Scotland in Europe Update: 4th October 2019

Your SNP MEPs have had a busy week representing Scotland in Europe. In Brussels, Christian spoke passionately at the Petitions Committee of the European Parliament about citizens’ rights, calling for primary legislation to protect the millions across the UK and the rest of the EU whose rights are in danger of being withdrawn.

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Also, Member States’ nominees for the European Commission are currently appearing before Parliament and we can assure you that our colleagues take very seriously their responsibility for scrutiny and oversight of the Executive (an issue we’ll return to below). Far from being ‘unelected bureaucrats’, each potential Commissioner must appear before the committee(s) relevant to their portfolio and must then be approved by Parliament as a whole. For the avoidance of any doubt, this is not just for show. Already two nominees have been rejected on the grounds of possible conflicts of interest and replacements will have to be found.

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Aileen met with European Commission Environment officials in Brussels this week to discuss plans to bring forward a new circular economy action plan and as part of that a new strategy for the textiles sector. There is much Scotland’s textiles sector has to contribute to the transition to a more sustainable and circular economy at the EU level and with a key role to play leading from the front. Aileen was also in Paris this week, along with Finance Secretary Derek Mackay, for high-level discussions on wellbeing policy and climate actions at the OECD. Scotlands pioneering approach on both issues was extremely well received and Scotland is setting an example that many of our European and international partners can learn from and we can learn from their experiences too.

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The UK government, on the other hand, is behaving rather differently. Its so-called fair and reasonable proposals are nothing of the sort. Once again they have failed to put forward anything close to a workable alternative to the backstop in Ireland. In his letter to Jean-Claude Juncker, Johnson described the backstop as a “bridge to nowhere”, wilfully failing to understand that the backstop is in fact a safety net in the event that talks on the future relationship become a bridge to nowhere. Elsewhere in the same letter, Johnson described these UK proposals as a “broad landing zone”. Well, after three years of this debacle, both we and the EU are entitled to expect something better than that.

The unescapable conclusion from yet another display of bad faith and unworkable proposals from the UK government is that they are desperate to shift the blame for their failed execution of a failed project onto anybody but themselves.

In related news, the UK government plans to prorogue Parliament once again on Tuesday and prepare for a Queen’s speech on 14 October. Whatever legal chicanery they manage to use to avoid falling foul of the law of the land (assuming they succeed in doing so, which is a big assumption as Johnson’s administration is as incompetent as it is unscrupulous), this demonstrates unequivocally that they have rejected, at least in spirit, the Supreme Court ruling that upheld the right - and duty - of Parliament to scrutinise the Executive and hold it to account.

That is not democracy. Scotland deserves better.

 

Alyn’s latest National column on the self-inflicted crisis facing the Tories in Scotland.

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In similar vein, this view from Le Monde in France described the Tories as being “on a populist downward spiral.”

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Remember, any ‘deal’ needs the approval of a majority of the European Parliament. Here’s the EP resolution from September saying as much. Unfortunately, we could not vote in favour of the resolution (we abstained) on account of its description of Theresa May’s withdrawal deal as “fair and balanced” but the key point here is that the European Parliament must sign off on any deal, along with every national legislature in Europe... something which the Scottish Parliament will not be given the chance to do.

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Here is the downbeat reaction from the Brexit Steering Group of the European Parliament, the members of which are understandably taking a very dim view of the viability of Johnson’s proposals.

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“Officials and diplomats in Brussels admitted to bewilderment at the idea that the British government could see its new formal negotiating offer as the basis of serious talks.”

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Wondering what exactly Boris Johnson’s border plan entails? The Irish Times has you covered.

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Evidence that the ‘new’ proposals from the UK government are nothing more than a transparent attempt to shift blame: a leaked memo orders MPs to call the EU crazy if it rejects Johnson’s offer.

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Ian Dunt hits the nail on  the head when assessing Johnson’s latest scheme: ‘No viability, no decency, no hope.’

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On a similar note, Jenni Russell from The Times described the proposal as “not serious”, “totally irresponsible” and “a piece of pure political theatre.”

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The always excellent Fintan O’Toole argues - rightly, in our view - that the UK government, by compromising with the DUP, has broken its own solemn legal and political commitments and destroyed whatever credibility it had left.

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The DUP has been accused by other Northern Irish parties of breaching its own red lines.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel has reiterated that the EU27 will stick together. That’s what being part of the club means.

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As regards prorogation and a Queen’s speech, University College London has published a remarkable piece arguing that, if the UK government intends to call an election soon (something we all know to be true), then they are in effect using the Queen to deliver a Tory party political broadcast.

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In case you missed it, here’s a piece on no-deal and the British Overseas Territories, including Anguilla, who may not be able to cooperate so closely with St Martin, a French Overseas Territory.

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Boris Johnson’s unwinnable chess match is nearing its endgame - and every move can be seized on by Nigel Farage.

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The abhorrent language used in the House of Commons last week has been noted by our friends across the Channel. “Depuis le référendum sur le Brexit, la politique britannique a largement perdu sa réputation de stabilité et ses manières policées.”

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A bit of good news for chickens. The EU will require the Mercosur states to keep their hens in line with EU animal welfare standards.

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A decision warmly welcomed by the BVA’s latest Honorary Vet, Mr Alyn Smith!

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