This week has been a very busy week in Strasbourg. Notably, Jean Claude Juncker gave his final State of the Union address outlining how the EU is performing, and what policies we will be looked at next year. He did, inevitably mention Brexit, though only briefly. Crucially he reiterated a few points for the benefit of those Brexiters who keep feigning deafness. Firstly, “if you leave the Union, you are of course no longer part of our single market, and certainly not only in the parts of it you choose. Secondly, the European Commission, this Parliament and all other 26 Member States will always show loyalty and solidarity with Ireland when it comes to the Irish border.”
You can read the full speech at the link below. What struck me was how the EU (except the UK) is coming together around a lot of the challenges we face. They are getting on with the day job of making Europe better.
The European parliament today, by 438 votes to 226 against with 39 abstentions, voted to approve the negotiating mandate for the next stage of complex negotiations over the reform of Copyright in the digital Single Market. The SNP European Group, Ian Hudghton and Alyn Smith, supported a workable compromise between the most contentious elements of the Directive, in particular Articles 11 and 13, and the right of copyright holders to receive fair remuneration for their work when published online.Read more
This week has seen some good news for EU citizens as the Scottish Government unveiled its Programme for Government. Building upon existing SNP policy, the Government announced that it will bring forward legislation to ensure that all EU nationals resident in Scotland maintain their Scottish voting rights in the event that Brexit takes place.
It is very simple really: anyone living in Scotland is Scottish. We are a nation comfortable with multiple identities and nobody who lives here should be cut out of our society. After all, we need more people not fewer. I am proud that our Government is taking real moves to reassure people - who have paid us the supreme compliment of making Scotland their home - that they are welcome, valued and part of the community.Read more
Scotland's government has announced that it will bring forward legislation to ensure that all EU nationals resident in Scotland maintain their Scottish voting rights in the event that Brexit takes place.
The measure, announced as part of the Programme for Government, builds on the existing policy of the SNP that all residents in Scotland should have the same democratic equality as their neighbours. In the referendum on Scotland's independence all EU nationals resident in Scotland had a right to vote. The Electoral Franchise Bill will also implement reforms to ensure all legal residents, from all countries, will be able to vote.Read more
The next few weeks and months are going to be the Brexit endgame, and we need to keep our eyes on the prize and not be distracted by the industrial scale amounts of chaff the opposition are going to throw out.
Scotland’s best future will come with independence, and the best route to that future is to ensure that EU membership is front and centre of our proposition. In the meantime, stopping Brexit for the whole of the UK is in all our interests, but in my National column this week I tried to pin down some of the myths spreading about Scotland and the EU.Read more
So, this week the UK Government has unveiled their plans for a no deal scenario. A scenario which, according to the Government, will be simultaneously disastrous and fine. Indeed, as Ian Dunt noted, the beleaguered Brexit Secretary seemed to be like a steward explaining how in the event of a crash “the plane would hit the water smoothly, just like in those cartoons they put on the safety leaflets, and then happy families would slide down into the inflatable rafts.”Read more
This week showed that those advocating for Brexit have not looked to the past for inspiration, but instead suffer from delusions of resurrecting an idealised version of it. The dreams of a worldwide trading network built upon the Commonwealth (synonymous with “Empire” for many, let’s be honest) is one that holds sway with those who see the world through the grainy black-and-white images of an imagined 1940s British Pathé news report. For them, The Empire Strikes Back is a promise, not part of the Lucas filmography.Read more
Has Theresa May been talking to European leaders directly to bypass Michel Barnier? According to Alberto Nardelli, the Prime Minister had a phonecall with her Italian counterpart Guiseppe Conte yesterday – so far, so good – but instead of Number 10 listing it on the official site as it usually does, the Italian call appears to be missing.
According to Nardelli, May was pushing for the other EU member states to go beyond the Full Trade Agreement or EEA options proposed by the EU’s chief negotiator, and this isn’t the only secretive May phonecall to have taken place.
One of the reasons the EU is such a powerful trading and political unit is that 28 is a much larger number than one, and when the EU speaks, it speaks with a single voice following extensive negotiation, compromise, and discussion. For the Prime Minister of one member state to attempt to break this unity, it’s not a good look. While David Cameron put the Conservative party over the best interests of the country, Theresa May appears to be going one better and trying to put the Conservative party over the good of a continent.
“We’ll just revert to WTO terms!” shriek the Brexiteers when challenged that the EU stuff is a bit complex. I’ll let you into a secret: anyone saying that clearly doesn’t understand what they’re talking about and should be quarantined as a dangerous fool.
Scotland’s best interests are emphatically to stay in the EU, but let’s look at the reality of WTO membership. If you didn’t like Brussels, wait till you meet Geneva!
The first thing to understand is that the WTO is not dedicated to free trade or fair trade (note the lack of an “F” in the acronym), neither is it democratic nor accountable to you as a citizen.Read more
So this has been the week of ‘no deal’. The head of Amazon warned it could cause civic unrest. (thetimes.co.uk/...); the NHS would need to stockpile drugs (bbc.co.uk/...) and the Brexit Secretary himself Dominic Raab has promised to make sure we don’t starve (twitter.com/...).
I must admit, all this hyperbole is rather too much, and I agree with Tánaiste Simon Coveney that there is far too much talk of a no deal: rte.ie/...
To be clear, one of the most damaging myths which seems to be emerging is that a no-deal Brexit is somehow a realistic or desirable option. It would be a catastrophe. The laws which ensure food, people, and everything else can move in and out of the external UK borders would cease to apply. It is fall of Yugoslavia and USSR stuff. It is unconscionable.
I don’t deny there are some who are pushing for it, but I do not see it as a remotely likely scenario. The fact that it's the sorts of the people I dislike most talking about it makes me all the more suspicious.
You can read more of my thoughts on this in the my National column for the week: thenational.scot/...Read more