Yesterday, the First Minister told the BBC’s Andrew Marr, that Maggie May and the Three Brexiteer’s have no mandate for the ‘Full English Brexit’, and that she wants a ‘Continental Brexit’, whereby Scotland, if not the UK, remains in the single market. I’m afraid I can’t agree with Ms Sturgeon’s analysis. Sad though it may be, I believe a ‘Hard Boiled Brexit’ is exactly what England and Wales voted for in June’s referendum.
There are a plethora of pro-Brexit commentators, experts and pundits who tell us that Brexit is primarily about British sovereignty. They insist that Brexit, first and foremost, is about British laws being made in Britain by the British. And they’re probably right. But when you scratch the surface, you discover that taking back sovereignty, or control as the Brexiteers like to put it, has an awful lot to do with regaining control over Britain’s borders. Even if we accept that immigration is secondary to sovereignty, soft Brexit probably involves ceding more of it than hardline Brexiteers are willing to stomach.
Advocates of soft Brexit will say that most people would like for the UK to remain in the single market, or at the very least, secure a post Brexit trade deal with the EU, that retains as much of the benefits of the single market as is practicably possible. However, if asked, you would almost certainly find that many of those same people would like greater control over immigration.
Like it or loathe it, access to the single market comes at a price, and that price is the free movement of people. It is inconceivable, that the EU will allow the British any level of access, that does not involve a corresponding amount of free movement of people. To do otherwise, would surely mean the end the EU as we know it.
Fantasists like Farage tell us that the EU will capitulate, because we buy more of their stuff than they do of ours (remember when a trade deficit was considered a bad thing?). They won’t, and we’ll still buy their stuff. Apart from anything else, we’re hooked on Audi’s and BMW’s and besides, there’s no British alternative. Even if we still pretend that Jaguar-Land Rover is still British, the chances are they’ll up sticks and leave when the reality of Brexit begins to bite. Who seriously believes that English wine is anything like as drinkable as a French Claret or a Spanish Rioja? The ‘Full English’ it is then.
Nicola Sturgeon would have be quite correct, to say that the UK Government has no mandate to take impose hard Brexit on Scotland. Unfortunately, Scotland opted to remain within the UK, and the UK voted, albeit narrowly, to leave the EU. In no way, does that mean that the UK government has carte blanche to ride roughshod over the wishes of the people of Scotland. It means, that whilst the Scottish Government realises the realities of the situation, so must the UK Government accept that it must meet the Scotland halfway. Now is not the time for absolutes.
There needs to be a compromise, where if Scotland accepts that as a part of the UK, it must leave the EU, then the UK Government accepts Scotland’s wish (are the Scottish people not sovereign?) to remain in the single market, and do everything it can in it’s negotiations with the EU to accommodate that wish. Some will say “it’s not possible” for Scotland (and Northern Ireland?) to remain in the single market whilst the rest of the UK leaves. They’ll say there a constitutional barriers. Perhaps there are, but they can, and should be removed. England may have voted to take back sovereignty, but Scotland is quite happy to share hers, both with the UK and the EU. The Prime Minister ignores this at her peril,