General election: Here’s why the SNP and Labour are not in the ‘Remain Alliance’ – Alex Cole-Hamilton

The SNP and Labour are not truly pro-Remain parties with the former’s main priority being independence, while the latter attempts to be on both sides of the debate at the same time, writes Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP.

Wednesday, 13th November 2019, 6:00 am
Lib Dem politician Heidi Allen announces the ‘Unite to Remain’ pact between her party, the English Greens and Plaid Cymru. Picture: Getty
Lib Dem politician Heidi Allen announces the ‘Unite to Remain’ pact between her party, the English Greens and Plaid Cymru. Picture: Getty

It’s one of the most ambitious electoral pacts in British political history, but I’m not talking about the far-right deal between Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage.

The Unite to Remain agreement, launched last week will see the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the English Greens stand aside for one another in more than 60 marginal seats to allow the best placed pro-EU candidate a clear run at a Brexiteer incumbent. This has taken a ­Herculean amount of co-ordination and sacrifice on the part of each party, and maybe, just maybe, it could skew the next Westminster parliament towards Remain.

But despite this achievement, there has been something of a Twitter storm as to why this agreement does not include the SNP or the Labour party. In answer to that online outrage, I offer two important considerations.

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Alex Cole-Hamilton is the LIb Dem MSP for Edinburgh Western

Firstly, the SNP is not a party of Remain. Secondly, neither is the Labour party. These are bold statements, but here’s why I make them.

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I’ll start with Labour – they don’t even pretend to aspire to return Scots to membership of the EU. In a desperate attempt to ride both horses and simultaneously defend seats in London from the Lib Dems and in North East England from the Tories, they are both for and against Brexit.

They wouldn’t even come to the table to discuss a Remain Alliance for fear of being seen in that camp. They aren’t a party of Remain, they’re a party of “remind us and we’ll get back to you”.

Fence-sitting

Then there’s the SNP. Whilst I recognise the nationalists, on paper, are opposed to Brexit (even though more SNP voters backed Leave in 2016 than any other party), they cannot be described as a party of Remain. Why? Because their singular mission, above all things is the break-up of the United Kingdom. Stopping Brexit is entirely secondary to that aim and nationalist support for stopping Brexit has been half-hearted from the outset.

Their original position was to ­support a soft form of Brexit with the UK staying in the customs union and single market. Furthermore it took more than two-and-a-half years of fence-sitting for the SNP to finally swing in behind the campaign for a referendum on the final terms of the deal.

The pretence of “stopping Brexit” has become the sheep’s clothing for the SNP’s wolf of independence. Nicola Sturgeon has sought to use it to bring over former No voters, who if forced to choose between two unions would pick Brussels over London. She has done her utmost to suggest to them that our transition back into membership of the EU would be seamless, but she’s wrong.

The deficit and currency question

Firstly, we’d have to join the queue of applicant states like everyone else. Assuming that none of the EU 27 vetoed our joining (and given Spanish anxiety over Catalan separatism, that’s a big assumption), we’d still have to meet all entrance criteria. The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union requires that all member states have a national deficit of no higher than three per cent of Gross National Income. Scotland’s stands at seven per cent. Put simply, the EU wouldn’t have us for years and we’d need to endure a lot of pain to get there.

Then there’s the currency issue. Applicant states need to be using a recognised currency, and have a lender of last resort – nobody in the Nationalist camp has cleared up what either of those things would be.

Then there’s the border issue. If there’s a new one in the Irish sea to protect the EU single market, then we’ll need one at Gretna too.

When you boil things down the SNP want to leave the EU and come back in as something else. As such they aren’t a party of remain, they’re a party of “reapply – and hope for the best”.

Europhile floating voters, looking to vote tactically to stay in the European Union need to fully understand why both Labour and the SNP were excluded from the Remain Alliance and then vote accordingly.

Alex Cole-Hamilton is the Lib Dem MSP for Edinburgh Western.