As the EU Referendum creeps closer don’t be fooled by high profile politicians, such as William Hague, being wheeled out one after another to make a case for staying in the EU.
Although unsettling to an uninformed general public, a favourite point being made throughout UK media given his previous Eurosceptic stance, this is merely yet another smokescreen intended to scare ‘Undecideds’ into voting to remain members of the EU.
Scares over Scotland and ‘UK breakup’
Hague has come out with a new twist on the ‘Stay’ rhetoric, regurgitating a successful tactic used approaching the General Election in May – Scotland.
In May, the Tories threw a serious curveball to English voters by introducing SNP scare tactics, suggesting a vote for Labour was a vote for the SNP, who would ultimately have too much of a say in Westminster in the event of a left-wing coalition.
This time, however, he has suggested his primary reason to ‘Stay’ is because he fears a #Brexit will cause a breakup of the UK, following an inevitable #IndyRef2. It’s Scotland again, but more a fear of losing her than being abused by her. He may be over-estimating how much support Scotland now has as a UK member, south of the border, as the SNP chip away at English patience.
Certainly Scotland is currently polling like they wish to remain members of the EU by a much higher margin than England. This can be partially explained by the influence of the SNP, with their peculiar politics of twisting conversation away from any specifics and around to their own nationalistic aspirations. The SNP continually deflect any real debate on some very big assumptions they have made over Scotland’s entry into EU as an independent country. These will have to be discussed as the EU Referendum draws closer, the effect of which remains to be seen.
Brexit does not necessarily mean IndyRef2
The SNP and their army of ‘Nats’ have been beating the ‘Brexit = IndyRef2’ drum since the EU Referendum was announced, seeing it as a holy grail in their quest for a second attempt at Scottish Independence. One has to even consider that the SNP would secretly prefer ‘Brexit’, as it gives them their chance for IndyRef2, whilst publicly campaigning to ‘stay’.
Additional negative EU publicity with economic and border issues is likely. It is not a given that the EU Referendum polls in Scotland won’t narrow, albeit slower than in England, but delivering a swing towards ‘Leave’ sufficient to negate the inevitability of ‘IndyRef2’. If Sturgeon’s barmy army cannot show a real desire to remain in the EU north of the border, it will be difficult to call IndyRef2 on the back of it.
Can Nicola even deliver Independence, if given IndyRef2?
We have to consider the first Scottish Independence Referendum, where much was made of ‘Silent Remain Voters’ who felt unable to speak publicly about their wish to remain part of the UK, but would not be fooled, intimidated or conned by noisy ‘Nats’. If these people exist, it would not be too much of a stretch to assume they would vote in a similar fashion, making the swing towards independence a little more difficult to predict.
The EU Referendum is likely to be in 2016, some media suggesting June or July, but more likely later in the year. The Holyrood elections will happen first and the SNP will have a large majority in the Scottish Parliament. This is inevitable, but it is not necessarily assured these voters will all vote for independence. Some are interested in SNP rhetoric north of the border but still view a united UK as more favourable overall. With the swing required to change an original Independence Referendum result, hardly dry on the pens of journalists, it could yet be difficult for the SNP to deliver the numbers they would require.
To assume that voting for the SNP in Scotland, partially as a protest vote against a financially pragmatic Tory government and partially as a result of the collapse of Labour as a credible potential government, automatically converts directly to ‘Independence’ votes is arrogant and/or naïve.
The SNP have lost a bit of ground over their economic credibility. Egg on their face over Oil figures is still visible, proving difficult to remove the stains. They have struggled to make a coherent policy on how Scotland would fare economically post-independence. Little cracks have appeared in their ‘blame it all on the Tories’ armour with ‘Forth Bridge’ repair problems, NHS stress, police under-funding and further cuts to local authority budgets all being laid at Holyrood’s door. This, coupled with the corrupt-looking arrogance of SNP politicians causing scandals, already forcing MP’s to resign SNP whips, dents the conviction of Scottish voters worried about the pound in their pocket. The economic case for Independence may be even more difficult to make this second time around.
Immigration may yet affect EU credibility in Scotland
The immigration problem is beginning to effect a change in UK ‘EU Referendum’ polls, the gap between ‘Stay’ and ‘Leave’ has narrowed, with ‘Leave’ finally even getting a nose in front on occasion.
In Scotland, unfettered immigration is maybe not such a pressing issue as it is in England, since the flood of illegals and most migrants are settling in England. Some are moving towards Scotland, but this tends to be the more acceptable side of immigration, with their move prompted by work opportunities.
Scots will hold personal views on immigrants working in the NHS and useful hospitality jobs, not so aware of the huge number of illegals wandering around or the large multi-wife families, surviving on ridiculous benefits, creating isolated communities who are more of a drain on local authorities whilst offering nothing but division to an agitated indigenous population. The negative side of our open doors policy tends to be felt most in London and the South, with most who make the move north going little further than Bradford.
