What If… I Was The Next PM?

What If…I was the next Prime Minister?

Let’s first clear up a few perhaps obvious points.  Firstly I am unlikely to be.  It’s not completely impossible of course but highly unlikely.  The greater likelihood being that following Prime Minister Theresa May’s resignation today the next British PM will be a Conservative member of Parliament, chosen by the national registered Conservative Party Membership from a whittled down list of two candidates who emerge following a public bun flinging contest on Newsnight.  Apologies if I haven’t quite got the grip of the contest rules exactly accurately.

But if I were how would I proceed with the main agendas we face at the moment?

Well firstly, and when I say firstly it means firstly after appointing all the cabinet postings, getting a new key for Number 10, thinking up a secure password for the Nuke buttons and popping over to see The Queen etc.  Firstly, I would need to do something about the most pressing issue of the day.  Brexit.

I would immediately appoint two very senior Ministerial positions.  A Brexit one and another to handle everything else.  With overall responsibility remaining with myself, like all good leaders.

The one handling everything else would have to coordinate the economy, education issues, defence, security, work, pensions, foreign relationships etc just like a normal PM but crucially not concern themselves overtly with Brexit.  That would be the sole job of the other one.  Each having equal rank and status, both reporting to me.

This way Brexit, whilst crucial to our situation, would not dominate everything else but still be ranked as highly important.

On the subject of Brexit the clock is ticking away with the latest date being the end of October when France et all will apparently cut loose the chains that bind us to Europe and we will float off to a Neverland of uncertainty.  Theresa May’s departure shows that getting agreement on a deal to stop all this happening in an uncontrolled way is extremely difficult.

To resolve this issue I would immediately revoke the current deal and start again.  This will need some time so to do this I would revoke Article 50 with a note that it is not over yet backed up by waving a new yet to be signed Withdrawal Notice at the EU saying that this is still the direction to go.

This would give time to freshly recommence the negotiations and they would start on the premise of a simple No Deal.

In truth nobody wants No Deal but the general public understand what this means and delivers on many of the concerns that drove the albeit marginal victory result of the June 2016 Election.

Because neither the EU nor the UK want a sterile No Deal I would be able to add back in the less controversial issues such as retaining cooperation on security issues such as continuing support of defence and international policing, on international ecological and climate issues, on medical and technological research projects, on food and industry standards, and on human rights and minimum wages issues.

There would be no legal precedent issues on any of these, to avoid UK Sovereignty being undermined.  Just good old common sense adoption of common standards and regulations to keep things aligned.

The EU may be minded to set about these fresh negotiations with an agenda of their own choosing, notably once more wanting to agree a ‘divorce bill’ first but this would not be acceptable.  The value of the ‘divorce’ would be considered but it would be a calculation based on fairness when all else is ready to go.  And the threat of a stark No Deal would remain to concentrate their minds if they get all bossy again.

I think the above would be a great way to start as a PM.  And don’t forget the other senior Minister would be immediately free to set to work on the other pressing issues of the day from debt reduction and the economy to Health and Food Banks.

And if you want to know what I would do on the second day as PM you will just have to get me elected.

Author: Vince Poynter

An original post for this site dated 24 May 2019
To be added to the Political Section section of my web site in due course
For more Political and Brexit commentary choose vinceunlimited.co.uk/political or  if you are on a mobile device and want a more suitable reading experience use vinceunlimited.co.uk/politicalm

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Brexit

Thoughts, Corrections and Ideas By Vince Poynter

It’s no good.  I can wait no longer.  I need to pitch in with some thoughts about the most important political machinations in my lifetime.  Brexit.

The trouble is it happened at all the wrong time for me.  I’ve been far too busy sorting out my web site and you know, priorities.

Thankfully Brexit is not simple so it’s still a thing and here is my take on it all.

UK and EU

The United Kingdom is a proud body of nations.  Worldwide we punch well above our weight, commanding respect around the planet.  Our language is as close to universal as you can get.  Our values and democracy are widely exported and we were the last peoples to have a substantial empire.  One which we voluntarily deconstructed and ceremonially maintain.

We have an enviable military record which has transformed from a successful conquering nation to a force for good and as a result have built long standing worldwide trading partners.

