WAKE up Scotland! Wake up! We are sleepwalking into a nightmare, one that is called a hard Brexit. Yesterday we heard from Theresa May at the Tory party’s conference in Glasgow. Here was a golden opportunity to lay out what she thinks Scotland can gain from Brexit, but the honeyed tones dripping with venom after her faux-Thatcher makeover, contained hardly even a weasel word, her stock in trade, on the subject.
Instead we had this plain statement: “We leave the EU as one United Kingdom and prosper outside the EU as one United Kingdom.”
That is all very well for the PM for the rich and powerful to say, but she has made it fundamentally clear that two years from the end of this month, the UK will be out of the EU, and among other things, I will cease to be a European citizen thanks to the Leave vote in England and Wales.
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Can those who complained about possibly losing their British citizenship before September 18, 2014, now tell me why I should lose my citizenship of a union that I actually believe in? All of us have to live with the consequences of June 23, and for Scotland as a whole, the results of a hard Brexit, with us left in the UK and out of the EU without a genuine free trade and free movement of people deal, will be utterly disastrous.
When I started out on this six-day series about the possible effects of a hard Brexit on Scotland, I thought I knew those areas which would be worst affected – the economy, our world-class universities and research institutions and our culture that makes people from other countries welcome here. So thanks to our arch-critic Michael Gove, that graduate of a journalists’ picket line turned hard-right Brexiteer, and his disdain for experts. I had the idea of asking the Brexperts, as we call them, people who really know their subject, be it the constitution, trade or research.
From what they told me, I did not know even the half of it. As the series has progressed, as well as those areas I have just mentioned, I have found serious threats to our devolution settlement itself: the farming industry, our exports, protected geographical status for our products, workers’ rights, our local councils, our justice and criminal investigation systems – I’d never hear of Eurojust, had you? – our professions such as architects, our cultural and multi-cultural activities, our student exchange programmes, and even our sport, and so much more. And we didn’t even start on the environment or things like travel visas or the EHIC system, or why none of these threats are reported by the lackeys of the British empire, namely the English press. Worst of all was discovering the active threat that a hard Brexit poses to our NHS, particularly as the health service and care sector are utterly dependent on workers born elsewhere in the EU. Perhaps 6,000 nurses and 1,400 doctors find themselves right now worrying about whether they will be allowed to stay and work here.
Only the fisheries industry welcomes a hard Brexit because they think the Economic Exclusion Zone will guarantee them the right for Scottish boats to fish Scottish waters. And then May hinted yesterday that she might just retain devolved powers such as agriculture and fisheries at Westminster…oh, dear.
Through all the long fortnight I have worked on this series, I met no one who felt that the UK Government could deliver a comprehensive deal with the EU that did not involve some sort of compromise on both sides on matters like immigration, regulatory protection and above all, budgets. Yet the Tories will have none of it.
Absolutely no one can guarantee any sort of new arrangement with the EU. What is guaranteed is that a hard Brexit will seriously damage Scotland, as The National has shown.
So should we go for a second independence referendum, or #indyredux as I call it? Not yet, but the day after a hard Brexit is finally confirmed – and it will be – the First Minister should set the ball rolling and this time the Yes movement will get it right.