junker working for Luxemburg or for the EU now? Or, wait – you reckon Junker got the job because of the mighty Luxemburg fishing fleet, and uses his power to funnel benefits to Luxemburg? How does any of this give hope to Scotland?

  • Reader

    Man, Jersey and Guernsey aren’t part of the UK. That’s why they didn’t have a vote in the recent referendum.

  • Kev Hughes

    Germans also want free movement, Poles also want free trade. The implementation of tariffs on UK goods and services would most likely have a far worse affect on it than vice versa, seeing as it has an 8-9% capital account deficit it really does not have much leverage to work with.

    I’m back from a business trip in London yesterday and the feeling is that there will not be more jobs coming there for financial; services, they’re going to have to move now.

    As for Junker, he got the job because he is a back room dealer who can speak 4-5 languages, is from a country based in the heart of Europe and has an eye for a deal. The quality of life there (Lux) is, frankly, outstanding and it was sleepy backwater up until 15 years ago. Perhaps a Scotland away from the UK could take a leaf or two out of its book…

  • Kevin Breslin

    1. I hate to break it to you, but there are two problems … One overestimating the folk psychology that the English political establishment have. The EU is not going to make any changes to its own rules for the sake of a non-member, Poles and Germans are two friends of the U.K. but I doubt either will want to be insulted. The fact is they are not going to be slaves to England’s national prejudices. The EU 27 will redefine the free movement policy, if the UK wants it open by staying in the EEA they’ll get treated like Norway, if the UK wants to stop free movement and discriminate against Slavs … there’s going to be nasty consequences, starting with continental science funding, financial passports various things the right of free movement rely on.

    Already some in the EU have had the iniative to approach the Scots and Northern Irish about potential special relationships. So in terms of playing games the EU is already ahead of England’s game here. The English are only gaming themselves, with Labour more concerned about an election than this issue and the Conservatives in complete disarray over what it is willing to sacrifice to the EU such as deterring foreign workers or reduced single market access in order to calm the rise of English nationalism.

    Effectively the wholesale sacrifice of Free Movement in reciprocation means mutual work visas … if the UK self-sabotages itself so much that it ends up having work visas within the Common Travel Zone, then they’ve conceded that either the CTA and or its own union can no longer go on.

    2. Junker got the job because he used networks and found allies, same reason Jim Nicholson was one of six people in the European Parliament getting involved in the body that deals with EUP financial expenses. Scotland has the same ability. I trust the Scots to know what is best for the Scots, and all of the main Scottish fishery regions voted in majority for Remain, including the one region that voted against the EU in the first place. Yes Scotland will have Eurosceptics, but independence will put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands. Whatever happens the division of fishery zones has to be tackled not simply taking on board the EU’s concerns but the likes of Iceland and Norway who also face quotas in the EU market, and who’s water they’ve had to protect from Brittish trawlers in the past.

  • Paddy Reilly

    I am well aware of their constitutional status. But they are islands and they are proximate, so they do come into a discussion about ‘these islands’, which was presumably intended to include the Irish Republic as well.

  • Reader

    Well, presumably the UK will be trapped in the same non-EU hellhole as these 3 unfortunate islands.
    It doesn’t look too bad, actually.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Look the Crown Dependencies EU relationship is a dependency on an EU state in the UK. That goes up in smoke too upon Brexit.

  • Kevin Breslin

    That relationship changes too, may as well be the same as Jan Mayen or Svalbard now, if a Norwegian deal can be made … and that’s a big assumption.

    It’s completely unlikely that the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey will maintain their special EU-free zone never mind extended it around Britain. That was done on the basis it was a territory of an EU state and therefore relies in the whole of the UK and its territories becoming a special territory of the European Union as the law stands now.

    Is Britain going to become an Irish colony now in order to get EU access but localized freedoms outside the EU?

    Maybe Germany or France or Denmark or Italy could make historical claims based on the Saxons, Normans, Vikings and Romans! 😀

  • Paddy Reilly

    It depends what you are trying to do. I am not a fan of the one size fits all approach.

    Margaret Thatcher successfully destroyed British Industry, I suspect by revaluing the currency in the interest of Financial Services. The current financial collapse threatens to devalue sterling sufficiently to revitalise (the newly deregulated) fishing, mining and industry, while motivating Financial Services to exit to Frankfurt, Paris, Amsterdam and London.

    The Isle of Man suits retired actors like Norman Wisdom (decd) and the Channel Isles attracts billionaire tax-avoiders like the Barclay Brothers, but they don’t do much for young people without capital wanting to sell their labour. In fact, if they are not already resident, they don’t let them in.