Our past inventions and current skills are shared everywhere and we are a go to place for education, research and financial stability.

Yet despite all this as a people we are considered modest, liberal and welcoming, which is why we share in our continent’s modern European collective dream of peace and trade with ever diminishing borders.

Europe itself continued to fuse together politically and as modern world technology allowed closer shared values and industry the borders and differences have become less relevant.  Previous warring nations had matured so learned to live peacefully alongside each other and area distinctions became less relevant.  The European dream was a winning formula and adjacent nations queue to participate.

But we were never all in with Europe.  We kept our own currency, limited our acceptance of full borderless movement of peoples, negotiated discounts on our share of the costs of the union and crucially never really considered ourselves as truly European.

There remains a slight skepticism about the ultimate European Dream and where this all may lead and discussions about closer integration were pitched against loss of true national identity, political control and power.  Europe was always seen as somewhere else despite ever closer ties, shared values, integration and the geographical physical closeness.

Meanwhile, Elsewhere

Whilst all the above is happening there is a rest of the world and the Brexit story is linked to this as well.

Just like Europe the rest of the world had been benefiting from better ties between nations through improved communications technology.  A new dawn of international understanding and cooperation is sweeping the globe and through shared information and values we can all now have a deeper and more comprehensive understanding and appreciation of each other’s cultural differences.

Genocides, greed and corruption are no longer globally tolerated and thankfully no longer buried within local knowledge.  Poverty, climate change, population expansion and hunger are common shared concerns which are being tackled on a world-wide basis.

But there are a few areas and conflicts that remain a concern to world stability and in some cases religious intolerance is preventing full neighbourly acceptance.

These modern war zones have displaced citizens who migrate to safety elsewhere.  Mostly to their geographical neighbourhood but sometimes further afield and in general Western European democracies have tried to assist by offering shelter to those that most need it.

This assistance has partly inspired economic migrants as well who see opportunities abroad to better their own lifestyles and those of their families and the migration is often heralded by young male members of families, strong and determined enough to suffer the long, dangerous and arduous journey.

In fact in 2015 German Chancellor Angela Merkel positively encouraged such migration with a call out for a million new refugees to bolster the younger demographic of her country, in part to support an ageing population, a common issue for developed western cultures.

Repercussions of all of the above meant that many people around the Middle East and North Africa decided that it was time to migrate to a wealthier life.

And amongst these souls were a handful of ne’er-do-wells, often fresh from a losing conflict intent on bringing terrorism direct into the heart of their perceived foes.

And just for good measure all this happened at a time of global recession.

Farage The Architect

In many western democracies the success of liberal centrist parties was being questioned.

Although apparently modern and inclusive the soft approach failed to meet the full needs of all within the constraints of a free market, capitalist society.

This meant the gap between the rich and the poor was growing ever wider with seemingly little control.

Furthermore the valued concept of free speech was being questioned at a time when more and more rights were being bestowed on ever specific minorities, often to prevent perceived if not actual discrimination.

Plus due to increased racial integration some communities began to look physically different from the photographs and memories of older generations.  It sometimes looked as if some places in the UK even appeared to be excluding traditionally native Britons even though those accused were often multi-generational British.

To counter this a new wave of right of centre political parties emerged here and was mirrored across many other countries.

Many were radical and borderline offensive but some were just highly patriotic dreamers and in the UK this was best embodied in the United Kingdom Independence Party, or UKIP, under their charismatic leader Nigel Farage.

UKIP wanted a return to unspecified, classic, British traditional values by putting restrictions on immigration to allegedly bolster wages, particularly in the lowest paid, along with reducing unemployment.  Alongside a return to full UK sovereignty with complete independence from Europe.  And the message resonated well with many, particularly with those who would traditionally be Conservative Party voters.

The incumbent Conservative political party, led by Prime Minister David Cameron, had for a long time suffered from split opinions over Europe and many previous leaders before him had fallen foul of such disagreements.

The rise of Farage’s UKIP threatened to further split the party rendering it potentially vulnerable to a dormant and previously ineffective opposition in Labour with a part popular, new, radical left wing leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

So David Cameron decided it was time to bury the European debate once and for all by offering the country a referendum on our European membership.  Presumably figuring that it was a simple case of demonstrating how dumb it was to split from a successful and strong long standing political and trading arrangement.  And to teach the pesky Farage and his cohorts a lesson.

