MAY FIGHTING ON MULTIPLE FRONTS.
“Hung be the heavens with black, yield day to night. Comets importing change of times and states brandish your crystal tresses in the sky” Henry VI Part I.
It seems an appropriate quote for the week when most opposition MPs stood by whilst the government gained parliamentary authority for a hard Brexit from the EU. It was the week when Nicola Sturgeon followed the historic example of past Scottish kings who made trouble on the border when English minds were focused on the continent. It was the week when there was little progress in forming a Northern Ireland government but plenty of talk about uniting the North and South.
There is no doubt that we are in a period of great constitutional uncertainty, unleashed by last year’s EU referendum. That is not good for business in the North nor is the uncertainty caused by the about turn on National Insurance(NI) contributions. After the pasty tax debacle under George Osborne, will Chancellors never learn? A Budget is not a place to road test ideas, only to withdraw them. The near equalisation of NI was a fair proposal but it was also a breach of an election promise and against the Tory instinct to help the self-employed. It was always going to meet with massive opposition, particularly because Tory backbenchers feel they can throw their weight around because of the feeble opposition.
“NO PROBLEM WITH A REFERENDUM”.
Perhaps Nicola Sturgeon acted on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s latest careless word stream in announcing her intention to try and trigger a second referendum on Scottish independence, although I doubt it.
It is a massive gamble by the normally able leader. Was she pushed into it by SNP zealots? More likely she sees Brexit uncertainty as the last hope for an independent Scotland. The economic case against it is growing as North Sea oil runs out and the Scottish deficit rises. Trading on the vote to Remain in Scotland and the huge uncertainty of the UK Brexit negotiations, Sturgeon wants the vote before the end of the talks.
She is likely to be disappointed. The Prime Minister is unlikely to follow the practice of the Spanish government who just refuse Catalonia an independence vote, but she will likely stall for time. It is most likely a second referendum will follow the UK’s exit from the EU if it is held at all. Much will depend on the level of justifiable anger among Scottish remainers.
The further problem for the SNP is that they tend to exaggerate the level of support they have for remaining in/re-joining the EU. The Commission has made it clear it will only deal with one state, the UK, during the talks. If Scotland were to become independent it might have to join the end of the applicant queue, join the Euro and face the opposition of Spain who don’t want to set a precedent for Catalonian independence.
That is one part of our unhappy state.
SINN FEIN’S SUPPORT POST BREXIT.
The fact that Sinn Fein have nearly got parity with Unionists in the Northern Ireland Assembly following the recent elections is another consequence of the Brexit vote. A united Ireland inside the EU is an increasingly attractive proposition for some waverers. That mood will only be strengthened if a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic is the result of the UK Brexit talks. Another part of our unhappy state.
OVER THE CLIFF.
Finally, we come to the UK where England plays the major part. Ministers make optimistic noises about how it is in everyone’s interest to allow economic reality to overcome politics in the talks. That wasn’t the case in the Referendum where people’s feelings about immigration and alienation overwhelmed the strong economic case for staying in.
Our European friends feel mightily offended. Expect an early and possibly decisive clash on the divorce bill.
Follow me @JimHancockUK