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'Rule Britannia' rhetoric can't redeem baleful Brexit

  • 07 October 2016


During the Olympics, the BBC and other broadcasters were even more jingoistic than usual about 'Team GB' and its haul of medals. On the international political scene, 'Team GB', the unelected government of Theresa May, is doing less well.

Matteo Renzi, the Italian prime minister who could hold the EU Presidency if May triggers Article 50 to begin the Brexit negotiations next year, is the latest of a string of EU and European parliamentary representatives to put the kybosh on the government's optimism about staying in the EU single market while not signing up to freedom of movement. As Renzi said, the EU cannot give more rights to a member which is leaving than to those who stay.

Dr Liam Fox, May's hawkish international trade secretary, said on the same day as Renzi's interview that the UK would become an independent member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as opposed to being represented by the EU and would comply with its tariffs and rules and thus carry 'the standard of free and open trade as a badge of honour'.

He seems to forget that the world is nowadays divided into regional economic groupings with their own rules and even allies such as the US have doubts about any quick special deals for a post-Brexit UK.

Such is the 'Rule Britannia' rhetoric after the English and Welsh decided to vote to leave the EU, dragging with them Scotland and Northern Ireland, the two domestic nations which voted — in Scotland's case overwhelmingly — to remain in. It is a rhetoric that ushers in an era of the rise of English nationalism.

For Scotland particularly, the exit from the EU will have devastating consequences. We know from a recent Fraser of Allander Institute report on the Scottish economy that the country will suffer budget cuts of over £1.6 billion over the next four years because of Brexit.

That will mean less spending on public services which will lead down the line to more poverty and failed targets to close, for example, the attainment gap in schools between kids in more affluent and more deprived areas.

The National Health Service that has kept the working class healthy for decades is already struggling to cope with an ageing population and we still in the Glasgow area have some of the worst health statistics in Western Europe, a legacy of Margaret Thatcher. With cuts in public expenditure, the NHS is unsustainable, leading