Are the nationalists going soft?



Eastenders star Danny Dyer spoke for many of us, regardless of how we voted on Brexit, when he described it as a 'mad riddle'.


Soft or hard Brexit, maximum facilitation or a customs partnership, regulatory alignment or managed divergence? It seems the political class has developed its own language when it comes to Brexit. Brexit might mean Brexit, to quote a phrase, but what does Brexit mean?

Not to be outdone, the nationalists in Scotland are looking to get in on the act. In a newspaper interview, the estimable Andrew Wilson, chair of the Sustainable Growth Commission, entered a new concept into the political discourse – soft independence.


Drawing a direct comparison with the hard Brexit being advocated by some in the UK, Wilson argues Scotland should pursue the 'softest of possible changes'. Presumably this means shared currency, open borders, free trade, joint security arrangements, common laws and same standards for goods and services. All of which we enjoy now.


The only problem with soft independence is we won't get a say in our future relationship with the rest of the UK. The European Union will decide it for us if we join, which appears to be the plan. We leave one set of rules but need to accept another set (if they let us in at all).


So if there is a hard Brexit, it means a hard independence. That means a border, trade barriers with our biggest market and a new currency or even the Euro.


Soft independence might have been possible in 2014. But the reality of Brexit and using a 'hard Brexit' as the trigger for indyref2 makes it an impossibility.


Fortunately, the illogicality of 'soft' independence could be solved at Chequers on Friday when the UK Government meets to finally agree its position on Brexit. All of the reports suggest the Prime Minister will advocate the 'Norway option', ie a soft Brexit.


This is a disaster for Nicola Sturgeon. The only 'power grab' will now come from Brussels.


With the UK set for as close a relationship with the EU as possible, its hard to see what the justification for another referendum is. And if breaking away from the EU is too difficult to do without causing economic disruption, Scots will recognise the near impossibility of dissolving the UK without doing serious harm.


It proves this point – the campaign for Scottish independence was never about Brexit, it is just the latest justification. And the people of Scotland see right through it.


Andrew Wilson did get one thing right. In his interview, he said: “I think people are leery of referendums,” he says. “I think people are leery of politics full stop, but they also want to be sure they do the right thing for the long term.”


Perhaps if politicians actually did start doing the right thing for the long term, rather than pursuing their personal projects, people wouldn't feel so leery about them.

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