TALKING POLITICS

We try to join the dots from the final days of the Brexit negotiations to the looming prospect of another referendum on Scottish independence. Can the government really risk a no-deal outcome? Will the SNP still hold a referendum if the courts say no? What will Labour do? Plus we ask how COVID politics intersects with the fate of the Union. With Helen Thompson, Anand Menon and Kenneth Armstrong.

Talking Points:

Will there be a Brexit deal?

- We know the concessions both sides would have to make. What we don’t know whether either side is willing to make the concessions.

- The negotiation that matters is perhaps the one going on in the prime minister’s head.

- Debates over lockdown have reopened the space to the Conservative Party’s right.

- The Eurozone faces its own problem: trying to rescue the EU Recovery Fund from the impasse over the rule of law issue in relation to Hungary and Poland. 

The Union is in a more precarious position than it was before.

- The SNP is doing surprisingly well. That gives Sturgeon some comfort in thinking that she can seek a mandate for another referendum if she wins a majority.

- How will they go about the referendum? Some people are floating the possibility of the Scottish parliament legislating for another referendum without the Section 30 order that would get consent from the UK.

- For people like Michael Gove, Scotland is a key reason to get a Brexit deal.

There is undeniably support for independence in opinion polls, but can the SNP offer a coherent independence project?

- Helen thinks that they still haven’t resolved the currency question. There’s also the border issue.

- Can the SNP accept an independent Scotland outside of the European Union? Membership has been a key part of the independence offer. 

- Will timing favor the SNP or Westminster? 

Brexit and Scotland are problems for Keir Starmer too.

- How will Starmer whip his MP’s to vote if a Brexit deal comes back? 

- Labour without seats from Scotland will find it hard to win another election.

- Ultimately, the major economic event of this parliament is going to be Brexit, not COVID, or at least it will be close, so Labour needs to come up with some kind of narrative.

- Labour’s strength in Scotland bound the Union together. It hasn’t come back since 2011. This makes it hard for any party other than the Conservatives to be dominant in Westminster, particularly under conditions of asymmetrical devolution.  

Mentioned in this Episode:

- The UK in a Changing Europe

- Alex Massie on the SNP

Further Learning: 

- From the archives… Can Boris Survive Brexit? 

- More on Starmer and the Brexit deal

And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking  

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