It has been a busy week. The big news is the Scottish Government has published a consultation on a draft Independence Referendum Bill.
This does not mean there will be another IndyRef, there is a long way to go yet, but if there is another it will not be because the result of the 2014 referendum has not been respected – it will be because the promises made to Scotland have not been kept.
The SNP Manifesto clearly stated that another IndyRef could be called “if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will.” It doesn't get more clear cut than that and, unlike the Tories who committed to the single market in their 2015 general election manifesto, we will stand by our promises.
In Brussels I have been busy meeting ministers from our Government and elsewhere in Europe. These have been productive and together we are building the good will needed across the EU. This groundwork is going to be essential for whatever happens next.
Elsewhere CETA got into even more difficulties, the EU's accounts were signed off again, and as an honorary vet I am deeply concerned about the potential impact of Brexit on animal welfare.
The Scottish Whisky Association lost its case against the Scottish Government clearing another hurdle for Minimum Unit Pricing.
The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and the British Veterinary Association (BVA) wrote to the Prime Minister emphasising their concern that “the ongoing uncertainty for non-British EU citizens, could seriously impact the veterinary profession’s ability to fulfil its essential roles.”
See my comments on this here:
Scottish Government Ministers reached out to MEPs. The Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs Fiona Hyslop and Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe Michael Russell visited the European Parliament.
and met with (amongst others) Scotland’s MEPs:
I met with Prime Minister Kretschmann of Baden-Württemberg to discuss Scotland and Europe.
The European Court of Auditors have (once again) signed off the EU Accounts.
This actually happens every year (despite what parts of the press say) and here is a full explanation of the issue:
“It’s impossible to have a serious conversation about knowing what kind of trade agreement you can have with the UK separately” until the UK has sorted out what relationship it will have with the rest of Europe said U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman:
Fiona Hyslop gave an interview to Euractiv putting across the Scottish Government’s position.
I wrote a piece in the National covering the latest TTIP/CETA developments.
Wallonia intends to continue to reject CETA following some (minor) concessions from the Commission on the Canadian trade deal. See the Belgian paper L'Echo for more details (in French).
Paul Magnette, the minister-president of Wallonia gave an interview explaining Wallonia’s opposition to CETA. Interestingly, he commented “Whether that makes people happy or not, this assembly has the same constitutional power as a member state.” Worth remembering next time someone mentions that Scotland has the most powerful devolved parliament in the world! The full interview can be found here (in French):
“If we can't make it with Canada I don't think we can make it with the UK” said Cecilia Malmström, the EU trade commissioner commenting on the possibility of a Canada style deal for the UK.
Echoing this, “CETA could be our [the EU] last free trade agreement” according to Donald Tusk, President of the EU Council.
Bruegel have produced an interesting analysis on the various possible relationships the UK could enjoy after Brexit. This is still highly simplified but at least gives a sense of the complexities that lie ahead:
Source: Bruegel adapted from HSBC (2016).
And for some better news to finish (though not strictly Brexit related) the Washington Post has written an interesting comment piece on Scotland’s ‘quiet energy revolution’.