Theresa May is risking the future of the British Union if she fails to recognise that Westminster is no longer “in control”

Independence does not need abandoned but other policies need pursued..

Brexit has changed things given the dangers that the UK faces. However, there’s so much uncertainty that it’s hard to see how a vote (on independence) could be called in the absence of clarity on the core issues of currency, EU and relationship with the rest of the UK..

There are challenges also for the Scottish Parliament…  The focus has returned to Westminster….. Not simply because that’s where the current major debates are but where there’s now a huge contingent of Nationalist MPs. …As more powers are devolved steps need taken to enhance its position once more.

Equally, the First Minister herself has become an accomplished stateswoman. However, she’s cast a long shadow over her cabinet colleagues with direct involvement in so many policy areas. Years ago, people could be challenged to name five Labour MPs. After Brown and Cook silence often prevailed. Now, despite many able individuals being in post, similar requests to name five Cabinet Secretaries will see silence, after Sturgeon and Swinney. She should let them get on with their job and raise their own profile.

An alternative for Scotland and indeed the whole UK to follow is charted by the leading analyst and former strategist of the Better Together campaign, Jim Gallagher. He starts by pointing out the difficulties now being starkly exposed of drawing precise conclusions from the blunt instrument of a yes or no vote.

This has big implications for the future of the British Union which he argues, has already taken on some of the characteristics of a confederation. This could allow Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to develop their own relationships with the EU on those matters like agriculture and the environment which presently reside in Brussels but are likely to be devolved back to them rather than Westminster.

Added later

Continuing links with the EU for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would require stronger “mechanisms of intergovernmental relations. These would  “inevitably become real places of political power, where deals are done and choices made. If devolved powers are extended as proposed, they will be more significant still. These bodies need to become more substantial, frequent and formal, and properly supported like the British-Irish Council – which could indeed evolve into this new body. It would have  an independent secretariat, and might become more powerful in setting agendas and brokering deals, rather than simply taking minutes and issuing press releases.” ( Ouch!)

At the centre to supervise and influence this new level of intergovernmental  activity could be  a Grand Committee of the Upper House   ( Gordon Brown calls it  the Senate)  with a different sort of membership and quite specific powers. with disproportionate representation for the small parts of the UK and without a partisan majority. It might, say, over-represent the devolved nations by a factor of three, so that its membership was 55% representative of England.  As well as taking evidence, it should debate, and come to conclusions about the effectiveness of what the governments have been doing.

It might also be given powers to set the agenda. For example, one of the disappointments of devolution is the paucity of comparison between policy and practice in different parts of the UK: devolution has been anything but a laboratory for policy development. ( Under these new terms the SNP  would be advised to end their boycott of the House of Lords; and why not the SDLP? The titles and even the name of the Upper House could be changed, quite apart from the upheaval of revisiting the ideal of an elected chamber).

Secondly, the logic of keeping an open Irish border with the common travel area,  Gallagher maintains, means

“visa free travel to EU citizens, even though they may not have the right to work and settle here. As a result, there will have to be what is sometimes described as point control of immigration.  in other words, major responsibilities will fall upon employers, or potentially providers of public services or even landlords, to ensure that individuals have the right to work or settle in the UK. This might involve UK work permits, or perhaps EU citizens would simply be able to work here if offered a job.”

But the Westminster government is obviously preoccupied with keeping tight control over the  Brexit debate. Will they turn to these diversifying ideas in the short time available before triggering Article 50 by the end of next March? They could save help preserve the  cohesion  of the UK in our time. Is Theresa May interested? Or do the unfavourable economic conditions created by Brexit uncertainty persuade her that  the bulk of Scottish opinion will stick with nurse for fear of something worse?

Extracts 

It is increasingly clear that Brexit was a nationalist referendum. Both sides would be insulted by the comparison, but Messrs Johnson and Gove spent the campaign singing the same tune as Alex Salmond. Both claimed to be positive, but were essentially negative. They were telling people to vote against a union – European or British. But voting against something is writing a blank cheque for something else. And if you write a blank cheque, somebody else fills it in…

In Whitehall today, the three Brexit ministers can’t agree how to fill that cheque in. That’s hardly surprising, since their pre-referendum promises were inconsistent: we are not going to get the single market without free movement of labour. This shows the first big problem with the referendum as a device. If people vote against something, there is no saying what they will get instead, and when the campaigners aren’t in a position to deliver their promises, the outcome will probably be something the population don’t actually want. Chances are, had it been offered them in terms, a majority of voters would have rejected the Brexit deal we are about to get.

 

…. Powers are coming back to Britain from Brussels. As a result all of the UK’s governments will become more powerful, the devolved administrations as well as Whitehall. At the moment Brussels rules create UK uniformity in major areas of policy, like agriculture, fisheries and the environment. ..

This will make the devolved administrations more like equal partners to the UK government, and will mean, for the first time in the UK, genuine inter-governmental negotiations from which both sides need agreement.

So the Scottish government (Belfast and Cardiff too) should be given power to make international agreements with the EU for devolved matters.

