From Ovid to Dante and onwards…

Reading Time: 8 minutes

“We live in the age of the refugee, the age of the exile”

Ariel Dorfman

This is a story told to me by a remarkable student. She attends my Philosophy classes and the classes I teach.

Gabriela Inostroza de Gatica is very Latin, the native blood of South America flows in her veins. She is passionate , intense, exceptionally kind and has a wicked sense of humour . She contributes so much to the classes and still laughs in the midst of a life full of losses and tragedies and yet, in Kahil Gibran’s words, she makes of her heart a chalice through which she feasts on the elixir of life.

Images used with kind permission

She has been twice a refugee, confronted several times fascism in all its totalitarian horror. Yet she understands how we effete left-wing progressives of Wales have never feared the knock on the door in the night, never really understood what it is to be watched, what it is to wait outside a prison for her loved ones. She mostly excuses those who claim that the solution to totalitarianism and fascism is to grant to the fascists the same rights we would give to the standard political parties of the west.

At those times in the class I think of the thoughts of Trotsky and his comments about a paving stone and a fascist. But I am the first person who would run a mile from a violent encounter and so I stay quiet.

This remarkable student is called Gabriela Gatica Leyton. I have known Gabriella and her husband Umberto for over 12 years now. Umberto has presence, he fills a room with both presence and gravitas.

Images used with kind permission

In 1973, General Augusto Pinochet imposed a military dictatorship in Chile. Gabriela was 23 and had only been married to Umberto for a few days when he was seized by government officials for “gathering in a public place” (more than three people together was seen as an act of treason).

Umberto was put in prison and tortured. Many of his fellow inmates just disappeared. Gabriella says;

“the prisoners were kept underground, in a cellar. Over 100 people crammed in a room only big enough for 10.”

When Umberto was released, he and Gabriela knew they had to get out. They left their families behind and were smuggled by plane into Argentina where they spent a year in a refugee camp.

It was freezing, and they weren’t allowed to work legally. They got black market jobs, mending door locks or working in bars – and they spent hours just sat in a backstreet bookshop trying to keep warm.

Then their luck changed dramatically – the couple were offered scholarships to study at Swansea University, under a scheme to help refugees from Chile in 1976 they moved to Swansea and they’re still there.

Gabriella told me a story about an experience she had recently. She was in Wales and a woman kept asking her where she was from. Gabriella told her that she was from Mount Pleasant in Swansea. The woman kept insisting and asking where she was from. In this intolerant society, this brexit-Ukip poisoned Wales and this Trump polluted world. Like myself Gabriela believes that those of us who live in Wales are Welsh.

“We could cook real food for ourselves. I even started physically shaking when I saw four different sorts of cheese in the supermarket. I always call Wales my adopted mum. My adopted mum brought me up, gave me opportunities and nurtured me. One day, my bones will be buried here,”

Remembers Gabriella.

Umberto and Gabriella fled Chile in the 1970s after Umberto was detained and tortured under General Pinochet brutal regime. They live in Wales. Umberto has just retired from 30 years in the department of Photography at Swansea Metropolitan University, and Gabriella from 25 years as a social worker. Both of their children work in the NHS.

It’s an incredibly difficult story to tell. Twice exiled. A story of fear, detention, of suspicion and of loss…Umberto continues:

We are Chilean, I am an artist. In the Chile of the early 1970s I worked in the Culture Section of a Community Development program, with rural communities making works of theatre, photography, journalism and film. This was a community who had never had the chance to see a film or play before – through artistic expression the doors for social development could be opened.


But the community never got to see their first film.
The military coup of the 11th of September 1973 by General Augusto Pinochet put Chile under brutal restrictions and terror.
So many strange things happened then. I’m still unsure what lead to my imprisonment, but I think I have some idea.


I had married my wife, Gabriella, in July 1973. We were young and had very little money, so after we married I rented a room while she lived with her mother. We had been married only six weeks when the military took power.


They enforced a curfew on Friday nights which stayed in place until the following Monday. Over the weekends, I stayed with my new wife at her mother’s home.


After three or four days I guess my neighbours began to notice I was ‘missing’. Someone reported my absence to the authorities. I suppose they thought I was a guerrilla member. Two days later I was detained, interrogated and tortured. No matter the extremes of my torture, I was unable to give the authorities the information they wanted. I wasn’t a member of any party. I did not know of the activities of the guerrilla fighters or where they kept the guns. I was an artist, a husband. I simply knew nothing. So the torture continued.


I was put on a chair, blind-folded so that I didn’t know where the next punch or kick would come from. In a way I was very lucky – I wasn’t shocked with electricity the way many others were. A common method was to tell me – “If you don’t know anything, I’m sure your wife does.” My young wife and her mother were frequently harassed by the authorities, their house turned upside down. But of course neither they, nor I, had any information to offer up.


Weeks after detention and interrogation I was moved to a sport centre, used as a detention camp. After a while I was moved to the city jail, to a political prisoners corridor.


Gabriella was totally lost, she went into autopilot. Everything you have, the ordinary things like a salary, a family, to speak, to laugh – were suddenly all gone. It was like an alternative reality. She couldn’t visit me and didn’t even know if I was alive or dead.


Once, after I was moved to the sports centre, she was allowed to send me some new clothes. She wrote me a letter on very thin rice paper which she pushed into a minute tube and sewed into the hem of a shirt. I don’t know how I knew it was there or managed to find it, but I did. She simply told me she was alive and thinking of me – she told me to keep faith. Maybe this is what kept me going.


I was kept in a centre with hundreds of other men. There was no space to sleep – we took it in shifts to lie down. It was as you see in American films – men in dark glasses guarded us with machine guns.


Within the group we were erratically and frequently called for interrogation. Many men from the group were taken and never returned. Many disappeared during the night.


In a climate of such fear and stress we eventually we took to holding lectures and classes among ourselves – something to provide focus, give structure and meaning back to our wasted days. The prison was full of political prisoners of all ages and backgrounds – university students and professors, journalists, chess masters, scientists, farmers – teaching and learning maths, music, reading and writing. I was in charge of the library and in turn studied creative writing, chess and guitar. There was a theatre group run by some of Chile’s most famous actors, who were detained alongside the others. Eventually, after 9 months of arbitrary imprisonment, the authorities realised they were wasting their time with me. I was released without charges.


The very next day my wife and I visited the Chilean Catholic Church, who created a body to help political prisoners and the relatives of the disappeared, taking their cases and offering legal aid. The lady lawyer in charge of our case advised us to leave the country, even though there was not a policy within the organization to persuade people to go into exile – we couldn’t be sure when we would be targeted again.


The very next day, when I went to collect our passports, I was taken in and questioned by the authorities.


“How could I possibly have done something in the last 24 hours, since my release?” I retorted. Thankfully, I was quickly let go. The next day, Gabriella and I fled to neighbouring Argentina to seek asylum. We fell in love with the country and with the people. Everywhere people helped us. There was a true sense of solidarity with Chilean refugees and we were welcomed like one of their own.


But it wouldn’t last.


One year later – in October 1975, a military coup saw the streets fill with soldiers and their fierce dogs. They were nasty. Foreigners were intimidated, detained and disappeared. We tried to be invisible. Suspicions rose. No one knew who could be an informer.
Eventually we were advised, once again, to leave the country. At the time, governments around the world offered their support to Chilean refugees – they knew our lives were seriously at risk if we remained in Argentina. We left Argentina with a grant from the World University Service for my wife, the help of the UN Refugee Agency and a visa extended by the British Consulate in Buenos Aires.


We arrived in Swansea, Wales and I started working in a Community Centre in Neath, running photography workshops for young, unemployed people. I went on to work in the department of Photography of Swansea Metropolitan University for 30 years.


