It wasn’t by chance that Theresa May’s speech today was in front of carefully selected members of the international diplomatic corps. She wanted a relatively sombre crowd of suited and booted, serious looking individuals to lend credibility and gravitas to a situation sadly lacking in both.
As the Prime Minister outlined the true meaning of Brexit, staring steely-eyed and stoically down the camera lens, I could almost hear the far off strains of “Rule Britannia” striking up in the background. The unpalatable truth is that Brexit means something different to some of the Leave voters and this is often left unexpressed. It is a nostalgic appeal to a time gone by, when Britain stood alone, ruling an empire so vast that the sun never set on it’s entirety at once.
The Brexit vote was swept along on one last vestigial tide of British exceptionalism, the inherently chauvinist, ultra-nationalist belief that the British are better than others by mere virtue of being British. People who hold that view have been pushing and straining at the fabric of our EU membership for years and would never content themselves with merely being one more member of a Union of equal partners.
This is the “Global Britain” of which Theresa May spoke today. One that never truly felt comfortable as part of Europe and now looks to former colonies as potential trading partners and allies to replace those they are rapidly alienating in Europe. Anybody who expects the UK to get a fair deal from Donald Trump’s USA shouldn’t hold their breath.
In Scotland we have a choice of two unions from this day forward. We can choose to stay in a Union with Tory Britain, (and I don’t think that is an unfair characterisation, I don’t see Labour being in power for the foreseeable future, especially after the UK Parliament boundary changes take effect and consolidate Tory rule) or we can choose the European Union that has been such a successful and welcome part of most of our lives and regain powers over most aspects of life in Scotland.
I believe that the Scottish Government is right to wait before making an announcement of a referendum date, much as I am itching to get going with the next campaign. If it is held before the true meaning of a hard Brexit has percolated and the reality hits home, there is every chance the result will be the same as last time and we will be doomed to stay in this broken Britain for the rest of our lives.