Scotland in Europe Update: 15th March 2019

What is remarkable about where we stand is not what has changed but how much has remained the same. Ever since Mrs May triggered Article 50 with no long term plan (supported, remember, by the Labour and Conservative Parties) it has been obvious to anybody who understood the process that we would by this point have three choices: to accept a deal from the UK Government, crash out with no-deal, or simply revoke it.

The underlying choice is rigid and will not shift until one option has been picked.

So what has changed? For much of the last two years the terms of the deal were not clear. Now they are and no amount of last minute Strasbourg bells and whistles can disguise it. MPs once again voted it down on Tuesday and next week will get the opportunity to do so again.

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Scotland in Europe Update: 8th March 2019

With little of note happening on the Brexit front in Brussels this week, I was privileged to be in the gallery at Holyrood on Tuesday to watch the EU debate. It was an historic day because it was the first-ever joint motion presented in the name of almost all the parties in our national Parliament and also the National Assembly for Wales, the Senedd. Scotland’s SNP government and the Welsh Labour government have been working hand in glove on Brexit since the stramash was visited upon us, and it is testament to our outstanding Scotland in Europe Minister – Michael Russell – that we have such a strong joint position.

The message was clear: Brexit will be damaging and should be put back to the people, while a no-deal Brexit is unthinkable and must be taken of the table. The only exception to the unity we saw was from the Tories. They know that Brexit is damaging and against the clearly expressed wishes of the Scottish electorate, but because the UK voted to Leave Scotland must apparently follow. The unity of the UK comes above all else and instead of seeking compromise they have doubled down on the base. They’re barely speaking for 20% of the Scottish population, and alienating the rest.

They tried to portray the SNP as seeking grievance and using Brexit as a pretext for an independence referendum and I’ll confess I take personal offence at this. I’ve sat through the countless meetings where we’ve had to bite on hard reality – we’re not independent and we can’t wish Brexit away – and thrash out genuine compromises about how we could salvage the maximum possible. I’ve written extensively in the Scottish and other European media about how Brexit is absolutely not about independence. All this is ignored by a group of people so desperate to deflect attention from their own disaster.

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Scotland in Europe Update: 1st March 2019

Amid the week’s sound and fury Mrs May has for the first time explicitly put both a way for the House of Commons to block a no-deal Brexit, and to extend the Article 50 period, on the table. Both are news, as is Labour’s slight shift in policy in changing its language on a second EU referendum if no other way out presents itself.

But she’s put them on the table in a way that makes using them almost impossible and keeps her in charge. Nonetheless, the prospect of a delay, giving us more time to turn this around, did nudge up a notch or so yesterday, so we need to be ready for all eventualities.

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Scotland in Europe Update: 22nd February 2019

There’s a great phrase “everything has been said, but not yet said by everyone” and I have to say that is where I am with Brexit. Things I warned of two full years ago are now coming to pass, and every piece of economic bad news sees a squadron of useful idiots deployed to the airwaves to blame global events, the weather, the dog eating their homework, anything. Anything but accepting the simple reality that Brexit has already made the UK, and for the moment Scotland with it, a less attractive place to invest.

Given that seeking foreign investment has been a key plank of the Westminster economic consensus for the last four decades, this really matters. Japanese firms in particular were wooed by Margaret Thatcher onwards to locate in the UK for access to the EU Single Market. Consequently Brexit for them is a broken promise. As the Japanese Ambassador said the best part of two years ago “a door to nowhere is just a door” and serious people are making serious decisions. The Foreign Secretary likening the EU to the Soviet Union isn’t just a diplomatic gaffe, there are real consequences when the global community concludes that the UK is run by chancers. Unfortunately, real people in the real world lose their jobs.

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Scotland in Europe Update: 15th February 2019

Do you remember a time when Government defeats seemed like a big deal? Last night, Theresa May suffered yet another rejection from her own party as MPs voted 303-258 against a motion endorsing the government’s negotiating strategy. While this has no legal effect – and Downing Street has already confirmed the PM will continue her revolutionary ‘nae cairds’ approach to the EU talks – it weakens her position, including a subtle approach to rule out a no-deal Brexit.

