Governments can talk a good game while frequently failing to deliver. At present it seems there are ways in which both the UK and Scottish Governments are playing for high stakes, without either having much prospect, the interested observer may conclude, of being able to deliver the outcomes they want.
“Brexit means Brexit”, Mrs May and her ministers repeatedly assure us. That is presumably for want of any more revealing definition, as the UK Government is pulled in all directions over what it means in terms of access to the EU single market, immigration controls, non-EU trade agreements and more – little short of Britain's whole place in the world, in fact.
Small wonder that many commentators offer a healthy scepticism over each ministerial announcement, never mind the prospects for the article 50 process or the timescale for actual exit. (Some even doubt whether it will happen at all, though it might be unwise to advise on that basis.) Twitter is a marvellous medium for instant deflating of official statements.
One of the keynote addresses at the Society's annual conference on 30 September (see our feature this month) should be particularly relevant here – commentator David Allan Green's take on “Law and Policy of Brexit”. Professing himself no strong supporter of either Remain or Leave, he has a knack of presenting crucial points in simple but trenchant language, and his presentation should be value for money among what is already a quality lineup.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has done its best to generate momentum behind finding a mechanism to keep Scotland in the EU, despite the Prime Minister having now cold-shouldered any such idea, and economic indicators casting serious doubt on whether Scotland on its own could meet the criteria for EU membership. Perhaps energies would be better directed at pressing for the UK to prioritise continued access to the single market, if that is where it believes our interests lie.
Politicians can be regrettably slow to appreciate the extent of global interdependence in the modern world – they certainly have been in the face of the migrant crisis, with EU nations mostly attempting to pass the problem on to someone else. Lawyers have been good at standing up for the international legal order in defending the European Convention on Human Rights against threats to continued UK participation. Any erecting of international barriers is likely to have unintended, and unwelcome, consequences in many areas covered by treaties, conventions and protocols, and as a profession we should be seeking to highlight these and press for policymakers to take them properly into account before they set our direction.