    I think consensus lies in providing an environment where both these interests have a chance to flourish. That would mean dividing up mainland England and Wales into different zones, some in, and some out of the EU. It sounds daft, but as it is already happening with Man, Jersey and Guernsey, there is a precedent.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    I was wondering if a manufacturing recovery could be on the cards following a sterling devaluation. Interesting points there paddy.

  • Kevin Breslin

    As an Irish person I’ve had to endure the xenophobia of Migrants by the British media, and the possibility of Northern Ireland enduring check points, customs posts, tariffs, checkpoints maybe even work visas within the island of Ireland and possibly a roll back on civil rights as well.

    Brexit is a millstone, Northern Ireland gets less power, less money and more obstacles. Being manic about imaginary possibilities will only cause mental health problems.

    That isn’t mitigating the damage, that isn’t keeping the islands together, that simply isn’t listening to the people here.

    The nerve of ofsome people who would attack the Remain side dissent yet justify flag protests or brings the country down over Anglo Irish Agreement. This is desiring that people of Northern Ireland turn their back on their own right to self determination.

    With great power comes greater irresponsibility here.

  • John Collins

    Well JR, the nationalists did not set the seeds of the disaffection in large tracts of GB and Wales, that led to last weeks result. Initially Thatcher and that arch manipulator Arthur Scargill played their part in this in the eighties, by combining to close down large tracts of British industry. Then Cameron, purely to bolster his chances of re-election, when under pressure from Farage, promised an in/out Referendum, a disastrous decision if ever there was one. The very holding of this referendum was bound to stir up English nationalistic feelings and divisive sentiments all over the country. The vote then threw up the worst possible result, not just in its overall approval of Brexit, but in the fact that the Scottish and NI electorates disagreed with the natrionwide decision. What else would you expect Nationalist Parties to do, but reflect their constituencies dissatisfaction with that situation.

  • Purple Red

    I agree that they are entitled to reflect their electorate’s dissatisfaction but that can be done in a way that doesn’t require disintegration. They should be fighting to see what the best deal they can get is in the context of last week’s vote rather than populist, unrealistic nationalistic demands.

  • Skibo

    Austin, SF as a political party have a right to push the policy of a United Ireland and the only way to achieve it is via a border poll.
    The idea of a financially sound move to a UI was a bit bleak last year but not so bleak now.
    The orderly transition you talk about has not started as they cannot agree as to who will issue the start of Article 50. If the Conservative party finally appoint their leader, can you honestly say they have the right to start the negotiations?
    Should there not be a general election and let the people decide who they want to handle, probably the most important brief for the last forty years?
    The Tory government were not elected on the mandate of taking the UK out of the EU.
    Who is to say that the people who voted for the country to leave will want the terms that the Tories will be pushing for?

  • Skibo

    Would it not be short lived unless we are supplying the raw materials as well?
    If we import them, then those costs will increase. Will the price of fuel not increase as it is linked to the dollar?

  • Skibo

    The position of the channel Islands has to be considered as they do have trading rights with the EU that I assume will be linked to the UK being a member.

  • Skibo

    Is that not what being successful in politics is? Being able to take opportunities when they exist. They did not cause the insecurity, they merely want to make the best of it for their regions. That is called good politics.

  • Skibo

    How did Scargill help close down large tracts of British industry? I thought he and the miners went through hell to try and keep them open.

  • Skibo

    Nationalist parties should not behave like nationalist parties?They will try to achieve the best result for their regions.
    I do not see England putting NI or Scotland ahead of their interests and the party who we currently believe will be carrying out the negotiations is based in England and Wales unless you want to make something of the one member the Tories have in Scotland.

  • John Collins

    But is not disintegration at the very heart of any nationalist parties agenda- it is why they exist. Apart from that at some level English nationalistic feelings surely had some input into last weeks result. They definitely were not thinking of Scotland NI or Gibraltar when they cast their votes to leave

  • John Collins

    Well from what I remember he adopted a very inflexible position in negotiations. While the iron lady definitely wanted to close down the coal mines, his approach probably made her plans easier to implement.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Fair point Skibo.
    As someone who worked in the mines and oil & gas I really should have thought of that.
    I’ll just go and scrap this banana skin off of my shoe now…

  • Skibo

    It is a bit like SF calling for a border poll, if the Miners had not fought the closures they would have been accused of being bought off.
    Interesting the varying responses to SFs requests for a border poll.
    Unionists say there is no point in calling it as it has no chance of winning.
    Other Republican groups condemn them saying they are not doing enough for Irish Unity.