Does the SNP offer an alternative to Britain’s exit from the EU?

Does the SNP offer an alternative to Britain’s exit from the EU?

The recent British election demonstrated how polarized the United Kingdom has become in terms of its democratic make-up. Does the Scottish National Party offer a viable alternative to the upcoming Brexit vote and the future of the UK in the EU?

What was supposed to be a hung parliament or Labour minority government in the recent British election saw David Cameron’s Conservative government re-elected to a comfortable majority.

As part of their election mandate, Conservatives have brought a raft of new proposals to the table for their newly elected term in government. One of David Cameron’s particularly contentious election promises for a continued Conservative government is a democratic referendum on the future of Britain’s membership in the EU and a simple in-out vote known as a British Exit or “Brexit”.

While this is a move aimed at certain factions within the Conservative party, the economic and political consequences of this referendum could have insurmountable repercussions in the EU.

There is growing opposition to this referendum domestically not just from Labour and the Liberal Democrats, but also from the Scottish National Party (SNP). Ironically, the SNP’s interest in keeping the Union together within the EU stands in contradiction to its original party mandate. The question that must be asked is, does the SNP provide a viable alternative to a Brexit and the potential economic fallout to a British exit from the EU?

The economic consequences of the Brexit are still unknown, but there are arguments for positive and negative gains.

In terms of positive gains, the UK will be able to set its own rules again in terms of its economic policy, immigration and human rights. On the other hand, the economic consequences could be very negative, indeed. There is the talk of decreased trade if Britain resorts back to isolationist policies or cannot strike a deal with the EU once it leaves. Also, big firms such as Nestle, Goldman Sachs and Ford have all discussed the possibility of scaling back investment if a Brexit was to go ahead.

The UK would have to renegotiate important trade treaties with the EU and would lose its most important trading partner. It is important to understand that the political benefits of continued EU membership outweigh the negatives, particularly if valid reforms take place within the European Union. However, this issue has the potential not only to cause economic and political uncertainty in the European market, but also to destabilize the domestic political context of the United Kingdom.

Essentially, the United Kingdom’s gauntlet has been thrown at the Scottish border. To the South, the Conservatives in England have a wide majority, while North of the border, the SNP had its biggest political win in its history as a political party. In May’s British election, the SNP won 56 out of 59 seats in Scotland. This also includes a dominating presence within Holyrood – the devolved Scottish Parliament.

In Westminster, the SNP was seen by the two major political parties as a bit of joke, more concerned with breaking up the Union than saving it. This comes just after the Scottish independence vote in 2014 in which 55-45 percent voted in favour of keeping Scotland within the Union. The SNP has fancied itself as a pro-EU party paradoxically seeking to break away from the UK itself. For instance, former SNP leader Alex Salmond campaigned for a “Yes” vote for the UK to stay within the EU.

Domestically, current leader Nicola Sturgeon has stated that the SNP will veto any attempt by the Cameron government to leave the EU and there must be ‘double majority’ consensus among all states of the British Union before such a decision were to be made.

If any state (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) disagrees, the UK will remain a member of the EU. The SNP has also given the ultimatum that such a move would push for a second independence vote in Scotland, as its interests no longer align with Westminster.

This leaves the current government with little choice. If it seeks to push ahead with its mandate to exit the EU, it has the potential to tear apart the already fragile Union of nations within Great Britain. If Cameron pushes forward with this agenda, he risks possibly being the first prime minister to lose not only EU membership but also see an independent Scotland.

Either way, hard decisions will be made, and compromises sought, while for now, the only alternative opposition to a Brexit is paradoxically coming from the SNP, a party that wants to see the end of the United Kingdom.

Categories: Europe, Politics

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