Does Leave camp care for Gibraltar, Scotland, N. Ireland?

by David Hannay | 31.05.2016

Pretty well every political party and campaign has some built-in contradictions within its membership and its DNA. The Leave campaign carries such contradictions to heroic, or, for those who may fall victim to the consequences of them, tragic, proportions. Just look at the cases of Gibraltar, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

A high proportion of the MPs at Westminster who make up the noisy and effective group of Gibraltar’s supporters against Spanish harassment are out there campaigning for Britain to leave the EU. But the Chief Minister of Gibraltar and a former Governor of the colony have both both made it clear just how vulnerable Gibraltar would be if Britain were to vote to leave. The border between Gibraltar and Spain would then become an external frontier of the EU  and passage across it would no longer be subject to European Commission oversight and conceivably even action in the European Court of Justice. It would be in Spain’s hands to control.

Just to make the point even clearer the spokesman of Spain’s current ruling party has stated that, if Vote Leave wins, the Spanish campaign for joint sovereignty will be revived. Does this give pause to the Leave campaign? Would it be affected by the wishes of Gibraltar’s own voters likely to be massively in favour of Remain? The answer is no in both cases.

Then, Scotland. The chances there for a Remain majority are high since no major party in Scotland is campaigning for Leave; and that opens up the possibility that Scotland could be taken out of the EU against the wishes of its electorate. Vote Leave campaigners like Liam Fox and Michael Forsyth can protest until they are blue in the face that that does not boost the case for Scottish independence. But the former leader of the Scottish National Party, Alex Salmond, has stated flatly that such an outcome to the referendum would trigger a new demand for another independence referendum. And the two year period in the EU’s Article 50 for withdrawal negotiations would give the SNP the breathing space they need to push forward their agenda before the UK actually left. How on earth then can genuine Unionists, such as those mentioned above, be out there taking such risks with a cause they hold so dear? You would have to ask them that.

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Northern Ireland presents even more contradictions. Few will deny, and none with any conviction, that the shared membership of the EU of the two parts of Ireland has helped to underpin the Good Friday agreement, which has brought peace to the province; EU investment and anti- discrimination legislation, the removal of border controls on people and goods, the ability to extradite criminals, including terrorists, with the minimum of fuss and delay with European Arrest Warrants are all playing their part in a successful but still fragile peace process. All that could be at risk on 23 June.

How, precisely, could the absence of border controls be sustained if Ireland, as it will, remains a part of the free movement EU while Northern Ireland becomes again an entity operating immigration controls on people coming from the rest of the EU for work? The Democratic Unionist Party and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland can insist that the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK will not be at risk, but how credible are their assertions? Or, put another way, how credible would a new British immigration system outside the EU be if the Common Travel Area remained in existence? The Irish Prime Minister, for one, seems far from sure that the imposition of new border controls could be avoided.

As for assurances that beef and lamb exports to the rest of the EU or support for farmers will remain unaffected if the UK opts for WTO status these are hardly worth the breath they are spoken in. Once again, how can those on both sides of the Irish Channel for whom the Union remains a noble cause be putting so much at risk?

Edited by Hugo Dixon

3 Responses to “Does Leave camp care for Gibraltar, Scotland, N. Ireland?”

  • There is also the case of Cornwall, down here in the West Country. The county gets millions from the EU and, if we left, that money would have to come from the government, Nobody who has watched the news over the last few years can be confident that it would receive the same amount. And yet the county seems full of Brexiters. A case of cutting off your nose to spite your face.

  • The leave camp don’t care for anyone only them selfs where or they now Borris didn’t get to be Prime Minister and Nigel he got to glot at the hard working MEP’s.
    And he is a MEP did he hand back his wages I think not. I have worked hard for what I have I invested in shares I wonder or they going to give me back what I have lost I think not . The 2 of them worked hard at getting the uneducated people of the UK on there side and put the blame on migrants. The whole thing about the EU is its one big Family the Scottish people know this and so do the Northern Irish people and the people from Gibraltar well there left to care for them selfs. The people who voted to leave don’t care about anyone let them leave and the people who voted to stay let them stay.

  • Nice to see my namesake producing such a prescient article. Most of his concerns are rapidly coming to pass post-Brexit. If he hasn’t already done so, could you please ask him to do a follow-up piece now that the unthinkable has actually happened? Many thanks.