It has been a very busy week, with Theresa May finally delivering her long-heralded Brexit speech. It was far from being a plan, or a white paper but it did at last give us some idea of the direction of travel. A wish list is perhaps the best description!
It is clear she has at least listened to European leaders and worked out that Single Market access means freedom of movement must continue.
Unfortunately, that is where the good news ends. In a bid to appease the irrational anti-immigration agenda of her own party, the UK is to leave the Single Market.
Losing our place in the Single Market would be potentially devastating to the Scottish economy. The Fraser of Allander Institute has shown this could cost 80,000 Scottish jobs within a decade and cost people an average of £2,000 in wages.
The Scottish Government would have preferred the whole of the UK to stay in the Single Market, but if the UK doesn’t, Scotland still can. This is the compromise that was put forward last year by the Scottish Government, in a considerably more detailed plan than Theresa May outlined yesterday.
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The week began with Philip Hammond threatening our EU friends and allies in an interview with Die Welt. The UK Government, not for the last time, attempted to blackmail the other EU nations by hinting that, if the EU doesn’t give into the UK’s demands, they will convert the UK into a Singapore-style low tax, limited workers’ rights economy.
And this was of course echoed in Theresa May’s speech, the full text of which can be read here:
The response from across Europe was damning. El País viewed the UK government as the extremists.
Le Monde expressed concerns about the French migrant community in London (in French).
Liberation pointed out that May had gone for the hardest line possible, gained the approval of Nigel Farage and then attempted to blackmail the rest of Europe.
"Not only nasty, but also blind to reality" was the view of Der Spiegel (in German).
The Front Page accused May of turning the UK into ‘Little Britain’
“It’s sad to see that, for the Brits, the EU per se has no political value anymore” was the sad tone of the Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German).
The Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny welcomed some clarity but continued to express concerns about the time frame and border.
Sweden's minister for finance, Magdalena Andersson in an interview for Swedish Radio expressed her worries about the wider impact of the hard Brexit May is pursuing.
The EU and UK need to continue to work together on security matters, says the Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano.
Charles Michel, the Belgian Prime Minister, called for clear and realistic objectives (in Dutch).
The “UK's plan seems a bit ambitious - trade as free as possible, full control on immigration...where is the give for all the take?” says Tomas Prouza, State Secretary for European Affairs for the Czech Republic.
“Brexit will be a sad, surreal and exhausting process” is the view of Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit negotiator.
Further afield the New York Times described Theresa May’s ‘Global Britain’ as Baloney.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's full reaction to the PM’s speech can be read here:
After yesterday’s Joint Ministerial Council meeting the Scottish Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe Michael Russell emphasised that
“It is extremely disappointing that the Prime Minister chose to disregard the process and make a significant announcement about her position two days before the JMC even considered our paper [on Scotland and Europe]. It is now clear that single market membership for the whole of the UK is no longer an option and this is hugely disappointing.
“However, there are other options set out in our paper Scotland’s Place in Europe and our focus now is to ensure the UK Government takes seriously our objective of keeping Scotland in the European Single Market.
“They need to demonstrate that this is the case because the clock is ticking. The views and economic interests of the people of Scotland cannot be disregarded and brushed aside.”
At a lecture in Glasgow, Lord Kerr, the author of Article 50 urged that it was time to "press May on insecurity" of her hard Brexit plan.
The French have launched a programme to tempt tech start-ups away from London in the wake of Brexit.
The German-British Chamber of Industry and Commerce have said, “So the idea that Germany from a business point of view will be very flexible towards the U.K. in the Brexit negotiations is a dream.”
Various Banks have confirmed after Theresa May’s speech that they intend to move staff from the City of London in the wake of Brexit
There is a good overview of the forthcoming case on the reversibility of Article 50 available here.
Ireland has made further moves to become the future location of the European Medicines Agency that seems likely to leave London.
On Tuesday 24 January 2017 we’ll get the judgement of the Brexit Supreme Court Case.
The Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME) has written to Michel Barnier emphasising either professional migration between European countries or that Brexit must not threaten the progress of attendant patient safety measures like the alert mechanism