In Gove we distrust

by Luke Lythgoe | 22.05.2018

Michael Gove is living in his own Brexit fantasyland, where our Union with Scotland is secure and migrants are welcomed with open arms into the UK.

The environment secretary – who has somehow built a reputation as one of the more capable Brexiters in government – rolled out a series of Brexit delusions in a speech for Policy Exchange yesterday.

Gove suggested that Brexit had strengthened the bonds between Scotland and the rest of the UK. He pointed to the SNP losing seats at the last election and support for independence dipping in some polls. Neither of these are surprising considering the landslide the SNP won in 2015 and the election fatigue felt by Scots who have endured divisive public votes every year since 2014. It is not because Brexit was a “vote of confidence in Britain”, as Gove spun it.

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson sounded more wary when she spoke at the same event, warning of complacency and being “careful that (Brexit) does not erode support for the Union”.

These comments come after Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon suggested she would “restart a debate” on independence over the weekend. Brexit is giving the SNP the opportunity to do this again and again for years to come, with a real risk of neverending wrangling over devolved powers returning from Brussels.

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An even bolder claim from Gove was that Brexit has made the UK more open to new people entering. “The act of taking back control has allowed British citizens to show they can be more welcoming to new arrivals if allowed to be rather than required to be”, said the former Vote Leave frontman.

He clearly hasn’t read the recent report by the UN’s special rapporteur for racism, who found a Brexit-related growth in “explicit racial, ethnic and religious intolerance”.

Gove repeatedly relies on his talent for pushing Brexit fantasies with seeming authority. For instance, this morning he told the BBC Today programme that the government’s “backstop” solution for keeping the Irish border open – keeping the entire UK in the EU’s customs union, even after transition – would only last a “short time”, serving as a “temporary infill to bridge the position”. He ignored the fact that the EU won’t accept the backstop agreed by Cabinet last week – or will at least insist on lots of extra conditions that will make it even less palatable and could keep us in customs limbo for years.

Or how about Gove’s “green Brexit” vision, promising a green and pleasant land after Brexit? Environmentalists have already pooh-poohed his plans, which led to an eleventh-hour defeat for the government by Lords concerned that environmental protections would be weakened.

If Gove’s fantasy was reality – if Brexit did mean a stronger Union, a more tolerant society, a greener environment – then maybe it would be worth leaving the EU for. But it’s a fiction. If people pick apart Gove’s rhetoric and don’t like what they find they should demand a people’s vote on the real Brexit deal.

Edited by Michael Prest

One Response to “In Gove we distrust”

  • ‘Mao’ Gove is Murdoch’s finger puppet; Liar-in-Chief Johnson is the Barclays’ finger puppet; ‘James Buchanan’ May is Dacre’s finger puppet. Which is why we’ll have the hardest brexit. What a democracy!