We’re just a few weeks in, and already the Brexit process is going as well as a teenage camping trip in a slasher movie. We’re at that bit in the movie where the spurned former lover has laid traps and cut off the line of escape and is sharpening his machete while Theresa and her gang of bullies are still taunting the Scottish kid, blithely unaware of the terrible fate that awaits them. They’re still arrogantly confident that they’re the biggest and baddest kids in the woods, little realising that they’re messing with people far bigger than they are. People who are looking at them through the undergrowth and who have anticipated every move they’re going to make.
To be honest, it was always predictable that Brexit was going to descend into a horrific chaotic mess, it’s just that few expected it to happen so quickly. I thought it would take at least a couple of months, but within a couple of days of Theresa May’s letter invoking Article 50 and triggering Brexit was delivered to the EU the British establishment was utterly blindsided by a response from the EU that anyone who had been paying attention had been predicting ever since the EU referendum last year. Any Brexit deal that includes Gibraltar is going to be subject to a Spanish veto. Cue shock and horror of the Freddy Krueger variety in the pages of the right wing British press and calls to form an armada and set off to war. Outraged that Spain had done something that it has been saying for a year that it was going to do, former minister in the Thatcher government Norman Tebbitt suggested that the UK should negotiate with the Catalans, to which a Spanish politician retorted that the EU could very well negotiate directly with Scotland.
A short time after the EU referendum result in 2016, the then Spanish foreign minister José Manuel García-Margallo was warning that Spain would seek to press the advantage Brexit gave them over the status of Gibraltar. He said quite explicitly that Spain would seek to veto any Brexit deal that includes the Rock. He used actual words in actual sentences which formed an actual statement that was very clear in its meaning. And yet according to the British media, the Spanish veto threat came out of nowhere and no one saw it coming. It’s like someone repeatedly shouts out “there’s a train coming”, and then when the train hits you, you affect surprise that no one told you as you contemplate the trainwreck that your hopes have turned into. But then he did shout out in Spanish, and Brexiteers don’t do foreign.
The surprise felt by British media navel gazing commentators is not unrelated to the fact that the only Brexit-related news from Spain were reports that were desperately spun into blows for Nicola Sturgeon and her bid for Scottish independence on the back of the UK’s EU self-harm. Those were the statements from senior Spanish politicians that they wouldn’t countenance any deal that allowed Scotland to retain EU membership as long as it stayed a part of the UK. They weren’t blows for Nicola Sturgeon at all, they were blows for Kezia Dugdale and her hopes that Scotland could somehow remain a member of both unions. The sound of the anti-independence jeering in the partisan British press drowned out the real veto threats that Spain was making.
The Gibraltar veto threat came just a couple of days after Spain confirmed that it wouldn’t veto the membership of the EU of an independent Scotland. All of a sudden Spain transformed from the biggest pal of the Union to its biggest enemy. But then that’s what you get when you pin all your hopes on Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy as the saviour of the UK. Spain was always the country that was seen as most implacable in its opposition to Scottish independence, and within a few days of Brexit, Spain just went and ripped several key pages out of the Unionists’ Project Fear playbook.
Brexit is an epic example of self-destructive behaviour. The UK relies on EU citizens in order to staff the NHS, and now they’re leaving because of the uncertainty that Brexit is causing. Which means that the UK has both shot itself in the foot and made sure that it doesn’t have enough nurses and doctors to treat the wounds. It’s self-destructive because Brexit only happened in the first place because too many people in the UK believed that Britain is a world power which is able to make trade deals on its own terms. But they didn’t want to think about the reality, which is that Britain was only a world power able to make trade deals on its own terms because it was a part of an alliance comprising most of Europe. Now the delusional Brexiteers have set Britain against Europe and they’re going to discover who really has the power and the strength to impose their own terms. It’s not going to be Britain.
Britain is the little bully who was only able to intimidate the other kids because it was part of a gang. But it was stupid enough to believe that the other kids were intimidated by little Britain all by itself, so now Britain’s decided to take on the whole gang as well as all the other kids. It’s a recipe for getting your backside booted from one end of the street to the other. Only a few days into the Brexit process and already it’s the EU which is booting Britain. The little bully isn’t so powerful after all.
Scotland can still escape. Spain’s signalling that it won’t block a Scottish application to join the EU is just one part of much sweeter mood music coming from the EU than in 2014. Back in 2014, the Spanish Partido Popular was organising opposition to Scottish independence at an EU level. This time round there’s going to be no organised opposition to Scottish independence from the EU. We can get out of this nightmare horror story.