By Steven Paterson former MP for Stirling
Such was the surrealism of the week just witnessed that the Prime Minister reminded me of that scene from the classic Mel Brooks spoof Western Blazing Saddles, when the new sheriff arrives in the town of Rock Ridge to find himself somewhat less than welcome.
Pointing a gun to her head, the Prime Minister warned: ”Hold it! The next man makes a move, the United Kingdom gets it!” Hold it, men. She’s not bluffing.
It seems that every day that passes sees one development or another that pushes any kind of deal between the UK and the EU27 over Brexit further out of reach and less attainable, and underlines the deathlike grip the extreme hard Brexiters have over this process. They want no deal, and it looks increasingly as if they will be able to force such an eventuality on a reluctant parliament which has become as paralysed and powerless as the Government which tries to lead it.
Take the knife-edge votes on Monday and Tuesday for example. The hard line European Research Group, led by Jacob Rees-Mogg and supported by Stirling’s Tory MP Stephen Kerr, tabled amendments to the Government’s customs bill designed to gut the recent “Chequers Agreement”, leaving the Government with the invidious choice of rolling over and accepting the amendments or facing a catastrophic defeat which would likely have ended Theresa May’s premiership.
This week’s comment from Steven Paterson, former MP for Stirling
The tedious creep towards the Brexit endgame suddenly accelerated in the past week or so, as the looming negotiation deadline in September finally forced the Prime Minister to nail down some actual proposals at her Chequers showdown.
Cue the resignations of the Brexit Secretary David Davis, who had clearly been side-lined and ignored by the Prime Minister, and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, whose political calculation after seeing Davies resign on a point of principle was that his chances of becoming the next Prime Minister were better served in resigning too.
possibly your future PM and to quote Frankie Boyle, “a cross between a serious head injury and an unmade bed……” scary thought.
Image licensed from depositphoto.com
Any question that the Prime Minister has seen off her extreme hard Brexit opponents is entirely illusory, of course. Both Johnson and Davies will be vociferous critics of her Brexit negotiations from the backbenches and in the press, and the precarious arithmetic for the minority Tory Government in the House of Commons means that each time a significant vote on the matter comes along, the risk of defeat is very real.
It’s anyone’s guess how many such defeats May’s administration can take before collapsing, but we are probably about to find out. Votes on customs arrangements take place in the Commons today (Monday), and the hard Brexit brigade, whose leader Jacob Rees-Mogg has been scathing in his criticism of the Prime Minister’s position and the White Paper published following the Chequers conference, may seek to derail the Government depending on the level of support he can count on.
Comment by Steven Paterson, former MP for Stirling
Late on Tuesday evening, news began to leak out that a letter signed by no fewer than 62 of the most zealous hard Brexit-fanatic Tory MPs – including Stirling’s redoubtable champion Tory MP Stephen Kerr – had been sent to the Prime Minister.
I mean “leaked” in the loosest of terms, of course. Virtually every newspaper in the land had stumbled upon a copy of it somehow, so this hadn’t been accidentally dropped out someone’s briefcase. It had been deliberately placed with various media outlets and timed to crank up the pressure on tortured Prime Minister Theresa May ahead of the meeting of important Cabinet ministers at the Prime Minister’s official retreat Chequers on Thursday. (Predictably, this “War Cabinet” of important ministers meeting at Chequers did not include the Secretary of State for Scotland, but did include the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland – strange who is deemed important these days eh?)
By Steven Paterson, Former Stirling MP
It’s official: Scotland’s voice is finally being heard in the remotest corridors of power!
The BBC has finally presented the UK map in correct proportions ….but it is all a matter of perspective.
Yes, after a thirteen-year wait, the BBC’s Weather Forecast Department has finally relented to complaints from their distant licence-fee paying customers north of the border that Scotland is actually in reality somewhat bigger than Cornwall. In future, BBC weather forecasts will be presented on a map that accurately reflects the size of Scotland as compared to other parts of the British Isles, instead of being as a grossly-distorted virtual image of Britain as if filmed from a hot air balloon flying somewhere above Bordeaux, with Stirling appearing a billimetre above the Solway Firth in that wee speck at the top.
