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Scotland in Europe Update: 23rd November 2018

Next week the Brexit drama moves to Luxembourg, where I believe a fundamental part of undoing Brexit will move a step forward. As we see the mess at Westminster, MPs need to know their choice is not this Blindfold Brexit vs No Deal: there are other options. One of them being to stop Brexit altogether, as Theresa May has finally acknowledged is possible.

Brexit has been the best of times and worst of times, and we’ve seen a number of people really step up, put the party badges to one side and work together to bring some sense to it all. I’m proud that I’m one of a group of Scottish politicians from all three of the Parliaments currently relevant to Scotland taking the UK Government to court to seek clarity on how the Article 50 notice can be revoked, should the UK Parliament decide to do so.

Andy Wightman MSP and Ross Greer MSP for the Greens, Catherine Stihler and David Martin MEP for Labour, alongside Joanna Cherry MP and I for the SNP, have taken the case because we need to know a technical, but important point: can Article 50 be revoked unilaterally? Or, if not, what are the conditions to revocation?

There has been an industrial-scale spin operation from Westminster to give the impression that no, it cannot. That “well it’s done now, we’ll just need to make the best of it” approach trying to appeal to that “soldiering on, mustn’t grumble” and “Best of British” cod-stoicism which has been so much in evidence lately. But I believe it can; the question is, how. The UK Government has fought us tooth and nail, using every trick in the book while they were at it. I’m a lawyer-to-trade myself, I know a court case can be an expensive business and is not to be undertaken lightly, so I’m glad that we have had the support of the indefatigable Jo Maughan and the Good Law Project with crowdfunder support, as well as a crack legal team. (

On Tuesday, the European Court of Justice will hear the case, consider the treaties and retire to give a ruling. I can’t predict the outcome, and I’m not much of a betting man anyway, but the clarity we seek from the Court will be useful in many ways.

I'm concerned that too many MPs are vulnerable to the "there’s no alternative" pressure which will be immense; from business, the UK Government, and indeed Brussels itself. But there are other options. It is clear to anyone with eyes to see that there is no good Brexit for Scotland. Our job is to ensure that any avenue to turn it around is properly explored.

Yours aye,



If you would like to read more of the legal background to the case, then Alan Reid has put together this excellent summary.

One of my fellow plaintiffs, Jolyon Maugham QC, has also written this brilliant piece on why MPs must know if Article 50 is revocable.

The hearing in Luxembourg can go ahead next week because the UK Government lost their final appeal to the Supreme Court. You can read the ruling here.

It may seem a long time since the initial publication of the EU-UK exit deal, but it’s worth spending time on. This could, unless stopped, define our future. I put together this update for the National last weekend which still holds true.

We got first sight of the next draft of the political declaration yesterday and it’s still full of fudge. If you think this will end Brexit, you will be sorely disappointed.

As MLex emphasise in this piece, it’s also the death of Chequers.

If you are concerned by events in London and Brussels it is also worth adding Geneva to your list since the UK Government is also making a mess of things at the WTO. You can read more of my thoughts here.

Some of the Brexiters have finally worked out that leaving the European Union means not having seats in the European Parliament. I am shocked!

I spoke at an event hosted by Stewart McDonald MP answering questions on the withdrawal agreement. Fortunately, our friends at Independence Live recorded the event so you can watch it here.

Michel Barnier spoke about the deal after briefing ambassadors. As he said, “We are in fact at a decisive moment in this process.”

Theresa May accused EU immigrants of “jumping the queue”. To be clear, *nobody* jumped any queue, and even talking in terms like that is incredibly damaging.

As Nicola Sturgeon said in response: “that the case for Brexit has been reduced to such a miserable and self-defeating bottom line is depressing in the extreme. Let’s lift our sights higher than this.”

After Theresa May’s horrendous speech about EU migrants it is worth re-emphasising that there are no pro-immigration arguments for Brexit. This piece by Jonathan Lis from a few weeks back makes this point very well.

Kathy Sheridan in the Irish Times also reminds us that this is what Theresa May’s Brexit is all about. “It’s the not-at-all-the-lonely passion of Theresa May. It’s about immigration, stupid.” 

Nicola Sturgeon went to London to build support to reject Theresa May’s deal. She gave an interview with Laura Kuenssberg explaining her position that is well worth a watch.

It is worth emphasising that May does not appear to have a majority in the Commons for her deal right now (though things could shift over the coming weeks). We all need to continue to fight this.

Anton Muscatelli has written an outstanding piece for the Scottish Centre on European Relations on where we are now, and which Brexit Deal is on offer: The Mad, Implausible, Plausible or Desirable?

Davis Polk has produced a good legal briefing on the exit deal and what it means.

Catherine Stihler, Labour MEP for Scotland, has warned that “Brexit will be an unmitigated disaster and I am fighting hard to stop it. … Theresa May’s government is imploding around her.” I couldn’t have put it better myself.

A poll for Prospect magazine has revealed that 42% of voters think the EU referendum was “unfair and illegitimate” vs just 38% who think the reverse.

While the UK burns its bridges with the rest of the world the EU has signed another Strategic Partnership with India focusing on sustainable modernisation and on common responses to global and regional issues. There is a handy explainer here: