May’s approach to Brexit negotiations

May’s stated objective is to get the best deal for the UK from Brexit, so she would obviously do only what is necessary to achieve her aim.  But is that the way it has turned out?  Here are some thoughts on May’s “strong and stable” approach from the point of view of achieving that objective, remembering that this is what Scotland faces in 2019 as part of the UK.

Back in July, whilst the EU cracked on with preparing, May lost time starting two (competing) Whitehall departments from scratch.  Then in the Autumn, when the High Court ruled that Article 50 was outside prerogative, May could have got on with the job with an Article 50 Bill – but appealed instead, wasting more time.  May was lucky the Supreme Court said only a Bill was needed and didn’t insist on input from the devolved administrations as well, but it was a huge, needless, time-wasting gamble.  Had May just got on with preparing the Article 50 Bill, it would have been passed by Christmas.

She claimed not to want show her cards, using that as the excuse for not giving any information to the public, but then she made her Birmingham conference speech when she just couldn’t resist telling the party faithful how clever she was going to be.  In that speech, she declared (a) a March date for Article 50, (b) no ECJ jurisdiction and (c) no freedom of movement.  So several cards fully shown?

Come this April, instead of “getting on with the job”, she wastes almost two months of the Article 50 two years schedule with a needless general election, in clear contradiction of her excuse for refusing to sanction a Scottish independence referendum, though, I suppose, only needless if you ignore the possibility that as many as 30 Tory MPs (her majority is 12) could end up in the chokey for fiddling their election expenses.  Three times she could have “got on with the job” but instead we get two needless new departments, a needless appeal and a needless general election.  Again and again, under the cloak of her “getting on with job” rhetoric, May is diverted and wastes time that should be spent preparing for negotiations with the EU.

But the EU27 have not been wasting time.  Note the news that the EU27 have agreed a common approach to the negotiations.  This didn’t come about by accident.  Compare with the UK, where May hasn’t got, and hasn’t even attempted to get, an agreed UK approach among the four UK administrations.

And in addition to all this, she has contrived to lose key people like Sir Ivan Rogers, the EU Ambassador, and two of her senior Downing Street advisers, and appointing idiots like Boris Johnson and Liam Fox to key positions in the administration has been the expected unmitigated disaster.  Combined with this is the aggressive attitude that has characterised May’s whole approach.  May’s attitude has been one of “they need us more than we need them” so they’ll jolly well have to do as they’re told.  Insults and threats have been the order of the day from the moment the result of the referendum was announced, further poisoning the relationship with Europe even before negotiations have really started.

This is not strong and stable leadership but the reverse, but people might nod along because it is called “strong and stable leadership”.  The truth is that if the UK had not wasted time with two new departments, a needless appeal and a needless election, they would be in a better position than now with more time to prepare for what they want to achieve and how they want to go about it.  More preparation would have helped to prevent the outcome from the now infamous dinner with Jean-Claude Juncker where it was obvious that May had precious little idea of what was required, but a hugely inflated sense of what she could achieve.  Only May is to blame for these delays, pushing the UK Government into a situation which it is supremely unqualified to cope with.  With this level of incompetence, what are the chances of an acceptable Brexit deal with the EU?

May is acting like a dictator and, like all other dictators, she has either to get a successful outcome in every situation or she has to have the authority (or the muscle) to override any and all objections.  She’s not there yet, but do you want to bet your future on the way she’ll eventually go?

This is the person that the Tories want you to support at GE17.  This is the standard of government that you can expect from a May-led Westminster administration and remember the Tories also want to make even the local elections all about Brexit and this Westminster administration.  This is what we need to reject before any more of the incompetence creeps over the border and infects Holyrood.

Be warned.  Vote Tory and you are voting for a continuing “strong and stable” Brexit shambles.

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When the tactical gamble fails

We’ve seen a lot of talk on social media about regional list voting for the Holyrood election.  See also here  (https://wordpress.com/post/angryweegie.wordpress.com/221).  All the smaller parties of the left say they support independence and the main argument being addressed to SNP supporters by  all of them is that a vote for them will be more likely to secure additional pro-indy MSPs than a vote for the SNP because of the operation of the D’Hondt system of voting used for Holyrood elections.

Of the minor parties, only the Greens are likely to figure in the new parliament in any significant numbers, as RISE and Solidarity are barely showing in the polls and are unlikely to pick up many, or even any, seats.

However, I have a number of issues with these tactical voting suggestions.

To become the official party of opposition, as has been suggested as a possibility by several Green supporters, the Greens would have to increase the number of regional votes by more than 400,000 from the 87,000 they gained in 2011, an almost impossible task.  The possibility of increased turnout compared to 2011 would only increase that figure.  More realistically, they may gain a few more votes and a few more seats, a larger number of additional seats if more voters are persuaded to switch to the Greens on the list, but a smaller number otherwise.  Given that their campaign strategy has almost entirely targeted the SNP, it is very likely that any increased Green vote would be balanced by a corresponding reduction in the SNP vote, so it’s much more likely that any additional seats won by the Greens would be at the expense of the SNP, so no pro-independence gain there.  Worse that that, a significant reduction in the SNP vote is more likely to allow the bigger parties, Labour and Tories, to gain extra seats, based on the much larger number of votes they will attract, compared to the Greens.

We’ve heard at some length what the upside of tactical voting is, but what’s the downside.  Two possible outcomes could be either an SNP minority government, like 2007, or, if the numbers allowed, the unionist parties could form a coalition to outvote the SNP, even with the support of the smaller parties, allowing a unionist majority, with Ruth Davidson or Kezia Dugdale as First Minister.

An SNP minority government, depending on the Greens (or any other party) to pass legislation is obviously weaker as the other party’s priorities would have to be taken into account. No matter what you say, there are many issues where the Greens (and the other minor parties) disagree with the SNP and that would leave the SG open to “blackmail” to get its legislation passed.

A unionist coalition government, controlled from London, would be a disaster for Scotland and would set back the possibility of another referendum for years, perhaps even for decades.  It’s too horrible to contemplate, so I won’t.

The negative reaction in the media if the SNP failed to get a majority would far outweigh any positives to be gained from having a (slightly) larger number of pro-independence MSPs, even assuming that the Greens and the other minor parties can truly be described as such.  The largely unionist press would have a field day (or is that a field five years), giving them the opportunity for even more “SNP-bad” articles, leaving the SNP government largely on the defensive and making it very difficult to work to achieve the increase in the proportion of YES voters needed to secure a YES result in a second referendum.

The SNP is the only party I trust to stand up for Scotland, above all other issues. The Greens campaigned for YES in the referendum, but is it their highest priority?  Or, even worse, was it simply a tactic to increase their profile. In either case, my personal view is that they would sacrifice independence for issues closer to their heart, so I don’t see them as SNP lite.

Independence is my priority , but I just don’t see the tiny advantage in having a few  additional pro-independence MSPs having any real effect. The media will still run with a largely pro-union message, and would do so no matter how many unionist MSPs there were. So how would the independence message get more air/print time?  And considering the possible downsides, who amongst you would want to take the risk.

Both votes SNP.  SNP 1+2.  You know it makes sense.