Brexit or Flexit, for a time UK politics will take sole control of the stage

There’s a plethora of speculation around Brexit and how it might affect Northern Ireland. For all the heartfelt nature of Brian Feeney’s attack on Arlene Foster highlightly the fact that she doesn’t represent majority opinion in NI – her Euroscepticism is aligned with majority opinion in the UK.

And for the foreseeable future, so far as internal politics are concerned, it’s the only opinion that counts. UK Labour under their ingenue and (if news from their last regional bastion is anything to go by) lame duck leader has no visible means to block any solution handed down by the British PM.

One thing ripping up the UK’s historic committments to the EU on foot of a single [ahem, advisory? – Ed] vote means is that the British PM can no longer control the external outcome. So it was always unlikely, at this stage that she will cede any influence over internal arrangements, at this stage.

This, after all was part of the Eurosceptic play to repatriate soveriegn powers to Westminster (not Stormont, Hollyrood or Cardiff Bay). What comes next will be interesting. From an NI point of view the DUP will look for the means of getting replacements for the impending loss of EU funding.

From a Scottish point of view the debate line has receded from membership of the EU to access to the Single Market. In that respect, James Millar in the New Statesmen argues that a hard Brexit makes for a hard political life for the SNP:

If Sturgeon is opposed to the increasingly likely scenario that sees the whole of the UK crash out of Europe swapping single market access for full immigration controls, it’s because first and foremost it’s bad for her cause.

For if there is to be a hard Brexit, Sturgeon would have to sell the prospect of Scotland leaving the UK, joining the EU and being confronted with not just border posts for anyone wanting to travel south but tariffs for anyone wanting to trade with England.

She’d have her work cut out.The UK is a significantly more vital trading partner for Scotland than the remaining 27 countries of the EU. Scotland’s exports to the rest of the UK outstrip what it sell to Europe abour four to one, and it’s estimated that while 250,000 Scots jobs are tied to the EU, a million more rely on being in the UK.

It’s why Sturgeon for all her fighting talk is trapped. If there is to be a hard Brexit she needs to get Scotland out of the UK before the reality of that dawns. That’s looking like a two-and-a-half year window.

And the spin war on that has already begun in Scotland…

Until further notice, all enquiries from Devolved First Minister’s Offices are to be directed to David Davis’ office…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

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