All the way through the campaign we were assured that leaving the EU didn’t necessarily mean leaving the customs union or the single market. The Brexit vote was won for leave on the very narrowest of margins. You’d think that would mean that the government would attempt to reconcile those who voted to remain, and would seek a form of Brexit which was least likely to exacerbate a deep and bitter division. I would hope that if Scotland voted for independence by a similarly narrow margin, that the Scottish government would seek to reassure No voters and would ensure that they were included and their representatives were participants in the independence negotiations. But this is the UK, and in the UK the winner takes all and the loser can go hang. The UK still hasn’t grasped the distinction between democracy and majoritarianism.
As soon as the Brexit vote was in, the Conservatives decided that what it really meant was that the country wanted the most extreme, the most self-harming, the most destructive Brexit possible. It’s rather like expressing the wish to see more of the world, and then being catapulted onto the surface of the Moon, where you can catch the briefest of glimpses of the entire planet Earth in the microseconds before the fluids in your body start to boil in zero pressure, all the air is sucked out of your lungs, and you freeze solid in the minus 173C temperature leaving you isolated and alone in the void for all eternity. You’re seeing more of the world, that’s what you voted for. And as an added patriotic bonus, your face will go various shades of red white and blue before you lose consciousness.
The Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox, once boasted that a trade deal with the EU would be the “easiest in human history” to negotiate because the French need us to buy their wine and the Germans need us to buy their cars. This sort of wisdom and insight explains why the government which the disgraced former defence secretary inexplicably remains a part of wasn’t making contingency plans for the UK falling out of the EU without a deal.
Now Liam has changed his tune, and is saying that it looks increasingly likely that the UK’s Brexit bus will crash out without a deal, and admits that it’s a strong possibility. This is of course, according to Liam, entirely the fault of the EU for wilfully refusing to grant the UK all the benefits of EU membership without any of the annoying obligations that come with it. This is because the EU figures that in the post apocalyptic wasteland of a UK in a no deal Brexit, inhabitants of the UK will be too busy fighting one another over the last remaining stockpiles of Pot Noodles to worry about French wines or buying a BMW.
Of course what this is really about is Liam and his fellow Brexists getting their excuses in early. If, as anyone who isn’t wearing a Union fleg blindfold can see coming, Brexit ends up as an unmitigated disaster, Liam is determined to make sure that it’s those Germans with their towels on the sunloungers who take the blame for it.
In Liam’s universe it’s certainly not Liam’s fault. It’s certainly not the fault of all those Brexit fanatics who swore blind that the UK could leave the EU and still enjoy unfettered access to the EU’s single market without having to sign up to freedom of movement and those other EU freedoms that they didn’t like. It’s certainly not the fault of a British Conservative party which has spent the past two years arguing with itself about a series of positions that the EU had already stated were unacceptable, instead of spending their time working on a Brexit which might actually work in the real world. It’s certainly not their fault because they’re British, and that means they’re plucky, and everyone in Europe looks up to them, because of Dunkirk and Vera Lynn. So it’s not Liam’s fault then. Oh no.
Meanwhile the official Opposition in the House of Commons ought to be scoring massive political points against a government which is presenting them with a target the size of a minor planet, which is not coincidentally the approximate size of Liam’s ego, from a distance of about six inches, which also not coincidentally is the approximate distance of the vacuum to be crossed between Ross Thomson’s ears. But no. When it’s not abstaining, Labour prefers to tear itself apart over internal disputes, because there’s only two things your average Labour MP hates even more than the Tories, one’s the SNP, and the other is another of your average Labour MPs.
However even in the highly unlikely event that the Labour party was able to get its collective act together, it still wouldn’t be resisting the Tories and their insane Brexit. That’s because, for reasons which have never been satisfactorily explained, Jeremy Corbyn is every bit as committed to an insane Brexit as Liam Fox is.
Right now, the only thing keeping Theresa May in power is that her MPs are even more terrified that Jeremy Corbyn might win a snap General Election than they’re afraid of the damage that a chaotic Brexit might wreak. But there are those in the Tory party who are tempted to allow that to happen, and then a weak and chaotic Corbyn government can take the public flak for a catastrophic Brexit while the Tories and Ukip who inflicted it upon us can blame Labour and blame the EU for the mess that they’ve been instrumental in creating. Then a hard right Tory government could sweep into power a couple of years later and destroy the tattered remnants of the UK’s public services, trash what’s left of the devolution settlement, and complete the transformation of the UK into a unitary state with a low wage economy that acts as a tax shelter for the wealthy. There’s your British values for you.
Now it is possible that none of this could happen. It is possible that everything might turn out just fine. All things are possible. It is theoretically possible that Liam Fox is going to wake up one morning, look himself in the mirror, and suddenly realise that his politics have been based on a selfish mendacity, then he’ll make a public apology and devote the rest of his life to unpaid medical work for a charity. But that’s not likely to happen either.
All that the UK offers Scotland is the back seat in a multiple collision. We get to look on helplessly while others decide our fate. The choice of remaining a part of the UK or independence is the choice between helplessness, or having a voice and an influence in determining our fate. It’s the choice between being catapulted to the Moon, or remaining firmly grounded on planet Earth. It really ought to be a no-brainer.
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