Thursday, 6 April 2017

Prawn and Ships

The European Union's Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly, was interviewed in yesterday's La Vanguardia, the leading Catalan newspaper. Asked by Anna Buj of La Vanguardia about Brexit, Ms O'Reilly said: 

"People have the right to no surprises at the end of the two years of negotiations, and as far as possible they should know how the conversations are going." [I am translating back into English from the Catalan, so this is not a precise quote, but you get the gist.]

When Anna Buj asked whether people would be able to have easy access to information on the negotiations, Ms O'Reilly said:

"It's interesting: Michel Barnier - the EU's chief Brexit negotiator - has said that the negotiations will be very transparent, while the Prime Minister, Theresa May, says the reverse. In recent months she has been saying that the negotiations will be in private and that there will be sanctions against anyone who leaks information. Transparency will be used as a tactic during these negotiations because in the UK many politicians are strongly in support of Brexit, some want a hard Brexit and everyone will be following the negotiations closely. If they see compromises being offered in areas that they don't like, they will put pressure on the Government. Transparency will be a challenge for the British Government."

We are at the start of two years in which we, and everything we have and do, are topics for negotiation by Westminster. Scottish fisheries, Scotland's renewable energy, her oil, her industry, her population, her worker's rights, her financial system, data protection...all of these are topics that David Davis and Theresa May will throw into the negotiating pot. I, and the other 1.2 million Britons living in the rest of the EU, are pawns in this game, with no vote, and no influence over outcomes that will shape our lives, forever.

Despite Michel Barnier's promise of transparency, we can be sure that much of these negotiations will take place without our knowledge. We will not know for thirty years what actually happened, and even then we can expect that all sorts of back-room cloak-and-dagger stuff about armies and spies and secret exchanges will not be released, ever.

So it comes down to our confidence in the government at Westminster. How much will they bother about Scotland, in Brussels? Will they hand over our prawn and ships in exchange for passporting rights for the City, or market access for Toyota cars?

Well, yes. Because the interests of Westminster are aligned with the City and big business. The City of London has had a lobbyist inside the House of Commons since 1571, and you can be certain that companies in everything from financial services to private health are wining and dining and quietly, subtly, persuading the Government to favour this or that profitable end. 

You can also expect a lot of shiny, bright lights during the negotiations. War with Spain over Gibraltar is just the first of many, amplified by a willing media led by Murdoch's Sun-Sky media empire, and by the Barclay twins' Telegraph. These bright lights are designed to distract you from what is really going on.

There is one politician whom I trust to fight hard for our interests in Europe: Nicola Sturgeon, our First Minister. She has played a blinder so far, outflanking the blundering Westminster government at every step. Lang may her lum reek. 

But even Nicola Sturgeon will have a tough time playing any significant role in these talks. Scotland is too wee, too poor to be of the least interest to Westminster. We, our industry, our fisheries, our oil and our people, are just chips to play for. Holyrood, with the collapse of the Sewell Convention, cannot intervene.

Brexit has shown us that Scotland is just a midge on the back of Imperial Britain. We are not worth consideration, and we are going to be the losers in Brexit...until we are independent. Then we can stand up and decide for ourselves how we want to work with Europe and the rest of the world. 

Then, we will be a sovereign people. Only then.

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