This has been a busy week in both Brussels and Westminster. Boris Johnson’s arrogant and ridiculous statement to the House of Commons that so far as honouring the UK’s financial commitments the EU could “Go whistle!” seems a long time ago. A few days later Michel Barnier’s rather dry response that: "I'm not hearing any whistling, just the clock ticking," seemed rather apt since by the end of the week the UK Government has conceded it will pay something.
This reveals the process for the farce that it is. The worry is that it is too easy to just laugh at the madness and move on, but the dangers we face are far too serious for that. The Great Repeal Bill was published this week and is everything I feared it would be:
It would be difficult for anyone to disagree with Amnesty International and Liberty who together released a statement that: “the vote to leave the European Union was not a mandate for ministers to take rights away from people in the UK. Paying lip service to protecting our rights doesn’t count for anything if those protections are not in the legislation – in black and white.”
The bill is also a clampdown on the already limited powers of the Scottish Parliament. Forget delivering a whole set of new powers as the Leave campaign promised, Brexit is restricting the devolved governments more than ever.
A joint statement from the Scottish and Welsh Governments concludes that since the bill “imposes new restrictions on the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales… the Scottish and Welsh Governments cannot recommend that legislative consent is given.”
Brexit is being used as an excuse to remove the rights from the people and parliaments of these islands. The UK Government is hell-bent on pursuing the hardest possible Brexit and seems to not care about the human consequences of that. Rest assured, we will fight this and it is not over yet.
The UK must improve its offer to EU citizens or the European Parliament will veto the deal, according to Guy Verhofstadt and other MEPs representing three quarters of the Parliament
As they very reasonably point out, even Vote Leave during the referendum promised that EU citizens would be treated “no less favourably than they are at present”. A promise that has clearly been broken by the UK Government.
The SNP continues to work with our European allies. Yesterday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon met with Michel Barnier, Chief Negotiator for the EU.
And earlier in the week also spoke to Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
The EU continues to be transparent and open, releasing this summary of the state of play of the Article 50 negotiations.
Ian Dunt’s analysis of the Great Repeal Bill is worth a read, ominously concluding that it “is as dangerous and far-reaching a piece of legislation as we have seen in our lifetimes.”
The UK Government has also started to (slowly) accept that the Brexit fantasy is just that. Firstly, by accepting that the Court of Justice of the European Union could have a role in any transition deal.
Secondly, by realising that the UK will have to honour its financial obligations as it leaves the EU.
Boris Johnson has revealed that there is no plan for what happens if we leave without a deal.
The UK Government (finally!) released some more position papers. The paper on judicial matters puts it on a collision course with the EU who rightly argue that any breach of EU law that takes place before we leave is a matter for the European Courts, even if the case is not lodged before the departure date.
The position paper on Nuclear Safety raises as many questions as answers. As the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) state it contains “very little detail”.
Five senior nuclear scientists, including the chair of the UK Atomic Energy Agency, have said that the decision to leave Euratom (the European Atomic Energy Community) will cause major problems for the UK’s research, energy production, and industry.
Camino Mortera-Martinez of the Centre for European Reform has written a fascinating article explaining how it may not be possible for the UK to remain in the European Arrest Warrant after leaving the EU.
“Only if agreement with the EU went far beyond the customs union agreement between Turkey and the EU could it prevent the introduction of customs checks.” Peter Holmes of the Scottish Centre for European Relations has argued that a Turkey style deal may not be all people hope for.
61 per cent of Scottish firms believe that we should remain in both the single market and the customs union, according to a new British Chambers of Commerce survey.
“Leaving the customs union and the single market will impose significant extra bureaucracy on businesses, resulting in friction and cost for all concerned.” So says the Road Haulage Association.
Such concerns are justified as the UK’s public spending watchdog revealed that the UK’s new customs system “may need to be ready” for Brexit.
The UK Government has no “clear plan”, according to Paul Drechsler, President of the Confederation of British Industry.
Deloitte’s quarterly survey of chief financial officers found they were more worried about the economy than at any point in the past two and a half years.
Brexit will cause "higher prices, less choice and poorer quality" according to Justin King, former boss of Sainsbury’s.
My column this week is on Simone Veil, the Holocaust survivor, former President of the European Parliament, and fearless champion of women’s rights whose life is a reminder of why the EU was brought into being.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philipp has unveiled a variety of measures to attract UK firms to Paris post-Brexit.
1,000 solicitors from England and Wales have registered in Ireland since the Referendum - at least 10 times the regular annual number.
The Centre for European Policy Studies have put together a report on the Irish Border as a Customs Frontier after Brexit.
According to the National Farmers Union there is need for “a clear and unambiguous commitment from Government that farmers and growers will have access to sufficient numbers of permanent and seasonal workers from outside of the UK where necessary after the UK leaves the EU.”