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Letters / The dangers of wrecking Brexit

I write in response to your article Brexit survey triggers calls for people’s referendum (SN, 6/11/2018).

A range of disagreeable Brexit-based scenarios are being leaked almost daily to the media, for purposes unknown. However, when the game playing is over and the final outcome determined, the future of the UK union itself could be at risk.

Ever since 19 September 2014, the SNP has been manoevring for an early rerun of the Scottish independence referendum (Indy2).

Obviously, a second EU referendum would assist that aim as it would break the “once in a generation” standard for constitutional change, setting a dangerous new precedent.

Surprising then to see unionists Tavish Scott and the LibDems proposing a successful Holyrood motion, calling for another EU referendum (per BBC Scotland).

It wouldn’t be plain sailing for the SNP, of course. Were a second referendum to result in the UK remaining in the EU, they would lose their ‘big grievance’, namely, Scotland being forced out of the EU against its will.

Thus they would face campaigning for a Scottish Remain result, while hoping secretly for a UK Leave. Failing that they would need, at least, a very convincing win in the Scottish elections to get their way on Indy2.

If Brexit is cancelled, however, or Westminster accepts anything like the ‘Brexit in Name Only’ deals being leaked, namely; remaining in the customs union indefinitely; European Court of Justice (ECJ); no free trade deals; who knows what on fishing; and no say in rule-making, then it’s easy to see why Scottish Leave voters might switch to the SNP. Why?

It was established in 2014 that an independent Scotland would be automatically out of the EU, with “no deal”, and would have to negotiate re-entry. This would mean automatic acceptance of all the disagreeable bits of the so-called ‘Acquis Communautaire’ (body of EU law), including the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). We would be forced to accept the euro as currency and doubtless, would be a net contributor, too.

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To secure an Indy2 Yes vote in such circumstances would be challenging and may prompt the SNP to switch policy to joining the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), instead of the EU.

EFTA countries (Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein) have membership of the European Economic Area (EEA), giving preferential access to the EU single market in exchange for adopting the ‘Four Freedoms ‘(free movement of people, goods, services and capital).

Briefly, they must accept some EU rules and ECJ jurisdiction and contribute agreed amounts directly to poorer EU countries. However, they retain full control of their currency, economy, trade deals and fishing grounds.

Thus the SNP could capitalise on any Tory Brexit ‘betrayal’ by adopting EFTA/EEA as policy. That would be clearly superior to prime minister May’s alleged plans and a large number of disillusioned Leave voters might well switch to the SNP.

In particular, Tories who took fishing seats from the SNP in the 2016 general election would be sitting ducks.

One wonders whether any thought is given to avoiding such serious pitfalls or whether, from the start, Mrs. May has been merely lurching from concession to further concession.

And those opposition politicians tripping off to Brussels to “collude with a foreign power” on how best to wreck Brexit and calling for a second referendum to annul the first, might consider that undermining our negotiators so will result, inevitably, in a poorer deal for their own country and could lead, even, to the destruction of the UK union most of them profess to hold so dear.

John Tulloch

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