Morning briefing: Scottish stand off - united Ireland row - toothless Gove
Two years since becoming prime minister, and Theresa May still hasn’t managed to convince Edinburgh that her Brexit is worth backing.
In a performance that is becoming more tedious and repetitive than a bad show on the Edinburgh Fringe, May’s latest visit north of the border yesterday was greeted again with familiar sceptical sounds from Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon. The SNP leader correctly diagnosed the prime minister’s Chequers plan as “dead” and urged May to put forward a “plan B”.
Sturgeon also warned of the “catastrophic” consequences of either Brexiting with no deal or with “very, very little information about the future relationship” - a so-called blind Brexit. “We cannot simply take a step off that Brexit cliff-edge next March without knowing what comes next.”
Sturgeon continues to back the idea of Scotland’s staying in the EU single market as the “least damaging” option. But if she’s really concerned about the impending Brexit cliff-edge, surely it’s time she upped her game and called for a People’s Vote?
Westminster is currently locked in a legal cold war with Holyrood over how powers devolved to Scotland and Wales should be transferred as the UK leaves the EU. In May, MSPs refused to give consent to May’s EU Withdrawal Bill, which Sturgeon has called a “naked power grab”. An alternative Scottish version is being challenged in the Supreme Court by the UK government. Judges have retired to consider the "complicated" case, and are not expected to issue a judgement for several weeks.
May’s response to Scottish concerns yesterday ranged from pally soundbites (“a good deal for the UK is a good deal for Scotland”) to cold economic facts (“from Scotland's point of view, their trade within the UK's internal market is worth four times their trade with the EU”). Of course the overriding economic fact is that Scotland's trade would be even better if she wasn't pursuing her car-crash Brexit plan.
She’s unlikely to convince the bulk of Scottish parliamentarians or indeed the voters who elected them. Economic analysis has shown Scotland is set to lose £16 billion in a worst-case Brexit scenario. Even the fallback of staying in the single market will cost Scots £688 per head.
Meanwhile Brexiters such as Michael Gove - raised in Aberdeen, a city which will be hit particularly hard by leaving the EU - insist Brexit has made the Union “stronger than ever”. That is clearly nonsense. It risks tearing the UK apart.
If that all sounds like a bad joke, come to our rally for a People’s Vote in Edinburgh on Saturday August 18, and say so.
HAVE YOU SIGNED THE PETITION FOR A PEOPLE'S VOTE?
Quote of the day
“With every day that passes, the prospect of a no deal Brexit or a Brexit with very, very little information about the future relationship seems to become more and more likely.
"Both of those outcomes would be completely unacceptable, absolutely disastrous for our economy... we cannot simply take a step off that Brexit cliff-edge next March without knowing what comes next.”
Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon
Video of the day
WATCH: leading comedians Andy Parsons, Matt Forde, Ayesha Hazarika, Dom Joly, Armando Iannucci, James Corden, John Oliver and Steve Coogan all back a People's Vote on the final Brexit deal.
United Ireland causing a stir
Brexit has revived the bitterness between nationalists and unionists in Northern Ireland politics - and threatens to split the unionists. Former DUP leader Peter Robinson has warned to prepare for chaos if a border poll for a united Ireland passed by 50% of voters plus one. Fellow party members think he’s playing with fire even to mention the idea. Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald responded by saying “that's democracy”.
Brexit is polarising communities in Northern Ireland in a way not seen since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, bringing the prospect of a united Ireland back to the table. While on the face of it there’s still a majority against unification, it’s been enough to spook the DUP and ramp up the rhetoric. Union still “stronger than ever”, Michael Gove?
Gove’s toothless watchdog
And talking of Michael Gove, his new post-Brexit environmental watchdog has been slammed by the country’s top lawyers for not having “teeth”. The Bar Council said the new body to oversee environmental protection would not be able to take the government to court, a key power under our current EU-inspired legislation.
It’s important we don’t leave the EU without a clear idea of how our environment will be protected by regulation-slashing ministers in future. It’s just one reason a “blind Brexit” is so dangerous, and why we need a People’s Vote on whatever deal May tries to push through.
Tweet of the day
This petition from Healthier In the EU is really taking off! If you're a health professional, sign up to let the government know you want a People's Vote.
Border staff holiday ban
Nearly 9,000 Border Force staff are facing an eight-week holiday ban next spring as panicked preparations for a no-deal Brexit continues, reports The Sun. Brexiters promised we’d “take back control of our borders” by leaving the EU. Who knew that meant implementing emergency measures just to keep them working at all?
This desperate policy suggests that MPs’ fears back in February that our borders wouldn’t be ready in time for Brexit were entirely justified. It begs the question what other essential preparations the government is failing to get its act together on. What a mess.
Graphic of the Day
Brexit could mean dramatic fall in social care workers. A government report admitted this could mean family members - especially women - leaving work to care for elderly relatives.
More Brexit news…
Tweet of the day 2
Top Brexit comment
Olivia Potter-Hughes: The best Brexit deal for students is staying in the EU, which is why I'm backing the Final Say campaign (Independent)
Jeremy Warner: Let's be honest about a no-deal Brexit; it has nothing to offer but blood, toil, sweat and tears (Telegraph £)
Today, Wednesday 8 August
|-||Parliament in recess|
|-||Philip Hammond hosts Brazilian finance minister in London for a "UK-Brazil financial dialogue"|
Tomorrow, Thursday 9 August
|-||Parliament in recess|