What a weekend that was in the campaign to see this Tory Brexit end and ensure our place in the European Union remains secure.
A million people marched through central London for a so-called People’s Vote, and the petition to revoke Article 50 had just passed five million at the time of writing. There is a real sense that the public want this madness to end and it’s starting to feel like the beginning of a real people’s revolt.
The petition has forced revoking Article 50 on to the agenda as a real proposition. Until this weekend, very few people in Parliament took this proposition seriously. When Angus MacNeil and I first presented this amendment to Parliament a few weeks ago it secured the support of only 12 MPs. That is because the main driver to stop Brexit has been the People’s Vote campaign. This had been presented as the only means to stop Brexit and therefore attracted all the attention
People have even tried to conflate revoke with a second referendum, with some even wanting Article 50 revoked just to start all the madness over again with another vote! It is therefore important to understand that the two are significantly different.
Revoke would end Brexit in an afternoon. We have the “Scottish Six” to thank for this. It was they that secured the landmark judgement in the European Court which stated that the UK could unilaterally revoke Article 50. Revoke is a clear, straightforward route to rescuing the UK’s place in the EU and its simplicity is the thing that has driven so many people to sign the petition.
Revoke would also secure Scotland’s place in the European Union in line with how we voted and what we as a nation clearly want. A People’s Vote is a lot more complicated. Firstly, its advocates can’t agree on how this should be progressed and what should appear on any ballot paper.
There are also the issues for Scotland. We have not secured any protections for our national interest in a second referendum in return for our unconditional support.
If Scotland voted to remain again (which it would) and the rest of the UK voted to leave (as it very well might) we could be expected to respect the UK-wide result again.
Worse than that, the momentum for a People’s Vote is for what is called the Kyle-Wilson amendment. This is a compromise specifically to get the Labour Party off the hook in line with its almost contradictory Brexit policy. It proposes that the Commons allows the Prime Minister’s deal to pass on condition that it is then put to the people in a confirmatory referendum.
We would be asked to vote for (or at least abstain on) the Prime Minister’s deal. We would have to let a deal pass that we know would make our constituents poorer; that would end freedom of movement with all its disastrous consequences for economic growth and our population issues, that would deny our young people the opportunity to live and work across a continent
Scotland’s EU future would be out of our hands and we would have to trust a Labour Party whose leadership wants to leave the EU and can’t even say if remain would even be on the ballot paper.
It is also a “confirmatory” referendum with all the associated risks. If this principle was extended to a future successful independence referendum, Unionists would be working from the day after the vote to undermine that result and the UK would ensure we were given the worst possible “deal” in order to try to reverse the result.
Eventually Scotland is going to have to accept that the only way we are going to rescue our EU membership is as an independent country. At some point Scotland is going to have to decide whether we go down as part of Brexit Britain or make our own relationship with Europe as an independent nation.
For all the dramatic activity over the weekend, none of the proposed UK options are likely to salvage our situation. The days of a UK solution to Scotland’s EU membership are swiftly coming to an end, just as it is becoming apparently obvious that it is only the people of Scotland who can rescue our EU membership.