17 Sep 2016
September 17, 2016

Bordering on farce

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The Scottish Unionist’s Fear campaign is being wheeled out in Glasgow by the Scottish Tories. Today’s offering includes the old saw that there’d be a hard border between Scotland and England in the event of independence.

Here’s Theresa May ruling out border checks in Ireland. And here’s David Davis, UK Brexit Secretary of State, highlighting the importance of practical commonsense on the issue:

“We had a common travel area between the UK and the Republic of Ireland many years before either country was a member of the European Union. We are clear we do not want a hard border – no return to the past – and no unnecessary barriers to trade. What we will do is deliver a practical solution that will work in everyone’s interests”. 

Here’s a piece which flags the nonsense behind the idea that independence would mean a hard border. Common trade and security interests would certainly ensure the same criteria apply on the mainland as on the island of Ireland. EU states would be minded to agree a sensible solution and Scotland may have to accept immigration constraints. In truth, though, something more interesting is going on here than simply the dull repetition of an obvious untruth.

The big boys and girls in the UK cabinet can’t afford to look stupid by arguing for an open border with Ireland but saying it would be impossible for Scotland. May and Davis are trying hard to be serious and credible on the big issues and cross border arrangements, especially where there’s been serious violence in the past, is an important matter.  Daft opportunism would be harmful to all. So raising the ‘Scottish border flag’ is instead the task of token Scottish Tory MP David Mundell. This downgrades the whole matter to a bit of local silliness and senior EU (and Irish) folk understand that. It’s unlikely that even Mundell really believes it, or would even want it. He has a border constituency, after all.

As the article above puts it, no doubt following the terms of a Tory press release, Mundell does not actually say that there will be a hard border. Instead, he makes the much lesser claim that remaining within the Union is the only way Scots can be guaranteed that there will be no hard border. Although coming from the opposite direction in this way virtually removes any real meaning from his words, it enables him to make a tokenistic statement he doesn’t really believe while at the same time not setting a horse trampling over more serious pastures.

Fear 2 is already looking like a pale shadow of it’s predecessor. It really does feel like the unionists are just going through the motions now.

Postscript (added 2 hours after the main text above), Mundell is now being quoted by the Scotsman as saying (i.e. in a pre-event release) that Scotland would have to join the Euro. But look at his words:

“All countries that have joined the EU since 1993 have been formally required to adopt the single currency in due course”. This is a very long way from how the Scotsman reports it; i.e. “an independent Scotland would see the adoption of the Euro north of the border”.

You see, Mundell knows very well that while new EU members do indeed aspire to join the Euro one day in theory, actually joining is entirely voluntary and up to the citizens of each member state. That is why HALF OF ALL EU MEMBERS JOINING SINCE 1993 DO NOT USE THE EURO. Here is a handy explanation of why Sweden, for example, after 22 years of post-93 (Maastricht Treaty implementation) membership, has no plans to join the Euro.

Mundell isn’t lying – he’s letting The Scotsman convey the untruth via a carefully-nuanced press release. He knows this is another old saw and it’s his job to half-heartedly scrape it along the side of the wood. No wonder the unionists aren’t cutting it.