Nicola Sturgeon will today urge Theresa May to adopt a ‘plan B’ for the UK’s departure from the EU to ensure a potentially catastrophic no-deal scenario is avoided.
Theresa May has laid out her ‘plan A’ for Brexit. However – given that a large number of MPs are opposed to it, with suggestions the proposals would turn the UK into a “vassal” state, and the European Union doesn’t seem too keen either – having a plan B would appear eminently sensible.
So one can only hope that Nicola Sturgeon succeeds in her attempts to convince the Prime Minister to adopt one, when they meet in Edinburgh today.
Because, at the moment, a potentially catastrophic “no-deal” Brexit seems to be the only other option. Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary, has gone so far as to say he believes the no-deal scenario is now the most likely one.
Such talk might be a negotiating tactic designed to make the EU believe we are prepared to live with that outcome and to quieten hardline Brexiteers, who appear to be actively in favour of what would be a wanton act of economic self-harm at a time when the country is still struggling with weak rates of growth after years of austerity.
A no-deal Brexit cannot be allowed to become plan B by default. It would be much more sensible to accept that time has run out to achieve a bespoke deal that satisfies the UK and EU. Brexit could then either be delayed until a breakthrough can be achieved or it could take place as planned with the UK staying inside the Single Market and Customs Union. As The Scotsman has said before, this would still allow Britain to move further away from the EU at a later date – if it wanted to do so.
The First Minister was right to warn of the “very real risk” of a plunge off an economic cliff in March next year. The warnings from the business community – whose views are, in normal times, treated seriously by Conservative politicians – are increasing, with 44 per cent of Scottish firms saying the Brexit vote had already damaged their business, while just six per cent reported positive effects.
Hardline Brexiteers may wish to consider that if they oppose a Single Market Brexit – or a negotiated compromise if this can be achieved – and force the UK into a dangerous no-deal situation, many in Britain will come to the conclusion that a second referendum is vital to safeguard the national interest.
And so, in over-reaching, they may succeed only in bringing the whole Brexit project crashing down, which, of course, would actually be the best possible outcome.