All these political machinations were played out and analysed on news and political shows but rarely strayed far beyond these specialist programmes so the general populace continued their contented ignorance of such matters.

Reasoned Vote

Despite much general apathy on political matters beforehand Cameron called a national referendum on the subject to be held on 23 June 2016, which due to the rarity of such events spiked some interest outside of those normally following political and economic news stories and as a result Brexit became a thing.

Posing a referendum question is fraught with complications.  The question has to be simple to understand and present an opportunity for a simple answer.  This dumbing down of complex issues can summarise but can also smear an otherwise complex issue.

The question put was simply:

‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?’

No further explanation was offered.

A few points here.  Firstly, one has to question, were all the participants able to understand the complex decision?  Even two years of fierce debate later by every conceivable specialist very little agreement can be made between those seeing the same situation in differing lights.

Secondly, the question could be considered flawed as the only options were to leave the Union or the Status Quo.  This implies a choice between a thrilling voyage of new discovery or more of the same old boring stuff.  If, for any reason anyone has any disillusion about any matter even remotely associated with the subject they may believe change is the better course.  And a third option of closer integration, with full and complete EU membership, which may offer some people similar excitement was not included.

Thirdly, no limits were set on interpretation of the vote.  One side could effectively ‘win’ with just a single vote differential.  No statistical significance would be considered, for instance requiring a two thirds majority to trigger change or to claim the result as inconclusive if there was less than a 2-3% margin.

Voting Reasons

Many commentators claim to know why people voted one way or another but considered voices should conclude that there were several possible reasons people made their choice. For clarity I think these can be broken down into four broad categories.

Constitution
Legal
Independence
Power
Security [From terrorism]

Political
Anti-Government
Change
Distrust
Message clarity
Recession
Subversion

Xenophobia
Degradation
Immigration
Pride
Racism
Societal shifting

Other
Desire for change
Fear of change
Intrigue
Cost
Uneuropean

Let’s explore these in more detail.

Constitution

For many the loss of constitutional power to the EU from the UK was a paramount factor in their decision making.  Many stories had emerged where UK High Court judgements were subsequently overturned by the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Judgements such as the 12 year dispute between the UK and EU Court of Human Rights regarding the rights of voting for prisoners.

Many believe the UK should be able to decide who in the UK can vote.

This is essentially an independence issue, which is why UKIP were so named.

The loss of the highest supreme court is seen as a loss of power, particularly if one dismisses the actual nature of being in a shared union whilst being a key member of it.

The security issue is a concern because without European membership the UK could control their own immigration and this can be perceived as a safer way of keeping baddies out in the first place.  However this argument never considers the proportion of internal ‘home grown’ risk compared to external sources.  In truth security is nearly always improved with a closer union with others.

Political

Almost certainly some voted based on political assumptions.  Rarely, nowadays, do you hear political commentators mentioning the attempts to overthrow the government by removing the incumbent Prime Minister.  However, whenever a national question is posed and defended in one particular way by the PM some sections of the community look beyond logical reasons and use the vote to make a protest against whatever it is that the PM is advocating.

This attitude was not helped because the opposition Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who seemed at best indifferent on the subject of continued membership of the EU, point blank refused to share a platform with Cameron nudging it more toward being a party political issue.  This was a key decision as Corbyn’s fanatical following were vociferous and determined to share their views on various influential Social Media platforms.

So, some votes were probably cast based on anti-government consideration, subversion or wanting a change of political control.

It should be remembered that the majority of campaigners within the government and opposition wanted to stay part of the union so it appeared that our appointed parliamentarians were at odds with the general population.  This enhanced further distrust of the political establishment.

Here we have to also consider the effect of the overwhelming number of skilled commentators who passionately pleaded with the public to not make a backwards leap into a modern untested break with Europe.  Politicians of all parties, economic experts, business leaders and political commentators lined up to suggest Brexit would be a bad thing for the economy, trade, security, employment and the standing of the UK.

Despite all this, or more probably because of this, there was a growing groundswell of thought that maybe the ‘establishment’ were just pleading to maintain the status quo because this helped a perceived subjugation of the people.  Why were they so passionate?  Ergo they had something to hide.