Meanwhile, it was deeply disappointing that so many Labour MPs abstained on the SNP motion to extend Article 50 by a minimum of three months. Hats off to those MPs – including Edinburgh South’s Ian Murray – who put country over party. Sadly it wasn’t enough this time.
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Alyn unhappy with copyright compromise and vows "the fight goes on"

Alyn Smith MEP has expressed his "deep disappointment" in the result of today's outcome of the Copyright Directive trilogue negotiations. A text has now been finalised concerning the "link tax" (Article 11) and upload filters (Article 13).

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Scotland in Europe Update: 8th February 2019

Sometimes when the world seems bleak and senseless, governed by a class whose arrogance is matched only by their incompetence, and operating against all common sense and decency, it does you good to laugh.

So a weary ‘thank you’ to those sections of the British press and the more sensitive Brexiteers who, having spent decades comparing the EU to Hitler’s Germany, spreading lies and disinformation, and recently maintaining the bold negotiating stance of “I’m British! I want!”, are currently throwing hysterics over Donald Tusk being rude about them.

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Scotland in Europe Update: 1st February 2019

For the sake of her own Party unity and another few months in Downing Street, Theresa May has trashed her own deal. The deal it has taken two years of heartbreak to get, the deal that countless hours have been spent on by people who really would have rather been doing something else. Innumerable civil service discussions, expending credibility and good faith, to get to a text she threw under the bus at the first opportunity. Ian Dunt has produced an excellent summary of what the Commons did, so if you want the grisly details click here:
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It is astounding to witness a government whip its own MPs to vote down its own deal. Remember May solemnly agreed the backstop (twice); she proposed its form; she asked for and got help from EU27 in selling the withdrawal agreement. She promised she’d be able to hawk it to Parliament. Most MPs seem to have no idea or have conveniently forgotten that the EU27 line – that this is the only withdrawal agreement available, and that it will not be re-opened – was a position taken in response to May’s need to force her own MPs to agree to it.

 

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Scotland in Europe Update: 25th January 2019

As we wait to find out what twists and turns await us next week – when the House of Commons resumes voting again in earnest – it is worth taking stock of where we are. In among the drama it is too easy to lose focus.

Firstly, the clock is ticking. Unless something else actively happens, the UK and Scotland with it will leave the EU at 11pm (tellingly, it takes effect at midnight Brussels time) on March 29. All this "there's no majority in the Commons for No Deal" is entirely meaningless. Brexit will happen unless they actively do something to stop it.

Secondly, May's "deal" is just to exit. It deals with the future only in an aspirational Political Declaration which is not entirely worthless, but is not binding either. So all the bumping of gums by MPs about Norway plus, Canada minus or upside-down Lichtenstein is all so much puff: these negotiations would only start after the exit. If we exit with a deal then a transition period kicks in where EU law will continue to apply as we try to negotiate a future relationship. Basically we'd have as little idea of the future as now, except we would be outside the EU.

A "soft" Brexit where the UK remains in the single market and the customs union is undoubtedly the least damaging aspiration, and a theoretical outcome under May's deal.

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Scotland in Europe Update: 18th January 2019

This week has been a hard one. I know from my own inbox and being out and about that for a lot of people Brexit is not just a news crisis far away, it is real life, with real personal impact and folk are anxious. Watching the inevitable fall of Theresa May's deal gave me no satisfaction. The deal is terrible and needed to be defeated, but now we are going to need leadership.

The United Kingdom is not united, and it’s being led by a Tory administration that is less united still. Scotland’s position is clear: we voted to stay. Brexit is bad news for Scotland, bad news for the UK, and bad news for the EU. My job is not to 'mitigate' Brexit, it is to stop it. I’m pleased to see so many of my colleagues – in each level of government all around the UK – working across party lines to try to bring sense to this process.

The first job must be to secure more time. The UK Government should immediately request an extension to Article 50 so that we can plan for the future. While a referendum may well be the way out of this mess, and the UK Government is – at last – starting to listen to voices outside of its echo chamber, we need more time to put the case together.

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