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Scotland in Europe Update 4th May 2018

The focus of the press has been on Downing Street this week where Theresa May has been presiding over the Tory party tearing itself to pieces over two proposals for the future relationship between the EU and the UK. These proposals are to either remove border infrastructure through technology that has not been invented yet or to create a customs partnership where the UK collects the EU customs duties to avoid a border. The problem with this (setting aside that the UK does not have a stellar track record of collecting EU duties even as a member) is that it is impossible to deliver. Modern supply chains mean that tracking individual components backwards and forwards across the border would be so complex as to be impossible.

Which brings me to the key point. The UK Cabinet is arguing over two options that are equally impossible. They are also options that the European Commission has already rejected!


Stepping back from the magical world of the Brexiters and 10 Downing Street, the EU Commission has been getting on with proposing the next budget. The EU’s MFF (Multiannual Financial Framework, since you ask) lays out what the EU’s priorities are over the next seven years. The Brexiters promised that Blighty’s departure would bankrupt the EU but far from it, they are getting on and flourishing without the UK.

Although it is great news that the Commission is proposing to double ERASMUS+ it is also heart-breaking that at the moment there is no guarantee that Scotland will get to enjoy the benefits. As an Erasmus graduate myself I’ll fight hard to see Scotland stay in but we are going to need the UK Government to stop arguing about already-rejected impossible solutions and to start dealing with real world issues. Our young people have a great deal to offer Europe and vice-versa and it is wrong they may be denied the opportunities they deserve against their will.

I have said before that Brexit is a bad thing being done badly. This week shows this more than ever.

I was delighted to catch up with Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) as they launched their #EUarevalued campaign in Brussels.

This is an important campaign and I could not agree more when they state that “every person who works to make a difference to Scottish communities should be valued, and that includes our colleagues who have come from other EU countries to live and work here.”

Guy Verhofstadt has written to new UK Home Secretary on Citizens' Rights. Don't let the constructive language fool you – after the conduct of negotiations so far the UK has zero goodwill, and after the Windrush scandal there is zero trust that from the EU that the UK will look after people.

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned that “there is a real risk that we won't meet the October deadline if we don't see real and meaningful progress in June". A no-deal is still possible unless the UK starts engaging realistically.

Michel Barnier has emphasised the EU’s support for Ireland: “without a backstop [agreement to keep Northern Ireland in the Customs Union], there can be no Withdrawal Agreement. This is an EU issue, not only an Irish issue.”

The House of Lords has again stood up for the rights of Parliament by demanding that the meaningful vote on the exit deal is actually meaningful.

The Home Office has spent £21 million on attempting to work out how to deal with EU citizens post-Brexit.

InFacts have put together a handy guide to why almost everything said by the Brexiters about the Customs Union is wrong.

A new digital tax system designed by HMRC is delayed because of Brexit.

The House of Commons International Trade Committee has warned against rushing into trade negotiations with the US without first establishing a clear, comprehensive and evidence-based trade strategy. You would think this would be obvious!

If you are curious about the MFF, the Commission has released a vast amount of information about its proposals. I warn you, they are not all light reading but there is plenty there if you are interested.

Finally, Scotland led the way in cutting down on harmful drinking by introducing Minimum Unit Pricing this week. This is not about prohibiting alcohol. This is a proportionate, evidence-based policy to encourage responsible drinking and cut down on heavy drinking that mostly happens at home.