The Prime Minister Theresa May delivered her much anticipated speech on Brexit on Friday, in which she was expected to lay out some detail about what sort of Brexit the UK hopes to achieve. This was Theresa’s long awaited “Road to Brexit” speech, a phrase which half the country can no longer hear without humming along to the song Road to Nowhere by Talking Heads.
You knew that the speech was going to be full of meaningless guff as soon as she started because one of the first things she said was “I want to be straight with people.” That’s always a bad sign from Theresa May. She was going to make a pitch to the entire UK to get together behind her vision of Brexit, so there was a lot of waffle of the sort that you get from a reality show contestant who’s making a plea not to be turfed out of the competition. About the only thing that Theresa May didn’t mention was that the EU should give the UK everything it wants on Brexit because the UK’s wheelchair bound grandmother died of cancer, while Theresa told us with tear streaked cheeks that keeping her career alive was the most important thing in the whole world. We already know that’s the most important thing in the whole world to Theresa.
The people who Theresa May smeared as “saboteurs” and citizens of nowhere are expected to wave Union flegs and smile and get behind her. Just because. There was nothing in the speech that might count as a substantial concession to the half of the UK who voted to remain. There was certainly nothing which counted as a concession to those parts of the UK, like Scotland, which voted to remain. We’re all expected to shut up and do what we’re told. Yes, you’re going to lose your rights as EU citizens. Yes it’s quite likely that you’ll lose the right to work and settle freely in Europe. But taking back control! Sovereignty of Parliament! Trade deals with Burkina Faso and Belarus!
There was bugger all that counted as a substantial pitch to remain voters, and there was precious little of a pitch to other EU countries either. May’s pitch to Europe is that the UK expects a soft Brexit without having to comply with any of the necessary conditions of a soft Brexit, and it expects the EU to come up with a mechanism to make that work. She wants a soft Brexit, but also a hard Brexit at the same time. She wants no hard border on the island of Ireland, and no customs border in the Irish sea but she still demands that the whole of the UK is going to leave the customs union and the single market and there’s no plan for how to achieve any of that. She wants a free trade deal that encompasses finance and broadcasting as well as other services and manufacturing, she wants no trade tariffs, but she also wants no membership of EU agencies, no EU regulation, and full and free access for the UK to EU markets, but no plan on how any of that might be made to work other than a vague hope that Michel Barnier is actually Santa Claus. Brexit is a big problem that the British government expects the EU to solve.
After all that what we’ve learned is that the British government still expects that slogans on the side of a bus are realistic options. The UK remains as delusional as ever. It doesn’t matter how many times that the EU tells the British government that it can’t cherry pick, that it can’t have its cake and eat it, that leaving the customs union and the single market mean tariffs, customs checks, and trade barriers, the British government still thinks that sticking its fingers in its ears and going la-la-la we’re not listening is a valid negotiating position. The UK remains so arrogant, so out of touch, so lost in its own reveries of lost Empire, that it actually believes that it can dump all the problems caused by Brexit on the doorstep of the EU and expect the EU to solve all of them. The UK doesn’t merely want to have its cake and to eat it, it wants that cake to be full of eggs and cream but still to be suitable for vegans.
So in summary, the British prime minister wants the UK and the EU to remain close. She wants them to retain free and unhindered trade in goods and services. She wants no border on the island of Ireland. She wants the UK and the EU to have regulations that work in harmony. We already have all of this. It’s called EU membership. The only person who is more confused than the Prime Minister is ITV’s political editor Robert Peston, formerly of the BBC, who when asking a question introduced himself as “Robert Peston BBC”. Theresa was delighted as it proved she’s not the only person in the room who was living in the past.
The reaction from the EU hasn’t been positive. A prominent German politician, Manfred Weber, remarked that after hearing Theresa’s speech he was even more concerned than he had been before. “After what I have heard today I am even more concerned. I don’t see how we could reach an agreement on #Brexit if the UK government continues to bury its head in the sand like this.” Guy Verhofstadt, who is in charge of Brexit in the EU Parliament, released a statement saying, “We can only hope that serious proposals have been put in the post. While I welcome the call for a deep and special partnership, this cannot be achieved by putting a few extra cherries on the Brexit cake.”
Scotland didn’t rate a mention. The Conservative government’s assault on the devolution settlement wasn’t worthy of any justification. At the end of her speech, Theresa was asked about Scotland by a questioner, and how Scotland could be reconciled to Theresa’s vision of Brexit. She chose to ignore the question and instead we got some patronising guff about the need to keep the UK together. She doesn’t care whether Scotland is reconciled to Brexit or not, and the harsh reality for people in Scotland who still oppose independence is with the way that the UK is constituted, Theresa May and Westminster governments don’t need to care whether Scotland is reconciled to their decisions or not. Scotland will do as they say, and Scotland will have no means of expressing its disagreement. How’s that equal partner in a family of nations working out then?
So here are five key points for Scotland to take from Theresa’s speech and the Brexit process:
1. Scotland’s voice counts for nothing in the UK. Our vote to remain is ignored by the Conservatives.
2. Scotland’s interests will always be subordinated to the interests of the ruling British party.
3. The British government will use Brexit to undermine and weaken the devolution settlement.
4. The British government will lie, dissemble and cheat, because it expects that there’s nothing Scotland can do about it.
5. If we want to change this, it’s up to us. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.
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