Another day and another Brexit problem for the government. In order for Theresa May to begin legislating on Britain’s exit from the European Union, the government must receive a legislative consent motion (LCM) from the devolved administrations. Due to the breakdown of the power-sharing agreement in Northern Ireland, this therefore means that the Scottish and Welsh governments need to consent to Brexit legislation. However Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones have said that unless they have a role in the Brexit talks, they wouldn’t pass an LCM. Whilst Westminster can, legally speaking, begin legislating on Brexit without LCMs from Holyrood and Cardiff, this would be politically problematic for the government to say the least.
Scotland’s place in the EU was one of the key issues in the 2014 referendum campaign and at the time there was much talk of Spain vetoing Scotland’s potential membership of the EU in order to quell secessionist feeling in Catalonia. However now that the UK has voted to leave the EU, the Spanish government appear to have acknowledged the situation has changed and have now said that Spain wouldn’t block an independent Scotland from joining the EU post-Brexit. Although the political dynamics of this situation would appear to favour the pro-independence camp, it would be foolish to think that independence was now the pre-determined course of Scotland.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has today announced that she will seek to deliver a second referendum on Scottish independence due to, in part, the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. Sturgeon has said that she will introduce a bill at Holyrood to hold a second referendum, before asking for a vote in the House of Commons on a Section 30 order that will allow the vote to be held. UK Prime Minister Theresa May has accused the SNP of “tunnel vision” when it comes to the issue of independence, but the move by the First Minister is incredibly interesting to me in terms of timing and strategy.
The UK voted to leave the European Union around 9 months ago and since the result became clear to the whole country the SNP have said that the referendum vote was a “material change in circumstances” from 2014 and thus could be used to justify another referendum on independence. I happen to agree that this is true but I have also been cautious when it comes to the issue of independence. As someone who would like to see Scotland as a self-governing nation-state I was wary of rushing into another vote as failure a second time around would take the issue off the table. The SNP have been walking the line between caution and agitating for another plebiscite, and evidently Westminster is taking note.
In a move that shouldn’t have surprised anyone, the British Supreme Court has ruled that the triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which will begin Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, must be approve by Parliament. Theresa May and other senior Tories had tried to argue that the result of the referendum was such that Cabinet ministers could act without parliamentary approval, however the Supreme Court disagreed. Legislation will now be put forward by the government to trigger Article 50 and the House of Commons will vote on the bill.
Automation is changing the labour market and policy-makers are having to address this change. With the prospect of mass unemployment resulting from widespread automation, we need to come up with innovative ways to keep money in people’s pockets. One such proposal is a universal basic income (UBI) which would provide everyone in a society with enough to live on irrespective of whether they are in employment. It appears that this policy may soon be introduced in the British Isles.