Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Can the Union survive Brexit? Do we even care?

Brexiters, especially of the Tory ilk don't seem to care if Brexit breaks up the Union. To be quite honest with you I'm in broad agreement now. It's something I did worry about but now I don't. Let the chips fall where they may.

The fact is, Scotland was on a march to independence the moment we gave them a parliament. For as long as Scotland is part of the Union it will continually exist as a tool of political blackmail.

As it happens I think Scottish independence would be a mistake. It's one of those things where in theory it could do really well but in reality it won't. But it's a mistake Scotland is entitled to make and, like Brexit, those who wanted it will have to own the consequences.

I say it could go well because Scotland could join Efta where it would find itself quite at home and were it part of the EEA it wouldn't be much poorer than it is now. They could build on that over time and if they play their cards right they could secure a lucrative agreement with the rump UK in that Faslane is considerable leverage.

In reality though, the SNP will screw it up. They will instead seek to rejoin the EU and then Brussels will be calling the shots as to how intra UK trade works. They'll be toadying up to Brussels in much the same way Dublin has in order to rub London's nose in it.

Meanwhile it won't solve any of their economic and social woes. The SNP will see to that. They may project a skin deep veneer of social liberalism but at its core the SNP is an authoritarian socialist entity that wants to micromanage every part of the economy and control what people do. Holyrood will soon become a corrupt little dunghill mired in the consequences of its own incompetence. Zimbabwe with fried Mars bars.

Though I think this would be bad for Scotland, if that's what they want I see no reason to stand in the way. For as long as the SNP have been the driving force in Scotland they have perpetually blamed London for their own deficiencies despite having most of the power they need to sort it all out themselves. Instead of taking responsibility they will always blame the convenient other and use it as a further vehicle to demand independence.

What  they will probably find as a smaller state in the EU is that they have even less independent power than they do now over the fundamentals of the economy but then, of course the SNP won't really care about that. Like the current Labour Party, it has no instinct of aptitude for governance and will be more than happy to hand over the core responsibilities to someone else. It saves them from taking any responsibility.

Like Labour, what they actually want, is they keys to the treasury so they can borrow and spend on their own boondoggles and farm out money to their tribal voter base in the slums. A tartan Soweto. Course, we know this doesn't work because we had thirteen years of New Labour and we're still paying for it. Pretty soon you run out of money and find the economy isn't vibrant enough to sustain a bloated kleptocracy.

The great thing about it, though, is that by then it will be more Brussels' problem than ours. The EU will put Scotland on special measures to stop them further bankrupting themselves - but Scots won't complain about EU imposed austerity because essentially they're not happy unless they're subordinated and whining about it.

But what of Northern Ireland? Let's be honest about this. Us English don't really get Northern Ireland. Most of us have never been there and never will. There's not much call to. Belfast is a basically a sectarian version of Newcastle, which has long been a political Rubick's Cube that nobody has any real interest in solving. It has become the Achilles Heel of Brexit where again the democratic will of England is held to ransom.

If Brexit ultimately sees a united Ireland then I have no particular reason to care. I have no stake in it. I see that it will open up a can of worms for Ireland but then it will be 100% of Dublin's problem. If they want it, they can have it.

My preference is to maintain the Union without change, but if it cannot stand on its own merits then let's be done with it. Brexit may well have been the catalyst that ended the Union, but the Lisbon Treaty effectively abolished it anyway. More than any other factor the EU has weakened the national bonds of the Union, providing a backstop for upstart nationalist movements like the SNP. Far from uniting Europe, the EU has created internal divisions all over Europe, reawakening long dead divisions.

But then as much Scotland is anti-London, what the referendum shows is most of the United Kingdom is anti-London, or rather anti-Westminster, not least because it governs without gravitas, wisdom or consent. Its system of values are alien to that of the rest of the UK, which is a major part of the reason the establishment lost the referendum. The culture gulf is massive. Perhaps even unbridgeable.

If the Union is to be saved then the UK needs a wholly new constitutional settlement, substantially downsizing the significance of Westminster in our political life. Westminster has become a a 24-7 operation that crowds out all other politics, often neutering local politics and destroying any meaningful local democracy. Little wonder there is such universal disaffection with politics.

As much as rule from Brussels doesn't work for Europe, rule from London doesn't work for the UK. It doesn't even work for England. The North is a distinct region that isn't part of the Home Counties England and its economy isn't aligned with the rest of the country, much less its social attitudes.

The only way we are going to have decision making that reflects the true "will of the people" is if the people themselves are making the decisions. For as long as we are sending representatives to live and work in London to mix it up with a largely cosmopolitan media class (of which think tankery is a component) then we will be subject to the fashions and fads of the swamp.

Throughout the Brexit process I've spend many hours watching live broadcasts of Parliament noticing that much of the peripheral work of parliament really has no business occupying the time of central government. Were it that the regions had the fullest possible autonomy, Parliament could restrain itself to dealing only with those matters of true national significance ie. defence, trade and foreign policy. The rest can and should be a local competence.

I honestly don't know if the Union can be saved. I think perhaps there is too much damage done. I think this fever has to run its own course. The one certainty, though, is that Brexit has exposed, not caused, deep running divisions and our current political settlement is long overdue a structural overhaul. Westminster is a throwback to the age of feudalism and is no longer appropriate for the digital age. We must use this opportunity to bring our politics up to date.

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