We now know what the terms of Brexit are going to be. Or should I say, we now know what the terms of Brexit will not be.
It is the position of the Scottish Government that Scotland should have access to the Single Market and the Customs union of the EU through some form of a deal but we now know that is definitely not the case and therefore we know the terms of Brexit will definitely not meet the minimum requirements for Scotland. That should be enough for the Scottish Government to begin preparing the next steps towards moving towards a second referendum, namely allowing Westminster to refuse a Section 30 order.
I’m not going to cover what Section 30 is or what it means in this article but you can read about that in the rather long explanatory article I wrote last week here.
So how do we know that the deal is definitely not going to meet the standards of the Scottish Government?
Well! Simply put, the four freedoms of the EU.
You see, Theresa May has created the chequers deal which is basically a wishlist. In that agreement, she wants to pick and choose which rules that the UK follows and which ones they don’t and have access to the EU trading block.
Now there are two type of deal that are done with the EU trading block. The first is like the European Economic Area, which allows access to the trading bloc of the EU in return for following the rules. The problem is that Theresa doesn’t want to follow those rules. The other option is a free trade agreement. The problem with free trade agreements with the EU is that they are so complex that they cannot be implemented in less than 3 years and sometimes take up to 10 years to settle all the details. Instead, what Theresa has offered in the chequers deal is somewhere in between EEA membership and a Free trade agreement, without any of the rules or restrictions.
Simply not going to happen!
You see, people talk about the rules, in particular, what are known as the 4 freedoms. But the problem is that these are not rules within the single market, the four freedoms ARE the single market. The entire reason that the single market exists is that of the four fundamental freedoms. The European Single Market, Internal Market or Common Market is a single market which seeks to guarantee the free movement of goods, capital, services, and labour – the “four freedoms” – within the European Union (EU).
If the Single market were a human being then the four freedoms would be its legs and arms. Sure, you could live with just a torso and a head but it would kind of undermine you at every turn.
You see, right now it is 26 EU nations negotiating with one soon to be ex-member. The single market is based on the fundamental concept of everyone playing by the same rules. If the EU were to allow access to the single market for someone leaving without following the rules of the bloc, then all of the other 26 nations would demand the same, being able to pick and choose what they did and did not comply with and that would literally be the end of the Single Market.
So you see, this is not about the UK negotiating access to the block for the EU 26, it is literally about not setting the precedent which would result in the bloc collapsing. What may is asking for is the EU to chop off its own arms and legs and while the UK might make a small short-term dent in EU profitability, a blip so to speak. They would rather throw the UK under the bus to save the other EU 26 and you know what? That is perfectly reasonable! They have the welfare of 450 million people to think about. Not the UK which just stuck two fingers up at them.
This entire situation just makes the Tories at Westminster out to be the petulant children they are. Demanding preferential treatment while simultaneously spitting on the fundamental core of the European Union.
The problem is that May already knew this was the case. The EU explicitly told her and UK negotiators that they would not accept any deal which compromised the four freedoms and would jeopardise the integrity of the single market to appease one member state which sought to leave it. That means she willfully submitted a deal which she already knew the EU would reject. Now in true Tory style, she is trying to blame the EU for something which she knew wasn’t going to work from the start.
Yesterday, she escalated the situation further when her cabinet, not the Parliament unilaterally decided that they were going to end Freedom of Movement regardless of what happens. That is one of the fundamental freedoms of the EU. Which means no access to the single market can be obtained, nor to the customs union. It’s the death knell, the proverbial nail in the coffin. Until this point, there was hope that we might possibly get access to the single market and the Tories would do a u-turn, but with this announcement, it is now clear that the only Brexit we will be getting is a Hard Brexit or a No-Deal Brexit, neither of which have access to the single market. Therefore the Westminster Government are now in abeyance of the wishes of the Scottish Government. That means the terms of what Brexit will not be are now known which justifies a move towards a second referendum.
However, the announcement of the end of freedom of movement is even more troubling for our European brothers and sisters who have made their lives here, contributed to our society and chose to come to Scotland above all other countries. These 100,000 EU citizens who are our friends and our family are now in jeopardy and that will start from the moment the negotiations cease. In case you don’t know when that will be, we’re talking March unless the Article 50 process is extended.
These citizens of our country will then face the non-EEA immigration process, and trust me that is no peach. For starters, even on an accelerated 5-year process, they will be required to renew a visa twice in that 5 year period at a cost of £993 each time. Then they will have to apply for indefinite leave to remain. But that’s just the start of it. As well as 3 charges (2 visa’s and indefinite leave) they will have to pay £500 each time for what is called the Immigration Health Surcharge. A sort of a fee for healthcare that they might need. The problem is that if they are here then they are working and if they are working they are paying tax. In addition, they will no longer qualify for state benefits. So they will contribute to the system but say they are out of a job for a few months because their company has closed down to Brexit, they will have no recourse to public funds, despite having paid into the public fund for all of us. But if you think that’s not bad enough, if they lose their job and are on a work visa, they could face immediate deportation – then we have the massive nut kicker. I speak of course of the minimum salary requirement which at Tier 2 level is now a whopping £55,000.
So! You can kiss goodbye to certain critical workers in things like the NHS or emergency services etc.
It is my belief that it is now a moral and ethical imperative that the second independence referendum is called before the end of Article 50. Another reason for which is that our referendums in Scotland are the gold standard, we include 16 and 17 year olds and of course those from Europe, all 100,000 of them, many of whom voted no in 2014 but will certainly not be voting no in the next referendum. In otherwords, they can’t vote yes if they have been deported now can they?