It’s been another farcical few weeks in this mess we call Brexit. After her deal was defeated in record-breaking fashion, Theresa May went to Parliament yesterday to set out her plan B for Brexit. It was hard to spot the difference from Plan A. In fact, in every crucial area of negotiation, there was no change. Theresa May has negotiated herself into a corner. The EU won’t agree a deal without a backstop for Northern Ireland, to protect the Good Friday Agreement, but the DUP won’t vote for a deal with one.
Remaining in the Single Market, or even the Customs Union, would solve this conundrum but that would mean the UK could not set import tariffs at a different level than the EU, and thus cause upset to the hard Brexiteers on her backbenches.
Reports suggesting the UK bypass the EU and negotiate a bilateral agreement with Ireland were quickly ruled out. EU Nations can’t negotiate bilaterals independently. Even if they could, the Irish Government would have every reason not to, given the track record of bilaterals between our nations, not least the disdain shown recently for the Good Friday Agreement. And they’d still want a backstop.
Theresa May says she is ready to give the devolved institutions a more enhanced role in Brexit, if this is true, then it’s a welcome development. I confess, I’m sceptical: it’s not the first time that the UK Government has made empty promises.
The next meaningful vote will be in February – next week’s is meaningless. The clock is ticking, and Theresa May is playing chicken with her own party. A catastrophic no deal exit from the EU could be the result.
The absence of leadership from the UK government couldn’t contrast more with the strong leadership being shown by the Scottish Government, standing up for Scotland’s interests and getting on with the day job, improving Scotland’s public services and building an open, kind and successful Scottish society.
Derek Mackay, has set out a budget for the year ahead which protects public services, supports the economy and helps to build a fairer, more equal Scotland. I’m delighted with the transformative investment to expand the provision of early learning and childcare. This will improve outcomes for all children, especially those who are more vulnerable or disadvantaged, and help to close the attainment gap.
We’re delivering locally too. Fergus Ewing, has said he will look at potential options for securing a locally-based abattoir in Orkney. Paul Wheelhouse reiterated this government’s commitment to high quality ferry services to both Orkney and Shetland, and the invitation to tender was issued this week. I’m delighted to see Orkney’s needs front and centre and the positive effect on services, infrastructure and communities here in Orkney.
It’s hard to believe that the Liberal Democrats, who were happy to enter coalition with the Tories and usher in welfare reform, have ruled themselves out of Budget negotiations. Odd decision for a party which claims to be progressive and focus on localism.
This is a regular column by local MSP Maree Todd, SNP. All of Orkney’s list MSPs have been offered the same space to share their views.