Here at last is a cogent view of the case I’ve been arguing about Brexit – with a touch of optimism added – from economist Graham Gudgin, a former adviser to David Trimble.
Extreme negative predictions about the impact of Brexit stem from false beliefs about the importance of the EU in both economic progress in Ireland and political progress in Northern Ireland…
Contrary to what we are continually told, EU membership does not seem to have had a noticeably beneficial impact on Ireland’s economic growth, even if this seemed to be the case during the great construction boom occasioned by overly low interest rates inside the euro zone.
Nor is it a sustainable argument that common EU membership was essential to the Good Friday agreement, as many began claiming during the referendum. The big external player in the peace process was the United States, even if the EU context did help nationalists in the North feel closer to the Republic.
The lesson is not that Ireland should back the EU against the UK. On the contrary, Ireland should ally with Germany and the Netherlands in arguing for continued free trade between the UK and the EU. This would greatly ease any pressures for Border controls in Ireland.
The threat of a hard border between Scotland and England is also exaggerated according to academic discussion referenced by Iain McWhirter in the Herald. The argument is joined over whether this favours independence over the development of UK federalism in the end, or deters it.
… An independent Scotland will ultimately need its own currency or to join the euro, but the early years could be much smoother without threats of financial scorched earth from an aggrieved UK Treasury.
Nor need there be any “hard border”, as some academics were claiming only last week at a conference organised by the Centre for Constitutional Change. If there is to be a hard border with Europe, then I suspect Westminster would be much less keen on a hard border with Scotland. The precedent for an open border already exists with Northern Ireland, where there is free movement with the Republic. If the rUK went ahead and placed border guards at Gretna Green after indyref2, it would be the most extraordinary lapse of goodwill and irresponsible provocation. We all know why there is no hard border in Ireland and no-one surely wants that kind of trouble here.
Don’t wait for Whitehall. Set the agenda now. Force the UK Cabinet to acknowledge Scotland’s priorities. Preempt any attempt by the UK Government to place unacceptable limitations on Scotland’s Brexit ambitions…
The second item on Scotland’s List of Demands should be the transfer of all the funding associated with these new powers..
he accumulation of all these new powers and finances would bring about “neo-Independence” for Scotland, creating the ideal platform for advancing to full sovereignty for the Scottish people in the early 2020’s.
Meanwhile the debate in London is currently being presented as a binary choice between Hard or Soft Brexit? without giving a thought yet to the implications for the future of the UK, like this update from Anne McElvoy in the Guardian.
Political anoraks will be gleeful about the outburst of recrimination between the defeated Cameroons and the “lily -livered” and calculating fence sitter Theresa May. While these squabbles emphasises the completeness of her victory, they also expose the continuing lack of clarity about what Brexit means Brexit actually means and the threat of Brexit wars to come within the Conservative party.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London