I grew up in Denmark with the impression that the UK had great politicians and civil servants. Very old-fashioned and conservative ones, yes, but very well-educated and competent.
Having lived here since 2002, I would now perhaps revise my earlier impression and add that they were often bastards, but at least they were competent bastards.
To a large extent, that explains why Scotland for so long was reasonably content to be governed by Westminster. The decisions they made on Scotland’s behalf might have been reactionary and horrible, but at least they were made by competent people and presented elegantly.
However, ever since the morning of Brexit, the UK has been the laughing stock of the world. Scotland is now universally regarded as having better, nicer, cleverer and more competent politicians that the rUK.
This must be the final nail in the coffin of the UK. The United Kingdom must be competent, or it is nothing.
There’s an article by yours truly on Bella Caledonia today:
It felt like the sun had broken through the heavy clouds of an unexpected storm when Nicola Sturgeon made her statement the morning after the Brexit referendum.
As a New Scot and EU migrant, her direct message to us brought a tear to my eye – and I know many Scots, old and new, felt the same. It was such a contrast to the UK politicians and media that didn’t seem to care about us.
Lots of people are currently talking about Scotland (and perhaps Gibraltar) doing a Reverse Greenland, which means that the UK would leave but Scotland (et al.) would remain within the EU.
I don’t think that’s particularly likely for the following two reasons:
A Greenlandic solution doesn’t mean that Greenland is independent in all areas where the EU is representing Denmark. Instead, Copenhagen is ultimately in charge of these areas (unless they’re devolved, of course). In other words, if Scotland achieved a Reverse Greenland solution, Westminster would for instance have to conduct their own trade policy for England while representing Scotland in Brussels at trade summits. It would lead to a lot of conflicts of interest at Westminster, and I don’t think Brussels would like this at all.
As Craig Murray has pointed out, there’s no legal basis in the EU treaties for having a territory of a non-member state as a member: “The European Union is an institution which is based on treaties which have legal force. There is nothing whatsoever in any of those treaties, and nothing in any existing arrangement with any state, that makes it possible for part of a state, even a federal state, to be inside the EU, when the state itself is outside. […] The Greenland case is not in the least comparable because its relationship with the EU is based on the fact that it is an autonomous territory of an EU member state, Denmark. That is completely different from the situation of an autonomous territory of an EU non-member, which the UK will be.” I presume this means that the only way it would work would be if the UK remained a member, and England and Wales then left the EU (like Greenland). Given the size of England, I really can’t see this happening.
However, I think it’s absolutely correct and proper that Nicola Sturgeon explores all options before calling a second independence referendum.
I used to think that David Cameron was secretly trying to engineer a Leave vote. There were so many signs, e.g., (1) making demands from the EU that could never be met, (2) disenfranchising EU citizens and long-term British residents in Europe, (3) holding the referendum just after the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish elections (leading to a lot of election fatigue in these areas), and (4) also holding it during Euro 2016 (when national pride is always running high).
However, the way he didn’t do any Brexit contingency planning and simply threw in the towel now makes it clear that he just was naïve and arrogant enough to think that he’d achieve a Remain vote no matter what.
I’ve even seen it mentioned that he bragged to Juncker that he was going to achieve a 70% win for Remain, which was clearly delusional.
Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity!
I flitted to Scotland in 2002 because I got a job at Collins Dictionaries in Bishopbriggs. Because of the EU, it was almost a simple as getting a job at home — I simply applied for it, went for an interview and signed a contract, without having to apply for a work permit or anything. I had to get a national insurance number, but that was straightforward; the only real difficulty I faced was getting a bank account, which was a real pain.
To this day I’ve never had a work permit or any other piece of paper confirming that I have a right to live here — this is different from all the non-EU migrants who of course have to get such papers as soon as they move here.
I fell in love with one of my colleagues, Phyllis, and we married in 2009 (I was of course wearing a kilt, in the beautiful Buchanan tartan). In the same year, we set up a company together. Our life is here, and yet I’m only allowed to live here because of the EU — our daughters have dual nationality, but I’m still only Danish.
