Brexit is the most significant political issue in a generation. The prime minister is right to call a general election because of it. To proceed on a legitimate mandate to withdraw from the EU, Theresa May has, rightly, decided to elicit the support of the people.
Many across the political spectrum accept the Brexit verdict but denounce the mandate May has. She was unelected by the public and the Conservatives did not win the 2015 election on a manifesto that outlined what it would do if the ‘Yes’ vote won.
May has eight weeks to win an election, but even less time to put together a manifesto package that is comprehensive and unequivocal on Brexit. There have been no signs to date that the UK Government has an overarching negotiating position or even an agreed understanding of what needs to be agreed upon with the EU.
Nor indeed if it comprehends what needs to be done to save the United Kingdom. The democratic deficit facing Scotland is real. The country returned an SNP majority at both the 2015 and 2016 UK and Scottish Parliament elections and voted conclusively to remain in the EU. Seeing as it is extremely unlikely Scotland will majoritively vote Conservative in 2017, the problem seems set to continue ad nauseam.
May has denied First Minister Nicola Sturgeon the right to hold a second Scottish independence referendum despite the Scottish Parliament voting to hold one. In what has otherwise been a grand game of politics for Theresa May, Scotland remains an Achilles heel unlikely to disappear.
Brexit demands a broader look at how the UK is governed. It begins with answering the question of who actually has the right to proclaim that ‘they’ have the right to represent their constituents given the competing levels of government in the UK.
A general election might settle Brexit in a moral sense for England, but it doesn’t resolve the issue for Scotland. The June election is Scotland’s unofficial second independence run: support any party other than the Conservatives as a verdict against Brexit, or support them in full as the only party prepared to enact the Brexit decision. The possibilities are curious given that Scottish polls continually show that there is no appetite for new referenda and a general fatigue with the whole debate.
In any event, referenda cannot predict every potential, emerging issue. General elections, on the other hand, grant a mandate for representatives to deal with changing circumstances and having one is an ethically sound decision. How Scotland votes should, and must be, considered in the aftermath of June to settle the independence debate for a generation. Only then can May proceed with Brexit in good conscience while protecting the United Kingdom.