Accepting 'no deal rather than a bad deal' with the EU would be catastrophic for the UK

Assuming you have not already voted by post, in two days you have a choice to make – who will best represent you in the Westminster Parliament during the most crucial period in politics in these islands since the Second World War. I hope you’ll vote SNP, and I’m going to outline who we’re up against and who might be deciding our futures if you don’t. 

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First published in The National, 6 June 2017

I have never met Theresa May, but her each and every action as home secretary for six years was distasteful to me. She brought in the “go-home” vans; she refused unaccompanied refugee children entry to the UK; and she made the UK immigration and nationality system so convoluted and unwelcoming I’m amazed anyone wants to live here at all.

It was May who systematically misrepresented, denigrated and undermined human rights because they cut back on her power over the citizen. She introduced the Snoopers’ Charter, gagged third-sector organisations and spoke the language of the BNP, never mind Ukip, when it came to “unelected foreign judges”. Our own judges aren’t elected, so is it being foreign she’s suggesting is a bad thing? She also cut police numbers, in the face of all advice that it would leave the public less safe. Her response to recent tragedies has been chilling.

With the EU, she was no better. Any area where co-operation was proposed, she wanted to opt out, drag her feet and undermine. I watched her come to Brussels, make speeches pandering to the Daily Mail, and leave a mess for the civil servants to try to clear up once the fuss had died down.

Since becoming Prime Minister, May has continued to display all her worst traits – secretive, cliquey, trusting nobody and giving nothing away. “Brexit means Brexit” will go down as the most damaging slogan in recent years – it looks like an answer but actually pollutes the discourse with not a single fact.

She makes much of her vicarage upbringing while introducing the rape clause and benefits changes that are the very opposite of any definition of Christian charity I’d recognise. May backed Remain, then didn’t. She said there would not be an election, then called one. She said there would be “a UK approach” to the Brexit negotiations and ignored everything Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland contributed. She said the election was about her, personal, strong and stable leadership then ducked a public debate. But it’s worse than that. Her colleagues are all taking their lead from her. They are not, with only a few exceptions, reluctant Leavers, they’re all ultras now and so desperate to avoid being tainted as disloyal they’ll overlook all the obvious flaws in their own arguments, while hiding behind the soundbites.

The latest vacuous slogan, that “no deal is better than a bad deal” is the worst yet, and it should chill your blood, too. Intelligent grown men and women are trying to represent the Brexit negotiations as akin to buying a used car.

From March 29, 2019, EU law no longer applies to us. If the UK walks out sooner, that will come sooner still. Had May not triggered Article 50 then yes, no deal would mean the status quo, but she did and then, in an act of vandalism, called this awful election. This isn’t some esoteric, academic thing: the no-deal scenario will be a firestorm. Let’s look at what the removal, and non-replacement, of EU law would mean. The border across Ireland would become an external frontier overnight because there will be no legal way to trade across it. Where’s the peace process then? We will not be able to export our goods and services – food, whisky, fish and all the rest – to the EU or anywhere else because we presently do this under EU-negotiated rules. Accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) does not happen overnight, and any member state can blackball the UK for any reason.

Planes will not be able to enter or leave UK airspace, or even travel through it, because the Open Skies legislation no longer applies and safety cannot be legally guaranteed. UK nationals will not be able to travel abroad legally because our passports are guaranteed under EU legislation. The UK banks and financial houses trading across the EU, in the absence of regulation, deposit guarantee legislation or passporting rights, will have to suspend trading in their shares. Well, probably trading would be suspended anyway. The UK stock market would undoubtedly be suspended due to a run on shares. While the pound sterling has been on the skids since the Brexit vote, this would dwarf that. The UK would appeal to other global central banks and the IMF to assist, but that depends on rather more goodwill than I think exists. 

I’m not scaremongering. I have no interest in Project Fear. I’m telling you what would happen. Anyone who pretends the UK can walk away is either a dangerous lunatic, spectacularly unbriefed, deliberately attempting to mislead you or maybe all three. In any event, they would be not fit for office, and in breach of their duty of care to the people we all serve.

I hope the no-deal scenario does not arise, and I don’t think it will. But in using the language the Tories have, they have proved they’re simply not taking this election seriously. Fortunately, we have other choices. We can’t do much about the way people vote in England, but we can help to choose a different path for Scotland. The SNP are the only team united in Holyrood, Brussels and elsewhere to get the best results for Scotland. We need your vote because it has never mattered more.