In a sometimes muddled and highly contradictory speech today, Theresa May has confirmed that Brexit means leaving the European single market, customs union and limiting EU migration and this all equates to a hard Brexit and effectively completes her triangulation of the UKip agenda into Conservative Party Policy. This style of Brexit will be deeply damaging to Scotland’s economy threatening up to 80,000 jobs and ripping up to £8bn from our economy.
There are fifteen major contradictions and flaws in her thinking:
- Theresa May has stated that the final deal will be put to a vote of both Parliaments, meaning the unelected House of Lords get a say, but the democratically elected Parliaments in Scotland and Governments of Northern Ireland and Wales will not.
- She said that a key reason for leaving the EU was that the people in the UK cannot hold it democratically to account, but all MEPs are democratically elected as are all law makers within the EU – whereas the UK has a second house consisting of 760 unelected peers.
- She claimed the UK would leave the EU and not attempt to pick and choose parts of membership, then contradicts that by stating that the UK would leave the customs union but attempt to pick and choose the parts that membership that we like such as nation of origin paperwork.
- A key goal is to offer certainty to the business community but she stated that if the EU did not give the UK the deal that she wanted there would be no deal as “no deal would be better than a bad deal”. The PM said that the break up of the EU was not in the UK’s interests but the deal she is asking for would actually be the biggest threat to the EU’s continuing existence.
- The UK Prime Minister was at pains to say that maintaining the common travel area agreement with Ireland and open borders with the rest of the UK would be possible. The same Government has been at pains for years to tell Scotland that becoming independent (like Ireland) would make it impossible not to have a hard border and that there would be no free travel area.
- She promised to deliver a Brexit that worked for the whole of the UK, but Brexit does not impact on all parts of the UK equally. Scotland with 8.4% of the UK population receives 17.4% of all EU grants to the UK and exports far more per head than the rest of the UK. Ipso facto Brexit will harm Scotland to a far greater extent. Northern Ireland and Wales are also net beneficiaries of EU grants.
- The speech claimed Brexit would create an increase in unity within the United Kingdom. Yet, she knows that Scotland and Northern Ireland voted the stay and in denying those countries devolved legislatures a vote and going for a hard Brexit against the wishes of Scottish voters in particular will only deepen these divisions.
- She stated that during the EU referendum David Cameron made it clear that “leaving the EU meant leaving the single market” but not only was Cameron warning against the hard Brexit May is now promising, many Leave campaigners who now sit in the UK Government said Cameron was scaremongering. If she feels campaign promises are sacrosanct, will she now commit to increasing the NHS budget by £350m a week and replacing all EU grants, especially to Scottish farmers?
- Making it clear that EU rules such as the common external tariff would not be kept as that would stop the UK trading with other nations outside of Europe, she talked about the WTO which has tariffs and is deeply opposed to farming subsidies which the Leave campaign promised would be maintained post-Brexit.
- The EU is a protectionist trading group with high wages and costs of production, high standards of workers rights and safety. In order to trade with the rest of the world, the UK would need to devalue sterling to make exports more affordable to the developing nations. This will not only make imported goods such as electronics and food more expensive, it will drive up inflation, increase interest rates making personal borrowing more expensive and slow consumer spending at the most uncertain time in the UK’s rating history. Having promised to deliver certainty, the only certainty she can promise is economic failure and recession.
- Article 50 allows two years for the delivery of a deal on withdrawal from the EU but does not expect trade deals to be done in that timeframe. The PM is asking for the EU to agree to simultaneously negotiate a trade deal, which is almost impossible till they know the terms of the withdrawal deal. Trade deals are hugely complex and on average take 7 years – some such as TTIP never conclude. Although a UK/EU trade deal would be far easier than one with a nation that didn’t have all EU regulations written into its laws, two years would seem to be about half the time that might be reasonably predicted.
- All EU laws will be written into UK law initially so that the UK parliament can then adjust as required in future, but any future adjustment would possibly undermine and make void any trade deal done with the EU during Brexit.
- Over and over again the PM stated that leaving the EU would not mean an end to intelligence sharing and shared defence. This is a red herring as we currently share terrorist and defence intelligence with nations that are not part of the EU such as America, and Nato membership commits the UK to defending many non EU European borders.
- She stated that she had 65m people willing her on to make Brexit happen, but in fact no more than half the population at best currently support leaving the EU and fewer still would want a hard brexit.
- Finally the UK PM having claimed she wanted to remain on best terms with the also threatened economic barriers to EU trade which she said would be damaging, essentially threatening a trade war if the EU do not agree to favourable terms that would be deeply damaging to the future of the EU. This is unwise and signals that she is clearly over estimating the strength of her own hand in these negotiations.
We’re faced with a hard Brexit and the damage that would do to Scotland’s economy. Acting in the anti-democratic manner the PM wants to rid the UK of, Scotland’s parliament will not get a vote on the Brexit deal but will allow the unelected House of Lords to have a say. She makes the case for UK independence whilst previously claiming the same level of independence would be damaging for Scotland. Her global trade strategy would cause inflation, threaten workers rights, lower real wages and working conditions and there is no certainty that any deal done will be beneficial in comparison nor even come close to replacing potential lost trade with the EU. She wants a deal that works equally for everyone in the UK, but then hints she will ask for a special deal for the finance sector to protect London and for the car manufacturing sector in the English Midlands and Sunderland, but makes no such promise to Scotland’s food and drink sector which delivers the vast majority of high value Scottish exports.
Some form of trade deal will be done, I have always said a deal will probably be done to avoid product tariffs and if she can deliver open borders with Ireland she could do so with an independent Scotland.
So there is nothing in this deal for Scotland other than the fact that if she is successful in delivering a deal that avoids tariffs and can keep Ireland’s free travel area with the UK open, then there will be no barriers to trade between the rest of the UK and a newly independent Scotland.
It is now clear that the best way to protect Scotland’s interests during the Brexit process is for Scotland to seek control of its own destiny and create an economic advantage over the UK by maintaining our EU/single market membership.