Boris Johnson didn’t want a deal with the EU. His original plan was to force a no deal crash out, putting the blame for the resultant chaos on evil Brussels bureaucrats, the elite that he doesn’t belong to despite being an extremely wealthy former pupil at Eton and Oxbridge, remainer MPs, and uppity Scots. However the Commons tied his hands with the Benn Act, and that forced him to try and get a deal at the last minute. What he’s come up with, reeking with a faux triumphalism, is worse than what Theresa May negotiated.
This is a deal that rips up worker and environmental standards in the name of deregulation. It will take the UK out of the European model of high wages and high standards of social protection into a low wage low tax low public services model. Prepare to see more homeless people in our streets. Prepare to see more people stuck in low paying precarious gig economy jobs. Prepare to see the disabled, the chronically ill, and the vulnerable thrown on the scraphead. Prepare to see the elderly forced to work until they drop. Prepare to see American health corporations move into the NHS. Prepare to see your kids never being able to afford a home of their own. Prepare to see more and more people anaesthetise themselves with drugs and alcohol as their sole means of coping with the hopelessness of their lives. And you won’t be able to dream of escaping to a retirement home in the sun. Freedom of movement comes to an end. Except for the small number of the very wealthy, the Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnsons of this world. They’ll do just fine.
Look at the Tory party, and you can see the future. It’s a future of mediocrity, a future where compassion is a weakness, a future of hypocrisy and cant. It’s a future of small men and women with vastly inflated egos, substituting bluster for wisdom. It’s a future of cruelty, a future of greed and avarice. It’s a future which fetishises WW2 but which trashes the achievements of the post-war settlement that those men and women fought for, that they sacrificed their lives for. The message of our Tory masters is that it is glorious that the working classes die for the British establishment, but the British establishment owes them nothing in return except for a poppy and a parade.
For Scotland, this deal is especially bad. England voted to leave. It’s leaving, so it’s getting what it voted for. Wales voted to leave. It’s leaving, so it’s getting what it voted for. Northern Ireland voted to remain. It’s staying within vital EU institutions, so it’s getting what it voted for. Scotland, you can fuck off back into your shortbread tin.
The SNP has announced that it will not back this disaster of a deal. The Labour party and the Lib Dems have likewise said that they won’t support it. The DUP has refused to give it its backing because they no longer get a veto. And if the DUP won’t back it then the swivel eyed Brextremist faction of the Tory party, those for whom even Jacob Rees Mogg is a suspicious liberal, won’t back it either. There is every likelihood that the deal will not get through the Commons on Saturday.
There’s also a new legal challenge. The legal campaigner Jolyon Maugham is arguing that the new deal is unlawful as it breaks section 55 of the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018. This section says that it is “unlawful for Her Majesty’s government to enter into arrangements under which Northern Ireland forms part of a separate customs territory to Great Britain.” He has started an urgent case in the Scottish courts.
The SNP is perfectly correct not to back this deal, a deal which looks dead in the water before it’s even set sail. It is a disaster for Scotland. It is contemptuous and disrespectful to Scotland. Agreeing to this deal in return for a Section 30 order or for the transfer of the power to hold independence referendums to Holyrood would be seen by voters in Scotland as an epic betrayal by a party which has sworn to protect and defend Scotland’s interests. It would be 1979 on steroids, and all in order to trust in the word of a man who’s notable only for his lies and deceit. Just how much can he be trusted to fulfil any promise to the SNP once he’s got his deal done and the SNP’s Commons votes are in his bag? About as much as you can trust him not to spill red wine on your new sofa.
Boris Johnson knows that if he gives ground to the SNP, he weakens his right flank. He’ll be accused by sections within the Tory party of breaking up the UK in order to secure his own position. One nation Tories who currently support him would desert in droves. The chances are that he’d still not get his deal through the Commons. The SNP would have sold its soul and the deal still won’t have passed in the Commons.
Yet even if the Tories agreed to such a proposal from the SNP, which is highly unlikely, by carrying out such a betrayal the SNP would destroy itself in the General Election that’s coming, and severely damage the chances of the Scottish Government being able to lead Scotland to a successful Yes vote. Because then the narrative would be, but Scotland doesn’t want a referendum, the SNP supported the Tories, the SNP betrayed Scotland over Brexit. And on those last two points the critics would be right. Then the Yes campaign would be fronted by a party which had just suffered one of the worst defeats in its history, a party which is about to face the further trials and tribulations of the Salmond trial. It’s an epically bad idea. It’s risking Scotland’s future on a long shot, a desperate gamble with a poor chance of success. Responsible and compassionate people don’t play poker with other people’s lives. Tories do that. And we are better than them or we are nothing.
There are no short cuts to independence. The path to victory for the Scottish independence movement is the path of honour, the path of compassion, the path of doing the right thing. We will not win the hearts of the Scottish people through betraying their interests on Brexit. There is only the long hard slog of proving to the people of Scotland that Westminster operates in a way that damages Scotland’s interests, that it consistently sidelines and ignores us. We cannot be complicit in the damage that the Tories wreak. If we are as cynical, as lacking in compassion, as driven by short term gain as they are, then there is no reason for independence at all. We’d only end up with an independent state governed by cynics and chancers who’d be prepared to sell out their granny for a short term advantage. We already have that in the UK.
The argument for Scottish independence is a moral argument or it is nothing. This deal must be defeated and we should all fully support the SNP in their efforts to do so. The only road to independence is the road to the moral high ground.
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