After working hard to re qualify and earn a Masters, my wife continued her vocation as a social worker in Wales. She worked with schools cross the area with children at risk of physical, sexual or emotional abuse for 25 years.


When we first arrived in Wales we expected to only stay for a year or so until the situation in Chile improved. We didn’t even buy any furniture, but we kept active working, learning English and campaigning to raise funds and awareness of what was happening back home in Chile.
With the support of the churches, universities and unions in Wales, we organised huge fundraisers for political prisoners in Chile – the Welsh absolutely loved the Latin music – the salsa, rumba, cumbia – and loved the saucepans full of Gabriella’s rice, empanadas and my chilli con carne.
Gabriella will always remember the opportunities she has been offered in Wales and fondly remembers her gratitude after being offered her first job. She was always treated with respect and on merit – never treated differently for having an accent, or being a foreigner, being a refugee. Wales gave her a chance. And she gave so much back to the community.


This is our home now, this is our country. Both of my children work for the NHS. My son qualified as a Biomedical Scientist at Cardiff and now works as a biologist, testing organs before transplants take place. My daughter is a mental health nurse.


When I see people fleeing across the Mediterranean, my heart breaks. We spent just one year in a refugee camp, these people have spent so many. The support we were offered from the international community saved our lives. My wife, children and I are now a valuable part of our adopted community. I know, first hand, the danger of countries turning a blind eye to the kind of humanitarian crisis we are currently witnessing.”

My philosophy course is multi cultural and multi-ethnic we have Irish, Italian, Chilean individuals all of who are tolerant and full of laughter, yet all have a profound understanding of sadness and of the nature of the world.

Even Luciarno Luciano Welsh Balsamo, now approaching eighty, and after living here in Swansea for fifty years, has been told at times to go home. We live in a more brutal Wales now, a barrier in the collective mind has been breached and through that portal we have revealed a deep and dark racist id spilling its poisons on to those who are both refugee and those oppressed and exploited by the demons of the large corporations and the high priests of neoliberalism who separate us from one another and lay blame, causing us to project and displace our fears, our shame and envy upon one another. There is, of course, no reason for Gabriella and Umberto to have that told to them…they know that so well.

‘You know, those of us who leave our homes in the morning and expect to find them there when we go back – it’s hard for us to understand what the experience of a refugee might be like.”

Naomi Shihab Nye

By Martyn  Shrewsbury

You can read more Ungagged Writing here or hear a range of left views on our Podcast

Brexit is Bedroom Tax on Steroids

Reading Time: 7 minutes“Brexit is yet another indication that Scottish self-determination within the British Union is meaningless”
Sam Hamad talks Brexit, Scottish Independence, the EU and ‘Norway style’ deals…

Reading Time: 7 minutes

There is absolutely no doubt that the UK’s relationship with the EU was overwhelmingly positive. If you were to add up all the areas where the EU influenced and determined UK policy, the result would be a very easy net gain for our societies in their totality.


But Scottish separatists ought to consider the bigger question of what Brexit means regarding the place of Scotland and Scots within the British Union. Even if the British government gets a ‘good deal’ or a ‘soft Brexit’, should we then celebrate the ‘soft’ disregarding of Scottish self-determination? Should we be thankful to the British government for ‘softly’ and ‘pragmatically’ discarding, as is the very nature of the political set up of the British Union, the self-determination of Scotland to remain in the UK?


It goes without saying that the British government striking a good deal that averts a hard Brexit or an IMF crash out would be better not just for the citizens, unwilling or not, of the UK, but for Europe in general and the whole world. However, even if Theresa May defied the racist will of her own party base and that of the wider Leave movement to end freedom of movement at all costs, allowing the UK to stay in the ESM and the Customs Union, all of this would have been done despite the will of the Scottish people.


To put it as starkly as possible: to Scots, Brexit is yet another indication that Scottish self-determination within the British Union is meaningless regarding happenings that have huge implications on the every day life of Scots. The home counties of England have more power over the life of Scots than Scots do. This is the reality of Brexit for Scots, regardless of its final form.


It’s part of the wider problem of the democratic deficit that exists within the British Union between British rule and Scottish self-determination. Though we take and make the best of what Britain gives us, Brexit simply is a particularly egregious example of the fact that we ultimately must take what we’re given and are expected to simply accept it.


Indeed, it’s of note that the one solid thing we know about the consequences of any Brexit deal on Scotland will be the rescinding of the powers that Scottish parliament are granted by the British state. They’re not really our powers at all. They don’t belong to us. They belong to a Prime Minister who has scant support in Scotland and a government comprised of one Scottish MP, while the legislative body that has ultimate domain over them is comprised by a huge majority English MPs.


Brexit is the Bedroom Tax on steroids. It’s the array of vicious welfare ‘reforms’ and fiscal austerity that the Tories, and the Tory-Liberal coalition before them, have forced upon the people of Scotland, ‘reforms’ that punish the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society despite the overwhelming majority of Scots opposing and voting against such ‘reforms’. Devolution, in this respect, doesn’t work. We don’t have the power in Holyrood to undo these devastating socioeconomic policies, so we must go further. We must have proper and unrestrained self-determination in Scotland.


If we had the self-determination that any nation deserves, we wouldn’t be living under the gathering storm clouds of Brexit – storm clouds that not only could lead to logistical nightmares in terms of the economic ramifications, but ones that are interwoven with the ideological bonanza of the far-right that Brexit represents. Or, alternatively, the ideological bonanza it represents for a Labour dominated by a racist, conspiracy theorist alt-left, who, more often than not, agree with hard Brexiteers – agree with the alt-right – over the bare bones of Brexit. Corbyn has done everything in his power to ensure that no singular progressive movement against Brexit can be formed in England.


This is the way Brexit should be utilised in any potential independence campaign: whether you’re a Scottish separatist who supports Remain or Leave, you can’t argue against the fact that Brexit validates the already obvious fact that Scottish self-determination is stunted within the British Union. If you’re a separatist who is ideologically committed to opposing the EU, you could say that if it wasn’t Brexit, it would be something else. It already has been so much else.


But this gets to another major point about the question of Scottish independence and Brexit. I understand people who actively love or support the EU only slightly more than I understand those who are pathologically opposed to it. Don’t misunderstand me, I voted Remain and would do so again without any hesitation, but I find the idea of being an active fan of the EU rather bewildering for any progressive.


On a personal level, I hold no more of a ‘European’ identity as I do a British one. I understand a European identity might mean something to people in England, as a cosmopolitan counter to the intrinsically racist British and English nationalism, but as a Scottish-Egyptian, the EU or ‘Europe’ as a geopolitical zone of power has no influence on my identity, political or otherwise.


Moreover, I’ve always considered the EU in its totality to be a cold, unaccountable hierarchical entity that is dominated by an assortment of toothless centrist and increasingly far-right-dominated governments. These can be uncomfortable arguments to make as a Remainer, given the dominance of the absurd British nationalist arguments about the ‘EUSSR’ eroding British sovereignty or the Lexit equivalent of the EU bosses club that curtails some vague idea of British ‘socialism’ (both of these absurd arguments from right and left meet each other in the middle and the end result is them both agreeing to support a Hard Brexit – Neil Findlay and Jacob Rees-Mogg are as one).


