LibLink: Edward McMillan-Scott: Letter from a disunited kingdom

Former Liberal Democrat MEP Edward McMillan-Scott ahs written an open letter to his former Brussels colleagues explaining from a pro-EU British perspective what the hell is going on over here.

As you all know, what started as former prime minister David Cameron’s attempt to pacify the UKIP tendency within the Conservative party – the reason I left it – has resulted in the dominance of that group in the Theresa May administration, and their determination to push for a hard Brexit – and as soon as possible. Do not underestimate their determination to sever all ties with the EU at whatever cost to the UK: they are ideologues, mostly inspired by what they believe is Thatcherism, but in reality in many ways resembles 1930s political extremism.

As a lifelong pro-European, with 30 years as an MEP, the last ten as a Vice-President, I know most of the key players on both sides of the argument in Britain, and many of the EU politicians too. I urge you to ignore the ideologues and listen to the silent majority: in a recent poll, 56 per cent said they do not want Theresa May’s Hard Brexit.

Today I am one of many in the UK campaigning not just for the British parliament to have a meaningful role in all the stages ahead and also for an “outcome” referendum if and when the negotiations produce an agreement.

So why did Leave win?

You may well ask why, with all the UK and international experts and almost all mainstream politicians in the UK and worldwide arguing against Brexit during the referendum, the usually level-headed Brits voted to leave the economic, political and social security of the EU, with Donald Trump on the horizon and aggressive totalitarian leaders in Moscow and Beijing.

The answer is best put by the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg at the end of an hour-long documentary on the Brexit campaign, which concluded that David Cameron relentlessly focussed on Brexit’s threats to the UK economy, whereas the Leave campaign targeted electors with messaging about values and immigration:

“It was a coup by a small band of dedicated campaigners who were willing to take advantage of a Prime Minister fresh from a victory he thought he could win again and a Labour Party in disarray, who together out-foxed and out-fought the political establishment. I’ve never known a story like it – and I think this is just the start.”

He ends with a plea:

So please be prepared to engage with those who understand the EU in British business, trade unions, the media, the health and other public services – and put the case for continued membership for the UK. Time is short.

You can read the whole article here.

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One Comment

  • The reasons behind how and why we are where we are today re-Brexit is an important case study for the working of UK democracy. It is a telling case study of the ‘disunited kingdom’ .

    It is a prime example of pervasive democratic deficit in this union of two kingdoms and of four nations – and Scotland’s position in this is the specific case I wish to focus on.

    The ‘story’ is worthwhile recounting at length:

    1) a Tory Prime Minister in a Coalition Government that Scotland didn’t vote for decided that, faced with an upcoming general election, his party should put a commitment to an EU referendum in his party’s manifesto. This is widely accepted as done to address two key Tory concerns: their Eurosceptic backbenchers (none existed in Scotland) and the threat from UKIP (no such threat existed in Scotland);

    (2) it worked, the Tories won the GE – but of course not in Scotland (again) : Scotland’s choice of MPs made no difference in this FPTP system;

    (3) the Bill to enact the EU referendum was voted through despite the vast majority of MPs from Scotland voting against – Scotland’s MPs made no difference (again);

    (4) the EU referendum result in Scotland was strongly in favour of Remain – but Scotland’s vote is given no significance by the UK government – the biggest ‘partner’ always prevails in the UK (again);

    (5) following Cameron’s resignation, a new Tory PM was anointed, as per the UK ‘system’, with Scotland’s input being a single Tory MP’s vote (not even Tory members in Scotland);

    (6) and this new PM and her new cabinet decides, without a detailed mandate on the single market – on the form of Brexit – then even seeks to trigger this by recourse to the royal prerogative;

    (7) in the Article 50 debate in the House of Commons, all amendments proposed by MPs from Scotland are voted down by the Tories – Scotland’s MPs make no difference (shades of the Scotland Act);

    (8) in the House of Lords’ debates over Article 50, peers appointed by past Tory PMs Scotland has rejected have a voice and vote, together with bishops/archbishops of the Church of England but no other faith leaders, and none from Scotland.

    So the democratic deficit Scotland faces is how politics and policies are derived, framed and pursued, not just voted upon at elections.

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