Ministers look like rejecting free movement of labour in the EU. But they are also going to end up agreeing Visa free travel to EU citizens. They have to, because otherwise they cannot keep the common travel area with the Republic of Ireland, and anyway could not manage the border checks needed at other UK entrances. So EU migration will be managed on a ‘point’ basis. Employers, say, will have to check whether people have the right to work; maybe even landlords or public service providers will have to check whether they are allowed to settle. Whatever the mechanism, it is done not at the border but in country. That means it can be different in different places.

People often talk about federalism as if it were a solution for the UK. In truth the UK is already moving beyond it, to a more confederal solution. But a confederation needs policies and institutions of shared rule, as well as self-rule. Brexit immediately offers one: the UK’s fir st chance in decades of an effective regional economic policy, so that central government can direct resources to the poorer areas of the country and use them in imaginative ways. Another might be finding a way to use the House of Lords as an effective Senate or Council of the Isles, holding the UK’s governments to account for their joint activities. My suggestion would be a grand committee of the House of Lords, with no partisan majority, and with 55 per cent English members so the devolved are consciously overrepresented.

All this takes the UK and Scottish governments well outside their different comfort zones. Theresa May would have to show much more imagination about the consequences of Brexit than she has yet shown about its content. Nicola Sturgeon would have to show courage in putting the traditionally conceived dream of independence aside, at least for this generation. Do they have the courage and generosity to do this? I don’t know, but it’s surely worth asking.

In Ireland it may be that ideas for future border management will not be all plain sailing. While the Irish government are working on British proposals, Fianna Fail are saying that  “the idea that the land border between the EU and the UK could be dealt with by giving Ireland responsibility for policing the UK border seems highly implausible.”

What do they and Sinn Fein suggest instead?

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  • lizmcneill

    Davis thinks he can solve the Marmite issue by eating Vegemite. Imported from Australia. Checked the exchange rate with the Aussie dollar lately?

  • lizmcneill

    Sauce for the goose, etc.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I should have said David Davis rather than David Davies (avec un “e”) who is a different Eurosceptic MP but both are equally bad as one another it would seem.

    I even bothered to check the gender of the letter e in French, very proud of myself for that.

  • Anglo-Irish

    If those responsible for procurement of the items you mention are doing their job correctly then no doubt they’ll be looking to take any advantageous deals that they can.

    However the cost and ongoing reliability of high end items will have an impact on purchase decisions.

    The problem with a major change such as this is that it introduces a lot of uncertainty as to the reliability of future supply of replacement parts and technical support.

    Little point in making a saving on costly equipment and then having to replace it earlier than planned because of lack of backup.

    Business will be lost as a result of uncertainty regarding certain businesses long term future.

    It’s always a bit of a gamble where capital investment is concerned, but every attempt to reduce risk to a minimum is taken by prudent companies.

    Brexit is just another risk factor.

  • Jams O’Donnell

    I don’t “share a country with the savage English”.

    I do share a country with, among others, mostly quite civilised people of English descent, quite a lot of whom are SNP members. As for the rest of the UK, it’s up to them how “savage” or otherwise they are. Nothing to do with me.

    Are you on some kind of anti-psychotic drug which isn’t working, re your obsession with “hate” and savagery?

  • Hugh Davison

    Is this a serious comment? Do tell me you’re joking, aren’t you?

  • dcomplex

    100% serious. If you prefer Germany to Britain, go join their servants in the Irish republic.

  • dcomplex

    UK is a country, one nation indivisible.

  • dcomplex

    We shouldn’t forgive greek debts, we should help them leave the idiotic Eurozone

  • dcomplex

    UK also defended the colonies from France during the 7yrs war, and people in the colonies were already wealthier than those in UK. Mistake was to refuse their representation in Parliament.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Big bloody whoop. I mean even later than that the United Kingdom government slaughtered several of its own people during the Peterloo Massacre.

    So by that reasoning even the British are enemies of the nation, and the only way a jingoistic Britain could survive and prosper is through the mass extinction of the human race.

    My advice would be stop eating your flag and do something useful for a change.

    Be grateful you can waste your life via jingoism (as welfare will pay a jingoist even for doing nothing) rather than lose your life via conscription these days.

    I know I am glad as I’ve been able to turn down 3 roles involving British Armed Forces research.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Maybe the UK should sort out the Sterling zone first, if the omnishambles continues, it’ll just end up like Greece itself.

    The Germans are also creditors of British debt too remember.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I just wonder if that ship has sailed or whether the UK government has lost its marbles and fails to realise it doesn’t have to destroy every network it has in Europe just because it chose not to benefit from the EU anymore.

  • Jams O’Donnell

    Rubbish. The UK is made up from the countries of Scotland, England, the Principality of Wales, and Northern Ireland, plus the Isle of Man. Scotland and England signed an Act of Union, but this act can be repealed, just like any other act. And it will be, thanks to Cameron and May.

    I see you are not really willing to address any substantial points, but can only indulge yourself with empty sloganising. Am I correct in guessing that you are a juvenile, or are you just intellectually challenged?

