Brian Monteith tries to defend the indefensible, firstly equating Ukraine’s resistance to the Russian invasion with the UK's 2016 Brexit vote and secondly agreeing with Boris Johnson's characterisation of being a member of the EU family, as slavery. The comparisons could not be more inaccurate. Ukraine is fighting for its survival as an independent state after being invaded by its larger neighbour. Brexit was (as we now know) a Russian-influenced campaign resulting in a narrow vote to leave the European Union, that the UK had been a successful member of for over 40 years. Johnson's cack-handed attempt to conflate the two events is both politically manipulative, insincere and indefensible.
Monteith's Scotsman column serves only to demonstrate that the low quality of Johnson is matched by his acolytes. Monteith claims, Brexit has freed UK citizens from EU serfdom, is he aware that Ukraine desperately wants to join the EU, which the EU has accepted, and asked for its application to be fast-tracked, which the EU has declined?
Unanswered questions hang over the Brexit campaign. The head of Vote Leave, insurance salesman Aaron Banks, met Russian officials multiple times before the 2016 vote and was offered Russian money in the form of business opportunities and gold and diamond mines by the Russian ambassador to the UK. Aaron Banks also made the largest single donation, £8 million, to the Leave campaign. The Electoral Commission found there were reasonable grounds to suspect that Banks was not the “true source” of the money.
It’s notable that Boris Johnson delayed the House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee report on Russian interference in the 2016 referendum until after he was in Downing Street. One of the Authors of the report concluded that ministers actively avoided looking for evidence of Russian interference and that the UK Government should have recognised the threat in 2014 when there was “credible open source commentary” that Russia undertook influence campaigns in relation to the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.
Russian infiltration into the very heart of the British political establishment and London’s transformation into the world’s laundromat for dirty money is well documented. And we know that Johnson rebuffed intelligence officials’ concerns about Evgeny Lebedev (whose father was a KGB agent) and then he went ahead to make him a member of the House of Lords.
Does Monteith wonder why P&O recently sacked 800 UK employees but no French or Dutch workers? It’s because Dutch and French national employment laws are far stronger than UK laws. The Dover workers will be replaced by Indian seafarers being paid $2.38 per hour, well below minimum wage. The UK Government isn’t challenging P&O on the legality of their actions nor is it thinking of strengthening national employment laws to prevent this from happening again.
Monteith doesn’t seem bothered that Brexit will deliver a 4% permanent hit to UK GDP. The long-term damage from Covid will be just half of that. Even before the Ukraine war, higher taxes, food and energy prices and shortages were already a reality.
Energy prices are set to soar higher, plunging millions more into poverty. The French have capped energy prices at 4%, but the UK is allowing them to rise 54%. And Scots will pay the most given the much higher transmission charges Ofgem imposes on Scottish generators. This is especially perverse when renewables, producing nearly all of Scotland’s electricity, are cheaper than oil and gas.
The Australia trade deal will deliver a 0.01% bump to GDP while trade with the EU will plunge by 15%, costing the UK economy £32 billion. That’s money that could have funded social care and cushioned the blow from inflation and interest rate increases. The deal also threatens the livelihoods of Scottish farmers and fishermen, who have already seen exports take a nosedive since Brexit.
Brexit hasn’t brought the UK ‘freedom.’ It has left it out in the cold, isolated and poorer but it is making the ruling class richer, which was always the goal. That's the cost of Brexit, not the cost of freedom.
Monteith ignores that 62% of Scots voted to remain, a material change in circumstance since the 2014 referendum. The only positive that can possibly emerge from this debacle will be the restoration of Scottish independence.