CLARE’S COLUMN IN THE RUTHERGLEN REFORMER

Never mind a week, a weekend can be a long time in politics these days.

That’s precisely how long it took for the Tory Cabinet consensus around UK Prime Minister’s “Chequers Agreement” to unravel before her eyes last week.

Heralded as the answer to the questions everyone has been asking about what type of Brexit the UK Government actually wants, or what its opening gambit in negotiations about the future relationship with Europe might be, the outcome was a fudge which split the cabinet within 48 hours.

The resignation of David Davis was a far cry from the repeated ‘strong and stable’ rhetoric from Theresa May. Not so much ‘strong and stable’, more chaotic and crumbling.

Then came the resignation of Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson. Rather than being allowed to resign, Johnson should have been sacked for being a national embarrassment months ago. His resignation, and those of other junior Tory figures later, shows the absolutely chaotic circus this government has become and exposes a Prime Minister with no authority.

The government is now paralysed in its own Brexit mess and the publication of the full White Paper last Thursday raised some serious questions on the Prime Minister’s approach.

The proposals – if they even survive are, at best, a starting point, and a cherry-picking starting point at that which is unlikely to meet EU requirements. It is hard to believe that it has taken the Prime Minister two years to even put together a proposal – but these resignations definitely show a government out of control and distracted by in-fighting.

At this absolutely crucial moment the Tories should be focussed on the Brexit negotiations, but yet again they are all putting their own selfish political interest ahead of the interests of the country.

Just when it seemed the Tories’ hard Brexit couldn’t get any worse, they’ve decided to appoint one of the most hard-right, toxic voices in their party as the lead negotiator with the EU.

The new Brexit Secretary, Dominc Raab, his track record which does not instil confidence, and his appointment proves that the hard right wing of the Tory party is well and truly in the driving seat.

Raab has made a name for himself with a number of hard-line right-wing views in recent years – including suggesting that immigration is to blame for house prices going up, saying that people use foodbanks because of occasional “cashflow problems”, and being part of a Facebook group that called for an end to all council housing.

He also spoke strongly against women’s rights, saying “feminists are now amongst the most obnoxious bigots”, and that men get a “raw deal” in many areas of life. The Brexit Secretary also argued against many areas of workers’ rights, as well as campaigning against human rights protections.

Mr Raab has been urged to do what his predecessor failed to do – give evidence at Holyrood’s Europe Committee and allow Scotland’s Parliament the opportunity to scrutinise Tory Brexit plans. Given the disrespect Westminster has shown to Holyrood, I would be genuinely surprised if he takes up that offer!

The question now for Theresa May is whether or not she will fall in line with the demands of her party’s extreme Brexiteers, or instead recognise the clear majority in the UK parliament, and the expressed will of the Scottish Parliament, for the urgent need to keep the UK in the single market and customs union, to protect the economy, jobs and living standards of families across the UK.

Scotland should be worried – the hard right is now well and truly running the show in the UK government and, as always with the Tories, it will be ordinary people across Scotland left to pay the price.

The Scottish Government will be working hard in the coming months to ensure that, with the looming threat of a no-deal Brexit, Scotland’s interests are paramount.

ENDS

Date published: 18th July 2018

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