Every journey starts with a first step, I suppose.
Unfortunately, however, a mile or so down the road from Broadcasting House in Whitehall, the Tory UK Government continues to listen to nobody except itself.
This week, Number 10’s spin machine decided to bill special meetings of the Cabinet taking place to thrash out a common position on Brexit negotiations in the most valiant of terms, describing them as meetings of the “War Cabinet”. But it wasn’t long before expectations of what the “War Cabinet” might achieve were being drastically downgraded. As The Independent’s headline on Wednesday, revealed, “Brexit: Theresa May ‘War Cabinet’ unlikely to reach agreement on UK aims, admits Business Secretary Greg Clark”.
New economic impact analysis by the Scottish Government has confirmed that the best way to protect the local economy and household incomes in the Stirling Constituency is through Scotland remaining in the Single Market and Customs Union.
On June 23rd 2016, Scotland voted overwhelmingly – by 62% – to remain in the European Union. Indeed, my own constituency voted by more than two-thirds to remain. The Scottish Government’s position is that the will of the Scottish people must be upheld.
In 2014, ahead of the Scottish Independence Referendum, Westminster unionist political parties told the people of Scotland that a No vote would secure our nation’s place in the European Union as part of the UK. Whilst claims that Scotland choosing to become independent would result in the country being ejected from the EU are completely baseless and false, nevertheless it is undeniable that this was a major plank of the No campaign and many people in Scotland rightly feel that they were sold a falsehood as they voted by a small margin to stay in the UK and by a large majority to stay in the EU.
Whilst the wishes of the people of Scotland were clear in last year’s referendum, the Scottish Government has lobbied the UK Government for a compromised approach that would ensure that Scotland would be able to retain the rights and privileges of the European Single Market and the Customs Union once the UK leaves the EU. However, to date, the UK Government has stubbornly refused to make such a commitment, instead aiming for what is known as a ‘Hard Brexit’ where we leave the Single Market too.
By Steven Paterson, Former MP for Stirling
The minority Tory Government at Westminster has survived another week, but the sense of utter shambles and paralysis at the heart of Whitehall has only been reinforced.
The week started with the news strategically leaked to the media that the Government was prepared to up its divorce offer to the EU to €50 billion. This vast sum is to cover existing financial commitments entered into by the UK as a current member of the EU, a pre-requisite for the EU 27 before any detailed trade negotiations can take place.
By leaking it (and therefore having plausible deniability), the Government was subsequently able to dispute the veracity of the story in order to allow it to better manage some of the more rabid and frothing anti-EU MPs marauding the Tory backbenches who think that walking over the abyss with no deal makes any kind of sense. It says it all about this ludicrous process that the Government is intent on paying out this colossal sum to leave the world’s largest trading bloc in order then to be able to negotiate terms to retain maximum access to the very same trading bloc at significantly inferior terms.
Stirling representatives, Bruce Crawford MSP and Steven Paterson MP held a public meeting on Friday evening (25th November) to discuss the future relationship Scotland will have with Europe and with the rest of the UK. The meeting took place in the Clanranald Trust HQ in Callander.
The meeting formed part of the National Survey – the biggest listening exercise of its kind – to give members of the public a chance to voice their opinion on Scotland’s future after the UK vote to leave the European Union despite Scotland voting overwhelmingly to remain.
Steven Paterson, Member of Parliament for the Stirling Constituency, held a meeting on Monday (21st November) to take questions from EU nationals living and working in the rural part of the constituency.
The Real Food Café is situated in the village of Tyndrum in the Stirling Highlands. It employs up to around 30 members of staff – many of whom are EU nationals and have concerns about what the prospect of Brexit could mean for them.
Mr Paterson met with staff in Tyndrum to take their questions on how Brexit could affect their status and to reaffirm his commitment to protecting their right to live and work in Scotland.
Today Nicola Sturgeon launched The National Survey, the biggest consultation ever by the SNP. Have your say about Brexit, protecting Scotland’s interests, and independence. Take part today.