Leader comment: Brexit ‘patriots’ may yet rue their actions

The long-predicted rise in nationalist support on the back of leaving the EU may finally be on the horizon.

The long-predicted rise in nationalist support on the back of leaving the EU may finally be on the horizon.

More than two years after the referendum, plans for departure from the EU next year remain utterly chaotic. Prime Minister Theresa May, a Remainer two years ago, is under the thumb of Euroscpetic extremists in the Conservative Party for whom a No-Deal Brexit, with all of its implications, would be a price worth paying,

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Meanwhile, opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn maintains his reluctance to speak out against departure from the EU, even as warnings about the damage Brexit will cause to the economy mount up.

Now another significant development adds further uncertainty to the Brexit process. A new poll suggests that Britain’s departure from the EU could prompt Scots to vote for independence in a future referendum.

According to the survey, if Brexit goes ahead, 47 per cent would support independence and 43 per cent would vote to remain in the UK. But if Brexit was halted, the results shift to 43 per cent in favour of independence and 47 per cent opposed.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had hoped, in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 vote, that the SNP narrative of Scots being “dragged out” of Europe against their will would boost support for independence. Polls, however, stubbornly refused to move in her favour. Now, however, as Brexit draws closer, it seems Scots may – at the very least – be willing to return to the constitutional question.

The Leave campaign in 2016 breezed along on a wave of undeliverable promises mixed with some deeply unpleasant dog-whistle messages about immigrants. Brexit would be a breeze, a simple process that would free up billions to be spent on essential services, went the Leave story.

It is now perfectly clear that even those who campaigned most fiercely for Brexit – departed Secretaries of State Boris Johnson and David Davis, for example – have no idea how to make the process work without damaging the UK. The reality is that unpicking decades of treaties and agreements between a body which has no political interest in making life easy for the UK is just as messy as Remainers warned.

Eurosceptics who led the Brexit charge made much of their loyalty to Britain; they were true patriots. How ironic it would be if their actions led to the break up of the UK.