As a “Remain” voter, making the best of this Brexit situation means negotiating a deal with the EU which leaves the U.K. as a member State in all but name. But with Theresa May seemingly going for a “hard” Brexit, this doesn’t look likely — at least at this point in time.
So if we’re stuck with a hard or at least non-“soft” Brexit, what should we do? We should look not to the U.S. or trade agreements with other countries for a solution, but instead no further than Scotland.
If another independence referendum is held, Scots may want independence so that Scotland can rejoin the EU or negotiate a deal which would award it de facto EU membership.
If that happens, this single island will be able to play two games. We will have Remain in Scotland, Brexit in the rest of the U.K. and an open border between the two. This way, there is no chance of betting on the wrong horse. If I’m wrong and Brexit brings only good things, Scots can relocate to Wales or Northern Ireland or travel between the two systems, even living in one while working in another. If I’m right and Remain was the way to go, Brits can take advantage of Scotland in the same way.
This won’t always be easy or cheap. The freedom to relocate is a privilege seldom enjoyed by those in council or social housing. But logistically, traversing the U.K. without obstacles such as passport control or the cost of flights is far easier than relocating to an EU country (with which we presumably will no longer have freedom of movement) or indeed a non-EU country.
It won’t be stress-free. Different currencies and prices, and mass travel to capitalize on them, can cause havoc for shop owners and service providers. An influx of Brits could burden local Scottish infrastructures and welfare systems. An increased demand for housing, health services and overcrowded schools could result. The Brits could also compete with Scots for jobs, leading to resentment.
However, all of that is still better than being stuck in a disastrous choice. And if we’re playing a double game, perhaps a hard Brexit is better than a soft one, as it creates a greater difference between the U.K. and Scottish systems. We would therefore enjoy the “best of both worlds” (assuming Brexit has some good things to offer). A soft Brexit would confine our experience and lessen the unique benefits of this strategy as it would be more similar to having a single system. So perhaps the harder, the better.
Even the most convinced Brexiter (and indeed Remainer), if they are a reasonable person, cannot be 100% sure that they’re right. Therefore, the best strategy for all of us — Remainers, Brexiters, Scots, English, Welsh and Northern Irish — is to ensure Scotland becomes independent and rejoins the EU fold. This will allow us to avoid most of the consequences of our mistake (whether that mistake is the U.K. Brexiting or Scotland Remaining/Re-Brentrying).
A strategy which allows us to avoid the consequences is a gift which history gives to very few.
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