But the EU is far from a bastion of liberty and progress. Its own collective policy on immigration, asylum and refugees, referred to aptly as ‘Fortress Europe’, has been responsible for genocidal levels of death in the Mediterranean. The EU, ever more dominated by the right or centrists who embrace xenophobia in a foolish attempt to curtail the right, has overseen the deaths of tens of thousands of refugees, with their policies forcing them to take the perilous journeys across the sea. This is genocidal and the ongoing nature of the crime, while people seem to just accept it, makes it doubly monstrous. To rub salt in the wounds of this great injustice, the number of fatalities was further increased when the EU, with callous indifference, cut the number of rescue services available in the Med.
In addition to this, we’ve seen the EU allow the use of brutal tactics of rounding up, detaining and deterring refugees as they try to make it to safety. Refugees fleeing Assad’s genocide or ISIS’ horrors or the permanent war in Afghanistan, have mostly been met in Europe by governments that want to get them out of the continent as quickly as possible – the mostly Muslim refugees are considered a threat to the alleged Christian values and underpinnings of Europe. This is the ever more formal consensus of the EU.
The industrial deportation of refugees undertaken by Orban’s semi-fascist regime in Hungary has become normalised by the EU, while the concentration camp-esque ‘detention centres’ used by countries across Europe, particularly bad in the Balkans and Central Europe, are now being normalised and expanded as EU policy.


The use of these ‘detention camps’ might even extend to the fascist tyrannies in the Middle East and North Africa who police the walls of Fortress Europe. Think of Egypt’s Scorpius Prison with EU funding? That ought to be a good idea of what the EU’s agenda, ever more set by the far-right, will look like for refugees trying to reach Europe.

These same tyrannies that the EU outsource so much of their dirty work to, such as Sisi’s Egypt, which is one of the most brutal in the world, manages to get sweetheart deals with the EU that, though sold as ‘cracking down on human trafficking’, actually amount to imprisoning refugees, most of whom are Syrian, Sudanese, Eritrean and Ethiopian, in Egypt, where they cannot work and are left vulnerable to everything from virtual slave labour and racist attacks to endemic sexual assault. For this, they receive lucrative economic deals with EU countries (including the sale of weapons, Germany and France’s finest, used against innocent Egyptians.


As an Egyptian, as a human being, it’s thus often extremely hard to listen to people talking about a progressive Europe, but in the UK they are usually doing so in the face of the British right and its absurd Euroscepticism. And this is a major point – all the above, all the negative things about Europe, are fully supported by the British government. When Merkel had a progressive turn and allowed an open-door safe-haven for Syrian refugees, the UK was grudgingly agreeing to let in a mere 10,000 Syrian refugees over the course of several years, compared to 700,000 in Germany.


The major caveat then is that Brexit, with its anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, Islamophobic core, represents no kind of progressive drift from Europe. The Brexiters want to extend their racist policy towards refugees and non-European migrants to the untermenschen of Eastern and Southern Europe – the ‘Romanians’ that Nigel Farage warned us all about.


Thus, the question of the EU when it comes to an independent Scotland is a simple one – a question that the huge majority, a growing majority if you take recent polls, agree on: Scotland ought to remain in the European single market and Customs Union. In the days of the Celtic Tiger, the Euro used to be the Scottish independence movement’s get out of jail free card, when it came to the currency question but this is no longer realistic.


In the post-financial crisis era, in the wake of witnessing the ruthless devastation of the EU’s punitive austerity on economically ‘weak’ countries such as Greece in the Eurozone, the idea of joining the Euro is a completely non-starter. To join the Euro would be to surrender the self-determination of Scots to Brussels. In fact, Scots need not join the EU at all. A Norway option, where we remain in the ESM and CU, accepting freedom of movement and all the associated rules, without being an EU member state, is an option that could easily be available. I would personally advocate a continuation of the status quo if possible, as it’s a huge net gain for Scotland and, contrary to the foolish line of Scottish Eurosceptics, it would allow us with full political and economic self-determination.


Outside of the British Union and inside the European Union, we could design our own welfare state, our own tax system and our economic policies and strategies – our own social programmes and projects, our own scientific research and arts and sports bodies, all with additional EU support.


We could design our own immigration, asylum and refugee system – neither ‘Fortress Europe’ or ‘Fortress Britain’.


Scottish independence is an act of creativity and vitality, while Brexit is an act of self-destruction. This dynamic ought to extrapolated – Britain is hellbent on moving inwards: cutting, dismantling and stripping, while Scotland has been for the past decade or so been moving in a direction of creating a more egalitarian society. Nothing, of course guarantees this, and there will be many complications and challenges, but Scottish independence gives us the tools to build society in whatever way we see fit.
The Eurosceptics talk about ‘Taking Back Control’, but they were already in control – Scots, on the other hand, have no control over our own futures while we remain in the British Union. Even the very process of legislating and sealing a independence referendum is in the hands of the British parliament and government.


Brexit simultaneously reminds us that England is not only moving in a newly destructive direction, while the old routine of Scottish self-determination being completely meaningless is getting worse and not better in the British Union.

By Sam Hamad

 

You can read more Ungagged Writing here or hear a range of left views on our podcast

The Luxury Gap

Reading Time: 2 minutesThe Ungagged collective talk about the luxury gap – inc. interviews with Mhairi Black MP and Wee Skribbles

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Available FREE on iTunes and Podbean

On this episode of Ungagged, themed around “the luxury gap”, we’ll be giving you two separate interviews for your political fix: Sandra Webster and Neil Anderson interview  Mhairi Black MP at her Paisley constituency office. Mhairi gives us insights to the House of Commons and some of its characters, why she entered politics, along with her views on Donald Trump and Jacob Rees Mogg, and we’ll also have a listen in on a chat with Neil Scott  and Scottish Independence campaigner and artist,”Wee Skribbles” (Michael Larkin), who talks about his work and how he became an activist for independence.

As well as those, we’ll hear from Debra Torrance  on  Food Luxury, specifically about food production in the Netherlands, the second largest food producer in the world, Victoria Pearson ponders the psychological damage of poverty on children and why short breaks should be on the NHS, George Collins will be examining the conundrum of combating global economic injustice from an environmentalist standpoint, and the necessity of interdisciplinary thought among progressives, and Chuck Hamilton muses about the American white middle class and their view of the rest of humanity and Sandra Webster return to talk about how she was transported back in time by the title The Luxury Gap, reminiscing about Heaven 17 and The Clockwork Orange before discussing poverty and having enough food to eat.

Nelly Neal asks whether the evils of want and ignorance seen by Dickens and quoted in the 1942 Beverage report are still here now and if they’ve ever gone away, Laura Lundahl tells us we are ALL immigrants, and says we can help immigrants by changing the way we talk about them, and the possibilities of food shortages after Brexit is discussed by Red Raiph, who has been practising his bartering skills so he can trade for food.

With music to get you moving from Steve McAuliffe & the Mighty Ur, Madame So, Gallows Circus, Jackal Trades, Attila the Stockbroker, The Blackheart Orchestra,  Ethical Debating Society, Argonaut, Nervous Twitch, The Potentials, and Sharon Martin.

 

Pulled together, kicking and screaming, by Neil Anderson, Neil Scott, and Victoria Pearson.

 

Ungagged is a not for profit voluntary collective, and we rely on the generosity of our listeners to help fund our solidarity and grassroots charity campaigns, and meet hosting, equipment and advertising costs. If you love what we do and can spare some change, our collection tin is at PayPal.me/ungaggedleft

CHEQUERS: THE LAST DAYS OF MAY

Reading Time: 9 minutes

CHEQUERS: THE LAST DAYS OF MAY

Disunity, disloyalty and hundred-foot-high turnstiles on the Irish Border

Steve McAuliffe

The inside scoop on what really happened at that fateful meeting at Chequers

 

BREXIT DEBATE. CHEQUERS. FRIDAY 6th JULY 2018

 

(There is general hubbub and conversation around the table)

 

PM Yes thank you everyone, thank you for coming.

 

(The conversation and hubbub continues unabated)

 

PM:  If we could just….

 

(The conversation continues)

 

PM:  For the sake of the country I think it is imperative that we get this meeting underway

 

(The Ministers continue chatting)

 

BORIS:  Silence!

