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The UK is already at breaking point.  Boris Johnson’s stack of scandals doesn’t help matters


His former chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, recently said that the Prime Minister’s plan to “secretly charge donors for the renovation was unethical, senseless, possibly illegal and almost certainly broke the rules on appropriate disclosure of political donations “.

Government officials fear that Cummings, who left government in November amid a public power struggle, is preparing for revenge even as these elections are taking place. While the past week has been anything to say about, the numerous scandals have diverted public attention from Johnson’s biggest success story since taking office – the rollout of the vaccine.

Scotland is one place where it could hurt Johnson a lot. The Prime Minister already knows that Scottish voters are unlikely to elect anything other than a parliamentary majority in favor of independence. The only question is to what extent the Unionist parties, including its own Tories, who wish to stay in the UK, will lose.

While Johnson doesn’t really need the Scottish votes to win the general election, any increase in independence claims is extremely embarrassing for a man who has given himself the title of ‘Union Minister’.

In order for Scotland to become truly independent, Johnson would have to agree to a referendum, as happened in 2014 when the Scots voted by a 10% margin in favor of staying in the UK.

Johnson has so far refused a second referendum, reminding the Scottish National Party (SNP), which dominates Scottish politics, that it had agreed the 2014 vote would be a once-in-a-generation event. However, the tighter the grip of the SNP and other separatist parties, the more problematic it becomes to simply ignore their demands.

But if Scotland ever does have to leave the UK, there will be inevitable complications.

“In the case of Brexit, the process was guided by the steps set out in Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. There is no equivalent process in the British constitution”, says Nicola McEwen, professor of territorial policy at the University of Edinburgh. .

This means that in the event of a vote for independence, the UK and Scottish governments would likely task officials with setting up a negotiating framework, a timetable and agreeing on how the talks would unfold.

However, as McEwen points out, political leaders on both sides should respect this process, where things could get complicated.

“Of course, agreeing on a negotiation process does not mean that things will be easy. Relations can be less than cordial, and both sides would have their own interests to protect in the negotiations and in the wider political arena.” , she says.

It is likely that negotiations would open with the Scottish Government which would present its best idea of ​​dividing shared assets based on population and other practical considerations – for example, there are many nuclear submarines in Scottish waters which have no evidence. house elsewhere.

The UK government is unlikely to accept this, at least under Johnson. “This government is full of ex-Brexit fighters, where they have been outclassed by a bigger partner. They will be more than happy to be the obstructionists this time around,” says Rob Ford, professor of politics at the University of Manchester .

Opponents of independence say it leaves Scotland at the mercy of a government hostile to Westminster, with no guarantees on fundamental issues such as the currency they would use, the assets and institutions they could keep and the type of border with which there would be. England.

“Independence is the wrong solution for Scotland, not only because of the economy and the inevitable cost, but because it rests on the false claim that the people of Scotland have less in common with the people of Scotland. others in the UK than they don’t have, which unites them, ”says Eddie. Barnes, former director of communications for the Scottish Tories.

The UK is already at breaking point.  Boris Johnson’s stack of scandals doesn’t help matters

While this is far from the only claim made by the nationalists, a central part of the SNP’s argument is that it could eventually join the European Union after the UK leaves. Kate Forbes of the SNP says Scotland “was taken out of the EU and the huge European single market – which is seven times the size of the UK – against our will.” She believes that “with full control over the powers that come with independence and our abundant resources, we can emulate the success of independent countries of similar size like Denmark.”

As the leader of the Brexit campaign in 2016 and a self-proclaimed advocate for the Union, it’s hard to think of a greater humiliation for Johnson to endure than to see Scotland leave the UK and return to the EU.

Brexit has drawn people to the independence movement and the SNP knows Scotland’s forced exit from the bloc has radicalized the remnants north of the border.

The independence movement is no longer just a working-class, anti-establishment “scum”, as a senior SNP adviser has described it, but the new political home for many wealthy and outward-looking voters.

“In 2014, the Tories told the Scots that voting no on independence was the only way to guarantee your European citizenship. Now we are the responsible party of the world citizen,” said the SNP adviser.

While SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and her infantry are wise to pledge to join, it’s a bit of a pipe dream when they need Johnson’s permission to even hold a vote.

The UK is already at breaking point.  Boris Johnson’s stack of scandals doesn’t help matters

The question of whether Brussels would be willing to let them return is less debated. Forbes is optimistic that the accession process would be easier for Scotland than for most countries, “being inside the EU, and by definition following all the rules, for almost 50 years . ”

This argument has some merit, as it seems unlikely that even Johnson will leave Scotland desolate enough not to meet the EU’s candidacy criteria. This means that he will probably be in a state where his institutions match what they currently have, he will have a functioning democracy, he is economically able to support himself by joining the union, among other things.

However, he overlooks other political obstacles that may arise in Brussels – and that will ultimately be a political decision.

First, the border issue will be extremely complicated, if the post-Brexit Irish border negotiations were to go ahead, and the EU might be reluctant to reopen that.

Second, it creates a model for other separatist movements across Europe. The most obvious example is the Spanish autonomous region of Catalonia, where opposition leaders have been arrested and protesters violently attacked by Spanish police.

However, EU officials say privately that the Brexit saga that ends with part of the UK returning is a delightful tale that is very tempting for those who want to poke Johnson in the eye. Some even think that it would be a boon for the EU to have a nuclear power other than France in the bloc, because it seeks to build a consensus on a common defense policy.

The UK is already at breaking point.  Boris Johnson’s stack of scandals doesn’t help matters

So while Sturgeon’s European dream is a bit more complicated than some might claim, it is possible that there is enough animosity from the EU towards Britain for a coalition of enemies to Johnson could seriously damage the legacy of a man who made a career out of wrecking balls in Brussels. .

Obviously, this is all hypothetical as long as Johnson denies the Scots their vote. In the event that the Scottish Parliament is truly dominated by separatist parties after next week, it is difficult to predict whether the Prime Minister’s stubbornness is political aid or a hindrance more broadly across the UK.

“There is still a long way to go until the next election in 2024 and, without the EU, Johnson needs a new enemy who appeals to his base,” says Ford. “Scotland is almost perfect, as many English voters think the Scots get a lot of money from the Union and find the complaints a little irritating.”

Ford sees it going badly for Johnson if the blocking of demand fuels a grievance in a way that makes life in Scotland hostile.

The UK is already at breaking point.  Boris Johnson’s stack of scandals doesn’t help matters

The problem could also leave Johnson politically exposed, McEwen believes, as the problem will not go away.

“He is likely to feature prominently in the upcoming UK general election. If the SNP again wins the overwhelming majority of Scottish seats in this election, he could be a considerable force in the House of Commons and many harder to ignore, especially in a scenario where they hold the balance of power, ”she said.

Of course, this is all far from and probably not on Johnson’s mind, given the recent departures of staff who were specifically working on this issue. However, even members of his own government privately fear that the actions of Johnson, the Unionist who sought to unite the nation after Brexit, could set off a chain of events that would ultimately lead Scotland to break away from the Kingdom. -United.

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