A Trading Union

Nations should only be united to an extent that benefits all members of their union.

ByeBye 1When Brexit is complete, at the end of the Transition Period, powers exercised by Brussels will be returned to the UK. As things stand, those not explicitly reserved for Westminster will pass to the UK’s devolved administrations – including farming, fisheries, food standards and the environment. If regulations and standards were to differ between Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England then trade agreements with other countries could become complex or impossible to reach. Therefore the Government proposes to introduce ‘mutual recognition’ into UK law. Naturally the SNP objects that Scots could be forced to accept chlorinated chicken into their famously healthy diets; a local chippy (in Maidenhead, England) already offers fried Mars bars, might they be banned?

The SNP would rather be controlled from Brussels than Westminster and we understand its dilemma: England is their foe and the Auld Alliance with France (and now others) must be retained. Independence is an SNP smokescreen, they don’t mind the EU taking ever more of Scotland’s powers yet despite most of those due to be returned next year going to Holyrood they want the lot; their fight is with the Auld Enemy, the over-powerful England.

This exposes our own dilemma, we would prefer not to see the end of the United Kingdom and yet despite partial devolution the regions have not flourished relative to the South East which mainly subsidises the others, which increases rather than mollifies resentment. Northern Powerhouse and free-port ideas show that the UK Government is aware of the issue and wishes to address it but hasn’t got to grips with it so far; the broken ‘red wall’ of northern England constituencies voting Conservative adds to the urgency. More subsidiarity, including greater control of local taxes, might help the poorer regions to compete. Rivalry should encourage innovation and enable successful ideas to be copied to the benefit of all.

Meanwhile the SNP faces a huge problem with its mission, after hundreds of years of monetary union within the UK full separation would be a bigger problem even than that faced by Italy or Greece, which they have, so far, not dared to face. As a loss-making economy Scotland would need control of its own monetary policy to be competitive, it cannot simply rely on ‘Scotland’s oil’ in future.

Unions of nations are not wrong in principle, they just need to serve all members fairly and beneficially so that all are willing partners. This is not true for the UK as a member of the EU. Hopefully the lessons learned will illuminate the path to a better future for our own Union but while it lasts the centre must have power over various things, including trade, security, defence and monetary policy.
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