HERE’S a thought to cheer you all up – the Johnson Government could be facing some further legal defeats this year over their arrogance, fantasy timescales and lack of detail on delivering Brexit.

News this week from the Institute for Government reveals that Westminster could face legal action from the European Commission if they fail to deliver the necessary computer systems in order to implement the Northern Ireland Protocol. The protocol involves highly complex customs arrangements and regulatory and customs checks between the North and the rest of the UK. This could take up to five years to get up and running, making Johnson’s 11-month target unrealistic and foolhardy. In the report it states that “failure to comply with the Withdrawal Agreement could see the European Commission begin infringement proceedings and the UK ending up at the European Court of Justice”. Oh dearie, dearie me.

The National: Boris Johnson visits Stormont

Of course, there is also the little matter of none of the political parties in Northern Ireland supporting the Withdrawal Agreement in the first place; they all know it’s going to be a practical nightmare. Johnson has been busy this week reassuring the new power-sharing executive at Stormont that there will be no checks on goods coming across the sea, no tariffs, no nothings. It remains to be seen whether the canny MLAs are falling for Johnson’s charm offensive. Because with no practical plans in place and no trade deal secured with the EU, it looks like the PM’s great Brexit recipe is more spatchcock than “oven ready”.

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On top of that, the Irish Government have said they are under no pressure to comply with Johnson’s timetable to make sure everything is done and dusted by the end of 2020, as Johnson’s laughable redline on Brexit would suggest. We already know how little Phil Hogan, the EU Commissioner, thinks about Johnson’s self-imposed legal straightjacket to get Brexit trade deals completed by December this year with no extension of the transition period under any circumstances. The hard truth is that no-one but no-one in the EU is taking his bluster and bombast seriously. And the Institute for Government agrees, reporting that the Government’s short timeline for sorting out the border issue is “undeliverable”.

The National: Boris Johnson

In Scotland, we’re watching Northern Ireland from the distance of having absolutely no say in Brexit matters, indeed on any matter come to that. This report from the Institute for Government also points out how much the devolved administrations have been marginalised during this whole Brexit bourach. Northern Ireland is currently centre stage now that Brexit is under way, but, with the geographical bonus of being attached to a happy EU member state, it is far further up the food chain when it comes to strength of position in determining its European future. Scotland and Wales in contrast have been utterly silenced and ignored. It’s almost like we’re invisible … now Scotland’s demand for a second independence referendum is also being snubbed, regardless of the overwhelming democratic case of a pro-Remain Scotland’s right to choose our own nation’s future.

The National: Boris Johnson

So what’s to be done? I would like to think that these prevailing circumstances were anticipated when the SNP leadership instructed its MPs to help force the Christmas election. A Corbyn minority administration hanging by a Scottish rope was an attractive but unlikely scenario as an electoral outcome. Far more likely was a Johnson majority at Westminster facing an SNP majority in Scotland – the ultimate battle of the mandates, which we have now.

The hard-line veto contained in Johnson’s letter yesterday is insulting, disgraceful and undemocratic. But it is not in any sense a surprise from a Prime Minister whose ego has been even further inflated by a Commons majority the size of Big Ben.

If the Scottish Government have a plan to implement their mandate then they should exercise it now, if only to put Alister Jack back in his box. If not then they should develop one quickly, perhaps even open up strategy to debate and discussion, before the patience of our superb independence activists is exhausted. There is no need for pessimism about the prospects for success. The party with the plan will win through.

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The UK Government are tying themselves up in knots over Brexit and merely pretending to get it done. Meanwhile the EU maintains the upper hand in securing future trade deals and working to their own more realistic timeline. As this desultory debate continues, Scotland has an important job to do.

We need to be “oven ready” while Johnson is still out getting in the messages. How do we do this? There are four theatres of political dispute through which Scotland’s case can be progressed – parliamentary pressure, popular mobilisation, international lobbying and carefully directed legal action. In all of these, and this is important, we must banish political tribalism. As we progress the political mandate for action we should not be interested in sides within Scotland, but encompass all those prepared to take Scotland’s side. We need to be primed and ready for our new future so that when the time comes, we can grasp it firmly in our hands and know we are on a new path together, a shared vision. There is no gainsaying self-determination and no stopping democracy.

As a life-long campaigner for Scotland’s rights as a nation once said: “What do we do when we are told ‘we say no and we are the state’. We should reply ‘we say yes and we are the people’.”