Theresa May’s crude refusal to join with France, Germany and Italy in condemning Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate change accord and her supine acquiescence in his economic nationalism send a clear message to Europe: allez vous faire foutre.
Taken with other messages from her government, cabinet and party combining disdain and ignorance for all matters European, it underlines that this narrow-minded, sectarian incompetent is hell-bent on the hardest of Brexits – an inevitable WTO outcome that will crown the UK’s diplomatic self-isolation with a collapse in national income aka economic self-harming.
Across the Channel, the new French President, Emmanuel Macron, joins forces with Angela Merkel as an equal partner in denouncing Trump and reasserting European leadership over climate change – side-by-side with China. His En Marche party/movement is set to win a parliamentary majority on June 11/18 as Merkel heads for a fourth term in late September.
The two or M&M as some call them are running unabashed pro-EU campaigns, with Macron’s pitch in the présidentielles so successful the defeated neo-fascist Marine Le Pen has dropped her opposition to the euro and Merkel crowding out the new SPD Kanzlerkandidat, Martin Schulz, a politico who built almost his entire career in Brussels. At the same time, the Eurozone economy (pace Greece) is outperforming not only the UK but also the US. Popular support on the Continent for the EU has rebounded.
Stuck on the edge
Here in Scotland it feels increasingly like we’re truly on the periphery of Europe. If May has forgotten the 48 percent who voted Remain a year ago, the Scottish 62 percent pro-EU majority is virtually orphaned. Unsurprisingly, Ruth Davidson cynically dumped her own Europhile stance to further her career inside the Tory Party while Kezia Dugdale, like Labour across the UK, is all over the place on key issues such as migration – and seemingly clueless about the negotiating mandate Britain should adopt in the Article 50 talks. Willie Rennie is ultra-peripheral.
Macron won by being unafraid to build his entire campaign around Europe and enhancing France’s position within the EU. Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister and SNP leader, could have taken a leaf out of his book but has flip-flopped from one theme to another in a surprisingly defensive, lacklustre campaign notable for its tense misfiring. Perhaps she fears a backlash from the pro-indy bloc of 2014 that voted to quit the EU two years later and are tempted by the Tories. Or, equally, is disappointed that the pro-Remain vote has not brought a pro-indy bounce.
Whatever the reasons, Sturgeon and the SNP have fought a decidedly peely-wally campaign for Scotland as an independent EU member – so much so it’s become invisible. Yet, above all privately, senior SNP politicos insist it’s the best option for the country and, as one put it, even the compromise paper, Scotland’s Place in Europe, issued in December 2016 and promoting ‘differentiated options’ for Scotland such as single market and customs union membership “isn’t dead in the water.”
It seems as if the party is counting on the prospect of a (very early) breakdown in the Art 50 negotiations – as set out to MSPs in mid-May by Brexit minister Mike Russell, with the “divorce” bill the most likely trigger for meltdown. Or that the end-deal will be so appalling MPs will revolt and vote down the one David Davis/May bring back to Westminster by, say, September 2018. Or somehow piggy-backing on any deal Northern Ireland strikes over the border/common travel area with the South in the form of a special arrangement on immigration.
Europe or bust
But as good as nobody is speaking out loud for what has always been the preferred option: EU membership as an independent country on a par with Denmark, Latvia and Slovakia. Even though on belatedly launching the manifesto, Sturgeon intoned: “There is just too much at stake for Brexit simply to be imposed on Scotland, no matter how damaging it turns out to be. Our future must be decided by us, not for us.”
Sturgeon and her party are floundering. They watch aghast as robotic May and her callow cabinet squander the last remaining drops of goodwill the EU leadership has for the UK with awkward jibes about ‘aggression’ etc. But they cannot materially affect the negotiating process – effectively they’ve been frozen out of it while fondly proclaiming they can still help shape it. Nobody is taken in by this. They simply cannot deliver – in the absence of independence – what the 62 percent voted for on June 23 2016: continued membership. They/we cannot decide.
As a No voter of 2014 turned Yes voter of 2019(?) by Brexit, this correspondent hoped and expected that Sturgeon et al would, like M&M, make the case for Europe, the EU project (warts and all), the centrepiece of the campaign. That Scotland and its political leaders would, like Macron, draw on the Enlightenment/ siècle des Lumières to be part of a movement dedicated to openness, tolerance, social inclusion, equality, a social Europe standing up against the backward-looking divisiveness of miserable Mayism. It simply hasn’t happened.