The disorganised Brexiteers, in contrast, may have been a rag tag mix of different party politicians appearing under different group names but they had key media savvy names in Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.

Conservatives particularly appeared to be arguing on both sides with Gove and Johnson emerging to become key Brexiteers, primarily I believe to avoid Farage becoming a main player.  Because if that had happened and the general population chose to leave the Union all Brexiteer politicians could have to have fallen under the control of Mr Farage who could then potentially have a legitimate claim to be the next Prime Minister.  Admittedly a large leap of circumstances considering he isn’t even a Member of Parliament.

And between all the Brexiteers they conveyed simple messages such as ‘Take Back Control’, the infamous bus plastered with a future £350m saving for our use on the NHS and posters of queues of apparently foreign nationals which attempted to suggest our country was soon to be dealing with an unlimited number of incomers.

Whilst we are here let’s be clear that the £350m per week saving ‘bus’ message was not presented without context, despite the way some current media outlets portray this.  There were contemporaneous discussions with Boris Johnson explaining the figure was actually a gross number and was subject to deductions for return spend to the UK but nevertheless the message was that free of the EU the UK could choose how to spend their money themselves and the NHS was a prime example of a choice that could be made.

Despite this in many subsequent debates about the ‘bus logo’ the media allowed persistent incorrect reporting that the ‘leave’ campaigners disingenuously splashed a misleading exaggerated figure without thought.  Yes it was provocatively chosen but that’s their prerogative.  And whilst we are at it, it was nothing to do with Nigel Farage even though he was often associated with the idea and as a result personally suffered a loss of trust because of the claim.

Add all this to the fact that parliamentarians in some quarters were seen as perpetrators of the [actually global] recession or at least contributing to the continuation of it.

Xenophobia

Immigration concerns had been around for decades.  Older people particularly had fond childhood memories of their home towns and villages populated by people that looked just the same as they did.  Their own memories were backed by photographic and film evidence and the changed look of modern society implied an altered environment.  Particularly when entire communities and schools were being depicted clearly demonstrating a differing skin tone or maybe dress sense with traditionally white faces a minority.

However, instead of choosing to embrace such diversity many saw this as an erosion of purity, a degradation, with attendant lessening of pride.  Plus closer unions and communication with near and far neighbours who usually spoke in a different tongue indicated a future continuation of societal shifting.  This despite the fact that proportionally the overwhelming majority of UK citizens are still predominantly unchanged.

Another key factor was the fact that during the prelude to the referendum the weather and circumstances favoured sea crossing for migrants into Southern Europe.  The media relished the dramatic images of survival or loss with equal glee along with colourful images implying a greater mass transit than was actually occurring.  And it was thought that if they could come from south west Europe and be welcomed then will the next contingent come from further afield?

To really drive home this issue the public could recall a recent heart wrenching personal story with pictures of a 3 year old Syrian boy, Alan Kurdî, on 2 September 2015.  He had drowned and washed ashore but looked less like a foreign migrant and more like a typical little boy.  The memorable photos showed he was tenderly carried up the beach by a local, captured on film by Turkish journalist Nilüfer Demir.  Sympathy appeared almost universal for this little child and to his family but didn’t quite extend fully to others who risked similar fates.  In some ways the public seemed to desire less migration just so they were saved the discomfort of facing the reality of actual humanity.

Finally, racism may be a strong term with many unpleasant overtones but the inability of our language to separate true unfair and spiteful racism from misjudged xenophobia and also from a desire to maintain tradition and from genuine heartfelt concerns can lead to deep division.  Certainly deep enough to affect a key referendum on foreign union.

Other

Another reason to vote one way or another is a simple desire for change, albeit to clutch desperately onto a notion of optimism, or perhaps to seek alternatives due to boredom or maybe even just to see what happens.  Undoubtedly, the whole process can be seen as fascinating or intriguing as well as frightening.

Some may have had concerns over the costs or benefits from either remaining or leaving.  Here experts lined up to give assurances or perhaps cast doubt about how much it will all cost.  And it may be fair to consider at this point that Nigel Farage did accept that there may be a cost to the economy following a Brexit but on further interrogation claimed it was a price worth paying.