And yes, I could apply for UK citizenship, but until September 2015 it would have meant giving up my status as a Danish citizen because of Danish legislation (and my daughters would also have stopped being Danish at that point). I’m looking into it now, but it’s a complicated process which involves two exams, a lot of forms and a significant amount of money.
Denmark disenfranchises its citizens after two years abroad, so since 2004 I’ve only been able to vote for two parliaments: The Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh and the European Parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg. Neither the Danish Parliament in Copenhagen nor the UK Parliament in London wants to know what I think. And of course I can’t take part in the Brexit referendum tomorrow, because it uses the Westminster franchise.
If the UK votes in favour of leaving the EU tomorrow, one of the consequences will be that I won’t be able to take part in Scottish Parliament elections any more, and if there is another Scottish independence referendum, I won’t be able to vote in that, either. The mere thought is absolutely heartbreaking, given how much time and effort I invested in the last indyref.
Of course nobody knows what Brexit will entail. It could be that the outcome is a Norwegian solution, in which case the only real consequence for me will be losing my right to vote in Holyrood elections, but if it ends up as an acrimonious divorce, nobody knows what the consequences will be — EU citizens might for instance be charged to use the NHS, or we might lose the right to some benefits.
I really fail to see how Brexit will benefit normal people, and it has the potential to harm millions drastically. Voting Leave is not simply a harmless way to give David Cameron a bloody nose, but a potentially serious blow to the European Union — which, in spite of all its failings, has allowed normal people like me to get a work in another country and to start a family there without having to jump through hundreds of bureaucratic hoops.
The Leave and the Remain campaigns are united in dismissing the Norwegian solution. The Brexiters want to control immigration, which is incompatible with it, and the pro-EU side rightly argues that it’s a very much inferior solution compared with full membership, because it would require the UK to follow all the rules and pay a lot of money without having any influence.
However, nobody wanted the Norwegian solution in Norway, either, and yet that’s what they ended up with. That’s because that’s what you get when a majority of the population says No the EU while a majority of MPs say Yes. Without a referendum, Norway would simply have joined the EEC together with the UK, Ireland and Denmark back in 1973, and if not then, then together with Sweden and Finland in 1995. Forced to remain outside the EEC, the politicians opted for the second-best solution instead.
Something similar might happen after a Brexit vote: Pro-EU MPs have a huge majority at Westminster (everybody from the SNP and the Liberal Democrats, almost all Labour MPs, and at least a quarter of the Tories). This means that any attempt to cut the ties to the EU completely will be voted down, and the most likely outcome is some sort of Norwegian (or perhaps Swiss) solution. The Leavers might complain that people didn’t vote for that, but the Remainers will simply say that the voters were promised the UK would retain full access to the Internal Market, and this is the only way to achieve it.
If the Brexit referendum had taken place a decade ago, I’m almost certain the UK would have been offered a Norwegian solution, perhaps even with some nice little opt-outs.
However, in the current climate I fear many of the other EU countries will want to be tough on the UK. This is not primarily due to anger or a need for revenge, but because they’re afraid of the own Eurosceptics. In particular, the French establishment will want to frighten their voters away from voting for the Front National in next year’s presidential elections — and indeed this party is very keen to follow the UK out of the EU.
It’s still possible the UK will be offered a Norwegian solution, but it will probably be on a basis of take-it-or-leave-it, without any opt-outs. It’s even possible the UK will be forced to join parts of the EU that the British government has so far managed to stay out of, such as Schengen.
The Leavers won’t be very happy if this is the eventual outcome, but I reckon a majority of MPs would sign up to it if they realise it’s the only way to retain full access to the Internal Market. It’s almost certain none of the wild dreams of the Leave campaigners will be realised because they don’t have a parliamentary majority.
So if we’re lucky, a Leave vote will lead to very few changes (but a great loss of influence), and if we’re unlucky, it’ll lead to the UK being excluded from the Internal Market. It’s really a lose/lose situation, so please vote Remain!