I went today to a ’round table’ on Brexit hosted by the Church of England at Lambeth Palace. They had gathered up a significant group of church leaders from all over the UK for a conversation with Lord Bridges of Headley, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at DEXEU – the Department for Exiting the European Union.
On the flight this morning, I fortified myself by reading the 39 pages of the Scottish Government’s document, Scotland’s Place in Europe. This has a sort of internal discussion of the link between Brexit and a possible second Independence Referendum. But what is between the lines and almost everything else I have read lately about the lack of ‘Brexit bounce’ suggests that the answer to that is ‘Not now’
But the document is well worth a read because of what it says about the post-Brexit options. In setting out options for the whole of the UK other than the seemingly inevitable ‘hard Brexit’, it offers a far fuller discussion than anything which has come from the government at Westminster. In looking at possible options for Scotland, whether independent or not, it explores and pushes to what feels like the limit the concept of differentiation – that different parts of the UK might have different Brexit outcomes. And Theresa May has promised to listen.
Of today’s conversation – which was very worthwhile – I came away with a feeling that the government’s thinking has not caught up with the idea that a UK with devolved institutions is now a diversity of nations – and that things look a bit different from Perth, or Bala or Bleary. I can see the awesome complexity of all this and respect those who are trying to find their way through it. Maybe they are keeping their cards close to their chest. Or maybe the still febrile political atmosphere down south means that any speculation about policy options other than the most radical will instantly be condemned as betrayal. Or maybe they just don’t know. Or maybe it’s a bit of all three.