Can The Scots Save Britain From A Foolish Decision On Brexit?

The Scots want to stop Brexit, but it's not clear they have the power to stop it.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is looking to form a coalition to stop Brexit:

LONDON — Pro-EU Conservative MPs can be part of a cross-party “coalition” against Theresa May’s Brexit deal, and against a no-deal exit, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Tuesday.

Sturgeon was speaking in Westminster following talks with Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the U.K.’s opposition Labour party. Sturgeon, whose Scottish National Party is the third largest party in the House of Commons, said those opposed to the binary choice of May’s deal or no deal should unite behind a single alternative strategy — and that Conservative MPs “have a role to play” in the interests of “building a coalition” in Westminster.

“The next stage of these discussions has to then look at what option can the opposition coalesce around,” Sturgeon said, adding that options included a second referendum, a permanent customs union and single market arrangement.

May’s government has said that the only options available to MPs when they vote — most likely before Christmas — on her deal, is the existing agreement or no deal. Labour has said that if MPs reject May’s deal then a no-deal exit must be prevented, and say they want a general election. While not ruling out a second referendum, Labour has prioritized a motion of no confidence in the government that could topple May’s government and force an election.

Sturgeon is in favor of another referendum that could reverse Brexit altogether. When asked about the possibility of a confidence motion, she said it was ”important now … that we focus on where we can build majorities.”

In an apparent acknowledgement that the Conservative rebels required to give opposition parties a majority in parliament would not vote against their own government in a confidence motion, she added: “We can all table different things but if they get voted down because we haven’t done the work to build the majority behind them it’s not going to take us very far.”

This comes at the same time the Sturgeon is also leaving her options open regarding a second Scottish independence referendum depending on what happens with Brexit:

Nicola Sturgeon has promised to reveal her plans for a second independence referendum in the “not too distant future”, after claiming there was currently too much “chaos” over Brexit.

The First Minister, who was asked when she was going to “have the guts” to make an announcement on indyref2, said she would first have to let the dust settle on Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

She confirmed her MPs would vote against the deal and said she would be in London this week to seek an alliance with Jeremy Corbyn and others opposed to the Prime Minister’s plan, in the hope that they could “coalesce” around an alternative to the withdrawal agreement.

She claimed there were two possible ways forward that would mean either remaining in the single market and customs union, or another referendum on the EU.

Ms Sturgeon previously said she would make a statement on the timing of a second independence referendum after she had seen the Brexit deal.

But she told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show that it would be appropriate to wait and see what the House of Commons did with the withdrawal agreement.

She added: “I think it is reasonable to allow the dust to settle. We could be facing another general election, we could be facing another Brexit vote, but one thing is beyond any doubt, the implications, the consequences of Scotland not being independent have been very stark in the last few months, and particularly in the last week. Scotland’s interests have been sidelined, our parliament has been ignored.”

Asked when she was “going to have the guts to say we are going to have another independence referendum”, Ms Sturgeon replied: “That will be in the not too distant future, but we have chaos reigning at Westminster just now.”

David Mundell, the Scottish Secretary, described her approach to leaving the EU as “a row, a concocted grievance and the inevitable battle cry of independence”.

He also accused her of exploiting Northern Ireland’s troubles in her bid for independence after she made what he called “crass” demands for Scotland to be “equated with Northern Ireland” in its relationship with the EU.

He said her comments on the “backstop” deal, which would effectively keep Northern Ireland in the single market in the event that outstanding issues are not resolved by a new trade deal, showed that nothing was “off limits” for her.

Mr Mundell said the arrangements were specific to Northern Ireland in order to prevent a hard border with the Republic and avoid a customs border in the Irish Sea, and were also required to protect a peace process that was still fragile after decades of bloodshed.

Writing in The Mail on Sunday, he added: “Her attempt to draw false parallels and use the Province’s troubled history to further her cause of independence is at best insensitive and at worst disgraceful.”

