“Divisive nationalists” may have to wait for Article 50 to play any new cards.

UK constitutional politics right now is pretty counterintuitive. Brexiteers stole the Yes campaign’s best tunes from IndyRefI and used them, provisionally at least, to jailbreak the UK from the EU.

Can Scotland in turn break out of the UK deal? As Brian says that’s extremely unlikely when he notes that “the cardinal point [is] that EU membership is a matter reserved to Westminster“.

In NI much is made of EU associations to the Belfast Agreement, but it’s more political belief than fact. Whilst Martin protests of collateral damage it is also his job to prevent that from happening.

The term ‘divisive nationalists’ seems calculated to stir things up rather than smooth things down, particularly in Scotland. In today’s Herald, David Torrance notes:

Yesterday the SNP’s Westminster leader Angus Robertson had a pop at Tories for indulging in “post-Empire fantasies”, and he had a point, but then Nationalists, whether British or Scottish, are prone to fantasy, it being easier to conjure up future visions of greatness rather than deal with the here and now.

But following the Prime Minister’s speech it’s now got to the point where the First Minister has to stop commentating on events via Twitter and actually say how she’s going to respond to the UK Government’s intention to take Scotland out of the EU and single market in two years’ time.

As Pat Kane noted this morning, whilst Ms Sturgeon may be hampered by the timing of the negotiations, she’d be unwise to try to pull the trigger until Scotland can be sure of EU support.

And that is unlikely to happen until negotiations are complete. If her speech is taken at face value Mrs May is committed to triggering Article 50 before the end of March.

She is, she says, looking for some class of access to the Single Market rather than membership of it, whilst the UK has some class of immigration control.

What that means (and without a major and sustained recession its unlikely to result in decreasing immigration anytime soon), still remains to be seen. The original Tory sceptic plan was a tad bare:

1. Offer talks on trade and tariffs if they wish to change anything, saying we are happy to offer them no change to current arrangements.

2. In other words, we stay in the Single Market as now, without freedom of movement and the contributions.

3. The advantage we have on trading is that we are happy with the status quo, so they are the ones with a problem if they wish to change it.

4. This reverses the presumption of many commentators that the UK needs to negotiate with the rest of the EU and is the supplicant.

The Times of London in its editorial this morning was less than impressed with the British PM’s pro Brexit brio:

British voters have judged, in the referendum, that the costs of EU membership — in budgetary contributions, freedom of movement and regulatory burdens — exceed the benefits. That is a respectable case and the government must act on it. The idea that there are no costs at all in Brexit and that the benefits of membership may be retained is, however, false and irresponsible.

Britain’s EU partners do not have an obvious incentive to cut a deal. EU countries export about 3 per cent of their GDP to Britain. Britain’s exports to the EU amount to 12.5 per cent of GDP. For Boris Johnson to declare that Britain can have its cake and eat it is a dangerous delusion.

Irritating as it may seem, those divisive nationalists may be better advised to wait for the negotiated  outcome Mrs May comes back with towards the end of Article 50 to play their new set of cards.


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