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The New Statesman’s Scottish referendum coverage

We’ll be here all night!

Here at the NS, it feels like we’ve been talking and writing about the Scottish referendum for a very long time now – so much so, in fact, that it’s hard to believe that the day itself has now arrived, and we are less than 24 hours from knowing the result.

In October 2011, a week before the Scottish general election, we published a leader warning Westminster (particularly Labour) that a strategy for independence was well underway, and they would do well to pay attention to it. Since then, the magazine has had major interviews with Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling (Alex Salmond also interviewed Judy Murray for us), done a special Scotland issue, and run a steady stream of essays and commentaries by the UK’s foremost thinkers and writers on the subject, including Tom Holland, Helena Kennedy, Gerry Hassan, Angus Roxburgh, Adam Tomkins, Andrew Marr, Alan Taylor, Cal Flyn and many others.

 

Online, we’ve had a regular blogger on the subject, James Maxwell, since 2011, and my colleague George Eaton has been reporting every nuance of the debate for a number of years. George and NS editor Jason Cowley are in Scotland at the moment, filing observations and analysis from the ground. (Indeed, Jason has been encouraging us to pay attention to this issue for so long now that it has earned him the office nickname “Mr Scotland”.) Since we launched our election site May2015.com earlier this month, Harry Lambert has been weighing in with polling and demographic analysis – if graphs are your thing, you must have a look at what he’s been up to in the last few weeks.

Now, for the night itself. We might not have the resources of a large newspaper or broadcaster, but we’ll be on duty all night and into tomorrow, bringing you the latest results and analysis (as well as the odd hilarious video). This is the schedule for who will be at the helm, complete with our Twitter handles should you have any tips or observations, or just want to chat in the wee small hours. (Our guide to when the results are expected, and therefore how late/early you need to be awake, can be found here.)

7pm – 11pm – Helen Lewis (@helenlewis)

11pm – 3am – Anoosh Chakelian (@anooshchakelian)

3am – 6am – Harry Lambert (@harrylambert1)

4am – 12pm – Caroline Crampton (@c_crampton)

12pm – 6pm – Anoosh Chakelian (@anooshchakelian)

In addition, our political editor George Eaton (@georgeeaton) and our contributing writer Tim Wigmore (@timwig) will be weighing in with posts and results.

We’ll be live-tweeting every update on @The Staggers, and The Staggers blog is also where you’ll find the majority of our coverage. And of course, the main @NewStatesman Twitter feed and Facebook page will have updates too. Here we go. . .

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

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Former Irish premier John Bruton on Brexit: "Britain should pay for our border checks"

The former Taoiseach says Brexit has been interpreted as "a profoundly unfriendly act"

At Kapıkule, on the Turkish border with Bulgaria, the queue of lorries awaiting clearance to enter European Union territory can extend as long as 17km. Despite Turkey’s customs union for goods with the bloc, hauliers can spend up to 30 hours clearing a series of demanding administrative hoops. This is the nightmare keeping former Irish premier John Bruton up at night. Only this time, it's the post-Brexit border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, and it's much, much worse.   

Bruton (pictured below), Taoiseach between 1994 and 1997, is an ardent pro-European and was historically so sympathetic to Britain that, while in office, he was pilloried as "John Unionist" by his rivals. But he believes, should she continue her push for a hard Brexit, that Theresa May's promise for a “seamless, frictionless border” is unattainable. 

"A good example of the sort of thing that might arise is what’s happening on the Turkish-Bulgarian border," the former leader of Ireland's centre-right Fine Gael party told me. “The situation would be more severe in Ireland, because the UK proposes to leave the customs union as well."

The outlook for Ireland looks grim – and a world away from the dynamism of the Celtic Tiger days Bruton’s coalition government helped usher in. “There will be all sorts of problems," he said. "Separate permits for truck drivers operating across two jurisdictions, people having to pay for the right to use foreign roads, and a whole range of other issues.” 