The immigration problem exploded in 2015 and little has been achieved by a lacklustre EU to suggest 2016 will not be even worse. Assuming the 2015 problem has positively affected ‘Leave’ support, one can only further assume this will accelerate during 2016. As the immigration explosion continues and the UK becomes even more overwhelmed, Scotland will increasingly feel the bite as public finances struggle to provide the infrastructure needed throughout the country.
Scotland has had her first taste of Syrian refugees (drawn from refugee camps in Turkey, so definitely needy Syrians), much heralded by Scottish media when some initially touched down. There has been some grumbling since, with suggestions that many have TB or other medical problems and that a quantity have been housed in an unsuitable area, already blighted by high unemployment.
Undoubtedly, as the migrant camps across Europe overflow, the EU will push as many asylum-seeking migrants already in Europe onto each member state as they can. Scotland will be forced to house more so-called refugees and put additional strain on struggling resources. The migrants already in Europe are only 21% Syrian, being a mixture from many other countries. This will be the pool from which the EU will expect the UK (and Scotland) to draw, relieving pressure that will become apparent as the year progresses. The additionally diverse nature of these migrants, the potential for a spectrum of medical requirements, and their majority military-aged male composition, will cause different pressures on local authorities expected to house and provide for them.
Further Eurozone problems will concern Scots
William Hague himself has been outspoken over the financial stress felt by the Eurozone this past while. The Greece fiasco looked like the Euro was about to fall, but the Eurozone propped them up again, with what can only be a temporary fix. This uncertainty and debt burden had an effect on the UK who, whilst outside the Eurozone, cannot help but be affected whilst members of the EU.
“In future decades, I believe students will sit down to study the folly of extending a single currency too far.”
“Sad though it will be to see it, their textbook is likely to say that the Greek debacle of 2015 was not the end of the euro crisis, but its real beginning.”
The Eurozone will have problems again, maybe even worse than before, this is inevitable. The immigration fiasco and border nightmares are causing harm to trade figures and this will only worsen as each country attempts their own response to a tide of migrants, turning hostile when asked to follow asylum procedures. Many countries are still struggling so a small drop in trade income could trigger a problem, though many other triggers are already hovering regardless.
The EU response to any problems associated with the Euro is to strengthen ties between Eurozone countries, leading to knock-on requirements for ever-closer political union throughout the EU as a whole. If the Eurozone hits any crisis points, this will undoubtedly make already economically-unsure Scots rethink their stance on EU membership and strengthen the concerns of those worried about the EU eroding sovereignty.
Why does Hague come out now?
William Hague, a long time Eurosceptic and previous Foreign Secretary, is a respected figure. There are many Eurosceptics yet to make their voices heard, awaiting the result of EU negotiations in February before throwing their hat into the ring. The ‘Leave’ campaign will not start in earnest until February, once the negotiations have taken place.
Hague gives a shot in the arm to the pro-EU campaign. At a time when we’ve been subjected to a fortnight of positivity over Climate Change negotiations, draped in a cloak of overt co-operation, the public can be swayed towards accepting the benefits of remaining a big noise at the table.
The media has now moved onto the refugee crisis again, even wheeling out Aylan Kurdi’s father to stir up pro-refugee sentiment amongst a sympathetic public. Eurosceptics are being painted as right-wing Tories, more worried about economics than any form of human compassion, or so the media would have us think.
A recent divide in UKIP was blown out of all proportion, intending to cause problems for the credibility of Nigel Farage having a leading role in the ‘Leave’ campaign. This was propagated in order to cause division in the ‘Leave’ campaign, currently still unclear of a practical structure or hierarchy with which to proceed.
Whilst David Cameron dithers over what approach he will permit his ministers to take over EU Referendum campaigning and whilst negotiations are at a delicate stage, leading Eurosceptics within the Conservatives are remaining tight-lipped. Fearful of playing their hand too early, unsure of what they are actually up against in terms of party backlash, trying to respect current negotiations whilst patiently awaiting mid-2016 to see what state the EU is actually in, forces senior Tories to bide their time.
All of these factors suggest William Hague could merely be trying to steal a head-start for the ‘Stay’ campaign, taking advantage of a festively-distracted UK population, scaremongering whilst he sees an opportunity, meeting little opposition from a ‘Leave’ campaign in infantile disarray.
One final thought crossed my mind. I hope I am not being discourteous to William Hague, a Conservative stalwart, but I have pondered what would make him change his mind and support the UK’s continued membership of an EU he was once so outspoken about. Has he genuine concerns over Scotland and the union? I’m not sure, but I do recognise another UK politician at a stage in his career and with all the right credentials to land a top job in the EU gravy train.