Add to this many flippant but entertaining tabloid stories of European rules which allegedly forced alterations to commonly known foodstuffs such as requirements about the curvature of fruit made many see the idea of further integration with Europe as bananas.

The EU has rarely benefitted from positive information. Our lazy media, quick to exploit and simplify a story, has tended to concentrate on bearing bad news.  This attitude is amplified further by amateur commentators on Social Media platforms.

Stories such as criticising the cost of the EU administration without considering that some of that money is used to employ UK nationals.

Or to be generally silent on the excellent work that has been achieved in political cooperation, improving our food and manufacturing standards, standardising products to enable simpler market access to a much wider audience and security cooperation to make us all safer.

Remember the UK is/was/has been [depends on when you read this] a member state and has/had votes and about 10% of the MEPs

And finally but quite importantly a large majority of UK citizens just don’t really see themselves as European at all, except maybe geographically.

The Verdict

The referendum result came in and shocked many political commentators and news outlets as the leave campaigners were generally expected to win.

From the 46.5m eligible to vote there was a high turnout of over 72%.

Of these 33.5m people just under 17.5m voted to leave the EU and just over 16m voted to remain.  A percentage split of 52% leave to 48% remain.

It can be read that if just 634,751 voted differently the result would have changed. In percentage terms this is just under 1.4% of the electorate.

Region splits showed differing breakdowns and these will be discussed later but in general England and Wales voted to leave and Scotland and Northern Ireland wanted to stay.

In England, a split became apparent between populous metropolitan areas who favoured remaining whilst other areas wanted to leave. Other studies pointed to a variation in voting amongst the older and younger generations with a tendency to prefer a leave option the older one became.

The results sent a shock wave through the political community, with the result catching many unaware. Those who had campaigned to remain were surprised that their message had not been more adhered to and those that wanted to leave appeared to be even more shocked at their victory.  In fact in early discussions soon after the result showed that the leave campaign were a long way from even having properly thought through the dramatic implications.

Political Fallout

The result particularly shocked the political establishment with an almost instant resignation of the Prime Minister.  Cameron had led the campaign to remain but in failure decided he could not reasonably lead the nation in another direction.  Many have criticised this decision but it was an honest and reasonable one in the circumstances.

As a result political chaos broke out with a Tory party leadership election called on 9 September 2016.  It wouldn’t take this time because expected front runners dropped out for various reasons.  Former Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, was too close to Cameron and the remain campaign so was the first to be discounted.  Boris Johnson was the next major player to dissolve when his former ‘Vote Leave’ colleague Michael Gove publicly stated Johnson could not lead the team.  However Gove himself got voted out of the election after passing two ballots but being eliminated during the members’ vote stage.

This left Andrea Leadsom and Theresa May.  However, an inappropriate comment on motherhood in The Times forced her to withdraw leaving the leadership open to the now unopposed, new, Prime Minister Theresa May who took office on 13 July 2016.

Brexwhat?

But what exactly is Brexit?

Early on many asked what does Brexit mean? Theresa May famously said “Brexit means Brexit”.  Most understood what she meant even if they found it hard to articulate but some were confused.

Unfortunately we haven’t the language to respond effectively.  However before being too critical consider whether it is possible to describe what remaining in the EU looks like.  Remain means remain.

So, what should Brexit mean?

The basics should be:

The UK should have ultimate legal jurisdiction over its subjects, citizens and visitors

The UK decides who can live or be here in the UK

The UK decides the currency used here

The UK decides who it can trade with

The UK decides which standards should be applied in food, health and business

The 50th Article

The first formal act to set off the Brexit process is to lodge a formal document of intent to leave with the EU, specifically Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union.  This was issued by the Prime Minister on 29 March 2017.  It was the first time a sovereign member state had issued such a document.

The Article states that the withdrawing state ends its obligations with Europe two years after the issuing of the document, unless the European Council agrees to an extension.  This set the actual leaving date to be set in stone at 29 March 2019.  Unless the European Council agrees to an extension.

Two years to negotiate the terms of withdrawal.  Two years to untangle all the legal documentation formed and agreed over 40 years of close cooperation.  Two years to set up new replacement UK legal documentation.  Two years for international businesses to make the necessary adjustments . Two years of uncertainty whilst all the above is enacted.

