In a hard-hitting intervention, Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis says the country’s impending withdrawal from the European Union poses “the gravest threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom in modern history”.
And Mr Jarvis, the Labour MP for Barnsley Central, says all leaders face “a monumental test” if the Union, which dates back to 1707, is to be preserved.
His warning comes as Ministers and MPs prepare to return to Westminster tomorrow to begin to scrutinise legislation paving the way for Britain to leave the EU on January 31 amid reports that the Government is split over Brexit strategy.
These divisions, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepares for his first Downing Street talks with Ursula von der Leyen, the new European Commission president, are likely to be overshadowed by soaring tensions in the Middle East after a US drone attack killed Iran’s top military leader – and the start of Labour’s contest to elect a new leader after the party’s historic election defeat last month.
Yet, as Sir Keir Starmer, the Shadow Brexit Secretary, becomes the latest candidate to launch their campaign, Mr Jarvis maintains that he has no plans at present to stand. However, writing in The Yorkshire Post, he says the election of a new Parliament needs to mark a ‘fresh start’ and acknowledge the threat to the UK.
Mr Jarvis, one of the Labour MPs who pressed for a Brexit deal before the election to honour the result of the 2016 EU referendum, fears the passage of Brexit legislation – and trade talks – will exacerbate tensions north of the border as the Scottish National Party, headed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, press for a second vote on independence.
This led to angry exchanges in the House of Commons in the Queen’s Speech debate when Theresa May, the former premier, accused the SNP of deceiving voters. “We all know that an independent Scotland will not be in the European Union – it will not be allowed to be in the European Union,” she said.
However Mr Jarvis now warns: “The illness in our body politic has many symptoms. But surely the most urgent is that our country is in danger of falling apart. A clear majority of Scottish voters backed the Union in 2014, but that majority is now paper thin. And Brexit hugely increases the pressure.
“Unless we act, our country as we know it could very easily perish within a few years. Some people regard that prospect with complacency. We have to wake up to the profound loss it would mean: economic and social disruption, a border across the heart of Britain.”
Mr Jarvis says “history” will ultimately judge MPs on their ability to preserve the Union. “We will never keep this country together by fear or force: nor should we want to. There must be a positive argument, a vision of the nation which can command the support of its people,” he adds. “If our Union ends because we did not attempt obvious reforms or a national dialogue, it would be not just a tragedy, but a contemptible failure of our politics.”
Give Scotland another vote, says Hollywood actor Brian Cox
Hollywood actor Brian Cox has called for a second referendum on Scottish independence.
The Dundee-born star, currently being lauded for his portrayal of an ageing media magnate in acclaimed TV drama Succession, said his native country has been “ignored” and “enough is enough”.
During last month’s General Election, the SNP won 48 of Scotland’s 59 constituencies.
“Eventually you can push people so far and they’re finally going to say ‘enough is enough’,” said the actor who left Labour in 2015 to join the SNP.
“Really, we need to take care of our own destiny, finally.”