He admitted to having some reservations about Mrs May’s deal but said a “no deal” outcome would seriously damage Scotland’s economy, adding: “I’m backing the Prime Minister. Like her, I’m sticking at it.”

Ms Sturgeon said she “absolutely supported” whatever arrangements it took to preserve peace in Northern Ireland, but the backstop would put Scotland at a competitive disadvantage with the Province.

She added: “Those who don’t think the Prime Minster’s deal is the right way to go, have now a responsibility to come together and coalesce around an alternative and I am happy to play my part in that and I will seek to have discussions this week with other parties to get us into that position.”

Scottish nationalists trying to push back against Brexit is not surprising, of course. In the 2016 referendum, Scotland was one of the regions that voted in favor of remaining in the European Union and, with more than 62% of Scottish voters voting for “Remain,” the region with the strongest level of support of any of the United Kingdom’s major regions. Only Northern Ireland, where more than 55% of the voters voted in favor of Remain, and the Greater London area, where support for Remain was at nearly 60%, came close to the level of support for the European Union that Scottish voters displayed. (Source) Indeed, there was no region of the U.K. where support for ‘Leave’ received as high a percentage of the vote as ‘Remain’ did in Scotland. In the wake of the vote, Sturgeon and her Scottish National Party, which controls 35 seats in the House of Commons, have spoken out several times against Brexit and have been among the loudest voices calling for a second Brexit referendum to approve the final deal, something that Theresa May’s government continues to resist.

In addition to trying to stop Brexit, Scottish nationalists have reacted to Brexit by attempting to renew the calls for another independence referendum.

In the aftermath of the Brexit vote, Sturgeon hinted that the outcome of the referendum and the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union could lead her to call for a new independence referendum. This was consistent with what Sturgeon and others in her party had been saying in advance of the vote, and was largely rooted in the fact that skepticism about the advantages of membership in the E.U. never had the kind of support that it did in England and Wales. In the intervening time, though, she and her party have largely backed away from such talk as the Brexit process has moved forward. In part that was because the path toward Brexit was not entirely clear for a significant amount of time after the 2016 vote. This softer tone was also due to the fact that Sturgeon’s party did suffer setbacks in last year’s snap election, losing some 30+ seats largely to Labour. While this was to be anticipated after the massive success the party had in the 2015 General Election, largely at the expense of Labour, it nonetheless reduced the SNP’s power in Parliament. After it became clear that the government in London under Theresa May was committed to a “hard Brexit” that includes leaving the single market that existed prior to the E.U. itself, though, it appears that Sturgeon began to resurrect the idea of another independence vote, and she appears to be doing so again.

Leaving this rhetoric aside, it’s not at all clear that there would ever actually be a second independence referendum regardless of the fate of Brexit itself. First, any such referendum would have to be authorized by Parliament and May has taken the same position David Cameron did both before and after the Brexit vote. Specifically, that position is that the issue of Scottish independence was closed with the outcome of the last referendum in 2014. Any second referendum would have to be approved by Parliament in order for it to have any legal force and effect and seems clear that such consent will not be forthcoming as long as the Conservatives remain in power, which will be the case until 2022 at the latest unless May’s government collapses or she calls for another snap election. Additionally, the Labour Party also opposes another Scottish independence vote, making it even less likely that Parliament would make any moves to authorize a second vote or that it would be approved if they did.

Moreover, even if there were a second independence vote in Scotland, there’s no guarantee that the outcome Even if there was a second independence referendum in Scotland, there’s no guarantee that the outcome would be any different than the outcome in September 2014. Last year, polls of Scottish voters showed that the idea of remaining in the United Kingdom was supported by a somewhat larger percentage than had voted in favor of remaining in the U.K. four years ago notwithstanding the fact that staying in the United Kingdom means leaving the European Union at some point in the next twelve to eighteen months. While that may not be the case once Brexit becomes reality, that’s not something we can predict at this point. For now, though, it seems likely that another Scottish independence vote would lead to the same outcome we saw when Sturgeon and her party tried that tactic the last time.

