Is Labour preparing to sell out Scotland on Brexit?
When the EU granted the UK a Brexit extension until Halloween, EU Council President Donald Tusk warned everyone involved that the time should not be wasted.
But three weeks later, nothing seems to have happened. I don’t grudge the MPs their Easter week off but in the last fortnight Westminster has scarcely talked about Brexit.
In fact the only significant debate down there has been an opposition one on Climate Change.
Westminster business for the coming week doesn’t look heavy either and shows up the repeated sycophantic, planted questions from Scottish Tory MPs about the failure of the Scottish Government to do its day job as the risible political boomerangs they always were.
In fact those feeble 13 are legislating for virtually nothing whilst Members of the Scottish Parliament are busy passing a number of bills that will make a real difference to people’s lives.
On Thursday we dealt with the vital issue of Health Service staffing and on Tuesday we will make a long awaited change to the age of criminal responsibility, following that later in the week with important new laws protecting vulnerable witnesses.
Yet behind the scenes Brexit is still bubbling away and the possibility that Labour is preparing to sell out Scotland – and the vast majority of its own supporters across Britain – is hovering on the horizon.
The Prime Minister’s red lines have dictated the type of Brexit she has been able to negotiate with Brussels – a hard, very damaging one outside the single market and the customs union. So far she has shown no sign of moving from them but if she were to do so, on the issue of the customs union in particular, then there are suggestions that Labour would regard this as enough of a change to allow them to support her.
It would also intend to do so without invoking its lukewarm commitment to a people’s vote which, in so far as it is possible to understand, only applies if there is no change to the Tory package and no general election.
Such a new joint deal would require agreement from Brussels and it does not completely solve the issue of the Irish backstop.
In addition it would undoubtedly lead to yet more resignations from the UK Cabinet and a further split in both Tories and Labour but both May and Corbyn – or their respective Chief Whips – might calculate that there would be enough loyalists (for different reasons) to provide a Westminster majority for ratification and the subsequent legislation.
No one would know whether that was true until the vote was taken but it is already certain that the SNP would not be in the lobby with them. A customs union on its own would do little to mitigate the damage of Brexit across Scotland and the end of freedom of movement would be devastating to whole sectors of our economy.
Moreover the basic requirement of giving the public the final say after three chaotic, disastrous years of political mismanagement would have been contemptuously thrown away by two deeply undemocratic politicians vying for the narrowest of party advantage and running scared of scrutiny.
The timing of this scenario would also be problematic. It is hard to imagine that Labour would want to completely abandon any possibility of beating the Tories in the European elections and the Prime Minister would surely not wish to further exacerbate the civil war which is raging in every part of her party whilst elections are ongoing.
But putting it off until the end of May would mean that getting everything in place wouldn’t be finished in time for a departure on the 1st of July.
The Scottish Labour branch office must also be dreading such a move. If Labour were to be the enabler of a Tory Brexit, no matter the fig leaves that Corbyn might claim he had secured, then the party would be finally and definitively seen as being no different to the Tories – the old better together partners dragging Scotland out of the EU against her will.
In June 2016 62% of those who turned out in Scotland voted against Brexit. Recent polls have suggested that the number is even higher now. The European elections will give a further update but for most of that majority – if not all – a Labour betrayal would be adding insult to injury.
Corbyn has shown he knows little about, and cares less for, Scotland. But is he prepared to throw it away for ever?
Watch this Brexit space.