I’m abroad at present – Croatia – so forgive me if Jonathan Freedland or somebody has already written a comment piece saying what I’m about to say. But that stuff Spain has said about not vetoing an independent Scotland from joining the EU is bigger news than it appears to be being treated in the U.K. – for it means two rather large things, both of them meaningful to the future of Britain as a country.
One, it takes a big argument against Scottish independence away from the Unionists. The idea that Spain would block a would be independent Scottish nation from rejoining the EU would have been trotted out endlessly during #indyref2 – now that will not be possible. The only other EU related plank in the Union armoury is the old “Scotland will have to rejoin in the first place and it could take a while” routine, which is shamelessly moronic; Scotland will be out of the EU regardless, so at least an independent Scotland can rejoin at some point as opposed to (at least in theory) never ever ever again. I don’t think people have yet woken up to how big losing Spain from their arsenal is for the Unionist side – it wasn’t like they didn’t have enough problems already. I often feel these days like we’re sleepwalking towards the end of the Union inevitably.
Secondly, it demonstrated how irritated Spain is already in regards to Brexit and Gibraltar. I understand why the Spanish trying to land grab has made the British government (understandably and rightly) angry, but there’s a right and wrong way to play these things. Comparing the situation in Gibraltar at present to the Falklands is epically stupid, not just as a logical construct but against the backdrop of the current Article 50 situation, in which it is less than helpful. I suppose I understand on an intellectual level the hardline Brexiteers’ “let’s walk away from the table” idea – it’s about creating a low-tax, low-spend Britain that they openly desire anyhow. But surely people like Michael Howard must understand that the breakup of the Union, the possible reunification of Ireland, and having more trouble holding onto somewhere like Gibraltar have all been made massively more likely because of Brexit? Or at the very least by the confrontational approach being taken towards it by the government at present? You can’t hold together a fraying union and the last remnants of the Empire while being Singapore-on-Thames at the same time.