The Greater Risk
Posted on September 10th, 2020
By Rab Bruce’s Spider
Some people are drawing comparisons between the UK’s proposed Internal Markets Bill and the Enabling Act passed in Germany in 1933 under which the Nazi Government took effective control of all aspects of life in Germany. At the risk of invoking Godwin’s Law, it must be said that there are worrying similarities in the powers the new Bill will provide to the UK Government.
As you would expect, the SNP are coming out with strong condemnations, as are representatives of the Welsh and Northern Ireland Governments. The problem is that strong words will not prevent this happening, and reports yesterday suggested that the hard-liners in the ERG want the Bill to go even further than is already drafted. Ever since the euphoria of the SNP’s 2015 General Election success, we have repeatedly seen that strong words and voting against the wishes of the extremists in the Tory Party rarely gets us anywhere. This is particularly true given the 80 seat majority the Tories have.
For the past four years, SNP MPs have fought against Brexit with no success. "We will not be dragged out of the EU against our will" was a rallying cry, and yet that is exactly what is happening. Now we hear, "We will not let powers be stripped away from us", and yet that is exactly what is happening.
There is always a slight chance that the UK Government will back down in the face of EU threats of legal retaliation, but I’m not counting on that. Even if they do, you can be sure they will come back with some slightly altered version of the same Bill, so I think the very best we can hope for is a temporary reprieve, and even that seems unlikely.
It is very difficult to see what the SNP in Westminster can do to block or even tone down this Bill. Some have suggested they walk out of Westminster in protest at being tarnished by association with an Act of Parliament which the UK Government has already admitted will break international law. To be honest, I think that is the sort of gesture which is needed now. Playing by Westminster’s rules will get us nowhere.
Of course, this sort of move would please the Tories immensely, and you can already see the headlines, so it would be a bold move, but perhaps boldness is now needed. The gradualists within the SNP will argue that they have brought us close to independence, but surely they must see that allowing Westminster to proceed with this Bill will make independence more difficult? If we wait, we may miss our chance.
For some years now, I have been saying that I really hoped Nicola Sturgeon had a plan other than politely asking for a Section 30 Order. Some very astute political commentators have been saying for just as long that there is no other plan, and I am concerned that they seem to be right. Proposed draft Bills presented late in the current Holyrood Parliamentary session will achieve nothing in the short term, and we won’t know for some months yet what sort of timescale the SNP plan to put on IndyRef2. Sadly, time seems to be running out, and perhaps it will take the emergency of this Internal Markets Bill to prompt the SNP leadership into some real action.
Whatever they do will be a risk, that’s for sure, and I can understand why they might fear upsetting middle class voters, but more and more people are beginning, at long last, to recognise that becoming a normal, self-governing country is the only way to escape being dragged into a post-Brexit economic calamity. Yes, independence will present many challenges, and nobody ever said it was easy, but plenty of other countries have done it, and none have ever asked to be ruled by Westminster again.
Above all, though, the risk of doing nothing now seems greater than the risk of doing something.