It was clearly a lot to do and at the time many commentated that the UK lacked the required number of skilled negotiators compared to the EU and did not have enough to do all the work in time, although I never saw any indication of recruitment of an army of people to do this.

Very little discussion was held after the initial issue of Article 50 about the potential extension of time allowed?  This focussed negotiations and could be considered as a good thing as one of the biggest issues raised since has been the uncertainty and a delay to the exit date would just prolong such uncertainty.

Two years to do all this and the EU were not really able to commence their side of negotiations until the French and German political elections were completed.  This meant that meaningful negotiations didn’t start until June 2017.  However, just one thing seemed to be on the EU’s agenda before that date…

Money

In a previous section above entitled ‘The Vote’ you may have noticed a major omission in the lists and that is the issue of the ‘divorce bill’.

If you have read this article so far you could have rightly assumed that I had an above average interest in this whole subject.  As a result I watched much of the pre-referendum debate and analysis so consider myself to have been as reasonably informed as any non professional in the matters at hand but not once, in all the political programmes, news reports or social media tidbits did I hear anything about having to pay a lump sum to Europe as compensation for leaving.

But it was the first thing that the European negotiating team jumped on.  Almost selfishly insisting that unless a substantial sum was agreed to be paid in compensation then all negotiations would stall.  This effectively reduced the remaining time to negotiate the far more complex trade and legal issues substantially.

This ‘divorce bill’ as it became known, now seems actually based on logical fairness even if the initial estimates demanded by the EU were excessively greedy, up to over €100m [£88bn], partly to discourage other member states from following the UK’s lead and seeking their own ‘Brexit’.

The sum, which currently stands at an estimated £39bn, is designed to cover current UK agreements and obligations up to the end of 2020.  It includes such requirements as UK citizen pension liabilities.  It excludes any liabilities during the withdrawal procedure up to 29 March 2019, which remain unchanged from previous years agreements as if the UK had never issued Article 50.  So no sign of that ‘£350m/week’ yet.

Plus the final sum will not be finally agreed until the UK Parliament approves the whole withdrawal agreement.  Currently forecast as the month of sometiuary in the year 20andSomethingBig.

Negotiations

Negotiations seemed to have followed a pattern since.  With much reporting of what the UK should offer and compromise on then the EU curtly dismissing things and asking the UK to come up with some fresh ideas.

This reflects badly on the EU negotiating team and therefore appears less like a joint negotiation and more like a series of pleas.

Even on the subject of foreign nationals within each area, the UK have promised reasonable stability to those already here but the EU have made no such parallel promises to UK citizens in the EU.

Theresa May and her team must take responsibility for allowing the EU to take such a stance, which is partially caused because the major negotiation factor for the UK was the valuation of the divorce bill as currently the UK are such a generous funder of the EU.  When the UK allowed the EU to railroad this issue before any other was discussed it lost control of the talks and have been on the back foot since.

However I do applaud one aspect of the negotiation and that is the agreement on all the entangled legal documents which were trailed as a major factor.  Most had envisaged long tough meetings taking all of the time and considerable resources.  But one smart arse came up with the fantastic idea of The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.  A brilliantly simple piece of legislation which singlehandedly extracts ourselves from many listed previous European legislations and replaces them with what accounts to ‘We still abide by each and every one until we can be bothered to rewrite them to exclude the French etc.’

However, as it has all been hastily compiled and at present most new legislation is far from complete would it be a good idea if we put together a legal footing to ensure no one can benefit from any unconverted EU to UK legislation?

Regions

Scotland

Scotland has a troubled relationship with the rest of the UK.  For centuries there were disputes between the English and Scottish but the Union was formed in 1707 after King James 6 of Scotland inherited England and Ireland, becoming James 1 of England.  Although more than 300 years has since passed many Scottish people still feel too isolated from England to feel part of the same team.

Other than history this could be due to geographic distance, separation of regional and national identities, not sharing identical monies and quite importantly the separation of nationality for sports events.  For example during the Olympics both the Scottish and English are team mates competing under one flag but in the far more important sports of football and rugby the teams are competitors.

