The now gloriously forgotten Michael Gove became famed during the referendum campaign for the line that “People are fed up with experts”.
It was nonsense populism from someone who should have known better, and who was thus buying into the ludicrous notion that one person’s ignorance is equal to another’s knowledge. It isn’t. This notion is destroying democracy.
Sometimes the experts do not do themselves any favours, however. Since the referendum, one fanciful idea has been doing the rounds, backed by some academics who should know a lot better, that somehow Scotland and Northern Ireland could remain in the EU while the rest of the UK leaves.
This notion is so idiotic, politically and practically, it is hard to know where to begin with it.
Firstly, the idea is based on Greenland leaving the EU while Denmark remained in during the 1980s. However, they tend to miss the point that Greenland is not part of Denmark! Although it does send representation to the Copenhagen Parliament, legally and practically Greenland’s relationship to Denmark is almost identical to that of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man to the UK. There is simply no parallel to Scotland and Northern Ireland, which are actually part of the UK.
Secondly, the UK voted to leave the EU. The ridiculous “reverse Greenland” idea means that in fact the UK would remain a member state, with England and Wales leaving the way Greenland did. This is ridiculous in theory because European and foreign affairs are not devolved; and in practice because it is just ridiculous. Nicola Sturgeon and Martin McGuinness going to European Council meetings to represent the UK?
Thirdly, it is practically nonsense anyway. Outside the EU, England and Wales could choose to leave the customs union and single market, meaning border checks and separate immigration policy within the UK. If you have to show your passport and open your boot every time you pass through Gretna Green, what exactly would be the point of the UK existing?!
The fact that Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain is relevant. The task for Leavers is to come up with a realistic proposal to withdraw from the EU without breaking up the UK. There is a case to be made for the UK remaining within the EU on the basis that the proposal to leave was not carried in a majority of constituent countries of the UK. However, ultimately, either (all of) the UK withdraws from the EU, or it doesn’t.
And if the UK withdraws from the EU, the only route for Scotland and Northern Ireland to remain in the EU is to leave the UK.
Let us just be clear about the basic practical political and legal facts. (And beware of people posing as “experts” who lack even basic expertise!)