 

(Everyone abruptly stops talking and turns to Boris. Boris points to the PRIME MINISTER)

 

PM:  Thank you Boris. — (Clears her throat) Now if we can begin…. Firstly we thought it would be a good idea to put everyone into little factions.

 

    LIZ TRUSS interjects

 

AR  ‘Factions’ Prime Minister?

 

LT  Groups. I meant to say groups. Thank you Liz.

 

     GAVIN WILLIAMSON interjects

 

GW   (adopting a mock-creepy voice) Oooh yes, thank-you Liz.

 

LT:  Oh piss off Gavin.

 

    LIAM FOX turns to GW

 

LF: Maybe the right honourable minister for South Staffordshire should (adopting a high-pitched child-voice) ‘Just shut up and go away’.

 

    GW folds his arms, sulkily.

 

PM:  Please, I have called this meeting for purposes of unity. So if we can just-

 

BJ:  Prime Minister before we …. before we no doubt commence with um… with great enthusiasm armed with a fiery commitment toward this, toward this absolutely vital, vital  matter in hand … as it were … I do have one question I’d like to ask. If you would be … if you would be good enough – nay kind, kind enough to indulge me on this one interjection.  As it were.

 

PM: – Are you saying you’d like to ask a question Boris? …

 

BJ   I am indeed Prime Minister.

 

PM  Well, I was hoping to push on with the exercises, but providing it doesn’t delay us for too long –

 

BJ  I am indebted to you, as always

 

    THERESA MAY smiles thinly.

 

BJ  And in that spirit, the question I would like to ask, indeed I think we would all like to ask at this crucial time, is this.

 

    (He stands, and with his hands resting on the table, he looks around at his colleagues, with a Churchillian bearing)

 

— When so few among us have given so much….

 

The question – nay the burning question. Is this ….

 

-Where the hell is David Davis’s trifle?

 

PM   …‘trifle’ Boris?

 

BJ   Indeed, trifle. The agreement was that David Davis was going to bring a trifle. -Am I wrong on that? Was I somehow misinformed?

 

    Amidst much shaking of heads, all heads turn to DAVID DAVIS

 

PM (Sighing) – David would you mind -briefly, and succinctly explaining to Boris the ‘trifle situation’. -And then, hopefully we can push on with somewhat urgent affairs of state.

 

DD: No, that’s a fair question, the Foreign Secretary makes a very fair and valid point. And indeed, as my honourable colleague has made clear, at the Downing Street briefing it was agreed that I was – indeed – allocated the task of bringing along a trifle – just as Govey would fetch the finger sandwiches – which if I may say, are delicious as usual by the way, Michael.

 

    MICHAEL nods demurely.

 

DD  To that end, the ingredients were purchased and the original recipe was initially agreed upon (in principle) with my, as I like to call her, better half – but as the execution of the recipe proceeded, there arose – how best to put it — some disagreement over a few – shall we say ‘trifling’ issues

 

DD chuckles to himself and looks around at the stone-faces of the unsympathetic gathering.

 

He clears his throat and hurriedly removes, then chews upon the arm of his glasses

 

DD: To clarify: the sticking point, as far I see it was – at the negotiating stage – the age-old sherry problem. Essentially, Prime Minister, it boils down to two options, and the options are these: sherry or no sherry; there was a clear division of opinion on this. One that couldn’t be bridged. Unfortunately.

 

MICHAEL GOVE interjects.

MG It’s just a bloody trifle David, we don’t need impact assessments.

 

LIAM FOX: (Mutters) – Neither did he, apparently.

 

BJ: This is precisely the point. -Why is it everything *sooo* bloody torturous with you Davis? – I mean, Gove made the sandwiches: I supplied the Eton Mess without any undue fuss or hullabaloo.

 

DOMINIC RAAB mutters under his breath

 

DR: Boris Supplied an Eton mess. – No change there then.

 

BJ: Fuck you Dom, I heard that

 

The PRIME MINISTER, THERESA MAY climbs to her feet.

 

PM: Now, now – please! This is exactly what I’m talking about. We need a unified, collective face.

 

BORIS:  That’s a grotesque image.

 

PM  – All this bickering and back-biting is getting us nowhere…

 

    MICHAEL GOVE stands up

 

MG  I would like to add another question Prime Minister

 

PM (Sitting back down, issuing forth and exasperated sigh) — Yes, alright. -Go on Michael.

 

MG  Will we be claiming back the ingredients and associated travel on expenses?

 

(There is unanimous and enthusiastic roar of encouragement upon this point)

 

PM:  As always Michael, all food and transport is claimable on expenses.

 

(A good natured cheer erupts from the assembled ministers)

 

PM:   (Under her breath) We await your Fortnum and Mason bill…

 

    (The Cheering eventually dies down)

 

PM:  — Now, moving on to matters at hand if we may. -David, I believe you have been exploring options for the Irish border..

 

    (Some groans and eye-rolling from various ministers)

 

DD  Well as you know Prime Minister – we have of course prioritised the ‘Irish question’ -for want of a better term – and have actioned this prioritisation by immediately putting – what I believe is a workable solution – out to consultation.

 

(There is a pause as The PM and Ministers await further elaboration.

DD takes off his glasses, folds them up and places them in his breast pocket. He sits back, hands behind head)

 

PM  –And this workable solution is — ?

 

DD looks around at his colleagues, before realising it is he who is expected to respond.

 

DD  Oh I beg your pardon I didn’t realise you expected a full-analysis….

 

PM:  I think that would be rather helpful at this stage, yes.

 

He replaces his glasses and lifts a briefcase onto the table. After some struggling with the combination he opens the case and takes out a sheath of papers. He immediately sets them to one side

 

DD   Ignore those, they’re bollocks…

 

DAVID DAVIS scrabbles around in the case. He pulls out a aluminium-foil wrapped sandwich….

 

DD:  …That needs throwing.

 

    There are impatient sighs and groans from around the table as he continues scrambling around in the case. He removes an FHM magazine, followed by a flask…

 

DD  I’m very sorry about this Prime Minister, I know for certain it’s in here. I distinctly recall putting it in here myself .….

 

BORIS JOHNSON lets forth with an exaggerated yawn.  There is some giggling.

 

Eventually DD pulls out a napkin and carefully unfolds it

 

DD  And, voila! (To BJ) – You see! – Have faith Boris, have faith.

 

PM  -A napkin, David?

 

DD  –Prime Minister, discussions went on deep into the night, culminating in a late supper, at an all-night Salsa bar in Ladbroke Grove ….. Let’s put it this way, as morning loomed, things got a little – shall we say, ‘interesting’

 

DAVID DAVIS winks at a visibly unamused ANDREA LEADSOM

 

BJ  Cut to the fucking chase David -.

 

MG:  -That would make a refreshing change.

 

DD  OK, sure. -Well, we were throwing a few ideas around – batting to and forth so to speak – seeing what stuck… the drink was flowing, and the music became frightfully loud … they started removing all the tables for the dancing, so I ended up scribbling the conclusions on a napkin. Well, conclusion, singular, to be exact.

 

PM  (Sighing audibly) – And the conclusion was?

 

DD  Yes, i’m just trying to decipher what was written… but there seems to be a slight sauce stain on here – maybe red wine – hard to determine ….

       (He leans in close to scrutinise) ….. bear with me a moment….. I’m having a little trouble making that particular word out –

 

DAVIS shows the napkin to SAJID JAVID.

 

DD   Have a look at that Saj, does that say ‘turntables’?

 

SJ  (Leaning in close to read it) It says ‘turnstiles’.

 

DD  Oh yes, of course, yes, well that makes sense in the context of – er – of determining the – er – the Irish border question, as it were.

