Brexit: How Scotland can stop this ever happening again – Tommy Sheppard

Boris Johnson is preparing for a ‘people vs elite’ general election which will be all about Brexit, but it will also be about whether Scotland can become independent and determine its own relations with the rest of Europe, writes Tomm Sheppard.

Thursday, 10th October 2019, 5:00 pm
A Union flag flies from a pole atop the Victoria Tower at the Houses of Parliament in London. Picture: AFP/Getty

Oh well, that’s me prorogued again. A silly word for parliament being closed down by executive diktat. And here I am wondering, like the rest of you, what happens next.

The excuse for this suspension of parliament is to give the government time to prepare the Queen’s Speech which they will oblige her majesty to recite on Monday.

But that, like so much else down here, is a lie. The Government doesn’t need a week to prepare a speech that is likely to be shorter than this column.

Tommy Sheppard is the SNP MP for Edinburgh East

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No, this suspension, like the last, is about buying the Government time. Time to run down the clock and get out of the European Union without an agreed means of leaving.

This, of course, is not what the majority of MPs, nor indeed a majority of the British (don’t get me started on Scotland) public want. Indeed, parliament has gone so far as to pass a law making no deal illegal, unless MPs vote for it.

If the Government does not agree a deal with the EU Council next week then it is required by law to write a letter asking for an extension to the process. At the start of the week, Prime Minister Johnson confirmed, with as much bad grace as he could muster, that this is what he would do.

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So why, you might ask, are the ­Government mucking up the negotiations with the EU on the one hand whilst presenting reports to parliament entitled Preparedness for a No Deal Brexit on the other?

The answer is that the UK Government is anxious to blame everyone else, the EU and Ireland in particular, for there not being a withdrawal agreement.

Dire warnings

It is preparing to do one of two things. They could come back to parliament in a week’s time saying the big bad EU is being so unreasonable that it won’t agree a deal and ­therefore parliament needs to change its mind and agree to leave on ­Hallowe’en without one.

There have been so many dire warnings about the economic trauma a no-deal would involve that it’s easy to become immune to them. This ­public schoolboy government ­represents, above all, rich and powerful people who are well protected from those consequences.

So, I’ve no doubt that, left to its own devices, Johnson and chums would happily plunge the UK out of the EU without a deal. Do and die. Their problem is that it is almost impossible that parliament will agree.

Instead, parliament will insist that the extension is applied for. Johnson will resist and maybe seek his day in court. But eventually the law is the law. He’ll write the letter. But he’ll claim he’s doing it under duress, ­crying like some petulant teenager about how unfair everything is.

People vs elite

That is the basis on which he will then call an election. He’ll present himself as the champion of the people fighting the elite. Well, bring it on. Let’s give him a run for his money on who really represents the people, and who the elite.

Once that extension is in place then I believe we must have a general election. This parliament cannot go any further without a fresh mandate. Besides, is it not time the people of the UK were finally allowed to say whether what is being done in their name is really what they want?

I know it is certainly time that people in Scotland had that choice. The general election here will not just be about stopping Brexit and ending the most right-wing Tory government in my lifetime. It will also be about ensuring we get the chance to avoid this ever happening again. And the only way to do that is to become politically independent and insist that our relations with the rest of Britain and Europe are conducted on terms determined by the people who live here and no one else.

You may not agree, but it is a debate we need to have. The ­Scottish Government wants to have that discussion and allow you that choice. Boris Johnson says no. An election will give you the chance to say which approach you prefer.

Tommy Sheppard is the SNP MP for Edinburgh East.