I will be voting to remain in the EU, partly because I have taken the trouble to inform myself (with the likes of the Wee Bleu Book) and realise that the EU isn’t the monster some say and that it actually does some good. But I will be voting to remain in the EU principally because I recognise the choices that are actually available to us in the referendum. And it is crucially important that we should all be aware of exactly what is on offer. We must make an informed choice between the actual options.
There is no option to remain in a reformed EU.
While there is no doubt that the EU will change, we are not being offered the opportunity to vote on any reforms. We can only choose between being part of the process which shapes those reforms, or being outside that process.
There is no option for Scotland to quit the EU (or to remain) as an independent nation.
Talk of “real independence” outside the EU is completely, stupidly irrelevant. It’s not an option on the ballot. (While talk of “Independence in Europe” is also inappropriate, although somewhat less so, nobody is really portraying this as an option in the EU referendum, so we can safely disregard it.)
So! What are the options for voters in Scotland?
We can vote to be in the EU as part of a UK which is structurally incapable of representing our interests in Europe, but which is required by the EU to at least acknowledge those interests and allow us some opportunities to represent ourselves.
We can vote to be outside the EU as part of a UK which is structurally incapable of representing our interests in the World, but which will then be subject to no constraints whatever.
This may not look like much of a choice. But let’s look a little more closely at the implication for Scotland of each of the options. All the while keeping clear in our minds the fact that these are the only options available to us.
Vote to remain in the EU and nothing changes. There are no disastrous economic consequences. Politically, we remain pretty much where we were. Except that we will have demonstrated a certain commitment to the EU and will almost certainly be better placed to help shape reforms to its institutions, processes and procedures.
If Scotland’s commitment is demonstrably greater than that of the rest of the UK (rUK) then this might stand us in good stead when it comes to the next independence referendum. But that has to be something of a peripheral consideration.
Vote to remain and life goes on pretty much as it did before.
Vote to leave the EU and nothing changes – at least in the short term. It will take around two years to negotiate new relationships with the EU and the individual nations of Europe. There are no disastrous economic consequences. Not immediately, anyway. The terms of the UK – and therefore Scotland’s – access to the single market will not be favourable relative to those enjoyed by member states. For reasons which are surely obvious, it would not be in the interests of the EU to offer an ex-member terms that were as good as those enjoyed by existing members. There would be a political imperative to impose punitive terms that might, to some extent, outweigh economic considerations.
But the sky will not fall. There’s no more basis for the “Project Fear” stuff coming from both sides of the EU referendum debate than there was for the strikingly similar stuff that oozed like a putrescence of grinding negativity and proud dishonesty out of the despicable Better Together mob during Scotland’s first independence referendum campaign. There will be difficulties. Far more than with a vote to remain. But it is unlikely that they will be insurmountable difficulties. The world is not going to treat the UK as a pariah state just for quitting the EU in the way that British nationalists swore would happen to Scotland if we dared to quit the UK.
By the same token, the idea that there is some deep well of international political and commercial goodwill just waiting to be tapped once the last EU flag has been burned on village greens of England, is farcical. President Obama was forthright to the point of discourtesy when he said that the UK would go to the “back of the queue” for any trade deal with the US. But, as the outgoing POTUS he can afford to be bluntly honest. Especially when he is doing no more than stating the obvious.
Maybe nobody is going to have the knives out for the UK – apart from the rebuffed EU – but neither are governments and corporations going to be tripping over one another to do the UK any favours.
So what should Scottish voters, in particular, be concerned about in relation to Brexit?
Firstly, there is the fact that a vote to leave the EU puts Scotland even more at the mercy of a Tory government we did not elect, but comprehensively rejected. It gives the Tories almost unfettered power. And we must assume that it will be a Tory UK Government for the foreseeable future.
The Tories on the Brexit side are talking in terms of accruing “more powers” for the Westminster elites. Is anyone naive enough to suppose they won’t these powers? Is anybody under any illusions about how they will use those powers? Vote to leave the EU and you are voting to give almost unconstrained power to one of the most viciously right-wing governments that Scotland has ever had imposed on it. Vote to leave the EU and you are letting this beast off the leash completely.
Vote to leave the EU and you are putting in jeopardy what remains of the rights and protections that were so hard-won by previous generations.
But there is one little-discussed consideration which would be the clincher for me, if I required such a thing. The threat to Scotland’s right of self-determination.
We are all, I’m sure, aware of the fact that the British establishment desperately wants to prevent a second independence referendum – even more than it wanted to block the first one. Some people, myself included, were concerned that the UK would use the Smith settlement to slip in a provision that would effectively block any future independence referendum. It is safe to assume that their ambition would be to put Scotland in a similar position to Catalunya in this regard.
Every time there is a change to the constitutional arrangements between Scotland and rUK, there is an opportunity for the UK Government to create a constitutional bar to further independence referendums. That is why we need the SNP. Only they can be trusted to be vigilant and to defend Scotland’s right of self-determination. The British parties in Scotland would, of course, sign that right away the very first chance they got.
Brexit is even worse than any devolution negotiation because it involves a redefining of the UK with Scotland almost entirely cut out of the process. The UK Government would be able to take the opportunity of leaving the EU to redefine the UK in pretty much any way it pleases. We know that the likes of Jack Straw have already flown kites on this kind of redefinition. We know that it is the main purpose of those still pursuing a “federal solution”.
We know for an absolute fact that the British establishment wants the people of Scotland back in their box.
If there is no other reason to vote to remain in the EU at this time, then preventing the UK from screwing us out of our right to hold a referendum has to be sufficient, not only for independence supporters, but for all who respect democracy.
Scotland’s status in relation to the EU, and the rest of the world, must ultimately be a matter for the people of Scotland. For we are sovereign. It is not the EU that is laying claim to the sovereignty which rightly belongs to the people of Scotland, It is Westminster.Views: 3923
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