Finally, as was the case in 2014 when Scotland’s future hung in the balance. there is no guarantee that the European Union would accept Scottish membership, at least not initially. If it did become independent of the rest of the United Kingdom, Scotland would quickly become a much poorer nation with a smaller tax base and a large welfare state that it could no longer depend on the rest of Great Britain to help pay for. This would place it among the poorer of the members of the E.U. and could arguably constitute the kind of risk for E.U. membership that other members would rather avoid at this time, especially with the other crises occupying the E.U.’s attention. Without E.U. membership, Scotland would quickly find itself in quite the bind and quickly forced to make a choice between continuing its welfare state and adjusting to life on its own in a sustainable fashion. Sturgeon is no doubt aware of all of this, and aware of the risk she’s taking in backing independence at this rather precarious time. More likely than not, the call for another vote is a bid to get a larger voice in the Brexit process for Scotland, but if she isn’t careful, she could end up shooting herself, and the region of the U.K. that she leads, in the foot.

Taking all this into account, it’s hard to see exactly what Sturgeon and the SNP, by themselves, can do to either change the terms of debate about Brexit or put sufficient pressure on the government in London to allow something akin to  a second Brexit vote. With only thirty seats in the House of Commons, for example, she lacks the kind of political influence that could be used to block a Brexit vote or to assist the anti-Brexit forces in either the Conservative or Labour parties, both of which seem to be largely disorganized and lacking in real leadership. Even if they were organized, though, it’s not clear that they’d be willing to pay the price that the SNP would likely ask for support. So, while one can wish Sturgeon and the Scots good luck in their efforts to save the Brexiteers from the consequences of their seemingly foolish decision, the odds that they’ll succeed seem low.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Kathy says:

    Much as I oppose Brexit, a Scottish UKxit would be even stupider. The market and financing Scotland gets from the rest of the UK must be larger than what it will ever have from Europe.

    It would be like Arizona seceding from the US in order to remain inside NAFTA, should some future Cheeto decide to pull out of NAFTA.

  2. Sleeping Dog says:

    IIRC the “can Scotland keep the UK in the EU” discussion is a well beaten dead horse. The answer then was no and it is still no. The UK is leaving the EU with the only question being is it via May’s plan or they simply walk. It is possible the dream up paths to reversing the Brexit vote, but they are subject to as much magical realism as the hardliners delusion of the importance of the UK to Europe.

  3. JohnSF says:

    Could happen, but not yet.
    These sort of moves could come in the endgame, but the political/numerical calculus involved makes my brain hurt.

    650 MPs;
    Less 7 Sinn Fein, Speaker and 3 Deputies (I’d forgotten three deputies last time I did these sums) = 639 voting MPs
    Conservatives 316 less 1 Deputy = 315 votes
    DUP 10 votes in “confidence and supply” agreement with Cons. = 325 votes
    (DUP already breaking agreement on some budget votes as a warning of their determination to vote against the May/EU deal)

    Labour 257 votes minus 2 Deputy Speakers = 255
    SNP 35

    So even IF you get a solid Lab/SNP pact they still need another minimum 30 votes to win divisions.
    Even if all the 17 of the minor parties come on board and all 8 independents did (they won’t, but heaven knows how all 8 break, I surely don’t) that still leaves 5 short.

    So they need either some Conservative defectors, or to somehow persuade the DUP (who are pro-leave) to support a whole UK SM/CU deal.
    And in practice a revolt sustained enough to force the Conservatives out of office and install a new coalition.
    I cannot see the DUP cooperating to install Corbyn as PM; and little chance of even the most avid Remainer Conservatives doing so.

    Besides which, I doubt that Corbyn and his key supporters would abandon their preferred strategy of ambiguity and opportunism.

    They don’t want to run the risk of losing Leaver votes by openly accepting Remain or a deal that involves accepting Freedom of Movement/Single Market at this point.

