The Brexit imagined by Jacob Rees-Mogg and co was and remains a complete fantasy, writes Robert Aldridge.
We’re all sick of the Brexit debate. For me, the most frustrating part is the contempt some senior politicians show to the public in the way they discuss it. Our heads don’t zip up at the back.
Amongst the worst are the extremist pro-Brexit MPs. I have every respect for people who hold different views to me. Obviously they are wrong and I am right, but democracy is about an intelligent and informed exchange of views based on the real world.
The level of debate on Brexit is puerile with myths bandied around as facts. According to some, we can stop the free movement of EU citizens into the UK without a border between the EU and the UK. I am in favour of free movement to ensure our economy is stable with workers from across the EU with talents as doctors, nurses, carers, agricultural workers, researchers etc all making a huge contribution to our economy’s success. But pretending you can stop it without border controls is simply fantasy.
We all know that whatever deal, if any, is made, it will be worse than the situation we have at present. Maybe only slightly worse, but definitely worse. For some, that is a price worth paying. But what we also know is that for the Jacob Rees-Moggs of this world it will be ‘the wrong kind of Brexit’ whatever it is.
Like children at the pantomime clapping because they believe in Tinkerbell, they will continue to say their own Tinkerbell version of Brexit actually exists, when it is patently unachievable.
The more they persist, the more they put the unity of the UK which they profess to support at risk. Not only do they make a referendum on a United Ireland more likely, but they also give succour to those campaigning for a second Scottish referendum (please no!).
Two divisive referendums have made our politics more tribal than ever. Could we make a New Year’s Resolution for 2019 (probably the first mention of that this year!) to try to draw people together and have a more adult discourse in politics?
The council’s budget consultation is about to start. I urge everyone to take part. Documents leaked to the Evening News showed that road and pavement repairs could be reduced even further, free music tuition in our schools could be at risk and a range of other cuts.
Last year responses to the consultation did make some difference, though the SNP and Labour ignored the overwhelming opposition to the garden waste charge. We will all need to look carefully to see if there are any other stealth charges proposed for the coming year.
I hope that by the time the council budget is set, the SNP Government will at long last have given us the power to impose a modest tourist bed tax in the city. It’s simply common sense to let tourists make a direct contribution to the council’s efforts to give them a great tourist experience in the most beautiful city in the world.
The two top priorities for the council in my view should be to focus on getting the basic services right (education, care for the vulnerable, bin collections, street cleaning and the like) and to invest in preventing problems happening rather than sweeping up the mess after they have happened.
Robert Aldridge is Liberal Democrat group leader on Edinburgh City Council and councillor for Drum Brae/Gyle