It’s very clear that the EU don’t want to renegotiate the Withdrawal Treaty. Of course some minor alterations may be possible, but big changes are not. It may please nobody, but it’s the EU’s best offer to the UK.
Even giving Scotland the same status as Northern Ireland in the backstop is extremely unlikely: (1) The Tories have no interest in asking for this; (2) the EU would be concerned it would open the door to many other change requests, and (3) the backstop has been designed for a sea border, so it’s unlikely that simply replacing all instances of “Northern Ireland” with “Northern Ireland and Scotland” would work.
So basically only three options remain on the table:
- No deal: Apart from the small clique of disaster capitalists that have been masterminding Brexit from the outset, nobody will benefit from this.
- May’s deal (and not a renegotiated version of it): Nobody seems to like it, but it’s of course the sensible option if Brexit cannot be stopped. It’ll be bad, but it won’t be a complete disaster.
- Remain: More and more people seem to realise that remaining in the EU is the only sensible option. Very few MPs have any idea how to achieve that, though. The most likely path to remaining is probably to reject May’s deal and then hope that so many MPs will panic that they’ll call a new referendum to save their skins, but it’s a high-risk strategy that could easily produce an unintended No-deal Brexit instead.
Nicola Sturgeon has been very clear that she cannot approve of May’s deal – and it’s indeed very hard to see how she could do so, given that Scotland has been deliberately ignored during the process and as a result isn’t mentioned even once in the agreement.
It’s certainly the case that the sands are shifting so swiftly at the moment that it would be mad to call an independence referendum tomorrow. It’s clear from Twitter, however, that a lot of independence supporters are getting restless. If getting completely ignored during the Brexit process isn’t a reason for calling a new independence referendum, what is?
As far as I can tell, the Unionists are currently trying to figure out what Scotland’s new pain threshold is. Before the independence referendum, they would never have dared to act like this (because the Unionist Scots would have been happy to flirt briefly with independence to stop them), but they’ve realised that anti-independence voters in Scotland have decided that they’ll put up with a almost anything if that’s the price for remaining in the UK, and the Tories are now trying to figure out exactly how much they can get away with. They won’t stop till we snap. It’s really dangerous if it goes on for too long, though. A tough guy may appear tougher if he can take a few punches without wincing, but if he never punches back, he’ll eventually become everybody’s punchbag.
So yes, I’m worried. Brexit will be bad for Scotland. Whether it’s May’s Brexit or the No-deal variety, it’s likely to be much worse for Scotland than for Northern Ireland (because the Republic of Ireland have been standing up for them) or for London (because that’s where the MPs are based). Lots of people will leave, and very few people will move to Scotland. The country will get poorer and poorer. And if we don’t get out soon, it’s likely to get harder to convince the switherers, not easier.
It makes sense to stay calm for the next couple of weeks. The Tories may still defenestrate Theresa May, and it’s possible we’ll get another Brexit referendum.
However, if the UK still seems to be heading for any form of Brexit by Christmas, Scotland needs to get out of the madhouse as soon as possible. If we don’t leave soon, we’ll stop looking calm and sensible and start looking weak and impotent. It’ll be time to act.