 

PM  O for God’s sake David what does it bloody say?

 

DD …Well …..

 

    SAJID JAVID impatiently interjects.

 

SJ  It says, and I quote: “100 foot-high turnstiles shall be manned by dwarves”  

 

DAVIS takes off his glasses and chews upon the arm.

 

DD  That’s pretty much the gist.

       -At this early stage.

 

(There is a protracted and stunned silence).

 

PM  ….. ‘Dwarves’ – David?

 

DD nods. The PRIME MINISTER sinks back down into her chair and sighs loudly.

 

DD ……. Yes. (He chews nervously on an imaginary toffee) — dwarves. Not necessarily dwarves obviously – I rather think the MJB guys were using -er – artistic licence there… We like to call it ‘blue-sky-thinking’… the consultation process will refine it further, obviously.

 

    DD looks around at the shocked, open-mouthed expressions of his colleagues. Some shake their heads pitifully.

 

DD   I’m sorry …, is ‘dwarves’ not the correct term these days? –

 

    There is a few moments of hostile silence – until BORIS JOHNSON leans across the table.

 

BJ  Have you completely lost the plot David? — Or, maybe you tumbled into a sodding Lewis Carroll novel?

 

    MICHAEL GOVE interjects

 

MG  Actually I’m beginning to think a hookah-smoking caterpillar would be preferable as Brexit Secretary

 

    SAJID JAVID interjects

 

SJ  – How would that even work David? – A hundred foot-high-turnstiles on the Irish border? —Just on a practical level, you’d need giants to guard those surely, not dwarves.

 

    GAVIN WILLIAMSON interjects

 

GW  Davis is *such* a  twanger!

 

    DOMINIC RAAB interjects

 

DR   I think prick is the word you’re looking for Gav. -. You’re an absolute prick Davis.

 

DD Leaps to his feet, he bunches up the napkin and throws it at Raab

 

DD  Tell you what ‘Mr Workhouses-for-the-poor’ – why don’t you spend up to 2 hours a day, 3 days a week trying to unravel the shit we’re in?

 

DR  Is that an offer?

 

DD  I’d like to see you trying to please both factions of this bloody party

 

DR  Just say the word Mr. Impact Assessment.

 

PM  Now come on David, why don’t you sit down …

 

DD  No, sod it. In fact, bugger it.  I’ve had enough of all this snickering and name-calling and – this, this – endless whining about trifles … and hard-borders and impact assessments and all the endless, relentless SHIT.  

 

BJ:  Getting very red-faced isn’t he?

 

MG:  Positively puce I’d say.

 

DD:  Give the job to that smug fucker (POINTS TO DOMINIC RAAB) – see how well he does. Tell you what, I tell you what Prime Minister, you can deny him his own private jet as well.  -See how he likes travelling to Brussels by train.

 

PM  Your objections have been noted David, now if you will just take a seat.

 

DD  No. No Prime Minister I will not. On point of principle, I resign.

 

    Much eye-rolling and groaning around the table

 

BJ:  God spare us, he’s threatening to resign again

 

MG:  Quelle surprise.

 

DD: I mean it. You will have my resignation letter in the morning.

 

    He leans across and picks up the screwed-up napkin, puts it in his case.

 

MG:  Golly, I think he actually means it this time.

 

BJ:  Bugger it: he’s pushed the button

 

MG:  The nuclear option

 

PM  Are you saying you are actually resigning David?

 

DD I am Prime Minister. I’m afraid I am left with no other option but to resign.

 

PM  This could trigger a general election David, please consider your position

 

BJ:  (whispers to MG) -Or a leadership election (MG nods sagely)

 

DD  I understand that, but my position is untenable. I could handle the trifle gags and all that public school silliness, but the level of abuse I have had to suffer

 

PM  Please David, wait. We’ll …. We’ll have a reshuffle — (Hurriedly) you can have Boris’s job.

 

BJ   WHAT??!

 

PM  No, not Boris’s job, sorry – I’m a bit ….

 

BJ  If someone takes my job it’ll be on my say-so

 

PM  I meant to say, Andrea’s job, you can have Andrea Leadsom’s job.

 

AL  (Looks up from her phone) Wait…what? —

 

DD  I don’t want her shitty job.  (POINTS AT JOHNSON) I don’t want his shitty job, (POINTS AT JAVID) or his shitty job, I don’t even want your shitty job Prime Minister, respectfully – which I can tell you makes me a rare beast amongst this … nest of vipers. No – that’s it, I’m done.  -I’m out of here (DD GATHERS UP HIS CASE AND PAPERS)  — Thank you for everything

 

    DOMINIC RAAB sitting back, smiling, calls after him –

 

DR  Don’t let the door hit your arse on the way out David!

 

    DAVID DAVIS pauses at the door and walks back in.

 

DD  Before I go –  I’d just like to wish you the very best of luck in your new position Dom

 

DD angrily gives DOMINIC RAAB the finger, right up to his face, before turning on his heel and heading to the door

….

 

The door slams behind him as DAVID DAVIS exits the room.

 

A stunned silence fills the room.

 

In disbelief Ministers look around at each other.

 

THE PRIME MINISTER lets out a low protracted moan; rests her elbows on the table; cradles her head in her hands.

 

ANDREA LEADSOM appears to be weeping.

 

BORIS JOHNSON stands and casually walks to the corner of the room. Seemingly unconcerned, he piles finger sandwiches onto his plate.

 

Eventually MICHAEL GOVE speaks:

 

MG    Dwarves??!  

 

As laughter fills the room, amidst the collective jollity, unnoticed, Gove’s smile slowly fades, his gerbil-eyes gradually narrow as he sets his steely gaze upon the Prime Minister’s bowed head.

 

Standing beside the food- table BORIS JOHNSON chews on a finger-sandwich, and narrows his eyes as he fixes his steely gaze upon MICHAEL GOVE.

 

-Outside a big black cloud passes over the sun and the room momentarily darkens.

 

You can read more from Steve on his Ungagged Writing page or listen to him on our podcast

A long week in politics

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Mhairi Hunter

A long week in politics

It can be difficult sometimes to gauge what will provoke a reaction in politics. It’s been commented on that Brexit doesn’t seem to have had as big a political impact in Scotland as was forecast. The events of the past few days suggests that may be changing.

I suspect many Scottish people – indeed many British people – still haven’t fully recovered from those crazy weeks after the Leave vote when the UK didn’t really have a government and no-one knew what the hell was going on. True, the UK now has a government of sorts but it’s still the case that no-one knows what the hell is going on, least of all that government.

In Scotland bemused despair at the antics of a UK leadership which is patently unable to agree a workable form of Brexit is deepened by the fact that the overwhelming majority voted to remain in the EU. At least down south a small majority voted to leave, even if many of them did so in the false expectation that the Leave side had a plan. For most Scots, though, the idea of leaving the EU was – and is – self-evidently bonkers. And everything that has followed on from that disastrous Leave vote has continued to be bonkers.

Small wonder political commentators have struggled to analyse Scottish public opinion. Basically, the average Scot wishes the EU referendum had never happened and that they could wake up – Pam Ewing style – and realise it was all just a bad dream. Especially that surreal bit tacked on at the end about Donald Trump being elected President and meeting Nigel Farage in a golden lift.

This kind of political environment has made it challenging, to say the least, for the SNP. One of the key problems around the Brexit debate has been that it’s all so damned legal. A debate about the (as yet theoretical) repatriation of powers from Brussels was never going to set the heather on fire, was it? Except that it did.

OK, when the Scottish Parliament declined consent for the EU Withdrawal Bill it didn’t set the heather on fire. It didn’t even really set twitter on fire, a medium far more flammable than heather. But when the UK Government over-rode that lack of consent with calculated contempt and SNP MPs walked out of parliament after they were denied a serious debate – woosh! Up the heather went.