    Labour leadership plainly regard WHATEVER happens re. Brexit as secondary to winning a General Election; though many Lab MPs disagree few are ready to defy the Party at this point.
    A second referendum could provide cover for Labour and for Conservative Remain (at considerable risk of a nasty upset).

    The majority of MPs, I am pretty certain, will NOT allow a no deal exit.
    Bu unless a combined Opposition can force May out, govt. retain Executive and Parlt. agenda powers, and can block a referendum, refuse to ask Brussels for an Article 50 extension, sit tight and wait for fear of catastrophe to conjure a majority via breakdown of Opposition.

    It could come down, God help us, to a game of Parliamentary chicken, with disaster for the country at stake, and the markets at risk of meltdown.

    (Meanwhile I’m considering taking up religion, day-drinking, or maybe both)

  4. de stijl says:

    Can The Scots Save Britain From A Foolish Decision On Brexit?

    No

    Can The Jesus and Mary Chain be dope as fuck. Yesss! Head On
    https://youtu.be/eGp47YwDZ48 (also check out The Pixies cover!)

    So, cheesy Scots. It’s the cultural equivalent to handing a Subway foot-long “Philly” to Mooch who works at Pat’s down on First. Sorry, I have to.
    Big Country – In a Big Country
    https://youtu.be/657TZDHZqj4

    Teenage Fanclub – Everything Flows
    https://youtu.be/ctYYFETItUc

    Kelly Macdonald doing literally the most Scottish radio interview ever. It’s so, so freaking Scottish I can’t decide if it’s metal or punk and it’s just Kelly talking about being Merida in Brave and a few bits about Trainspotting. Yeah it’s not music but she is an icon and a goddess. So fuck right the fuck off. This is punk as fuck *AND* metal as blood. It’s a stupid softball radio interview with Kelly MacDonald in Scots by Scots and for Scots. I understand 41 – 69% of what they say.

    Kelly Macdonald – Random radio interview in Scotland kinda about Brave.
    https://youtu.be/PUK5hPM1I6c

    it would be impossible not to end without The Bay City Rollers. They are ur-everything.
    The Bay City Rollers – Saturday Night
    https://youtu.be/7BKKaKT_dtM

    Sss Sss Sssaturday night! A – a -aaah! Saturday night! Camera guy doesn’t know how to film a live performance by a four piece band. Camera guy just freezes and doesn’t know what else to do because the drummer is also the singer so he just does nothing at all and stays static and middle distance.

    Bonus track because “camera” came up the last paragraph. Aztec Camera is gold. Roddy Frame is kinda a genius.

    Expected track is Good Morning, Britain! but let’s do The Crying Scene
    https://youtu.be/9aQXcT71cw4

    “Life’s a one take movie and I don’t care what it means” is a pretty great lyric and decent life advice. Roddy Frame got boned. Dude should be Sir Roddy at this point in his life

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  5. de stijl says:

    Can The Scots Save Britain From A Foolish Decision On Brexit?

    No

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  6. de stijl says:

    Can The Jesus and Mary Chain be dope as fuck. Yesss, they can! Head On
    https://youtu.be/eGp47YwDZ48 (also check out The Pixies cover!)

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  7. de stijl says:

    So, cheesy Scots. It’s the cultural equivalent to handing a shitty, cold Subway foot-long “Philly” to Mooch who works at Pat’s down on First. Sorry, but I have to.
    Big Country – In a Big Country
    https://youtu.be/657TZDHZqj4

    Dude, that’s a big country, yo.

  8. de stijl says:

    Teenage Fanclub – Everything Flows
    https://youtu.be/ctYYFETItUc

  9. de stijl says:

    Kelly Macdonald doing literally the most Scottish radio interview ever. It’s so, so freaking Scottish I can’t decide if it’s metal or punk and it’s just Kelly talking about being Merida in Brave and a few bits about Trainspotting. Yeah it’s not music but she is an icon and a goddess. So fuck right the fuck off. This is punk as fuck *AND* metal as blood. It’s a stupid softball radio interview with Kelly MacDonald in Scots by Scots and for Scots. I understand 41 – 69% of what they say.

