Effie Samara, writer and doctoral researcher in Social Science at the University of Glasgow, says that Nicola Sturgeon’s clarity of thought and steadfastness means she is the only leader that looks capable of guiding a way out of the Brexit quagmire, which is slowly and painfully reaching its final episode
THE Westminster parliament is known to be bound by an interesting internal logic. As it happens, it has always been known for its self-centred melodrama. It has always possessed a proclivity to rule, dictate or demean its targets with ease and has conveniently avoided the discomforts of a written constitution, preferring rather to follow precedent and protocol according to circumstance.
But no other point in history or fantasy can compete with Brexit. Brexit is the pinnacle of British political harakiri; the last episode in the psychodrama of alternative British history. On what has aggressively been marketed for years as triumphant Brexit Day, the UK is said to leave the EU in order to march towards the dystopian fantasy of a resurrected Empire with its predominantly white ex-colonies, Australia, New Zealand and Canada lovingly enveloping the Britannic integument in a snazzily re-coloured Union Jack.
No more colonial rule by the hated Brussels neo-Napoleons. No more tyranny of the 753 commercial treaties the UK is currently benefitting from, treaties which lifted the country out of near bankruptcy in the years following ascension in 1973. In the shredder go valuable international agreements which successive UK governments helped negotiate with no less than 78 countries (with 23 pending), and which have ensured maximum cooperation and access to the most remote markets on optimal terms.
Who cares, when, in the words of Etonian bad boy Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, you are freeing yourself from the shackles of “the likes of Napoleon, Hitler and the Kaiser”? Gloriously veneering over the jeopardy of 60.7 per cent of UK imports of goods, and 66.9 per cent of UK exports, reverting to no-man’s land and endangering the supply of goods, medicines and energy is clearly a small price to pay if you are about to witness the renaissance of the old wartime spirit.
Finally, you can look forward to reviving the moment when you can actually match your great-grandfather in sturdy Englishness. Brexit is proving brilliant at breathing new life to the metaphors of surrender and invasion. Shortly after the vote, ex-Conservative party leader Michael Howard invoked good old-fashioned British bellicose spirit by hilariously recommending that Britain should go to war against Spain over Gibraltar.
Despite the Brexit tragic-comedy, Nicola Sturgeon’s visit to Westminster this week was a decisive step towards actioning a post-Brexit future. Regardless of one’s position on the question of Scottish Independence –and it may be strange for anyone not to contemplate its benefits in today’s chaotic UK climate – Sturgeon’s initiative in attempting a formal coalition of opposition parties is reasoned, well thought-through and a much needed injection of Vitamin D into Westminster’s anaemic veins. This is a valiant attempt by a politician who could easily be extracting political capital out of a self-evident reality. Scotland would be much better off out of this paranoia. But Nicola Sturgeon is not known for political myopia.
Yesterday’s Political Declaration on Britain’s EU exit is rich in gastronomic metaphor. It leaves it debatable whether this will end up becoming a Canada Dry or Turkey Plus agreement. It promises something for everything with thousands of non-committal adjectives accompanying equally non-committal nouns.
What is certain is that there is an enormous amount of work needed to replace the structural framework and the thousands of laws that are currently covered by the EU regulatory umbrella. Replacements will be worse because trade will no longer be frictionless and linguistic tropes such as “broad, ambitious, deep and flexible” are aimed towards sentimental reassurance rather than a concrete trade policy. The service sector is desecrated and wide concerns such as aviation, rail, maritime agreements, energy supply, public procurement, petrochemicals and pharmaceuticals are all still to be agreed. In short, a tragic proposition of setting alight 40 years’ worth of progress and common existence with the largest and most significant cultural and trading partner in the world in the delirious pursuit of a red, white and blue unicorn.
So what are our options? Well, Brexit can still be stopped. Revocation of Article 50 is legally sound as Lord Kerr, the man who drafted it, has repeatedly pointed out. Theresa May could do so unilaterally. She will not. In this case Parliament has a sovereign duty to ensure the country does not lapse into a post-apocalyptic situation of war time-like rationing of vital goods and services. Parliament must further ensure that human rights and acquired rights and protections are not jeopardised as it has consistently been attempted and in many cases legislated by the current administration.
As it is becoming progressively clearer that a vote of no confidence cannot be achieved from within the Conservative party, a coalition will be essential in precipitating either a General Election or declaring a referendum on the proposed terms of exit. Nicola Sturgeon’s Westminster discussions seem to have brought the ever-reluctant Jeremy Corbyn one step closer to assuming his role as Leader of the Opposition, a responsibility he has so far abdicated by his utter failure to oppose any significant piece of Tory legislation ranging from his deafening silence on the electoral law violations to opposing the regressive family cap and even to protecting EU citizens’ rights amidst the Brexit debacle. Corbyn has been notable in his absence or in his meaningless attempts to sell an equally bungled, blindfold, ‘socialist’ Brexit by bedding with the likes of the ERG and hard-right ideologues. However well intentioned he may be- and some of us would be within our rights to doubt him – he has failed to stand up to the potential threats Brexit entails.
On the other hand, the Scottish and UK governments have been at loggerheads over Brexit for most of the past two years. After all, as Daniel Hannan stated yesterday [22 November], Brexit will inevitably create financial hardship, but this isn’t about finances. It is about the nation. Which nation is that, one might ask? Brexiteers’ greatest legacy will be a last-ditch attempt to force together the four components of the entity, also known as the British Nation, perhaps for one final time.
In light of all this nervousness, it is high time, according to some, that Sturgeon set out the path to independence. There is no doubt that she will. And for those of us who support independence, she must be trusted to advance in the spirit of hope and pragmatism which are her undoubted qualities. Nonetheless, what she has proved this week is that statesmanship and opportunism do not and must not meet, however expedient their coalescence may seem. Placing the national interest above party loyalty or even ideology is smart politics, it is courageous leadership but above all it is the right thing to do. Sturgeon possesses the clarity and steadfastness to look beyond Brexit, beyond short-sighted political gain and beyond sound bites.
The next few weeks will probably prove to be the most cataclysmic period of British history for the last three hundred years. Brexit’s masochistic subconscious is bound to hurtle towards us in full force as the unicorns fail to appear and the last episode draws slowly and painfully to an inevitable close.
Picture courtesy of First Minister of Scotland
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