Parliament returns this week and there will be only one show in town and that is the on going agony over Brexit. On Thursday we will start the first of two days on the Repeal Bill as we continue to progress this bizarre and disastrous endeavour. The repeal bill is a mess and it is impossible to think of a more crude and dysfunctional instrument to unpack the thousands of EU laws that define our legislative relationship with Europe. The Government have even come up with the imaginative solution of ‘Henry the 8th Powers’ simply giving itself legislative authority over large swathes of laws untroubled by democratic oversight. It allows the blueprint for an assault on Scotland’s devolution arrangements and says nothing about returning EU powers to Scotland. I think it’s fair to say I will not be voting for it in a month of Sundays.
Then there are the negotiations. Let me put my cards on the table about how I observe these tricky conversations – and I will try and lay them down as sensitively and delicately as I possibly can. Never before has an enterprise of such political significance been prosecuted with such utter, delusional, cluelessness. It’s hard to think of major international negotiations being handled so ineptly and chaotically and it’s like we’ve put the clowns in charge of the Brexit circus. Observing how things are going you just can not help but conclude that this is going to be really, really bad.
The UK negotiators singularly fail to understand the dynamic at the heart of the negotiations and continue to promote the delusional view that we can ‘have cake and eat it’. On the other hand skilled EU negotiators (like trying to explain to stroppy children) patiently explain to them that you are either in or out of a club. Next to no progress has been made and we are out of the EU in little more than 18 months. Meanwhile EU nationals in our communities are starting to leave unsure of their status and holidaymakers coming back from the Costas and Playas are almost impoverished with the crashing post referendum pound.
Looking at this in the round the UK is currently engaged in almost unprecedented national self harm with this Brexit project. We are indulging in a grotesque episode of economic, political and cultural self flagellation and, by god, we’re determined to give ourselves a damned good thrashing. Opting for the hardest of hard Brexits we are reaching for the most painful implement in the box and the pain will be felt for years to come.
Every single person in Scotland is going to be worse off following Brexit with the Fraser of Allander Institute estimating that it could cost Scotland up to £8 billion with 80 000 being made unemployed whilst our economy takes a 5% hit in GDP. Our plan for Scotland to avoid the worst of the madness was comprehensively rejected before the ink was barely dry and it looks like Scotland will be shackled to the rest of the UK as we motor ever closer to the cliff edge, regardless of how we voted on the project.
Staying with the transport metaphors the good ship UK is currently on full course to hit the Brexit iceberg and the last of the engines has just been stoked up. On deck the ‘negotiators’ aimlessly re-organise the deckchairs comforting themselves with tales of ‘international trade deals’. But below decks attached to the side of this stricken, doomed, empty vessel their remains a lifeboat for Scotland. All we need to do is get on board, lower it down, and row as quickly as possible to the shores of sanity.