I keep seeing phrases like “even if the UK opts out” and continue to be totally perplexed by them. What can giving up membership of the EU possibly mean other than opting out of everything that membership of the EU entails? There is no doubt about what Brexit means. It means the UK exiting the EU.
To whatever extent ‘bespoke’ membership of the EU is possible, that is what the UK had. The UK already had more opt-outs than any other member. The UK already enjoyed privileged access to the single market and other benefits of EU membership on terms that were more favourable than those enjoyed by any other member state. That is what the UK is giving up.
The EU referendum wasn’t about choosing some even more advantageous arrangement. No such arrangement was on offer. The referendum was a straight take-it-or-leave-it choice between the ‘bespoke’ deal that the UK had, and no deal at all. Voters in England and Wales opted for the latter – no deal at all. Scotland and Northern Ireland wanted to keep what we had, but we we’ve been told that, in the British state, the wishes of our people count for nothing.
There is no question of the UK opting in or out of anything. The UK has opted out. The notion that the UK Government can define the referendum result in any way it wants, and have the EU accept that definition, is pure fantasy. There is only one default position. The UK gets nothing. It gets nothing, because it chose to give up everything.
If that is the case, I hear you ask, what is the point of the proposals for a special Brexit deal for Scotland that are to be published by the Scottish Government next Tuesday? Has it not just been made clear that, being part of the, Scotland already had as ‘bespoke’ a deal as the rest of the EU was prepared to allow? Has it not been stressed that, being thirled to the British state, Scotland gets nothing because the UK chose on our behalf to give up everything?
All fair questions. But this is politics. While the UK Government can simply disregard the wishes of Scottish voters – because that’s the power we handed to the Westminster elite by voting No in 2014 – the Scottish Government is duty bound to respect the wishes of Scotland’s people. The Scottish Government is mandated by the people of Scotland. It has no obligation to anyone other than the people of Scotland.
What this means is that Nicola Sturgeon has to be seen to make every effort to secure for the people of Scotland whatever it is that they have voted for. They voted to continue with membership of the EU. Nicola Sturgeon has to try to make that happen. Even if it’s impossible, she has to try. She is duty-bound to try.
It will be interesting to see how the First Minister proposes to honour the democratic will of Scotland’s people. But far more interesting still will be the reaction to these proposals from various quarters. The response from the UK Government and the British media is likely to be predictably negative and dismissive. The response from the EU will doubtless be open to diverse interpretations depending on prejudices. But what I will be watching most closely is the way the proposals are greeted by various parts of the independence movement.
This will be something of a test for the Yes campaign. And I have lately been entertaining serious doubts about the ability/willingness of certain individuals and groups to subordinate narrow political agendas to the greater cause of restoring Scotland’s rightful constitutional status.Views: 2937
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