The irony of how Brexit is turning both the Tories and SNP into losers - Brian Monteith
As we enjoy the sunshine and marvel at the timelessness of acts like Cat Stevens at Glastonbury the events of last week only confirmed while Brexit is not the cause of our high inflation it is behind the likely heavy defeat of the governing Conservative and SNP parties at the next general election.
After winning an eighty-seat majority on the back of a slogan claiming only they would “get Brexit done” it would be hard to find a greater irony for the Conservatives than losing the next general election due to the oft-perceived failure they have made of it.
Not to be outdone in its ambition to follow-up its Greatest Hits Volume I “Nicola Sturgeon’s forgotten legacy” with Volume II – “Humza Yousaf sings the blues” – the SNP is now finding out that having proclaimed the nationalist party as Brexit’s greatest opponents the reality is Brexit was always its Achilles heel too.
The reason for such outcomes is that despite Brexit dominating the headlines these last seven years since we voted, the purpose of Brexit has been wholly misunderstood. Brexit was not about controlling inflation, driving up economic growth, ensuring we had enough lettuce for our pre-packed sandwiches or brandishing Navy Blue passports. It was all about control, in this case taking back control from unelected Brussels institutions in favour of elected British legislatures in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.
In its own terms, Brexit has not been an unrivalled success, in that it does not (yet) fully apply to the whole of the United Kingdom. Nor was control of all aspects of law-making established in Great Britain, as the impact of the Northern Ireland Protocol and its evil spawn, the Windsor Framework, both ensure EU restrictions can still apply on state aid, taxes and deregulation in Scotland, England and Wales.
And yet the real purpose, of ensuring that our politicians, their officials and the democratic institutions they operate within, would once more be accountable for taking decisions – good or bad – has been obtained. The problem for the Conservatives is that we have found them wanting. Yes, really badly wanting.
This is not to suggest Sir Keir Starmer’s Blair-lite opposition will prove to be just splendid – rather, the next Labour Government offers the prospect of a mother of all accidents literally waiting to happen. But these will be our decisions, our mistakes and successes.
For now, it is the “Brexit Conservatives” we have and (but for a few notable exceptions) it is they who have shown themselves completely unable to govern themselves, never mind the country. The Johnson majority was obtained after a deal with the Brexit Party to stand down in 317 Tory-held seats – an offer that will not be forthcoming from the Phoenix-like Reform Party now polling 10% as we approach election year.
Failing to deliver the Brexit its supporters wanted and then going further by pulling all the wrong economic levers of high spending, high taxes – and now even considering a forced recession to “control” inflation – there will be many Conservatives who will risk a cold shower with Starmer than reward Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt for betraying everything Tories thought they believed in.
For the SNP the Brexit paradox is no different. Let us recall it was the SNP in 2014 that was willing to take Scotland out of the EU as a price for achieving its goal of secession. The EU Commission had made it clear that seceding from a member state would result in seceding from the European Union. Given the EU’s negotiating approach of weaponizing the Irish-UK border to make disentanglement from the EU as difficult as possible who can now doubt it would have sought to ensure all other secessionists in Spain, France, Italy and elsewhere would want to risk leaving the EU too?
Having offered no significant campaign support for staying in the EU in 2016 (it spent more on a by-election) the SNP thought it could count on enough remain-voting unionists to switch to backing Scottish “independence” as a means to re-enter the European Union.
Sturgeon, and cheerleaders like Yousaf, had forgotten or ignored they had already said in 2014 the likelihood of an EU referendum could bring about a Brexit vote (announced by David Cameron in 2013) and yet despite their own warning hundreds of thousands of pro-EU Scots still voted to remain British. These were not people who could so easily be taken for granted – and so it has proved.
The message that comes over to most Scots – irrespective of their own preference for or against Brexit – is there is no knowing what would follow such a contentious and divisive secessionist vote – but the one thing that is certain is negotiations to agree the division of the spoils, not just the assets but the liabilities, will be protracted. It will also offer up new issues not previously covered in the referendum debate and cause some doubts or make the other negotiators choose to become more demanding.
Given the long, long list of SNP institutional failures in trying to build a couple of ferries, introduce new IT systems, establish devolved welfare systems, complete a bridge, keep swimming pools open and manage our hospitals (et al) – would you entrust a negotiation to Humza Yousaf for Scotland leaving the UK?
And for what – so they could then negotiate away the independence they had gained to enter the EU afterwards – having to pay over money they would not have, join the Euro (after first creating their own currency) and agreeing to borders even more open to immigration than between Dover and Hastings?
No, Brexit has taken back control, and in a subtle expression of Karma shown both the Tories and SNP are not fit to run our country. That’s another Brexit benefit.
Brian Monteith is a former member of the Scottish and European Parliaments and communications director of Global Britain.
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