    Kelly Macdonald – Random radio interview in Scotland kinda about Brave.
    https://youtu.be/PUK5hPM1I6c

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  10. de stijl says:

    Speaking of Kelly Macdonald , here’s the official Tempatation by New Order

    I know you have grey eyes,…

    https://youtu.be/xxDv_RTdLQo

  11. de stijl says:

    It would be impossible not to end without The Bay City Rollers. They are ur-everything.
    The Bay City Rollers – Saturday Night
    https://youtu.be/7BKKaKT_dtM

    Sss Sss Sssaturday night! A – a -aaah! Saturday night! Camera guy literally does not know how to film a live performance by a four piece band. Camera guy just freezes and doesn’t know what else to do because the drummer is also the singer so he just does nothing at all and stays static and middle distance.

    Camera dude’s ineptitude and freezing made that vid more compelling than your normal mid 70’s TV on set .grab rock vid. This is framed like the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. My theory is that someone was supposed to get the close-ups, but everyone thought that was the other dude’s job so no one actually got that done.

    Making your singer also be your drummer fucks up most remote TV production crews.

    Saturday Night made Cheap Trick happen.

  12. de stijl says:

    Bonus track because “camera” came up the last paragraph. Aztec Camera is gold, ponyboy. Roddy Frame is kinda a genius.

    Expected track is Good Morning, Britain! so let’s do The Crying Scene
    https://youtu.be/9aQXcT71cw4 instead. Those who want the expected are jagoffs impressed by TMZs new exclusive Farah Abraham’s lip filler candids.

    I cannot state this more clearly.

  13. de stijl says:

    The worst toilet in Scotland…
    https://youtu.be/7RoMaS1pzOE

    Is there a word for ugly beautiful repulsive chic wondrous?

  14. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @JohnSF: As I get older (and consider that Alzheimer’s has not skipped any one in my family for 3 generations now) I’m coming to see that it may be hard to go wrong with a decision to drink more. I clearly have not drank and smoked enough.

  15. de stijl says:

    Anglophone Canada is basically West Scotland.

  16. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @de stijl:

    You know… there are some days you just get too high.

    Keep it up. 🙂

    Yeah… just recently downloaded Bay City Rollers Greatest hits… and I couldn’t have done it alone… no I needed to download Sweet’s Greatest Hits.

    Ballroom Blitz, Fox on the Run, Love is like Oxygen…

    Yeah… good times.

  17. de stijl says:

    Fuck that noise.@Just nutha ignint cracker:

    I’m coming to see that it may be hard to go wrong with a decision to drink more. I clearly have not drank and smoked enough.

    If you are 60+ it’s okay to drink, smoke, ingest whatever you want. Have a long, good life as long as you are able and when then stops being true then just go at it hardcore no backsies bad-ass.

    We are all dying right now. Per actuarial tables I have 10 – 25 good years left. When good years turn to outright bad – man, I am so gone. I will walk out of this world, not stumble or shuffle off.

  18. de stijl says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    Be bad-ass dude. Be good, be well, be strong.

  19. de stijl says:

    I was in NOLA and my friend was going to do a show. This was late fall ’81 and I learned that punk in the South was associated with white supremacy / white nationalism. I did not know that then, I was oblivious happy-ass punk guy who was happy that I could be seated when sportin the hawk

    That was like breaking up with a GF. My friend was in a Nazi punk collective. The previews winter dude shared a squat with us.

    I bailed so fast. That scene was Nazi and my friend was okay with that – I’d played and practiced with him when it was 13 farenheit inside, ambient, So uncool! Bail, bail, baill!

