Brexit now about dam­age lim­i­ta­tion

The only cer­tain way of avoid­ing the mad­ness of ‘no deal’ is for MPS to back Theresa May, writes Brian Wil­son

The Scotsman - - Scottish Perspective -

Events al­ways look big­ger from in­side the bub­ble. This week has been full of them but the es­sen­tials have not changed and the cal­en­dar keeps rolling.

Pub­li­ca­tion of full le­gal ad­vice may sound like a great pro­ce­dural tri­umph but it did not add much to the sum of hu­man knowl­edge. The view of a le­gal of­fi­cial in Geneva that the UK could uni­lat­er­ally re­verse Brexit is aca­dem­i­cally in­ter­est­ing but not much more.

Do­minic Grieve’s amend­ment giv­ing more power to MPS over the terms of Brexit sets the scene for fur­ther Par­lia­men­tary ex­cite­ments. The dif­fi­cult bit is that no mat­ter who sets the terms of Brexit, there has to be a counter-party will­ing to ac­cept them.

Cu­mu­la­tively, these tran­sient dra­mas and the prospect of de­feat in the House of Com­mons heighten spec­u­la­tion that Theresa May may fall upon her sword. But what will that change other than the cast list?

It seems un­likely the Euro­pean Union will sud­denly weaken at the knees and of­fer up any­thing that has hith­erto been re­fused – least of all the fa­bled back­stop which has be­come the sup­posed font of all hy­po­thet­i­cal evil.

There is at least a pos­si­bil­ity that a Tory lead­er­ship con­test would pro­duce a re­place­ment more cava­lier about “no deal” than Mrs May. Who would gain from that? Would the Brexit clock stop while the Tories fight their pri­vate war? I doubt it.

Amidst such con­fu­sion, there is al­ways the ar­gu­ment that “some­thing might turn up” even if there is no con­sen­sus over what that some­thing should be. The more bit­ter the di­vi­sions, the more dan­ger­ous seems the glib idea of hold­ing an­other ref­er­en­dum to re­verse the re­sult.

Po­lite lib­eral opin­ion de­plores the rise of pop­ulism in Europe yet sees no demo­cratic prob­lem in negat­ing a ref­er­en­dum

re­sult rather than set­tling for a com­pro­mise that ticks the Brexit box while keep­ing most things the same. The ar­ro­gance of elites can be dan­ger­ous as Pres­i­dent Macron might con­firm.

The lat­est Scot­tish wheeze is to pre­tend that the North­ern Ire­land back­stop has grave im­pli­ca­tions for Scot­land in the event of it ever hav­ing to be im­ple­mented. On such ten­u­ous grounds, it is now part of our na­tional dis­course to shout “liar” at those with whom we dis­agree. Classy.

There are ab­so­lutely no grounds for com­par­i­son be­tween North­ern Ire­land’s sit­u­a­tion

and our own. Nor is there dis­ad­van­tage to Scot­land in ac­knowl­edg­ing the EU’S duty to pro­tect the in­ter­ests of Ire­land in these unique cir­cum­stances, with­out try­ing to par­a­site upon them.

Ra­tio­nal­ity plays lit­tle part in the cur­rent frenzy but the more I look at the al­ter­na­tives, the more I tend to con­clude that – given where mat­ters now stand – the best way for­ward and the only cer­tain way of avoid­ing the mad­ness of “no deal” is for MPS to vote for what is on of­fer.

At least this week there was a re­minder of what a true Par­lia­men­tar­ian sounds like.

Michael He­sel­tine rolled back the decades with a bravura speech in the Lords, mak­ing the crit­i­cal point that those with the least eco­nomic mus­cle will pay the high­est eco­nomic price for all of this.

The truth is that those who are driven by a sin­gle con­sti­tu­tional ob­jec­tive care noth­ing for the im­pli­ca­tions that might flow from it. For the rest of us, it is then a case of dam­age lim­i­ta­tion and that is where we now are with Brexit.

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