Scotland, although occupying a third of the UK land mass has much less than 10% of the population probably due to having nine tenths of the weather.  Therefore if they feel separate then thoughts could harbour feelings of inferiority to their larger neighbour and this is often manifested in what is said north of the border.  I have heard many Scots claiming to dislike or even hate the English, even whilst resident in England, but cannot recall any time hearing such sentiment about the Scottish within England.  The sentiment of many Englishfolk is confusion and sadness on why Scotland wishes such independence.

In 1997 Scottish nationalism secured under a referendum an independent Scottish Parliament which perpetuated a perception that the UK government did not have the needs of the Scottish people in their heart, equal to the rest.  And since then Scottish nationalism has further grown in popularity, particularly under the skilled leadership of the charismatic leader of the Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon.

For a few years now the SNP has run a strong, supported campaign for Scotland to become a fully independent nation.

Although when put to the test in a referendum in September 2014 the majority voted against a split from the UK.

In the Brexit referendum the majority also expressed a wish to remain in the EU.  Although these particular voters may not necessarily be the same people of course.

The average Scot therefore appears to like the Status Quo and likes being part of a strong SNP, despite the SNP reasoning that a Brexit may be the impetus to reignite the desire for an independence split from the UK.  Ironically to join another union with the EU.  The people’s at odds with the politicians, just like south of the border.

It’s all very confusing. Unless you compare things to Northern Ireland.

Personally whether we Brexit, remain or fly off to Mars I would hope the Scottish remain part of the UK.  Hey guys, why keep speaking as if not part of the Union, our Union?  And please media and commentators stop elucidating as if this was the case.

Wales

The majority of Welsh people voted to leave the EU.  In this respect the Welsh are just like the English outside of big metropolitan areas.  Which is a way of describing the majority of Wales anyway.

Although, like Scotland, the Welsh have their own devolved parliament and similar potential reasons for feeling subjugated in comparison to the English.  However the people there do not harbour such thoughts.  Wales, unique, in language and tradition still clearly accept membership of the same team. Nationally speaking, not sporting of course.

Northern Ireland

Despite the sounding off of some commentators the peculiar circumstances relating to any impact Brexit would have on Northern Ireland was mentioned before the vote.  Many forecasted the issues that this most unique part of the UK would face.

Geographically it is the only part that shares a substantial border with another member state of the EU.  And this adjacency has caused issues since its inception in 1921 and the people’s either side of the border have been unable to contain their strong opposing opinions for as long as anyone can remember.

In particular the 1970s were a recently memorable period when such opposing views were highlighted in a period of extreme violence.

In essence the island of Ireland, naturally geologically a single entity, is mostly taken up by Ireland but the north-east corner is part of the UK.  Some from Northern Ireland believe Ireland should be reunited as one but more want to remain British.  Unsurprisingly religious difference underlies these two opposing factions which never seems to calm down a stressful situation.

Despite this turbulent history since 1998 and the signatories to the Good Friday Agreement the island seemed to have come to a sensible peace so trade, community and communications have blossomed meaning the underlying differences are now recognised and debated in an a mature manner.

Then Brexit and with it the potential opening of old concerns about segregation.  No one appeared to want a return to the days of solid borders so the majority of the Northern Irish people voted to remain in the EU.

For about a year the peculiar difficulties surrounding Northern Ireland and Brexit were barely mentioned but intensity increased in the later months and suddenly media and commentators started bleating on about how no one had foreseen the problems and nothing had been mentioned.  This is patently not true and an insult to those in Northern Ireland who had obviously considered their own predicament from the outset.

My main point here is that neither Ireland nor Northern Ireland should fear a Brexit because if it is the will of the people to not have a physical border then just don’t have one by policing any trade border and discouraging any who seek to flout the situation.

Gibraltar

Northern Ireland hasn’t the only joint UK/EU border.  Gibraltar shares a strip of land with Spain and historically Spain are not happy about this.  Not only thinking they should have the strip but also the rest of the island as well.  Gibraltarians disagree as they remain firm members of the UK.

This upsets the Spanish because they want the natural resources associated with the land and surrounding waters along with the strategic location at the pinch point between Europe, Africa and the Mediterranean Sea.