Not only has the SNP gained thousands of new members but reports have been coming in from across the nation of “real people” being overheard discussing the issue and supporting the SNP’s position. What exactly is going on?

It is not, in my view, an endorsement of the SNP walking out of Westminster for good. Far from it. Rather, I think it’s a recognition of the hard work SNP elected members have been putting in to defend Scottish interests and a shared annoyance at the contemptuous response.

Like them or loathe them, I think most people would have to admit SNP parliamentarians have put in a hell of a shift on Brexit.

From the very first days following the Leave vote Scottish Government ministers – supported by the SNP’s elected members at all levels – have worked diligently and seriously to protect and support EU citizens, to make the case for the UK remaining in the single market and customs union, to argue the positive case for freedom of movement and to argue for a fair and consensual approach on the repatriation of powers, one which protects the devolution settlement.

On the whole they have received widespread if occasionally grudging support for their efforts and, I suggest, earned a degree of respect even from those who are not their natural allies. The cross-party support for the emergency Continuity Bill demonstrates this.

Labour argues that devolution is “their” project and that therefore the SNP’s effort to protect the devolution settlement is opportunistic and essentially bogus. But the SNP has done a good job working to protect devolution, as well as working to argue for the least terrible form of Brexit at a UK level – work that Labour should have been doing, but hasn’t been. I think people recognise that.
That’s why the casual contempt from the UK Government and Tory MPs at Westminster has actually shocked people. It’s almost as shocking as the lack of concern shown by Brexiteers for the impact of their pet project on the Good Friday Agreement. The whole debate has shown up what narrow nationalism really means. A complete lack of care and thought for the distinct interests of the devolved nations of the UK by a group of politicians who appear more clown-like by the day.
This is now having a political impact in Scotland. Surprising people are contemplating independence and, if not exactly embracing the idea, wondering if it might not be the least worst option.
It’s absolutely vital in my view to understand the political dynamics of this. Yes, the MPs walkout was a dramatic moment. But it only had an impact because of the months and years of hard work that preceded it.

There’s a clear lesson here I believe for the independence campaign. If we work hard, if we make our case in a serious and evidence-based way people will listen to us. They won’t necessarily agree with everything we say but they will respect us for working to earn their trust and they will give us a fair hearing.

The same, of course, is true of those who believe in the Union – but they are hampered by that very cause which ties them to a Westminster system of government which has been exposed over the past few days as being antiquated, inept and downright farcical, requiring MPs to scurry in and out of lobbies like mice in a maze and devoting nineteen minutes exactly to overturning the serious political work of decades, with backbench Tory MPs who haven’t had a serious political thought in years braying like donkeys as they did so.

This does not have to be our future. Bemused despair does not have to be our response to this boorach. The impact of Brexit can lead us in a completely different direction and I think something really changed this week to make more people understand this. We still have a mountain to climb but the way forward is, I believe, a bit clearer and more people are coming to join us on the journey. We should welcome them with open arms.

 

You can read more of Mhairi’s writing here or listen to her and other contributors on our podcast

Union of Equals?

Reading Time: 2 minutes
Maggie Chapman

Union of Equals?

The last couple of days have been quite extraordinary. We have seen changes made to Scotland’s devolution settlement without Scottish MPs being heard, nevermind the Scottish Parliament giving its consent. We witnessed a Conservative MP suggest that suicide was the choice open to Scottish MPs who thought this was perhaps not the way democracy should work. And we’ve seen an SNP MP barred from the Chamber for trying to use the Parliament’s own standing orders to get a debate on the division of powers between Holyrood and Westminster, leading to the whole SNP group walking out of PMQs.

Was the walk out a stunt? Yes. Was it the right thing to do? Yes.

Political stunts most certainly have their place in campaigning, in politics, in the theatre that is the oppositional nature of Westminster. It is quite clear to me that there is no other way the SNP MPs could have protested the series of events that would show up the UK Government for what it is: self-important, shambolic and completely uninterested in the wishes of either the Scottish parliament or the Scottish people.

Westminster is a farce. It has been for some time, but yesterday’s events show just how broken it, and therefore how broken British democracy, is. True debate, where everyone respects each other, listens to each other, learns from each other, is just not possible. There does not seem to be any real respect for individual or groups of MPs. And there is certainly little respect for the citizens that parliament is supposed to represent.

Without respect for democracy, the UK is well and truly broken. Theresa May talked of a Union of Equals. Well, she and her government wouldn’t recognise equality if they bumped into it in the streets. Probably because they have no idea what actually goes on in the streets of the UK. They certainly do not understand, or seem to care about, the streets of Scotland that I call home.
You can read more of Maggie’s writing here.

Disorderly Democracy

Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

Disorderly Democracy

Constitutional Chaos following Brexit Power Grab

Image by Red Raiph

By Debra Torrance and Derek Stewart Macpherson

Debra:

What the heck happened in the House of Commons?

Today, Wednesday 13th of June at Prime Ministers Question there was “unprecedented chaos as a SNP member of the house was ejected by the speaker, and the rest of the party walked out” – BBC News.

But what actually happened? What’s going on?

So after receiving a text, since I’m currently bed ridden with MS issues and nerve pain, unable to do any walking, a message saying SNP MPs walked out of Westminster.

Hmm? What? I immediately sat up and opened twitter and my messenger. Yup. On the face of it, they did. All of the Scottish National Party Members of Parliament who were there for PMQs got up and walked out after Ian Blackford, the SNP at Westminster group leader, requested to move to a vote on a private sitting.

The speaker of the house John Bercow, seemed flustered and gesticulated with his aides in front of him over rules and passed papers between them. He demanded Ian Blackford sit down and said he preferred the vote to be held after the session, to which the SNP MP requested “I beg to move”.

I am not all that familiar with parliamentary language, but that sounded pretty official. Ian Blackford is a knowledgable guy and extremely professional. Bercow ejected Blackford and the SNP MPs stood up and followed their leader.

Some commentators have suggested this was a pre-planned stunt, but for me Joanna Cherry’s actions suggest it wasn’t, she scooped up her belongings and walked out with a wave, the exact same way I’ve witnessed many women do when they have had enough.

To me this was a principled action by professional people who have committed years to their work in Westminster, followed archaic and seemly endlessly bureaucratic legislation and traditions to serve their constituents in Scotland.

And Scotland is what this is really all about, the EU Withdrawal Bill debate so far has been a farce. Scottish Parliament, Holyrood has devolved powers enshrined in its very existence. Powers which the Tory party are trying to steal back through Brexit.

Video by Sarah Mackie

Now if you disagree with this, that’s all very well, but how are we meant to have a democratic debate on the matter if no Scottish MP gets the opportunity to speak about it in the chamber? If sessions are allowed to be filibustered and timed out by nonsensical votes, what other options do representatives have?

Is the walk out a stunt? Did the SNP speak about such actions? Yes it is as much a stunt as mocking an opponent when you get an opportunity to speak at a debate in the chamber. Was there chat about the possibility of a walk out among SNP politicians? I dunno, probably, but I don’t think that means it was pre-planned. Watching it over again, it looks so spontaneous. It felt impromptu.

How were the SNP meant to know Bercow would act in that way? They followed the rules and evoked powers entitled to them as members of Westminster Parliament.

To me the whole thing just highlights the democratic deficit of this institution and the entire governance of the supposed United Kingdom. I’m proud of the SNP MPs walking out, they used their feet when I can’t. Thank you!

