Be prepared for the worst Scotia!

If this is how the UK Government deals with the EU, God help us when they turn their attention to Scotland

 Ignorance and bellicosity – these are the two words that spring to mind when I (David Clarke) consider the approach Lord David Frost has taken to his negotiations with the European Union over the Northern Ireland protocol.

That ignorance is almost a badge of honour among the cabal that now run the UK Government – the people who’d had enough of experts. In the case of Northern Ireland they care little for its history, tossing hand grenades willy nilly into the sensitivities of both Unionists and Nationalists. That ignorance of course spreads to European matters, but is wrapped in a patrician, Oxbridge-educated veneer that poses instead as expertise. That’s why we have a plethora of think tanks emanating from London who all tell us how Europe is on the cusp of disintegration, how the euro will never work, how the feckless Greeks are always on the make from the industrious Germans, how the uncaring Germans are lording it over the poor downtrodden Greeks.

The bellicosity is of course the flip side of the coin. There is an attitude among a small fringe of the Conservative Party that has captured the heart of government which believes that Britain – or more precisely England – is an exceptional country delivered by nature and providence to rule the world. If that’s the case why would you ever negotiate, or stick to an agreement, with a group of nefarious Europeans, who, according to your other myth, you saved from Nazism only for them to reciprocate by ganging up on you. Worst of all, you have the pipsqueak that is Ireland, a former colonial annoyance that you believe (incorrectly) has grown fat and successful on German largess, now having the temerity to tell you what you can and cannot do in relation to Northern Ireland.

This is where it gets personal for me – I’m an Irishman, whose home is Scotland, with family drawn from all four corners of these islands. I get the fact that there’s group of nations sharing this archipelago. The intractability of the Northern Irish conflict was because it couldn’t be understood in simply British terms when half of the population identified as something else. The reason for the immense success of the peace process in ending 30 years of horrific sectarian bloodshed was in its partnership between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom, with both realising they had obligations and responsibilities to both communities. That strategy has now gone completely out the window with the Irish literally aghast at the utter contempt shown by the British Government towards the progress that has been made.

But why would Johnson and his cohorts do any differently when they don’t grasp that concept of partnership? Surely the whole basis of Brexit was one of standing alone, above the need for cooperation with “less happier lands?” This same lack of understanding is then reflected in the relationship with Europe. If you think might is right, how could you possibly understand the concept of old enemies coming together to form an ever-closer union based on the principles of peace and partnership? Of the Germans willing to immerse their immense power into the greater good of the European project? That’s why the Tory right are constantly sniping from the sidelines predicting the EU’s demise, because they can only see their own shallow, selfish prejudices in others.

There seems to be little doubt now that the unelected bureaucrat Lord Frost – a man plucked by fortune from mediocrity if ever there was one – will unilaterally invoke article 16, in effect telling the EU and Ireland, to use one of Johnson’s favourite phrases, to “go whistle”. But don’t think this is the end of it or the limit of the aggression —because they owe nothing to the EU or Ireland there never will be any accommodation or honourable behaviour. And from a Scottish viewpoint, if this is how the UK Government squares up to 450 million people and the world’s biggest trading bloc, just imagine the belligerence that will be shown to 5 million people who might try and express their own opinion.

Things can only get worse.

David Clarke is EMiS vice-chair. First published by The National