Tommy Sheppard

MP for Edinburgh East

EU elections: Why the Brexit crisis is going to get worse


By 10pm it’ll all be over. Several million people in Scotland, and tens of millions across the UK, will have voted in the election we thought would never happen.

I’ve no idea what the outcome will be. Whereas in mainland Europe voters are discussing climate change, tax, jobs and the future of our continent – here it boils down to whether you want to leave or remain. My only prediction is this: the result in Scotland will be markedly different from that in the rest of the UK. In terms of votes cast and members elected I predict Scotland will reject Brexit by an even bigger margin than it did in 2016.

So, what happens next? In truth, I’ve no idea. But here’s a few things that might. The results of these elections will be disastrous for the Prime Minister. Most likely it’ll be sayonara for Theresa by the start of the week.

If she does struggle past the Whitsun recess then it’ll be to preside over the most ridiculous political pantomime ever. The government intends to bring a bill to parliament to get legislative approval for an agreement it cannot get anyone to agree to. As an exercise in political futility this reaches a new zenith. There is no chance this will be passed. And I mean no chance. Even if a hundred Labour MPs sit on their hands, Labour and Tory rebels will join the other opposition parties to see this bill crash and burn.

So, we head towards the summer not one iota further forward. The default remains as it was. On Halloween we leave the EU without a deal. So, what can stop this. Well, the decision is in the hands of Parliament. As the October deadline gets nearer so the momentum to revoke article 50 will build. Not as a means of overturning the referendum but simply to press the pause button. To provide time for the political crisis to be dealt with.

For make no mistake, this crisis is going to get worse before it gets better.

First off, the Tories need a new leader. I cannot see them being daft enough to elect such a gift to the opposition as Boris Johnson. But stranger things have happened. There seems little way the parliamentary party can avoid having one true Brexiter on the final ballot. And whoever that is will be elected by an aging, declining membership concerned about Johnny foreigner and unable to come to terms with the modern world.

But here is the Tory paradox. The more right wing the leader they select, the more chance some of the moderate Tory MPs will be unable to stomach her or him. Really hard to imagine Dominic Grieve taking orders from Johnson or Raab. Currently, even with the DUP, the government has a majority of three. Doesn’t take much to make that disappear.

Which means the Tories could gain a leader and lose a Prime Minister all in the same week. So we all go back to polls in a general election in October. They will of course try to put off that moment of reckoning and if Labour don’t force the issue the Tories could struggle through as a minority government till 2020.

In the midst of all of this we need to start taking matters into our own hands. A majority of people in Scotland prefer independence to Brexit Britain but have been understandably reticent to add to the confusion and uncertainty by pressing for an independence referendum now.

But we can only do that for so long. The future is always uncertain. But with political independence at least we can make our own choices. It’s time.

Written for the Edinburgh Evening News - 23rd May 2019

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