The ‘people’ need to show their ‘will’ at the “No to Boris, Yes to Europe” demonstration in London on Saturday 20 July, writes Stephen Gethins.
Within days, the UK will have a new Prime Minister. He will be the most viscerally anti-EU this country has known. Britain has already become a global laughing stock, but with Johnson in charge, it will be dangerously so. We need to register our protest, and fast.
A demonstration is planned for London on 20 July – No to Johnson, yes to Europe. That pretty much sums up the views of the vast majority of people in Scotland. Our nation voted overwhelmingly remain, and our decision must be respected.
Johnson’s elevation to leader is the result of more than 30 years of planning, which has included a host of untruths and inventions, as journalist then politician. More recently, it is the culmination of three years of scheming, in which he became the poster boy for a Leave campaign that adopted the most hysterical and specious claims.
Since then, the anti-Europeans and the recently converted (including Jeremy Hunt) have claimed that Brexit is the will of the people. But is it? It certainly isn’t the will of the people of Scotland, or Northern Ireland, where the Remain votes were far more decisive than the narrow 52 per cent UK-wide Leave vote.
If they were so sure that now, with all the facts at their disposal, people south of the border would vote again to quit the EU, then why are they so scared to test the proposition? Because they know that, from the £350 million per week for the NHS on the battle bus to other distortions, their claims would be rumbled.
That was the past. The present is even more scary. Johnson will be voted in by 0.25 per cent of the population, a tiny rump of barely over 100,000 mainly elderly, white, male, diehard Conservative members, who seem to be quite prepared to pull up the drawbridge of opportunity for our children and grandchildren. As a recent YouGov survey pointed out, for many Tory activists, “delivering” Brexit (whatever that means, given that it’ll take at least a decade to negotiate trade deals and resolve other issues) matters more than economic well-being.
This Saturday might seem a strange time to hold a rally, but it comes three days before the announcement of the new prime minister. Imagine what message we would be sending out if we did nothing? If we sat on our hands and allowed the moment to happen without registering our alarm.
Boris Johnson will move quickly, ordering civil servants to step up preparations for a no-deal Brexit. He will invite the EU to “negotiate” with him, even though they have said the Withdrawal Agreement was signed by both sides in good faith and cannot be amended.
He will then harrumph in his inimitable style and head us to the cliff edge. He will have the hardliners jump for joy, while many Tory moderates (people who should know better) will make allowances for him and go along with it all.
Westminster should resume in September, but Johnson hasn’t ruled out shutting down Parliament in order to push through his catastrophic no-deal. Democracy is under threat.
Last week’s disgraceful events, in which the UK’s Ambassador to the USA was forced to resign, is just a glimpse into the chaotic, dysfunctional leadership we would have under Johnson. His record in office leaves a trail of diplomatic destruction and shows he is unfit for the office of Prime Minister.
And what about the voters? The 20 July demo will be different from those that have gone before. This is the people sending a message to the powerful, not the other way round. They want to make the positive, passionate case for Europe, for the good it has done, the opportunities it provides – while also being mindful of changes that need to be made.
They also want to express their frustration at the fact that while the UK Government has fixated on Brexit, it has failed to focus on the job they are supposed to be doing.
Almost no legislation has been passed, no serious measures have been taken to improve living standards, while so much parliamentary time and energy has been devoted to the Brexit crisis.
In March, we got a lifeline from the EU and extra time was granted to sort out this mess. We called for an urgent second EU referendum to take place, but instead the Tories have used the time to have an internal civil war. Parliament is not functioning and the Government is crumbling.
As the clock runs down to exit day in October, the threat of a no-deal hangs heavy over Scotland. We know it would be devastating and threaten up to 100,000 jobs. No government should be so reckless to consider this outcome, let alone actively promote it.
We cannot solve the big global challenges such as the climate emergency, security threats and trade disputes when acting alone. That is why the SNP’s vision is of Scotland as a European nation. That is why we say Yes to Europe and No to Johnson.
Stephen Gethins is SNP spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Europe in the House of Commons and MP for North-East Fife