  • Angry Mob

    From what I have seen so far of Mrs May I think she may just be a pragmatist at heart. Hopefully common sense wins out over the lunatic fringe who advocate the WTO option/ “Hard Brexit”

  • Kevin Breslin

    Perhaps she is a pragmatist at heart, perhaps she is simply trying to win over the “lunatic fringe” … I’ll concede she’s been in politics a lot longer than I have, but the UK is a bit more diverse than Maidenhead.

    I don’t believe the UK want a Hard Brexit … it leaves 3 real options.

    1. Preaching to the rearguard.

    The UK government is scared of tabloids and hardcore Leave voters who dismiss the nation’s long historical trade connections with Europe because they can only look at the UK from an introvert and insular personality, (obsessed only with English speakers, British monoculturalists, and the Christian faith) rather than the extrovert and networked nation it had grown to be.

    2. Diplomatic incompetence/Exit clause constraints.

    It should be remembered it was the British who pressed for and drafted Article 50, the entire EU has to take responsibility, but they were pretty much left to their own devices on making it practical for all concerned.

    So if the UK did tie its hands over the practicalities of leaving the European Union, it may have to re-engineer the exit route before actually even leaving.

    Let’s assume it cannot.

    It really doesn’t have a choice as the design of Article 50 was badly designed, and perhaps designed too much in the European Union’s favour. The European Union has to sign off on the divorce to be a Hard Brexit and the UK needs to buy back its advantages like other third nations do.

    Hard Brexit is automatic, the trade barriers are automatic, the isolation from EU partnerships are automatic and it’s the UK’s responsibility to soften the blows that come its way.

    There’s nothing the United Kingdom can do about this and to some extent there’s a section of British people who want this to be the way it is.

    3. Mala Fides Max

    It may not have a choice because the rest of the world is actually ganging up on the United Kingdom for fair reasons like the UK wanting to free itself from international trade laws unilaterally and they are merely taking precautions to want the UK not to, or foul reasons because the relationships with the United Kingdom are politically difficult to heal. The United Kingdom is not trusted to the same extent it once was by many nations in the world, as it was before.

  • Kevin Breslin

    There are going to be transitional arrangements either way … to transitional agreements mean that the European Union is duty bound to treat the United Kingdom as it would Algeria.

    Not just paying EU import tariffs as a third nation and bound by regulations for the internal market but the removal of EU acquired rights beyond those of the EEA, the removal of EU security obligations to the UK, the removal of access to EU central programs.

    The European Union not changing its approach and letting things be the way the United Kingdom likes it with regards to trade … is pretty much not an option.

    The biggest folly is that the United Kingdom would simply transition and the rest of the world would not behave any worse or differently towards it and that it would not change or ignore it or make its life harder.

    So transitions are going to come.

    The United Kingdom can either be agreeable or disagreeable … claiming the rest of the world is disagreeing with you will not get it far in life.

    The most disagreeable nations in the world just start wars over nothing, or let themselves get sanctioned off by the rest of the planet like North Korea does and I don’t think the Leave rearguard want to sink to the extreme levels of Da’esh and other jingoistic imperial nationalists to defend xenophobia.

  • Hugh Davison

    How weird. Why would I prefer Germany to Britain, or Britain to Germany? What is your point?

  • Kevin Breslin

    If people advocate WTO terms they shouldn’t evangelise, they should make the nation ready for it.

    WTO Terms would be better for Corbynite Labour with a 1960’s style industrial state, than a Mayite free trader multinational corporate one.

    It would bring the UK back to the days of the Corn Laws almost.

  • chrisjones2

    “bankrupt union” remind me of the currant annual subsidy to Scotland?

  • dcomplex

    Bc Germans are a bunch of authoritarian idiots.

  • dcomplex

    Israel says the rest of the world is wrong and they are doing fine. Sometimes you have to be principled and stand alone.

  • dcomplex

    The current Scottish assembly is not a reconstituted Scottish sovereign parliament of the 18th century. Those powers were transferred to the British, now UK parliament.

  • dcomplex

    The Sterling zone is growing quite well. High growth, low unemployment, low inflation, low interest rates.

  • dcomplex

    Peterloo massacre was done by people who endorsed the Common Agricultural Policy of the day, the Corn Laws.

  • Kevin Breslin

    It was done by a UK government.

  • dcomplex

    And?

  • Kevin Breslin

    There were no wars within UK as a result that it was part of the EU Common Agricultural Policy.

  • Jams O’Donnell

    Nice try – read the Act.

  • dcomplex

    And? The CAP also didn’t cause a huge and disgraceful famine in Ireland. The Corn Laws didn’t for hundreds of years either, but one year of very bad crop yields caused tragedies in Ireland (and elsewhere in Britain). CAP just hasn’t yet had its potato famine.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Right and wasnt there a free trade deal struck with Iraq the USA that still lead to war?

  • Roger

    That whole EU thing.
    A storm in a teacup.

  • Roger

    No they were not in the EU.

    There is a UK and there is its colonies. The former is an EU member. The others are not.

    Gib had a special status.