Sketch: Brexit, fishing and cold sick

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 23 March 2018 in Comment

Sketch: Douglas Ross has been talking about drinking cold sick out of a pint glass

The good news is that Douglas Ross is not going to force you to drink a pint glass full of cold sick. The bad news is that he is going to try to convince you to.

Why he’s going to try and convince you to do that is, of course, another question. How did it come to this? Well, as a slightly perplexed Ruth Davidson was forced to explain to ITV, “He represents a fishing area up in Moray,” and as the last few days has revealed, the fishing industry is not happy.

In short, and for anyone who has spent the last few days in hibernation, it seems the UK Government has reached an agreement with the EU over the transitional period post-Brexit, which would allow EU states continued access to fish in UK territorial waters, despite previous suggestions to the contrary.

And that’s why we’re discussing vomit. As Ross put it: “There is no spinning this as a good outcome, it would be easier to get someone to drink a pint of cold sick than try to sell this as a success.”

The issue is of critical importance, and it certainly demands questions. Why a pint of sick, for example? Some people – OK, odd people – suggested it should have been a bucket. Would a litre of sick have been too much? And why specify the temperature? Would warm vomit have been better?

And, most pressingly, what experience does Douglas Ross have in this area? How does he know so much about convincing people to drink sick out of a glass? At this stage, there’s no point closing down any avenues of investigation, and it’s quite possible that, far from being an odd analogy, Ross evaluates every negative policy decision against its corresponding weight in sick.

Closing down the libraries? He’d rather drink a shot glass of sick. Stopping a third child from accessing income support? Make it a bathtub.

In the aftermath of the election, there was a lot of discussion over how the new intake of Scottish Tories would change the dynamic in Westminster. Would they toe the party line? Would they rebel? What would they bring to the Commons? Turned out it was pints of vomit.

Of course, it’s important to keep a sense of perspective in these things, but Ross’s reaction was a strong one, even by his own standards.

For example, when he faced widespread criticism after calling for “tougher enforcement against Gypsy Travellers”, he barely blinked. In fact, accused of discriminating against an already persecuted minority, he calmly responded to suggest the group “flout local planning procedures with illegal encampments”.

It was an odd take on the concept of discrimination, but unfortunately it didn’t end there. Facing more questions – for some reason his initial explanation didn’t quash all the questions – he explained, with the air of a man struggling with the injustice of being misunderstood, that the behaviour of Gypsy Travellers represents a “significant problem”. And that, really, should have been the end of it. After all, you can’t possibly discriminate against a group if you believe they are a “significant problem”, can you? No, discrimination is only discrimination if it’s against the good guys.

But through it all, Ross kept his cool. Condemned by Amnesty International and accused of “blatant displays of anti-Gypsyism” by the Gypsy Traveller community, Ross started talking about the planning system. But offer him a transition deal that would see present practices continued for a couple of years and he starts trying to down pints of vomit.

There’s one clear conclusion to all this: it’s clearly getting harder and harder to be weird in British politics.

And so, enter Jacob Rees-Mogg, with conversation quickly turning to speculation he would take to the Thames to throw fish out of a boat in protest. It was surprising, and not least because Rees-Mogg always seemed more like a hot air balloon sort of guy. Or he could use some sort of Jules Verne-style steampunk submarine. But, sadly, speculation was soon crushed.

Refuting the story, Rees-Mogg claimed: “I’m not throwing fish anywhere. I’m not a fish thrower,” before adding: “I think this has got slightly out of hand,” though it was unclear if that was a pun.

It seemed a shocking betrayal of the fishing industry’s betrayal. But it was at this point that things became more confusing, because although Rees-Mogg wasn’t going on the betrayal boat, fellow Tory MP Ross Thomson was. Or he tried to, at least, before being barred from setting sail by Transport for London. It had all gone a bit The Thick of It. Or possibly, The Sick of It, in this case.

Of course, none of that means the issue isn’t important. They are our fish, after all. British fish. Though it’s questionable if the fish feel the same patriotic attachment to us.

But no wonder the fishing industry is unhappy. In fact, there are still huge questions over the future of areas ranging from fish to finance to education and the environment, and with Theresa May not due to reach agreement with the EU on transitional arrangements until later this month, things could still get a lot queasier. Until then, well, you know what to do. Reach for that pint glass.

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