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Trade deals should be left to UK negotiators

Terry smiling headLiam Fox is the latest UK government minister to be reminded that the devolved governments want to play a part in every stage of the Brexit talks. They should back off, or risk making matters worse.

The International Trade Secretary has suggested in a letter to Cabinet colleagues that the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish administrations are frozen out of negotiations on post-Brexit trade deals.

Inevitably, it has led to cries of “anti-democratic” foul play and yet more accusations that Westminster will attempt to grab back many of the devolved powers.

This is all very unseemly and, frankly, doing nothing to help the talks succeed.

What evidence is there that the UK government would not negotiate in the interests of the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish? To suggest that without their input £14 billion of Scottish food and drink exports could be at risk is little more than mischievous scaremongering or, even worse, a mis-reading of the powers devolved to the nations of the UK.

Why would any team of UK negotiators want to jeopardise the success of an entire industry? In any case, the food and drink industry extends across the whole of the UK and, quite rightly, discussions will proceed on that basis.

The devolution of powers too often creates a sense of entitlement which goes beyond what was intended, and is elevated to ludicrous and dangerous proportions by some of its cheerleaders in the media. Devolution certainly did not decree that each of the devolved governments should have a direct involvement in everything discussed between the UK and other nations. What about those regions of the UK that do not have any input at all – the north, south west, the Midlands? Should they also have a seat at the table?

Trying to run anything by committee is not the easiest way to guarantee quick decisions, or any decisions at all. Being forced to consult at every stage of the talks – especially with political opponents – would slow the process and increase the risk of failure to reach agreement at all.

As Gerard Eadie, executive chairman of CR Smith, told me last week, the politicians should leave Westminster to get on with it and get behind the government’s attempts to secure the necessary deals.

What’s in a name?

Nicola Sturgeon has admitted that the word “national” in her party’s name is difficult and that if she could turn back the clock she would not have chosen it.

“National” parties are generally those of an extreme persuasion, such as the National Front and the British National Party.

These have tarnished the word “national” (I wonder if the chaps running the newspaper of the same name have given this some thought?)

Names and symbols are important in conveying the message. Supporters of the National Front and BNP carried union flags which, for a time, also became associated with their brand of politics.

Likewise, there is an argument that SNP supporters should not use the saltire to indicate their party affiliation. It is not an SNP symbol, but one that represents the nation. A nation of all political and ethnic persuasions. However, it serves the SNP’s purpose to be seen as the only party that represents Scotland.



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