This article was first published on Huffington Post.
Last Monday, Theresa May and the First Ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland met to discuss Brexit negotiations with the European Union. The Government has offered the First Ministers a ‘hotline’ to consult with Brexit Secretary, David Davis throughout the negotiation process.
This doesn’t go far enough for Nicola Sturgeon, and it’s easy to see why. The Government plans to execute the ‘Leave’ vote ensuring total control over our borders and trade. This means leaving the Single Market is a necessity. To challenge this, Sturgeon is demanding devolved administrations and the Westminster Parliament vote on the Government’s EU negotiation strategy. If she doesn’t get what she wants, she’s again threatening a second Scottish independence referendum.
This has some people fearing for the future of the United Kingdom. If Sturgeon is, in her own words “not bluffing”, then ‘IndyRef2’ may be on the cards. The Government plan is to simply ‘consult’ Scotland on the negotiating strategy, rather than giving it a veto. This will call Sturgeon’s bluff. Whether she is bluffing or not, Sturgeon still wants to win independence for Scotland – come what may – and Brexit is simply an excuse. Somehow, she doesn’t seem to acknowledge the anomaly of her bid for independence, and being tied to Brussels by membership of the EU!
The majority of Scots don’t seem to agree with Sturgeon. The latest YouGov poll has found just 37% of Scots back a second independence referendum. In addition, only 37% of Scots want to leave the UK, but remain inside the EU. Brussels has already ruled this out. A briefing note sent by the European Parliamentary Research Service claims part of a Member State “cannot…remain in the EU if the Member State itself withdraws”. Scottish independence looks more unlikely after the EU referendum than it did before, but we are sure this will not stop her continually trying!
The Government cannot allow the will of the British people to be undermined by one First Minister. What Sturgeon wants is to remain in the Single Market and retain free movement. This directly contradicts what the 52% voted for in the referendum. They voted to ‘Leave’ the European Union and have total control of borders, laws and trade. It seems difficult to come up with any compromise. Either the will of some of the Scottish people is undermined, or the will of the whole of the UK is undermined. For the sake of democracy, the Government must take the side of all four nations.
Some argue ‘Leave’ voters did not know what kind of Brexit they were voting for. They then argue the Government must vote on the terms of negotiation. Perhaps they suffer from short-term memory loss. It was clear before the Brexit vote – ‘taking back control’ meant leaving the Single Market, control of our borders as well as control of our laws. This was backed by the most resounding vote in British history.
If the Government negotiates Brexit without Sturgeon’s intervention, it will honour the vote and strengthen our democracy. The alternative would be a compromised deal which would work for very few.
Successful negotiation needs simple rules of thumb. You should know what you want, and know how much you are prepared to give to get the best deal. At present, the four UK nations cannot agree on these principles. A compromise looks unhealthy for all parties, and the resulting deal would be poor.
These leaders can contribute to the Brexit deal by consulting with the Government, rather than voting on the final package. It will then be up to the Prime Minister to achieve her “bespoke” deal which will work for the whole of the UK, ensuring a successful Brexit when we Get Britain Out of the European Union.