By Jason Michael

Frustration at the Joint Ministerial Committee suggests strongly that the United Kingdom is now in the midst of a constitutional crisis. May might have attempted to strong-arm the devolved governments on Brexit, but her house is divided.

British Prime Minister Theresa May hosted the Joint Ministerial Committee at Downing Street earlier today in what appears to have been a bid to make the devolved parliaments of the UK simmer down and eat their cereal. Westminster operates the JMC much like a mediaeval parliament in that it assembles only when the monarch – in this case Mrs. May – sees fit, however the mood today, by all accounts, was somewhat less than one of humble submission.

Both Scotland and Northern Ireland, who voted overwhelmingly to remain in the European Union four months ago, have made it clear that May’s hard Brexit plan simply will not work for them. Scotland expects to retain access to the single market and maintain its links with Europe, and Northern Ireland – wanting the same – is faced with the challenges Brexit poses to its fragile peace. Yet Theresa May was not in the mood for making concessions, sticking to her guns on the United Kingdom quitting Europe as “one United Kingdom,” leaving the delegations deeply frustrated.

What May has chosen to ignore is the reality that her agenda, as has been pointed out by the Institute for Government, is leading the union into a full-blown constitutional crisis. Tory government led Brexit plans have only highlighted the real scale of the democratic deficit in the United Kingdom, where the London agenda trumps the objections of the devolved governments of Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales, and this is a situation that cannot last for long without threatening the existence of the union.

Scotland, as our First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has stated, is willing to work with the London government in order to come to an agreement whereby a flexible Brexit – or “Flexit” – may be worked out, allowing Scotland and the north of Ireland to remain both within the UK and in the EU, but May is not for turning. Nicola Sturgeon has options, and she has been firm on her point that working with London does not mean working for London.

Following the confab it was suggested that, in fact, no one is working for London – not even London. During a post-JMC interview with Channel 4 Nicola Sturgeon agreed that the impasse resulted from the fact that the Brexiteer government “did not have a clue.” It is clueless, and, from what can be gathered from sources close to Philip Hammond, it is seriously divided over its own Brexit plans. It may well be the case that this morning’s frustrations were caused not so much by May’s refusal to budge, but by her inability to do pretty much anything at all.

Nicola in Downing Street

Author: Jason Michael (@Jeggit)

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