SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon only needed 15 seconds to fully expose the “chaos and confusion” of Theresa May’s Brexit.
Responding to the High Court ruling that invoking Article 50 must now be put to a parliamentary vote, Sturgeon said:
We should remember that their refusal to allow a vote in the House of Commons is not because of some matter of high constitutional principle, it is because they don’t have a coherent position and they know that if they take their case to the (chamber) that will be exposed.
Parliament must now vote on whether we leave the EU. It can also demand to know the terms of Brexit before it puts Article 50 into action. But as Sturgeon points out, May doesn’t have a “coherent” position on the terms of Brexit. For the SNP leader, this is why the government is appealing the High Court decision and fighting the legal battle in the first place. It does not want to be exposed.
May’s Brexit shambles
Speaking to the Scottish parliament, Sturgeon continued:
(The ruling) is hugely significant and underlines the chaos and confusion at the heart of the UK government.
May’s incoherent position on Brexit was made clear at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on 26 October.
In response to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn demanding to know more about May’s Brexit plan, the Prime Minister said:
He talks about the plan. I’ve been very clear that we want to both trade with and operate within the European single market. I want this country to be a global leader in free trade.
She continued, peddling the myth that Britain can have its cake and eat it:
I want to introduce controls on free movement. So we have an end of free movement.
Herein lies May’s Brexit mess. If the UK wants access to the EU single market, it is very unlikely that it will be able to opt out of free movement of people. That’s because the single market entails the free movement of the means of production – including labour (people). Both Norway and Switzerland are outside the EU, but must still accept free movement as a condition of the single market.
To top it off, Britain’s new trade deal with the EU must be unanimously approved by the remaining 28 member states. Why would these states approve a special deal for the UK that redefines the single market? Especially eastern European countries.
May’s conundrum over the single market versus controls on immigration reflects a sharply divided Conservative Party. The pro-Remain ex-Chancellor George Osborne laid into plans to leave the single market, branding the prospect “catastrophic”. At the same time, the Prime Minister, along with the Brexit minister, have made ending free movement a priority.
Sturgeon argues this divided and contradictory position will not stand up to parliamentary scrutiny.
Corbyn chimes with Sturgeon
The Labour leader responded to the ruling by calling for the government to put its Brexit plans on the table:
This ruling underlines the need for the Government to bring its negotiating terms to parliament without delay. Labour respects the decision of the British people to leave the European Union. But there must be transparency and accountability to parliament on the terms of Brexit.
Labour will be pressing the case for a Brexit that works for Britain, putting jobs, living standards and the economy first.
So Corbyn clarified that the democratic decision of 17.4 million people will not be overruled by Labour. But he also maintained that the Conservatives should be made accountable over the terms of Brexit.
For former Channel 4 News economics editor Paul Mason, upholding citizens’ working rights can now be a condition of Labour passing Article 50. The British public voted to leave the EU, but only 24% of the country voted Conservative. So it follows that people didn’t vote for the terms of Brexit to be dictated by the Conservatives.
It is the Conservatives who appear to be in a mess over the Brexit terms, as was thrust into the spotlight by Sturgeon in the Scottish parliament on 3 November. The High Court ruling that parliament must approve Article 50 means the Conservative government’s position on Brexit will be exposed as a shambles. At present, the foundation of May’s Brexit is a mirage: the myth that the UK can access the single market and control EU free movement. Now that the Commons can demand to know May’s Brexit terms, the incoherent mess will be naked for all to see.
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Featured image via Tom Clearwood and YouTube screenshot