Reality of what Brexit means
It was British Prime Minister Harold Wilson who coined the phrase“a week is a long time in politics”.
With 24-hour news coverage and stories breaking by the hour on Twitter, I can only imagine what he would make of the pace of politics today.
Yet if a week is a long time, then the time spent discussing Brexit can feel like an eternity.
After months of negotiations, arguments and resignations, the UK Government informed the country that a deal had been agreed and, standing in Downing Street, the Prime Minister told us that this was the“collective decision”of her cabinet.
Yet rather than being the beginning of the end, this is only the end of the beginning.
Less than 24-hours later she had lost the confidence of the person we were told would be in charge of negotiations, her Brexit Secretary, along with her Works and Pensions Secretary, Junior Ministers, and Parliamentary Private Secretaries. Backbench Conservatives published letters of no confidence and hour-by-hour people wondered if she would survive the day.
Yet survive she has, touring the country in the slim hope that she can pass her deal. Yet no matter how you look at it, the numbers do not seem to add up. Many Brexiteers in her party do not back it, some Remainers in her party do not back it, opposition parties do not back it, and her coalition partners do not back it.
As Deputy Convenor of the Scottish Parliament’s European Committee, I recently joined colleagues of all parties in visiting Brussels and hearing the other side of negotiations. This is part of a number of meetings and evidence sessions we have held to ensure that the Scottish Parliament’s voice is heard.
That is why this week, in an unprecedented move, Scottish Labour, the SNP, Greens and Liberal Democrats will table a single agreed motion opposing the Withdrawal Agreement and the accompanying Political Declaration.
Why? Three reports issued last week highlight the stark reality of what Brexit actually means.
First of all the Scottish Government published a report that found Scots would be the equivalent of £1610 worse off per person compared to continued EU membership. A report from the independent Bank of England looked at the worst case scenario, a no-deal Brexit, and warned that it could see a recession worse than the recent financial crisis, with the economy shrinking by eight per cent and house prices falling by almost a third.
The most damaging of all was a report by the UK Treasury, from the very Government that is pursuing the Brexit agenda. This found that the UK will be worse off economically under any form of Brexit. Official figures show that their own plan could see the economy become 3.9 per cent smaller after 15 years, than if we stayed in the EU.
The overwhelming view of the Scottish Parliament is clear. ‘No deal’is completely unacceptable as an outcome but that doesn’t mean we accept a bad deal. We must reject the offer and look at the other alternatives that are available.
A General Election, new negotiations, a people’s referendum. This is not a simple choice between a bad deal and no deal. We deserve better than that.
History The former Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson said “A week is a long time in politics”