Brian Monteith: Nicola’s got her own Project Fear

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The political issue of the week has undoubtedly been Europe, or more correctly the European Union, for we should not confuse the two.

Whatever happens in the forthcoming referendum about membership of the European Union – remaining or leaving – we will still be Europeans, just like we were before we joined the Common Market, and just as Norwegians and the Swiss still are today, outside it.

David Cameron completed his whistle-stop continental tour to meet other national leaders, filling the air with more platitudes about reform.

Any meaningful changes to the way things are done by the EU must require treaty change or they can quickly be undone by any EU politicians that arrive on the scene afterwards with different ideas. Agreements and protocols can be challenged and struck down by EU justices, making anything presented to us by Cameron, Juncker and Merkel absolutely worthless. Only treaty changes will prevent reforms being undone.

But there will be no treaty change; Junker and Merkel have already made that clear for it would trigger referenda in other EU countries and many of the eurocratic establishment fear they would be defeated by a public backlash. It was ten years ago this week that France rejected the Nice Treaty in a referendum, as did the Netherlands and Ireland (we weren’t given a say) and the French elite in particular are scared stiff they would lose again.

So we will now go through Cameron’s charade of renegotiations; he will sound superficially bellicose to appeal to those in his party that question the move towards an EU superstate while Junker and the unelected EU commissioners continue to make their plans for expansion. The EU budget is set to rise again by another eight per cent – so much for austerity.

Cameron is not asking for us to leave the common agricultural or fisheries policies that makes our food dearer and cause poverty in Africa. Nor is he even seeking a reduction in our £15bn annual membership fee.

Where Cameron is showing calculation and cunning in trying to fool us, Nicola Sturgeon is meanwhile clearly confused and inconsistent. Speaking in Brussels this week, she argued for two illogical positions that made her look ridiculous.

The first is that Scotland should have a veto on the UK’s decision about EU membership. This is the same as saying any one of our 32 local councils should have the right to veto Scottish independence from the UK. That would be plain daft and it’s no different for the EU referendum. The UK’s membership of the EU will be decided by the UK as a whole, just as Scotland’s membership of the UK was for Scotland as a whole to decide.

Anything else is about manufacturing grievance and division for partisan advantage and should be seen for what it is.

The second absurdity is to argue about an alleged threat to Scotland’s economy if it left the EU, when Sturgeon was willing to have us believe there was no threat to our economy from leaving the UK.

Some 17.4 per cent of Scottish exports go to the EU – but a whopping 62.4 per cent of our “exports” go to the rest of the UK! So let me get this straight; if the UK were to leave the EU Nicola Sturgeon would want to put at risk our trade with England Wales and Northern Ireland – which is nearly four times the size of what we do with the EU. There is just no sense to the idea that we would be better out of the UK but in the EU.

Sturgeon claims that some 300,000 Scottish jobs are “dependent” on trade with the EU, as if to say that we would not have access to the EU markets if we left. Not only has her logic deserted her but her legal training has too. Countries as disparate as Brazil, Japan and the United States – and of course Norway and Switzerland – all trade with the EU without being a member. More importantly, under World Trade Organisation rules, to which the EU and UK are both signatories, it would be illegal to introduce any tariff barriers.

Indeed the EU has some 6.5 million workers whose jobs are associated with exports to the UK and it would not want to put them at risk by starting a trade war with Britain.

Clearly Nicola Sturgeon has her own Project Fear to peddle, but it’s scaremongering on stilts.

Kennedy was a member of the human race

THE personal story of the week was the terribly sad news of Charles Kennedy’s untimely death.

The shock reverberated around British politics this week for the simple reason that he was, unusually for so many public figures, a gracious and courteous man who took time for other people and was universally admired as a result. Alex Salmond’s untimely and insensitive comments about what Charlie may have thought about independence only served to accentuate the decency of Kennedy and the crass opportunism of the ex-First Minister.

I always found Charlie a warm and approachable member of the human race, something that cannot be said about so many politicians. He will be missed.