Commentary by Derek Bateman
It ain’t mannerly, I know, but the more I ponder where we are with Brexit the more I’m tempted to say told you so. Just this once, mind, to get it out of the way. Didn’t we warn that voting No two years ago was handing back sovereignty to whoever held sway at Westminster…that however much you worried about the meaning of Yes, the one thing we knew was that our power as a nation would be returned to the Crown in Parliament and the British state, and, as it turns out, the Bloody Tories?
The fragrant Theresa couldn’t make it any clearer. She will decide our fate. One nation indivisible. In together, out together. Or, as John Cleese might put it: Shut up, you uneducated scheme scum and take what’s coming to you.
This is what Union means now…purringly polite camera opps at Bute House with wee promises as conciliatory accessories added in – of course we’ll listen and consult – followed by: Grow up, chumps. You had your chance. If we are to go down we will go down united. It’s a kind of economic and political suicide pact.
I’m afraid my first thought on hearing her speech was a grim tale of my father’s. He was instructing wartime rookies in parachute jumping when two panicked, grabbed each other and fell to earth still in deadly embrace.
Isn’t there panic in government? Are they beginning to understand what this all means in negotiations, both in principle and practice, in law and statute, in endless unpicking and repackaging while hoping, desperately behind the bravado, that others will smile kindly on us? At least in the indyref we had a plan. Not tested – how could it be – but worked out scenarios, sage advice from renowned experts and years of debate. There was a white paper. There was time and resource for it all to be challenged. God, was it challenged.
And this time? We had a bus with a false spending promise which was ditched within 24 hours. Inside was a bunch of flat-earth free-traders and quasi racists – who now call our civic, internationalist, left-leaning movement divisive nationalism That was a mistake. A stupid, provocative, inexcusable error sold for a cheer from the English (divisive nationalist) audience. Do any of the knee-jerk anti-Nats in our politics or journalism seriously think that acceptable? Is there no depth to which they will not descend as they defend the insults to their own voters and readers?
This is all being done it seems to defend our borders – defend them from the workforce our economy needs. We will bar east Europeans with a work ethic and a need for hard cash from doing the jobs the more demanding and lazy Brits reject. Wages in Huddersfield will rise overnight. Asda shelf stackers will do a three-day week for the same money. Zero-hour contracts will become pensionable employment. And Mike Ashley will box trainers on the Christmas Eve late shift.
According to a minister, British youngsters will swing their knapsack, whistle Westering Ho’ and march off to the cabbage fields of Lincolnshire. They will breathe the British country air and hail the healthy life…drop a poached hare or two over the vicar’s hedge to fill his pot. Look, there’s Matron cycling to the bridge club at Rose Cottage. Latvians? Poles? Na. We’ll get our own young folk to dig our own veg. The ruddy-cheeked Land Lads and Lassies of merry England will feed the nation with home-grown, hand-dug produce. Don’t you doubt it.
But it’s also becoming clear that while the unskilled who shore up the UK by paying in more in taxes than they take out, will be stopped at the border, other European incomers won’t. It’s already being floated – by the British Chancellor – that bankers should be excluded from any embargo on free movement. Oh yes. Essential workers must be exempt, just as in wartime when the factories had to keep running. Thus, the financial institutions which corrupt our economy and bankrupted businesses, destroyed investments, jobs and pensions for millions, who are again paying themselves Monopoly money, must not, cannot, be treated like the worker drones of industry. They are, as we know from nine years of debt and crippling austerity, the Masters of the Universe. Come, brothers and sisters of Mammon and feed here. Let this be your sanctuary.
And it isn’t just the Tories. The Labour Lord Thingy of London, Sleekit Sadiq (Sorry, I’ve been reading the Sun) is meeting government ministers to ask that London more widely be exempt from immigration restrictions after Brexit. It is, after all the only place in Britain making money so can’t be treated like the provisionals in the sticks who only cling to the purse strings. When London can draw talent from around the world, including those pesky Europeans, it would be suicidal to prevent them adding to prosperity with their energy and ideas. (Which of course would be wasted north of Watford.)
So the lobbying is heavily under way to make sure, in that special British way, some people can continue to benefit but, things being what they are, sadly not all. Not even Scottish universities which have campaigned long to let overseas students work here after graduating, are being entertained. There is a British pilot scheme but no Scottish university is included. Seems someone wasn’t listening after all. Shame.
On the told-you-so theme – just to be insufferable – Pat Kane is right to query why we haven’t got an indy-leaning research institution relentlessly digging and innovating on a Scotland of the future. It’s a good question which I asked in 2011 when the SNP won the election. I tried to get funding to get it going and have returned to the topic from time to time. Nobody wants to do it or they don’t think it’s worthwhile. I don’t really know. We have Common Space and occasional academic work but there is no unimpeachable, independent, think tank taking seriously the prospect of an independent country. So we have less of the hard work and modelling done and fewer respected sources with which to fight. And there it is.
Did I say told you so? (Sorry)