  20. JohnSF says:

    @de stijl:
    Best EVER Scottish band?
    There can be only one: outshining Primal Scream, Biffy Clyro, Belle and Sebastian, the Skids, Boards of Canada, Texas, eclipsing the mighty Mogwai…

    Even surpassing the angelic metallic noise of the Cocteau Twins https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-5Xgw6d3h0

    I give you THE SENSATIONAL ALEX HARVEY BAND!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rQ6BBc8f6Y

  21. Not the IT Dept. says:

    In one of the Star Trek series – either TNG or DS9, I can’t quite remember but think it was TNG – there’s a “historical” reference to Ireland reunifying into one country in 2022. As a friend of mine remarked when he told me this: now that really would be science fiction!

    But I’m wondering if it would be just another example of Star Trek being prophetic….

    May the turkey (and stuffing, two salads, three side dishes, and four desserts) be with you all today!

  22. Mikey says:
  23. wr says:

    @JohnSF: Personally I’d vote for The Waterboys…

  24. JohnSF says:

    @wr:

    Of course! How did I leave them out! And was listening to This is the Sea again only a couple of days ago.
    Now gotta put Fishermans Blues on!

    Also up there: Incredible String Band, Beta Band, Chvches, KLF, Idlewild, the brilliant Blue Nile (Hats is one of the best albums of all time IMHO), Franz Ferdinand, early Simple Minds.

    (But Alex is still The Man)

  25. Joe says:

    Well this whole thread turned I direction I didn’t see coming. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

  26. Dutchmarbel says:

    Gibraltar voted 96% remain…. but a few years earlier it also voted 98% against shared sovereignty (Spain/UK). So basically they want to have their cake and eat it…

  27. de stijl says:

    @JohnSF:

    Dead thread, but so with you on The Waterboys and Fisherman’s Blues. Epic. Transcendant!
    https://youtu.be/a4UQJwd3awQ

    That song starts so strong and just builds. Knock-off Bukowski can work if you sell it.

  28. de stijl says:

    @Mikey:

    Nazi punks should fuck off. They’re Nazis.

  29. Mikey says:

    We had the privilege of hosting for Thanksgiving dinner a young Glaswegian lady, a close friend of a close friend, who wanted a real American Thanksgiving. Not surprisingly, the topic of Brexit came up. She had voted Remain, as had the overwhelming majority of Scottish voters.

    There’s a feeling of betrayal, certainly–Scotland voted to stay in the UK in large part because of promises of the UK remaining in the EU–but there’s real fear, too. They know May won’t get the necessary votes for her plan in the House of Commons and when she doesn’t she’ll get the boot and be replaced by someone even worse. Labour would put up Corbin, who our new friend described as an old-school socialist with problematic views on Jews. And Corbin’s a Brexiteer anyway.

    I told her she and the rest of the UK have my deepest sympathies. We have Trump, sure, but despite his best efforts, most of his worst impulses have been stymied. The UK has no such hope–no matter how things go, it will be bad for them. Absent a re-do of the Brexit vote–something that does not appear within the realm of possibility–they’re well and truly fucked.

  30. de stijl says:

    I just thought of a nice add – the movie Local Hero directed by Bill Forsythe. That was a magnificent movie and so, so Scottish. Gregory’s Girl, too, but Local Hero, with Peter Riegert as the initially douchey, but relatable (yet telex bound) American stand-in for us Yanks as an entry point into that obscure and exotic locale was a nice touch. And a future Dr. Who in Peter Capaldi.

    I love, love, love Local Hero! It make’s me happy / bittersweet cry at the end.

  31. de stijl says:

    You can watch all of Local Hero on YouTube and likely other streaming sites. Do so. It is truly magical.

    Here’s a free doc from Scots TV on the making of it.
    https://youtu.be/fbu662CF3Ho

    and a shorter one – host has awesome hair
    https://youtu.be/z25fWLawYtM

  32. de stijl says:

    Mark Knopfler did an extraordinary theme
    https://youtu.be/6pR1cVgk7Is (5 min)