 

Derek:

“Today, Wednesday 13th of June at Prime Ministers Question there was “unprecedented chaos as a SNP member of the house was ejected by the speaker, and the rest of the party walked out” – BBC News

Well, it’s hardly unprecedented, it’s the sort of thing that happens from time to time in Westminster system parliaments all over the world. And I’m still not sure that’s even what happened. Did the Speaker intend to eject the member, or merely to sit him down? Well, apparently later he clarified that he had been expelled. However many people believe in the BBC clip he can be heard to say, “Well we’ll have to have the vote then.”

How he intended to have a vote the mover of which he had just ejected is unclear. A case of premature ejection it would appear. It sounds as if he realised he’d got it wrong just as the SNP members were following their colleague out.* It adds to the sense that Bercow’s grip is not what it once was, that he’s stressed and making mis-steps.
*
The procedural motion Ian Blackford moved was one of those parliamentary delaying and disruption tactics that are often used when a government is trying to ram something through, which is what’s happening at the moment with the EU Withdrawal bill. They had to overrule the House of Lords on no less than 15 amendments, which left no time to debate the Scottish concerns and the fact that Holyrood has refused consent.

So was it a stunt? The reason for the ‘chaos’ is that there is a very real constitutional crisis here, and it’s one entirely of the government’s own making. The Scotland Act of 1998 is very clear – anything that’s not specifically reserved to Westminster is devolved to Holyrood. Including each and every power being repatriated from Brussels. But the government doesn’t want to give Scotland some of those powers. There are 158 of them. The government wants to retain 24 including some really quite important to Scotland economically such as agriculture, fisheries, food labelling and public procurement.

Why do they want to do that? Presumably so they can use some of those things as bargaining chips in Brexit negotiations. And why is it such a problem? Because it undermines the devolution settlement, and because it puts the parliaments on a constitutional collision course. They have passed (or will shortly in Westminster’s case) conflicting Brexit bills, and the courts will have to resolve their constitutional competence over the various matters at issue.

This is a pretty big gamble by the May government, and it’s one that a hell of a lot of smart legal money thinks they might well lose. Not only that, but the potential precedents the case could set may have ramifications for years to come, on subjects as yet unimagined. It might even touch on the great question. The ultimate question. The question of life, the universe and everything! Well no, not quite, but nearly. The question of sovereignty, that of not only the Scottish parliament but of the Scottish people. And of a fascinating little constitutional law bomb set many years ago, by that indefatigable champion of Scottish independence Winnie Ewing.

Way back, on the first day the shiny new Scottish Parliament at Holyrood was due to sit, somebody had to declare it open before it could even elect a Presiding Officer, so the task fell to the oldest member of the House, Winnie Ewing MSP. She said,

“I want to start with the words that I have always wanted either to say or to hear someone else say – the Scottish Parliament, which adjourned on March 25, 1707, is hereby reconvened.”

Those were carefully chosen words. That particular parliament has had a lot of bad press, some of it from me, but whatever else it might have been there’s one important thing we know that it was – sovereign.

But despite the obvious weight and moment of these matters, the government did not see fit to allow MPs a chance to debate them, in its haste to ram through its ramshackle legislation. What the SNP members are trying to do is demonstrate how serious this is. How constitutionally significant. A lot of people have exhausted their attention spans when it comes to Brexit. They just want it to be over. I understand that, but this really does matter. The high-handed actions of this omnishambles of a government threaten to undermine the very constitutional foundations of the Union. And it might not end the way they expect.

 

 

You can read more of Debra’s writing here, Derek’s writing here, and listen to them both on our Podcast

Come the Day…

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Available FREE on iTunes and Podbean

On this episode of Ungagged, introduced by Neil Scott, Graham Campbell talks about the Rethinking Race conference in Glasgow, Victoria Pearson reminds us that hope is apathy’s twin sister if it isnt backed up with action, and George Collins  talks about how children are citizens now, not citizens in waiting, and they deserve to have that recognised in the education system, as well as wider society.

At the request of his daughter Zoe, Derek Stewart Macpherson reads The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, Paul Quigley of the FAC tells us why he cofounded the campaign against the Offensive Behaviour in Football Act, and Chuck Hamilton, will be talking Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, free thought (or not) in regards religion, and Marx. They are linked, we promise!

We will have an update on Jagtar Singh Johal, the Scottish man being detained in India from Damanvir Kaur, Debra Torrance* will give us her prediction of our situation come the day of Brexit, and Teresa Durran shares her poems Resurgum 1 and 2.

Catriona Stevenson, talks about the Glencoe Massacre,  Thomas Morris asks if, when times are tough, it is better to leave “your” country, or stay and fight to make it better, and our Red Raiph talks about whit can go wrang when you give someone a job for life.

 

With music from: Andrea Heins, Argonaut, Gallo Rojo, Girobabies, Husky Tones, Joe Solo, Kes’ ConscienceThunder on the Left,  Babel fish Project, The Hurriers, The Kara Sea.

Screenshot_20180213-220540.jpg

Edited, produced and sworn at by Neil ScottNeil Anderson and Victoria Pearson

Get yourself Ungagged and let us know what you think of this episode in the comments, or on our twitterFacebook or our new YouTube Channel.

 

* Debra references two video clips in her piece, a piece from RT on the Brexit transition, and an interview on Good Morning Britain.

Ungagged is a not for profit collective of volunteers, and we rely on the generosity of our listeners to meet hosting and advertising costs, as well as help us fund the campaigns on our news page. If you’d like to donate us the cost of a newspaper or a cup of coffee to help keep us going, you can do so through PayPal here.

 

Brexit, Referendums and Independence

Reading Time: 7 minutes
IMG_20180124_114756
Martin MacDonald

When I started writing this on 05/02/2018 the idea of a hard Brexit, an exit with no withdrawal agreement seemed possible but remote. In the light of the UK’s insistence this week that the UK will leave both the Single Market and the Customs Union and Michael Barnier’s insistence today (09/02/2018) that an open UK/Irish border must be written into the withdrawal agreement then the odds of it happening have dropped. The UK/Irish border can’t be open if the UK is not in the Customs Union and the Single Market and the DUP, whom the Tories depend on to survive in the Commons, will never allow an internal trade border in the Irish Sea. However there is a solution. The UK can solve the problem of a Brexit withdrawal agreement which is impossible under their Brexit plan by the simple trick of not having a withdrawal agreement. In which case there will be a hard Brexit where the UK leaves abruptly with no transition and no trade deal on the 29th of March 2019.

 

If the UK leaves with no withdrawal agreement then there will be no transition period or framework for future trade deals and in fact it may lead to no vote in the House of Commons on a withdrawal deal because there will be no deal to vote on.

 

The withdrawal vote scenario I’ve written about below may not come to pass. But assuming there will be an agreement here goes.

 

When politicians talk about voting in Parliament on the final Brexit deal what is that they will vote on? From the press the impression given is that the parliamentary vote will be on the details of the UK’s new trade deal with the EU after Brexit but in fact they will be voting on something very different when it comes to a vote in Parliament.

 

In the Brexit Bill it says this:

“A Minister of the Crown may by regulations make such provision as the Minister considers appropriate for the purposes of implementing the withdrawal agreement if the Minister considers that such provision should be in force on or before exit day, subject to the prior enactment of a statute by Parliament approving the final terms of withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.”

Brexit Bill

 

That key phrase is “final terms of withdrawal” in the last sentence. It’s not a trade deal which will be voted on in Parliament, it’s how the UK exits the EU under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. Under Article 50 the EU and the UK sign up to a negotiated exit from the EU, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, taking into account items such as the settlement of budget accounts, withdrawal from EU institutions, rights of EU citizens in the UK (and vice versa) and the transition arrangements to smooth out the UK leaving the EU. It also provides in Article 50 that all the negotiated items of withdrawal will take into account the framework for the UK’s future relationship with the EU. However a framework is not a trade deal or anything like it and it can be likened to an agreed agenda. It’s the agenda of trade areas where the UK and EU are willing to negotiate once the UK has left the EU and where the UK is treated as a third party outside the EU and almost certainly outside the Single Market and the Customs Union.

