It might have been a covid Christmas, but some seasonal traditions are sacred and unchanging despite the global pandemic. So there’s the traditional Queen’s speech on the telly and the equally traditional rush for the remote control to turn the channel so we can watch Judge Judy instead, because if the broadcasters are determined to show us a bad tempered and sour faced rich old white woman patronising poor people, it’s far better to watch the one who at least offers some entertainment value.
But the big news of the week is that a trade deal has been reached between the British government and the EU. It’s a thin deal which in no way comes close to the rights that we have lost from leaving the Single market and the Customs Union, The fishing industry – the only sector of the Scottish economy which had actually supported Brexit, is already crying betrayal. The vital financial services sector has been sidelined entirely. Important Scottish agricultural products have been omitted from the deal.
As soon as the deal was announced, Tories like Michael Forsyth were triumphantly tweeting that the deal meant it was all over for the SNP and hopes of independence, sadly for him, that Dracula in a gimp mask, the deal is a gift to the indy movement. It has alienated farmers and fishermen, given the services sector a reason to support indy, and removed the threat that Scottish goods post indy won’t have tariff free access to English markets. It ensures that an independent Scotland which is a member of EFTA or The EEA will be able to trade with The Uk with only the same checks that will now be in place for goods travelling between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. This is an arrangement which Michael Gove has described as the best of both worlds for Northern Ireland. Him and his Conservative pals will now no longer be able to claim that independence will result in Scotland being economically cut off from English markets.
Now it is certainly the case that upon achieving independence Scotland would not automatically be a part of the EU and would have to apply for membership. Even with an expedited application process this is still likely to take a while – even though the oft-repeated claim that Scotland would have to get to the back of the queue behind Turkey is a nonsense, as is the repeatedly debunked claim that Spain would veto a Scottish application in order to discourage Catalonia. However Scotland could enjoy all the same rights of market access by joining the European Free Trade Association along with Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Lichtenstein. Scotland could potentially join EFTA in the period between a Yes vote for independence and the actual date of independence itself, so that Scotland would be a member immediately upon attaining independence, ensuring a seamless transition into the European Single Market Sright of freedom of movement and settlement throughout Europe for citizens of the newly independent Scotland. Unless the British government were to change its citizenship laws to strip Scots of British citizenship, Scottish citizens eould retain the right to live and work and travel freely in the UK, making the possession of a Scottish passport a valuable asset for anyone applying for a job with a company trading with both the UK and with Europe. Incidentally, it is vanishingly unlikely that the British government would move to strip British citizenship from Scots, as if they did so they woul also have to remove British citizenship from the likes of Michael Gove. Michael Forsyth, Liam Fox and Malcolm Rifkind. That’s not going to happen.
Crucially, the UK cannot treat one part of the European Single Market differently from any other part, otherwise it wouldn’t be a single market. This renders toothless any British natuonalist threat that Westminster would seek to punish Scotland economically for daring to seek independence. Thanks to the Tory deal We now have a guarantee that Scotland will not economically suffer from independence, we only stand to gain, and to attain what Michael Gove himself has described as the best of both worlds. Meanwhile vital economic sectors such as finance an services have now been given a very powerful motive to support independence which they did not have before. An independent Scotland would be ideally placed to hoover up the financial sector jobs and investment which is now looking at leaving the UK.
This new deal does not mean that there would have to be passport checks on anyone crossing the Anglo-Scottish border, that scare story can be put to rest too. Ireland remains a member of the Common travel Area, and so could an independent Scotland too. Any checks on commercial traffic between an independent Scotland and England would be the same as those henceforth in place on commercial traffic travelling to Northern Ireland and could be handled in a similar way. There need be no passport checks or controls on individuals crossing the border for private visits. Anyone who insists otherwise is scaremongering, pure and simple.
What this deal, which was unwanted by Scotland and in the making of which Scottish interests have not been taken into account, has done, is to massively strengthen the arguments for independence while destroying some of the most important arguments that British nationalists have hitherto deployed against it. Scotland’s angry and resentful remain supporting majority have now been given a powerful reason for supporting independence as the quickest and easiest route to the restoration of our rights as European citizens which the Conservatives have stripped from us.The gleeful crowing of the Tories and their allies on social media is entirely misplaced. It’s as wrong as their belief that the pandemic was going to destroy any hope of independence. All that the Conservatives with their Brexit obsession have done is to put rocket boosters under the indy cause. Over the coming months support for independence is only going to grow even more – and it’s all due to the myopia and arrogance of British nationalism.
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