This has been a busy week in Brussels, but the most significant developments have been in London. Firstly, the House of Lords backed the UK staying in the Customs Union, incorporating the European Charter of Fundamental Rights (ECFR) into UK law and restricting the use of secondary legislation to transpose EU workers and consumer rights in the Great Repeal Bill. (news.sky.com/story...)
All of these are welcome, though it is not without irony that we are reliant on the unelected House of Lords to stand up for what matters. Having said that, there was also an entirely symbolic vote on the Customs Union in the House of Commons. (www.independent.ie/business...)
The support this received matters; the real vote will be sometime soon, and we will need the Commons to stand up for what is best for Scotland and the UK. Staying in the Customs Union will not solve all of our problems (frankly, only remaining a full EU member will do that) but it is a good start.
This all builds on the sense of frustration in Brussels because the UK Government is proving to be incapable of handling the task at hand. The EU Commission is particularly worried about Liam Fox's 'incompetent' attempts to ensure that the EU’s trade deals with third countries still apply to the UK during the transition period (uk.businessinsider.com...). Real jobs rely on them.
David Martin, Labour MEP for Scotland, and member of the First Minister’s Standing Council wrote an excellent piece last month for the Scottish Centre on European Relations covering some of these issues. The bottom line is simple: full EU membership is the best option available to us but staying in the Customs Union goes a long way to solving some of the issues we face.
After laying out a series of scenarios with some pretty dire warnings his conclusion is important:
“Of course, this is not a fact of what’s to come but, just like Ebenezer in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, a future borne from disregarding the past or the present. That has its own consequences – and those who ignore the warnings bear the responsibility for the future to come.”
We still have choices. The UK could change course. If not, we in Scotland must again weigh up the choices before us. None of this will be easy, there will be challenges before us no matter what but between the narrow vision of Brexit Britain and independence in Europe I know what I will be campaigning for.
P.S. In response to questions about fake news, data privacy, and political campaigning, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg is going to attend the European Parliament, having repeatedly refused to attend Westminster. Here's where the power lies.
I live in hope that one day Michel Barnier will get to stop calling on the UK to provide more clarity (for his sanity’s sake if nothing else!) but until more detail is available, the negotiations are once again at an impasse.
The UK Government is still intent on overriding the devolution settlement in the Great Repeal Bill. As Mike Russell said to the Scottish Parliament this week:
“Notwithstanding the more benign language now being used, the effect of the UK Government’s latest proposals remains this: the Scottish Parliament’s powers could be restricted - for a period of up to seven years - without its consent.
“That is not something the Scottish Government could recommend the Parliament approves.”
The SNP will continue to stand up for Scotland and the devolution settlement in Edinburgh, Brussels and London. You can read his full statement here:
64% of Scots think they would be better off in the Single Market.
Further polling has shown that even in areas of England which voted Leave there is a strong desire to keep the Single Market.
Richard Corbett, leader of the Labour group in the European Parliament, has said that a second Brexit referendum is possible.
The Daily Mail is outraged that leaving the EU means leaving the EU…
If you want to read more about the new EU border system they mention, you can do so here.
and some analysis of this from Professor Steve Peers of the University of Essex is available here.
The Northern Ireland Civil Service don’t think Theresa May’s border plan will work.
The UK Government paid McKinsey & Company £680K for a Brexit customs plan which won’t work.
Japan’s Ambassador has warned that there is no better trade deal than the Single Market.
The House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee says the Government is almost out of time to negotiate an orderly trade system after the Brexit transition.
Rolls Royce is contemplating a move to elsewhere in Europe because of Brexit.
This twitter thread from the European Parliament Office in Scotland details just some of the marvellous Erasmus+ projects in Scotland.
The House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee has warned that the UK could be excluded from accessing the Galileo satellite system post Brexit.
Alan Manning, chairman of the Migration Advisory Committee, warns that agriculture will be a sector likely to“struggle most” after Brexit.
Finally, Public Policy Events are hosting a series of information days for EU citizens. Each session involves a panel of immigration lawyers, advice workers and experts on the Brexit process. More details can be found here.