Last week, an anti-Brexit protest on the border in Killeen, County Louth, saw mock customs checks bring traffic to a near standstill. But, so far, the discussion around what the future looks like for the 260 border crossings has focused predominantly on its potential effects on Ulster’s fragile peace. Last week Bruton’s successor as Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, warned “any sort of physical border” would be “bad for the peace process”. 

Bruton does not disagree, and is concerned by what the UK’s withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights might mean for the Good Friday Agreement. But he believes the preoccupation with the legacy of violence has distracted British policymakers from the potentially devastating economic impact of Brexit. “I don’t believe that any serious thought was given to the wider impact on the economy of the two islands as a whole," he said. 

The collapse in the pound has already hit Irish exporters, for whom British sales are worth £15bn. Businesses that work across the border could yet face the crippling expense of duplicating their operations after the UK leaves the customs union and single market. This, he says, will “radically disturb” Ireland’s agriculture and food-processing industries – 55 per cent of whose products are sold to the UK. A transitional deal will "anaesthetise" people to the real impact, he says, but when it comes, it will be a more seismic change than many in London are expecting. He even believes it would be “logical” for the UK to cover the Irish government’s costs as it builds new infrastructure and employs new customs officials to deal with the new reality.

Despite his past support for Britain, the government's push for a hard Brexit has clearly tested Bruton's patience. “We’re attempting to unravel more than 40 years of joint work, joint rule-making, to create the largest multinational market in the world," he said. It is not just Bruton who is frustrated. The British decision to "tear that up", he said, "is regarded, particularly by people in Ireland, as a profoundly unfriendly act towards neighbours".

Nor does he think Leave campaigners, among them the former Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers, gave due attention to the issue during the campaign. “The assurances that were given were of the nature of: ‘Well, it’ll be alright on the night!’," he said. "As if the Brexit advocates were in a position to give any assurances on that point.” 

Indeed, some of the more blimpish elements of the British right believe Ireland, wedded to its low corporate tax rates and east-west trade, would sooner follow its neighbour out of the EU than endure the disruption. Recent polling shows they are likely mistaken: some 80 per cent of Irish voters say they would vote to remain in an EU referendum.

Irexit remains a fringe cause and Bruton believes, post-Brexit, Dublin will have no choice but to align itself more closely with the EU27. “The UK is walking away,” he said. “This shift has been imposed upon us by our neighbour. Ireland will have to do the best it can: any EU without Britain is a more difficult EU for Ireland.” 

May, he says, has exacerbated those difficulties. Her appointment of her ally James Brokenshire as secretary of state for Northern Ireland was interpreted as a sign she understood the role’s strategic importance. But Bruton doubts Ireland has figured much in her biggest decisions on Brexit: “I don’t think serious thought was given to this before her conference speech, which insisted on immigration controls and on no jurisdiction for the European Court of Justice. Those two decisions essentially removed the possibility for Ireland and Britain to work together as part of the EEA or customs union – and were not even necessitated by the referendum decision.”

There are several avenues for Britain if it wants to avert the “voluntary injury” it looks set to inflict to Ireland’s economy and its own. One, which Bruton concedes is unlikely, is staying in the single market. He dismisses as “fanciful” the suggestions that Northern Ireland alone could negotiate European Economic Area membership, while a poll on Irish reunification is "only marginally" more likely. 

The other is a variation on the Remoaners’ favourite - a second referendum should Britain look set to crash out on World Trade Organisation terms without a satisfactory deal. “I don’t think a second referendum is going to be accepted by anybody at this stage. It is going to take a number of years,” he said. “I would like to see the negotiation proceed and for the European Union to keep the option of UK membership on 2015 terms on the table. It would be the best available alternative to an agreed outcome.” 

As things stand, however, Bruton is unambiguous. Brexit means the Northern Irish border will change for the worse. “That’s just inherent in the decision the UK electorate was invited to take, and took – or rather, the UK government took in interpreting the referendum.”