An exercise in futility, is perhaps the best way to describe today’s meeting, involving among others, the three First Ministers of our devolved institutions and the UK’s Prime Minister. We are no further forward, since we know nothing more, of the UK’s Government’s negotiating position (because they’ve yet to agree amongst themselves) on Brexit, other than that it must not be “undermined”. Instead, we’ve been served up another slice of empty rhetoric. Matronly Maggie May, might well say she is “prepared to listen to options”, but we already know this to be meaningless. The Prime Minister and her merry mediocrities, though claiming to be listening what Nicola Sturgeon, Arlene Foster and Carwyn Jones have to say, have little or no intention of paying them any heed. Unless, that is, they wish to say they submit.
Following today’s meeting, the Prime Minister insisted that “it is imperative that the devolved administrations play their part in making it work”, but is that even realistic? Is there a Brexit, bespoke or otherwise, that “works for the whole of the UK”, when what is actually needed, is a degree of “Flexit”. Playing their part, or making it work, which I wonder, does Mrs May think is more important? In playing their part, the principal responsibilities, of the devolved administrations, are to the nations they represent. The Brexit bunch, inside and outwith the UK government, have made it quite clear, that they believe theirs is to the 52%. As for making it work, the Tories can’t even agree amongst themselves just what that involves, yet the Prime Minister seems to believe that “working together” England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales can make a success of Brexit. Anything is possible, or is it? What does she even mean by “working together”? Submission from the subordinate nations, I suspect.
It is probably safe to say, that just about everyone agrees that put simply, the “best deal for Britain”, involves the UK having as close to full access to the single market as possible. Achieving this, would go a long way to alleviating the concerns of the devolved administrations, perhaps even neutralising the threat of a second independence referendum, here in Scotland, for the foreseeable future. The question then becomes, just how far are the 27 and the UK willing to compromise on the free movement of people?
Should free movement, prove a bridge to far, in the absence of Flexit, Brexit might well lead to Scoxit. Redoubtable Ruth, Scotland’s foremost unionist and (whisper it) Tory, said today, that “Nicola Sturgeon now needs to engage in a constructive fashion”, does she acknowledge, crucially, so must her masters in London? Saying that the “SNP isn’t going to answer any of the issues thrown up by Brexit by dividing the United Kingdom” seems to suggest that Ruth Davidson, either pretends not to, or doesn’t see the glaringly obvious. The UK is already divided. 52-48. By Ms Davidson’s own logic, it is her own party who are responsible. All nations are divided. Division is why we must suffer politicians, for crying out loud.
The Prime Minister does herself, her government and the UK no favours in ruling out any special arrangements for the devolved nations. Doing so, is indicative of everything that is dysfunctional about this, so-called United Kingdom of ours. Bluntly speaking, the English can’t bear to share or cede control. Control, arguably explains Brexit, every bit as much as anti-immigration. They want the UK to speak with “one voice”, and that voice has to be theirs. The inherent desire to dominate, also goes some way to explaining why the UK’s constitutional arrangements are so haphazard. They’ve been cobbled together, piecemeal, with the sole purpose of retaining as much power to the British(English) State, as they believe they can get away with. It is why they reneged on “The Vow”.
Control is why the UK doesn’t have a proper, written constitution. Control is why the UK does not have a truly federal structure. Control is why our “family of nations” is a lie. Control is why we are England and her colonies. Status, and the desperation to have it, to hang on to it, also plays it’s part. The English, call it the British, if it makes you feel better, are obsessed with status. Status is why they need to be at the “top table” and fret about projecting power and influence across the globe. Status is why they’ve never gotten over the loss of Empire and it is why they can’t bring themselves to be without Scotland. Status, like control, explains Brexit. Britain can’t bear it that Germany’s economy is bigger, and stronger. Nor can the British cope with the fact that they can’t control the EU. Just as in their relationship with the rest of the UK, the English, or British, want to dominate, not to compromise or cooperate.
To state the obvious, none of us knows how events will unfold. However, thus far, all the indications are that the circle can’t be squared. Brexit and the British approach to it, threatens to drive a wedge between the constituent nations that compromise the UK, that is too great to resist. I can’t help but wonder, will post Brexit Britain be a new beginning, or the end for the UK?