And just like I mentioned about border issues with Ireland, Gibraltar was mentioned before the vote so please desist in commentating that this was never discussed before.

The Territory voted overwhelmingly in favour of remaining, as could have been expected from a community attached to mainland Europe where most residents are English/Spanish bilingual.

January 2019

This story has yet to be played out.  At the time of writing there are about two and a half months before the exit date.  It could be extended but at present most are working toward avoiding that.

Parliament is at odds with the Government and with itself.  Not really knowing which way to go.

An unpopular Brexit Deal made with Europe and yet to be voted on by Parliament looks like a fudge.  With all the sugar removed.  It fails to address anyones actual requirements and is highly compromised.  Such a deal could always have been foreseen as a compromise.  That is how negotiations work but the deal seems to offer Brexit but with key features requiring continued close cooperation and the subsequent stifling of state limits.  Or as many Brexiteers may put it.  Not actually Brexit.

It is furthermore tied in with something called a ‘back stop’.  An ugly, undemonstrative term which basically means if we continue to fail to address the Irish issue Northern Ireland only will stay part of the EU, possibly ad infinitum.  The Northern Irish are rightly not happy about this and quietly neither are the rest of us as it seems Brexit is held hostage to the needs of just a few.

Other subjects confusing the issue are the ideas of further referendum and calling a General Election.

The problem with going for a further referendum on the subject is a tacit admission of failure by the politicians to have acted on the result of the last one.  Is the New Referendum Question to be?:

‘The UK Government, who have struggled to get a consensus agreement on how to leave the EU despite being highly knowledgeable on the subject ask you, the people, who consistently claim to have not been informed despite much opportunity to be so, to advise how we should now act even though you do not have the opportunity to discuss this with the EU yourselves like we have during the past two years and have failed to get a good agreement on anything, much like you do when gathered together amongst yourselves in any case.  Vote now.’

A new referendum would delay the process, upset many who thought that their clear simple views had already been ordained and it may all end up in more turmoil.

I believe the act of wanting another referendum has two purposes.  To delay the inevitable and to attempt to overturn the public vote.

If politicians want to defy the public why don’t they do their job which is to be better informed and know more than we do on such subjects.  So tell us we were misinformed and voted incorrectly, keep us in the EU, apologise for the whole messy state of things and then all resign as a matter of integrity.  They won’t do this of course because too many are selfish and reliant on their careers.  This is harsh but I have not heard one single politician express such a radical view.

Labour has adopted a ‘nothing to do with us attitude’.  Criticising where they can gain political oneupmanship and avoid giving clear guidance as much as possible.  This could be an inspired tactic.  Let the Tories mess up the whole shebang and glide in afterwards to sort it all out.  The problem is that this attitude is difficult to maintain over a long period of constant debate.

As a result Labour calls for a General Election have increased in recent weeks.  However, as the prospect of having to do the Brexit themselves is not desired Labour are actually cunningly both calling for an immediate election but conversely prefacing it with all sorts of conditions to smear the message.

The main thing Labour realise that right now a General Election would really serve little good at all.  What would people be voting on?  Yes many may switch away from the Conservative Party as a signal to demonstrate their anger at the inefficiencies so far but just as many would revolt against other party representatives because right now the population are losing faith with established political incumbents.

Possibly there may be a large exodus to independent candidates, who have no party baggage.  We could end up with a new Government of unknown history, picked from local celebrities and snake oil salespeople. All led by Nigel Farage. Now, that would be interesting.  And tragic.

Unaddressed

If we Brexit, and it all goes bad who will the masses blame?  The political establishment?  The media?  Each other?  Or the EU?  If the EU are perceived as causing a poor deal Brexit will the UK population stop using European products?  Is even more, unimagined fiscal turmoil to be expected?

And if we crash out of Europe with a hard Brexit and no deal will the UK be sued by the European Parliament?  Could the UK be sued for any minor matter relating to trade, security, unexpected contingencies etc.?

And finally, for now, after Brexit are we all going to have to start thinking about what happens next?  After all nearly half of the population didn’t want to change so are these people waiting patiently to let Brexit occur and immediately start a call for Brentrance?

The story will continue.  Watch this space.

Author: Vince Poynter
From the Political section of the vinceunlimited.co.uk website dated 14 Jan 2019