Tommy Sheppard | MP for Edinburgh East

Happy New Year. In the words of D:Ream - things can only get better.

As if to ice the foul cake that was 2020 the government rammed through its Brexit deal on Wednesday.

So, you’re now ‘liberated’ from the chains of Brussels. Feeling the freedom? I suspect not.

This sordid last-minute deal is an ignominious end to a political tragedy that has divided people within and between the nations of the UK. The English nationalists who now run the Tory party claim sovereignty has been returned. This, like most Brexit arguments, is complete tosh.

The UK has always been a sovereign state, before, during and after its membership of the European Union. If it wasn’t, it could never have decided to leave in the first place.

Until today the UK had agreed to exercise some power in concert with other sovereign states. Now it’s ended those reciprocal constraints. The UK has taken back control of its laws and borders and its first use of that power is to create a worse relationship with our nearest neighbours than we have had until now.

Make no mistake this is a bad deal. It will make us poorer and more isolated in the world. The one, and of late the only, argument deployed against my SNP colleagues and I as we opposed Brexit was that the change would free Scotland’s fishing fleet from the clutches of the dreaded Common Fisheries Policy. Not so.

In fact, the number of fish landed depends not only on the quota allocated. Instead it is bolstered by quota swaps and leases from others in the EU. In five years’ time these will end. Meaning - wait for it - the amount of white fish that can be landed in Scottish harbours will go down.

Only amongst the Brexit idiocracy could this be portrayed as a victory. Little wonder that the Scottish fishing industry is crying betrayal.

Those of us who voted against the deal were accused of supporting a no deal exit – an insulting and ludicrous argument. The effect of voting down this deal would’ve been to extend the transition period and negotiate a new one. That may sound unlikely, but had Labour signalled they were keeping to their red lines and not given Boris Johnson a free pass this is exactly the contingency both British and European civil servants would have prepared for.

As it is, we have a deal that the hard-right wing of the Tory party finds acceptable. That’s what most Labour MPs voted for. I’m pleased to say the majority of Scotland’s MPs opposed it - which is exactly what the people who elected us wanted us to do.

The question is what happens next. If people in Scotland are constantly overridden, constantly ignored, what can they do about it? The answer is to vote for the right to choose a different future. To take the political power that comes with independence to determine the way in which we work with people and countries across the world.

Beneath the misery of Covid-19, 2020 was the year opinion changed. In England the Tory honeymoon is over. And in Scotland a settled majority of those opposed to them have coalesced around the prospect of an independent future. In 2021 we can vote to make it happen.

Written for Edinburgh Evening News - 1st January 2021


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