A turbulent Christmas
3 Dec 18
Depressing divisions and a lack of clear thinking dominate the Brexit scene. But (stop press) there is something positive in the official reaction to the legal aid review
What must the rest of the world think of the UK at the moment? Our political leaders remind me of nothing so much as a set of panicked cartoon characters throwing a bomb with a fizzing fuse from one to the next, with none of them apparently having the thought of trying to put it out, as the clock ticks down to the appointed Brexit day with (as I write) no sign of any consensus, or even a majority view, on what to do next.
What has government of this country come to, when the Prime Minister insists her negotiated Brexit deal is the best thing for the country even as her Chancellor's figures show economic decline following Brexit, with or without a deal? And what is the point of the Prime Minister touring the country to win support for a deal she has no intention of putting to the popular vote?
Yet opposition politicians who have professed support for a “People's Vote” have yet to accept what appears to me the logical consequence: accept the Withdrawal Agreement on the express condition that it is put to a referendum, with the other alternatives being Remain, and a no-deal Brexit. What other options could now be put to the people? And what other legal avenues exist to secure a vote?
It is deeply depressing that in this time of national crisis, the political scene is dominated by loud factions seemingly determined to defend their corner to the death – at what cost to the country?
In the face of this turmoil, life goes on. Some will wonder what all the fuss is really about; others may notice effects for example on businesses, the property market, or the ability to hire. There are bound to be consequences; but it will be years before we can assess them fully.
The very afternoon this month's issue was completed, the Scottish Government gave its long-awaited response to the recommendations in Martyn Evans's review of legal aid – principally, in terms of firm commitments, the 3% across-the-board fee increase from April 2019, and the undertaking to work with the profession on devising an evidence based model for agreeing fee levels longer term. The 3% has not exactly had legal aid lawyers dancing in the streets (no surprise, after so many years of real-terms cuts), but dare I suggest that the greater prize is the prospect of a stable arrangement for keeping fees under review. If ever there was a time to engage constructively with the Government, it is now. Legal aid lawyers have been forced to play a long game; may the review yet turn out to work to their advantage longer term. Season's greetings, everyone.