Five Minutes to Midnight - Time to Wake Up!

Next week, in the very antithesis of democracy, the UK government will attempt to railroad through votes on a large number of amendments to their EU Withdrawal Bill made by the House of Lords.  The Upper House took many long days and nights to reach a conclusion on these amendments, many of which are very complex.  They did so not in the belief that they should overturn the will of the elected chamber, but because enough of them saw the likely impact of Brexit to be economically and socially disastrous for the nations and regions of the UK. They presumably never imagined their lengthy deliberations would be shoehorned into a single day's debate.

That vision of the catastrophe hurtling down the Brexit timeline was echoed by the government's own civil servants who, tasked with calibrating the effect on various commercial and other concerns, came up with several likely scenarios. One of them, not the  worst, talked of ports at a standstill on day one and vital medical and food supplies being the subject of shortages within a fornight. Since then car manufacturers and other major employers have flagged up the impossibility of continuing to operate without a steady, swift supply of essential goods and parts.  From offstage murmurmings a roar of alarm is now being heard in all quarters - many of them, like the CBI, normal natural bedfellows of a Tory government, finding themselves in concert with unexpected allies like the TUC.

This is an existential crisis. And in the midst of this crisis the UK government thinks it can steamroller through any opposition and stumble on into the continuing shambles of its plan-free, fantasy world whilst the EU, and the rest of the world, watches this act of monumental self harm with horrified fascination. It is now five minutes to midnight.  Long past time for Tory "rebels" to put their country first. Long past time for the Labour Party to remember it's there as the biggest party of opposition and stop navel gazing, procrastinating, and flying all kinds of Brexit kites which it knows, because it's been told often enough by Europe, have no more chance of flight than the crazy notions coming out of the department for exiting Europe.  (Not so much a department as a repository for the hard of thinking.)

If the idea of your future and that of your descendants being decided by the likes of David Davis and Liam Fox doesn't cause you to wake at 3am in a cold sweat then you must have access to industrial strength sleeping pills. If you think the UK can only be  great again by adhering to the ever more vacuous predictions of Jacob Rees Mogg, then I would fear for your mental health. And if uou think that Messrs Gove and Johnson, who are rumoured to possess a few more brain cells than that collection of political charalatans, are ever seriously concerned with anything more than their own ambitions then you are a far more charitable judge of character than I.

As for the Scottish dimension.  We know from the Scottish Government's Brexit minister, Mike Russell, that not only have they not been properly  consulted along the way to this eleventh hour debacle, but they have been denied access to the policy paper finally drawn up - or perhaps I should say to the paper hurriedly being prepared to cover the cracks in the divided Tory ranks. So we are on course to be removed from Europe against the wishes of almost two thirds of  Scottish voters, but we aren't even being given the courtesy of learning the UK government's thinking. Though thinking is probably too strong a word for a continuing policy vacuum. 

Ever more absurdly, this wrecking crew keep demanding that the EU be realistic. Reality means the UK accepting that the basis of the EU's principal rules cannot be torn up by one petulant member against the often stated position of 26 others.  Reality means dealing with the Irish border issue - not re-issuing ever more ridiculous "solutions" which have already been dismissed as unworkable.  Reality means accepting that "frictionless trade" is no more than a meaningless mantra, unless you accept the responsibilities inherent in a customs union, however you choose to characterise that arrangement. It means not throwing away uour existing largest market in the forlorn hope that the likes of Donald Trump will proffer the occasional  morsel. Frankly the current posture is self delusion on stilts. 

All of the above is why, with the clock running down and possible catastophe no more than months distant, I believe that Scotland can no longer hang around for sanity to break out in Westminster.  People argue that we cannot risk another independence referendum because it would be a disaster to lose it. And anyway  holding one without the PM's permission is meaningless. That is an opinion.  A fact is that being taken out of Europe is a certain route to economic meltdown.  At least Scotland has the possibility of a different exit strategy. There will be no quick fixes for us in regard to Europe, but at least we will be on the right flight path. At least we have a track record as a friend and ally.  Up and down the country people are mobilising and marching. Fundraising and planning.  They need to know all that energy, all these hopes will not be in vain.