 

So the UK Parliament will be voting on one package which contains three things, the withdrawal agreement, the transitional arrangements and the agenda for future negotiations once Brexit has been completed, aka the framework.

 

This ensures that it will be a Hobson’s Choice vote. To vote Yes legitimises the Government’s Brexit vision of a UK outside the Single Market and Customs Union but to vote No throws out not only the agenda for a future trade deal but also the withdrawal agreement and the transitional arrangements which means a very hard exit indeed unless the EU can be persuaded to extend Article 50 and the UK Government can be persuaded to change their Brexit stance in new negotiations. Just because the UK doesn’t accept the withdrawal deal doesn’t stop the Article 50 clock.

 

That’s the way the Government has set up the vote as David Jones, Minister of State for the Department for Exiting the European Union said in the House of Commons on 7th of February 2017.

“I think that I have already answered that extremely clearly. There will be a meaningful vote. The vote will be either to accept the deal that the Government will have achieved—I repeat that the process of negotiation will not be without frequent reports to the House—or for there to be no deal. Frankly, that is the choice that the House will have to make. That will be the most meaningful vote that one could imagine.”

Hansard

 

So can’t the UK go back and re-negotiate if it rejects the withdrawal arrangements or even stop Brexit if by some chance the agreement gets rejected? Things get tricky here. First of all there’s no time left to renegotiate under the Article 50 time limit. The final withdrawal arrangements are planned to be completed by October 2018 giving time for the European Parliament and the European council to consider and approve them before March 2019 when the two years allowed under Article 50 run out. The whole point of the time-limit on Article 50 was to stop endless negotiations with their accompanying disruptions and uncertainty. Article 50 can be extended but it would need the unanimous agreement of all 27 EU member states to do it.

 

Rejecting the final withdrawal agreement would need the EU to be willing to extend the Article 50 time-limit and renegotiate but that would be pointless unless the anti-Single Market and anti-Customs Union UK Government could be persuaded to change their negotiating stance or simply to give up on Brexit. However there is no guarantee the Conservative Government will do either or if stopping Brexit can be done unilaterally.

 

The proposed solution coming from groups like the one lead by Labour MP Chuka Umunna is to bypass the vote in the UK Parliament and hold another EU referendum where the UK electorate vote on whether the UK Brexits on the negotiated withdrawal, transition and trade framework, (again, remember the framework is just an agenda for negotiation), or just forgets it all and stays in the EU.

 

A very simple, clean idea and potentially very bad for Scotland.

 

Now coming from someone who voted remain and believes that Scotland is better off in the EU that sounds very odd, however there are some very good reasons to say it is a bad idea.

 

The chance of a second EU referendum happening is very low as it would need enough Labour and Tory rebels to win a vote in Westminster and both Tory and Labour are Brexit parties. However, even if just the idea got traction and especially if it got SNP backing, then the idea that you hold a first referendum on the principle of a proposal and then a second referendum on the detail would become mainstream whether it happens or not.

 

This isn’t the first time the idea of a first referendum on the principle and then a second referendum on the detail has been proposed. When the Scottish independence referendum was held in Scotland the idea of two referendums was floated in 2011 by Professor Vernon Bogdanor,

“Therefore, in my opinion, a referendum giving the Scottish government authority to start negotiations needs to be complemented by a referendum at the end of the negotiations to confirm that Scots want independence on the terms achieved.”

Vernon Bogdanor

 

and by Michael Moore the Scottish Secretary,

“If we have an advisory referendum set up by the Scottish government, I think it is a strong likelihood, and it is certainly my personal view, that you would need a second referendum on the formalities of agreeing what has been sorted out between the governments.”

Michael Moore

 

The idea that any Scottish independence referendum should be followed by a referendum on the settlement between Scotland and the rUK would be very dangerous to the independence cause and if the SNP support a second EU referendum very difficult for them to reject. A two referendum scenario would require the unionists to win only once but the nationalists would have to win twice to achieve victory. If Yes won the first referendum then the pressure on the rUK side of the negotiating team to create the worst possible separation agreement would be immense in order to ensure that No would win the second referendum on the deal.

 

Independence with full membership of the EU is Scotland’s best option and promoting a second EU referendum makes that much more difficult to achieve. Even if there were calls for one there’s no guarantee that a second EU referendum would happen or that given the current polling of the Tory party that the remainers would win it and even the proposal would certainly fuel the demands for a two referendum decision on Scottish independence. If Parliament feels that staying in the EU is the best option then they should call a snap General Election and the parties should fight it out on platforms of Leave or Remain.

 

Brexit has given impetus to a second independence referendum much sooner than many people thought possible but how will it affect the way people vote? To be brutally honest it won’t, not until the effects of Brexit really start to hit after March 2019. For most of the No vote in 2014 nothing has really changed, it’s Brexit on the telly, pound up and down, the UK and the rest of the EU facing off as usual in the press, squabbles in the Government, almost the usual mundane, background noise of politics in the UK.

 

At the moment it’s a phony war where the UK is still in the EU with all the trade and free movement perks that brings and although the political geeks like me talk and speculate about the future effects of Brexit they haven’t happened yet. There are forerunners, lack of migrant agricultural workers, corporations planning moves to inside the EU, corporations holding back on investment, universities finding that nobody in the rest of the EU wants them as research partners as the deadline to Brexit approaches but it’s just smoke in the wind for most of the population. The problems of travel, having to get and pay for visas to travel to Europe, customs duties on goods, perishable export goods piling up at jam-packed ports, companies leaving, price increases, job losses, no CAP payments for agriculture and import quotas on seafood into the EU haven’t hit yet because despite all the Brexit talk we’re still inside the EU.

 

Brexit will have a big effect on the next Scottish independence referendum but not until Brexit happens and its effects become real. (Effects which will happen very quickly if there is no withdrawal agreement and no transition.) Once it becomes apparent what’s been lost with Brexit then for the No voters of 2014 who believe in EU membership independence for Scotland becomes the only route back into the EU. There is a big danger that the second independence referendum becomes in effect a second EU referendum in Scotland when it must be much larger in scope than that, looking at all the possibilities in social, industrial and cultural change that independence will bring. However the Better Together fearmongering about loss of EU membership and being isolated will not be possible this time and the choice for Scotland will be to stay as a region in single isolated state or to become an independent state in the world’s biggest trading bloc. In 2014 the EU feared the breakup of a member state and kept out of it, in a second independence referendum they will be looking approvingly at regaining a chunk of what they’ve lost. Brexit has been a blow to the confidence of the EU but regaining an independent Scotland would be for them a recovery of both territory and pride. They will be very encouraging about membership.

The Hidden Pod…

Reading Time: 1 minute

Available FREE on iTunes and Podbean

On this “hidden” themed Ungagged we’ll hear from Em Dehaney, on the hidden hate uncovered by Brexit and Trump, Victoria Pearson will be discussing the extraordinary situation unfolding in Rojava, Syria,  Chuck Hamilton will be giving us the 4th part of his Meaning of Life series, George Collins will be talking about the hidden culture of indigenous Americans, Debra Torrance will be talking hidden disabilities and hidden agendas, Sarah Mackie will be fact checking Theresa May’s claims about nurse numbers in the NHS,  Richie Venton will be chatting about the High Court descision regarding tribunal fees, and Neil Scott  will be discussing the rise of the right wing in traditionally left wing online spaces.

With music from The Empty Page, Phat Bollard, James King and the Lonewolves, Birdeatsbaby, Guttfull, The Eastern Swell, Girobabies, The Wakes, Those Unfortunates and Nervous Twitch.

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