We’ve witnessed the long tailbacks of trucks at the Channel ports; we’ve seen the resulting shellfish holdups and food shortages and the empty supermarket shelves; we’ve had the sausage wars with Northern Ireland and we’re facing demands from the EU for an increased divorce bill. I don’t recall any of this painted on the side of a big red bus during the referendum campaign! Brussels now says that the UK owes it £40.8 billion, almost £2 billion more than we agreed. The UK claims that the negotiated divorce settlement was between £35bn and £39bn. It looks like our Brexit divorce is going to cost even more than Jeff Bezos’s payment to his ex-wife MacKenzie Bezos, following their explosive split.
When Britain joined the EU, we agreed to a wide range of rules, including on-going contributions to long-term infrastructure projects and pension schemes for EU staff. The divorce settlement involves our continuing contributions to those schemes we signed up to. There are even some projects being funded by the EU in Britain and Brussels will continue to pay their share of the costs until these projects have been completed. Some of the UK’s debt will be offset against the £128 billion of assets we purchased during our forty-seven years of EU membership, including our contribution of just over £3 billion to the European Investment Bank and £50 million to the European Central Bank.
Divorce is a nasty and acrimonious process. Scotland should take careful note. If our Brexit divorce is a costly mess, what on earth do the SNP think divorce from the UK would be like? Already, based on population levels, Scotland’s share of the EU divorce bill is around 8% of £40 billion, or £3.2 billion. Untangling a union of more than 300 years would be an exorbitant nightmare. Had we voted for independence in the 2014 referendum, we would be facing the consequences. SNP forecasts for Scotland’s economy were based on Alex Salmond’s ludicrous White Paper, which over-valued North Sea oil by a factor of ten. By now we would be confronting crippling debts, spiralling inflation and a rampaging coronavirus pandemic with limited access to vaccines and no access whatsoever to the £19 billion furlough payments and bailouts sent North by UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak. With a 28% GDP deficit – the highest in Europe – we would be down near the bottom of the waiting list for EU membership. Having been thwarted by the Bank of England in our bid to continue using the pound, we would have struggled to set up our own Scottish Central Bank with our own Scottish currency, sowing chaos and confusion across the business community.
In messy divorce cases, separating spouses will often resort to dirty tricks, such as hiding assets. One partner will steal money from the other and attempt to hide it in a separate account. It brings to mind the Fraser of Allander Institute report that suggested the SNP government was hoarding up to £1 billion of the extra £8.2 billion in UK Government Barnett Consequentials that were sent here from the Whitehall Treasury during the Covid lockdown. This was money that should have been used to provide emergency economic aid to struggling businesses in the hospitality sector and elsewhere, but mysteriously disappeared into SNP government coffers, only to re-emerge in the shape of Nationalist manifesto pledges for free laptops and bicycles for kids and similar vote-catching sweeteners.
Other nasty divorce tactics include using the legal system to try to bankrupt your former partner. Nicola Sturgeon’s recourse to the law has certainly been a constant drain on the public purse. In 2019 the Scottish Government had to pay more than £500,000 in legal expenses to Alex Salmond following a mishandled inquiry into sexual harassment claims against the former First Minister. In another chaotic legal mess, it looks as though Scottish taxpayers could face a £100 million bill, following the bungled attempt to prosecute Rangers’ bosses. Now SNP ministers are threatening recourse to the courts to obtain approval for a second independence referendum without the UK’s consent. Their botched efforts to use the courts have cost taxpayers a fortune and will continue to do so up to and following any divorce from the UK.
But squandering your partner’s cash is rarely sufficient in a rancorous divorce. Sometimes lawyers are encouraged to needlessly slander the ex-spouse. Nicola Sturgeon is well versed in the grudge and grievance business, leaping on every opportunity to blame London and the UK government, for every imagined slight, as a perfect cover for her own government’s manifest failings, like neglecting the kids in our waning education system, or becoming the drug deaths capital of Europe. Consistently ridiculing your estranged spouse is another favourite trick of the angry divorcee and Boris, as the UK Prime Minister, has become a favourite target for vengeful SNP slander. When things turn really nasty in a vicious divorce, the aggrieved spouse may even lock their partner out of the family house. The SNP has practised this ploy already, with the temporary closure of the Scottish border during the pandemic and hazmat suited nationalists waving banners, warning visitors from England to ‘Stay the f**k out.’
The final act of embittered separation often involves destroying a former partner’s property. The SNP government has already made it clear that an independent Scotland will get rid of the nuclear submarine base at Faslane and shut down the Trident Missile storage facility at Coulport, extinguishing more than 8,000 skilled jobs in the process. After a successful and prosperous partnership of 314 years, the SNP’s long list of intended wrongs, injuries and tribulations as grounds for divorce will leave many Scots scratching their heads in wonder at the pointlessness of the whole constitutional debate. But Nicola Sturgeon and her chums are more likely to sing the lyrics of Gloria Gaynor’s fiery proclamation of surviving a breakup in ‘I will survive’ or ‘We are never getting back together’ by Taylor Swift, than ‘Sorry’ by Justin Bieber. The truth is, it is the Scottish people who will be truly sorry, following what will be one of the ugliest divorces in history.