Saturday, December 14, 2019
By Volker Petersen
British Prime Minister Johnson wins the mandate for Brexit with a big election victory. But in Scotland he fails with his program. Prime Minister Sturgeon is now calling for another referendum on independence. What chances does it have?
Great Britain has had exciting, cinematic years. If the political drama would actually end up in the cinema, the main actors would be clear: In the beginning there would be the unfortunate David Cameron, who started the referendum on the exit from the EU, then the victory of the Brexiteers would be a first highlight and a leading role would certainly have Boris Johnson. But would he be the hero? Or rather the villain? It depends on whether the film would be produced in London or Edinburgh. Because in Scotland only a few want to get out of the EU. While many English people now have happy ending feelings with the upcoming Brexit, the Scottish film adaptation would only be half over. For the Scots, the last act of the political drama is just beginning. It will not be as comfortable between the two in the coming months as when Johnson visited Sturgeon in July. (Photo: REUTERS) Because in Scotland Johnson failed the voters with his uncompromising Brexit course. Instead, the Highland Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon made the big winner of the House of Commons election. Your party, the Scottish National Party (SNP), has had a similar landslide victory at home as Johnson did with the Torys in England. This was because the majority of Scots want to stay in the EU, 62 percent said in the 2015 referendum against Britain's exit from the EU. And this means that Scotland's exit from the United Kingdom could now follow, so the final act of the drama is now about nothing less than Britain's unity. Sturgeon has announced that it will start the legal process for another referendum next week. The Scottish head of government interprets her election victory as a vote against Brexit and for Europe. Since she was able to increase her share of the vote by 8 percentage points to 45 percent and, thanks to majority voting, won almost all seats between Edinburgh and Stirling, this is convincing. Already in the coming year it could be ready. Johnson does not want a referendum. It would be the second vote of this kind since 2014. At that time, 55 percent of the Scots favored remaining in the EU. What weighs heavier with the Scots? Wanting to stay part of the UK or part of the European Union? That is the question now. The final answer could only be a referendum. At first glance, however, this is not particularly likely. Because Johnson would have to allow this and at the moment it doesn't look like he would do it. In a guest post for the Scottish newspaper "Herald" the Prime Minister wrote shortly before the election: "I am a Unionist to the bone." And so he would do everything possible to prevent the Union, i.e. Britain, from breaking up during his term in office. Johnson also knows what is at stake. So the next conflict is looming: Sturgeon against Johnson, and possibly Scotland against London. Sturgeon should now try to keep the independence fire alive. If it burns properly, it will be difficult for Johnson to ignore it, and where this can lead has been observed in Spain in recent years. The government in Madrid reacted with iron harshness to the Catalan independence efforts. The result was hardened fronts and wounds, the healing of which will take years, perhaps decades. The Scots can argue that the basis for the referendum with the Brexit has turned upside down. A renewed vote would be justified. Johnson will still try to play for time. Nobody knows better than he, the figurehead of the Brexiteers of 2015, that referendums can develop a dynamic that no one can control anymore. Scotland would be "alone in the cold". For the EU-friendly Scots, the question is how it actually works should – stay in the EU. Because it is clear that Scotland cannot simply "inherit" British membership. This was stated in 2012 by the then EU Commission chief Manuel Barroso in a document named after him. Accordingly, Scotland would have to apply for membership again after independence. Some hope that it would be different if only everyone wanted and agreed, but that is not to be expected. This in turn has to do with Spain and Catalonia. Madrid is trying to keep independence supporters in the Mediterranean region at bay by threatening that without Spain, Catalonia would not be part of the EU. If Scotland were allowed exactly that, there would be a precedent that the Catalans could invoke. Scotland would probably have to take the long way – first out of the EU and then back in. However, such an admission process usually takes years. A time when Scotland would be "alone in the cold", as some say, without a connection to Great Britain and no connection to the EU. Will the Scots still call Braveheart-style for freedom from the British yoke? In any case, that would be something cinematic again, even if it wouldn't look as heroic as in the Scottish Middle Ages epic with Mel Gibson. But one thing is clear: Only when the curtain falls after this last act will it become clear whether Johnson's Brexit course was really a good idea or rather a fatal course towards the abyss.