On Friday, Theresa May gave her considered response to the entirely predictable rejection of her Chequers Plan by the EU. The rejection should not have come as a surprise to anyone who was paying attention. The EU has been signalling ever since the Chequers Plan was cobbled together that it wasn’t going to be acceptable. For the past two years it has been patiently and consistently explaining that the four freedoms are indivisible, and the British Government can’t pick and choose those parts of them that happen to suit the interests of maintaining some sort of semblance of unity within the British Conservative party.
It’s just unfortunate that the British Government counts amongst those who weren’t paying attention, and so it reacted to the EU’s refusal in much the same way that a toddler reacts when it goes in a huff and knocks its sippy cup off of the high chair and then discovers that there’s such a thing as gravity. Only with somewhat less maturity and more of a sense of entitlement.
There are a number of ways to react when you discover the existence of gravity. You could do what Isaac Newton did. Newton was a busy man, in between taking the credit for the work of Astronomer Royal John Flamsteed, nursing a pathological hatred for Robert Hooke and Gottfried Leibniz and trashing their reputations at every opportunity, and ensuring that part time dildo manufacturer William Chaloner was hanged and publicly disembowelled for the crime of counterfeiting a few coins, he sat down and worked out a detailed and rigorous exposition of the nature of gravity which underpinned all scientific understanding on the phenomenon for hundreds of years after his death. Think of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, only with the power to have people tortured to death, and you’ve got a rough idea. And you’d think that, being a nasty and petty minded vindictive git who allowed his grudges to become all-consuming, Newton would have been an ideal role model for the Conservative party.
Or you could do what the baby in the high chair did, which was to throw its dummy after the sippy cup and have a hissy fit while screaming that it wasn’t fair and threatening that if it didn’t get its own way, it was going to soil its nappy. The British Government went for option B. That’s where we currently are with Brexit. The British Government is threatening the EU that it had better come up with a compromise plan that the UK can agree to, or the UK is going to pee in its pants. And then the EU will be sorry. Over two years after the Brexit vote, with just six months to go until Brexit day, with just four weeks to go until time runs out for reaching agreement, this is what passes for a plan. Not only do our Westminster rulers have no concept of the theory of gravity, they have no concept of the gravity of theory.
The Brexists are full of the I-told-you-so’s, but none of them have the foggiest idea what to do either, other than wish the Irish border out of existence and tell themselves that everything will work out just fine because they’re British and being British means being better and having Union flegs plastered on everything in Tesco. Brexit might cause a few problems for people who don’t manage hedge funds, but hey, blue passports. And anyway, it’s all the fault of the EU for refusing Britain’s perfectly reasonable demands for unicorns, cherry bedecked cake, and a Schrodinger’s Irish border that simultaneously exists and doesn’t exist at the same time. We won the war you know.
The blame for this mess lies entirely with the British political establishment. Largely it lies with the Conservatives, who have selfishly put party interest before all other considerations and who have failed miserably to engage with the realities of Brexit. But a portion of blame also lies with the Labour party, which has equally spent the past two years consuming itself in internal battles and refusing to confront the realities of Brexit or to challenge the Conservatives’ lack of planning in any meaningful way. It was telling that today, when the British Brexit befuddlement finally crashed into reality, the Labour party couldn’t find anyone to go on Channel 4 news and speak about it.
It has always been obvious that the EU was never going to agree to a division of the four freedoms. It was always obvious that the EU was never going to agree to any border on the island of Ireland, a position which the UK agreed to last year when it consented to the so-called backstop. However instead of engaging with these realities and preparing the country to accept a concession, the Prime Minister and the British political establishment have wasted the last nine months in posturing and party in-fighting. And now that the EU is taking the initiative and laying down to the UK precisely what the UK had agreed to, Theresa May is acting all surprised.
Now Theresa May is telling us all that no UK Prime Minister would ever consent to a customs border down the Irish Sea, because that would be tantamount to the partition of the UK. Her concern about retaining Northern Ireland as an integral part of the UK is not unrelated to her dependence on the DUP’s votes in the House of Commons. Just today, a reader of this blog (thank you Michael Bruce) pointed out to me that Winston Churchill, that PM so beloved of the Tories, offered to give up Northern Ireland to Eamon De Valera in 1940 when he was courting the support of the Irish State in exchange for Irish support in the war against Germany. The episode is detailed in the book Operation Sealion by Leo McKinstry.
Northern Ireland, just like Scotland, is and always has been disposable if it’s in the interests of the British state. That’s why it’s Scotland which hosts Westminster’s nuclear viagra, because if there happens to be a serious accident at Faslane, it won’t affect anywhere that the Tories really care much about. Theresa May’s concern for the integrity of the UK is so much cant.
That’s the biggest single argument in favour of independence. We are governed by people for whom our interests and concerns are at the very best minor considerations, and which all too often don’t even figure in their calculations at all. The Brexit process exposes that. Brexit has been carried out entirely in the interests of sections of the Conservative party. This is a process which has no positive outcome, and you can be certain that the people who are going to suffer the negative consequences will not be those people in the Conservative party who argued most strongly for it. That’s why Scotland needs a government which is answerable to the people of Scotland, and which the people of this country can remove from office when they do not respond to our concerns. We need to teach the Tories the gravity of the theory of political accountability, and we can only do that in an independent Scotland.
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