This article was first published in John Redwood’s Diary on October 14, 2018, and is republished by kind permission.
Here’s an irony. Mrs May says defending the Union of the UK is one of her fundamental principles. Yet in three of her misjudgements over Brexit she puts its future more at risk.
In Northern Ireland the upholders of the Union are the majority community who vote for the DUP and similar parties. Mrs May instead accepts the analysis of Sinn Fein and the Republic of Ireland, used by the EU to damage Brexit. All of this group wish to end the union of the UK and create an island of Ireland economic area as a stepping stone to an island of Ireland country. This is proving damaging to Brexit, threatens the end of Mrs May’s coalition and is incomprehensible to Unionists in Northern Ireland. Mrs May needs to be on the side of the Unionists who want to support her.
Most of the people of the Union live in England. Mrs May ignores us. The word England rarely crosses her lips. No one speaks for England in the endless devolution/Brexit talks. The strong pro-Brexit vote in England is never mentioned. It is as if Mrs May is forgetful of the voting base that gave her the largest Conservative vote since Margaret Thatcher. It is high time she balanced her view of the Union with recognition of England’s needs, to create a more realistic and even union.
The third mistake is her handling of Scotland. If you want to keep the union together you cannot keep giving concessions to an independence party called the SNP, who do not speak for the majority in Scotland, upon the only issue that matters to them. Their understandable habit of turning every issue into one about independence wears thin after they lost a referendum on this very question. The PM has to appeal over the heads of the SNP to the pro-Union majority in Scotland: Labour, Conservative and others. She has to say No to anti-Union demands by the SNP where these are against the spirit of Brexit.
Fortunately the SNP lost two referendums in the right order. They first lost the Scottish independence referendum, so they then had to accept the validity of the UK-wide EU referendum. It’s no good them saying Scotland voted Remain, as the electorate was the whole UK. Their refusal to accept the UK-wide result shows how anti-democratic they are. They have become the neverendum party wanting to have more referendums on the same topics until they get a result they like.
Mrs May should try disagreeing more with the enemies of our Union whilst being more in harmony with its defenders. The defenders of the Union accept Brexit, as that is the will of the majority in the Union referendum. It is central to the future of the Union that Brexit is delivered properly and promptly. England expects. Wales expects. All those Leave voters in Northern Ireland and Scotland expect. We can only keep our Union if Union decisions matter and are implemented by the politicians.