Prime Minister Theresa May has finally given a bit of an idea of what’s going to happen regarding Brexit and it’s even worse than many feared.
It will be a hard Brexit/clean Brexit / whatever adjective is chosen today Brexit and it will not include membership of the single market. This was pretty much assured when free movement of people was ruled out but confirmed in a speech given by the Prime Minister.
The reality is that Britain will go cap in hand to the EU and will have to take what it gets. The other 27 countries are in a much stronger negotiating position and do not seem inclined to do the UK any favours. Why should they? It is leaving and, in so doing, is making the Euroscepticism and narrow nationalism that led to this departure acceptable.
Leaving the single market will undoubtedly lead to a race to the bottom where corporation tax is lowered to entice big business which, it has been argued, won’t work and will only lead to less money coming in from tax which results in even more public spending cuts.
Worker’s rights are likely to be in the firing line once we are not subject to European human rights. This government already has form for this having introduced draconian trade union laws which make it much more difficult for workers to organise.
Delivering this news the Prime Minister snubbed the parliament and instead spoke to the media in the very building Thatcher had waxed lyrical about the single market
This might have been acceptable had she then given more information to MPs in the form of a white paper and allowed them to debate it but this is not going to happen. The speech is it, the only plan the government has, or all MPs need to bother themselves about anyway.
Given the leave campaign’s rhetoric, it would have been reasonable to assume a major factor in the decision was reasserting the power of Westminster. The fact that the speech was delivered to the media and not the House of Commons Undermines this. It also subverts our democracy and disrespects MPs and their constituents.There will be no more information at least until article 50 is invoked and we’re on our way out.
On the more positive side the final deal will be put to Parliament but with a great number of parliamentarians against leaving the EU, it is unclear what will happen if this agreement fails to get the backing of MPs.
For Nicola Sturgeon, single market membership was a red line. She believed this to be a fair compromise and warned that Theresa May should not ignore Scotland. It makes the possibility of a Second independence referendum much more likely. The First Minister said she would explore other options to ensure that Scotland’s vote to remain was acknowledged but Theresa May is not taking Scotland seriously and it is difficult to see what else can be done. Despite the Prime Minister’s warm words of the “precious union” being at the heart of everything she does, she may have just sealed its fate.
Of course, it wasn’t just Scotland that voted to remain. Across the sea, Northern Ireland did too. Spare a thought for the folk working in the Republic of Ireland passport office which has been backlogged since the Brexit vote was announced. With everyone in Northern Ireland entitled to a ROI passport, therefore remaining an EU citizen, under the Good Friday Agreement they are likely to remain busy.
2017 has very much continued where 2016, a year of confusion and political upsets, left off.
And don’t forget we have President Trump’s inauguration on Friday.