As the saying goes, the darkest hour is right before dawn. Without getting ahead of ourselves too much, the events of this week may prove that statement right when it comes to Brexit.
In a major development, today the Court of Session in Edinburgh - Scotland’s Highest Court - agreed that the our case asking whether the UK can remain in the EU on the present terms (in other words unilaterally revoke the notification of Article 50) must be referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union. For the avoidance of any doubt, we're not trying to 'overturn' anything; we want clarity. Before MPs vote on whatever cobbled-together patchwork deal May returns with, they need to know if it's possible to revoke Article 50.Read more
This week has been a very busy week in Strasbourg. Notably, Jean Claude Juncker gave his final State of the Union address outlining how the EU is performing, and what policies we will be looked at next year. He did, inevitably mention Brexit, though only briefly. Crucially he reiterated a few points for the benefit of those Brexiters who keep feigning deafness. Firstly, “if you leave the Union, you are of course no longer part of our single market, and certainly not only in the parts of it you choose. Secondly, the European Commission, this Parliament and all other 26 Member States will always show loyalty and solidarity with Ireland when it comes to the Irish border.”
You can read the full speech at the link below. What struck me was how the EU (except the UK) is coming together around a lot of the challenges we face. They are getting on with the day job of making Europe better.
This week has seen some good news for EU citizens as the Scottish Government unveiled its Programme for Government. Building upon existing SNP policy, the Government announced that it will bring forward legislation to ensure that all EU nationals resident in Scotland maintain their Scottish voting rights in the event that Brexit takes place.
It is very simple really: anyone living in Scotland is Scottish. We are a nation comfortable with multiple identities and nobody who lives here should be cut out of our society. After all, we need more people not fewer. I am proud that our Government is taking real moves to reassure people - who have paid us the supreme compliment of making Scotland their home - that they are welcome, valued and part of the community.Read more
So, this week the UK Government has unveiled their plans for a no deal scenario. A scenario which, according to the Government, will be simultaneously disastrous and fine. Indeed, as Ian Dunt noted, the beleaguered Brexit Secretary seemed to be like a steward explaining how in the event of a crash “the plane would hit the water smoothly, just like in those cartoons they put on the safety leaflets, and then happy families would slide down into the inflatable rafts.”Read more
This week showed that those advocating for Brexit have not looked to the past for inspiration, but instead suffer from delusions of resurrecting an idealised version of it. The dreams of a worldwide trading network built upon the Commonwealth (synonymous with “Empire” for many, let’s be honest) is one that holds sway with those who see the world through the grainy black-and-white images of an imagined 1940s British Pathé news report. For them, The Empire Strikes Back is a promise, not part of the Lucas filmography.Read more
Has Theresa May been talking to European leaders directly to bypass Michel Barnier? According to Alberto Nardelli, the Prime Minister had a phonecall with her Italian counterpart Guiseppe Conte yesterday – so far, so good – but instead of Number 10 listing it on the official site as it usually does, the Italian call appears to be missing.
According to Nardelli, May was pushing for the other EU member states to go beyond the Full Trade Agreement or EEA options proposed by the EU’s chief negotiator, and this isn’t the only secretive May phonecall to have taken place.
One of the reasons the EU is such a powerful trading and political unit is that 28 is a much larger number than one, and when the EU speaks, it speaks with a single voice following extensive negotiation, compromise, and discussion. For the Prime Minister of one member state to attempt to break this unity, it’s not a good look. While David Cameron put the Conservative party over the best interests of the country, Theresa May appears to be going one better and trying to put the Conservative party over the good of a continent.
“We’ll just revert to WTO terms!” shriek the Brexiteers when challenged that the EU stuff is a bit complex. I’ll let you into a secret: anyone saying that clearly doesn’t understand what they’re talking about and should be quarantined as a dangerous fool.
Scotland’s best interests are emphatically to stay in the EU, but let’s look at the reality of WTO membership. If you didn’t like Brussels, wait till you meet Geneva!
The first thing to understand is that the WTO is not dedicated to free trade or fair trade (note the lack of an “F” in the acronym), neither is it democratic nor accountable to you as a citizen.Read more
So this has been the week of ‘no deal’. The head of Amazon warned it could cause civic unrest. (thetimes.co.uk/...); the NHS would need to stockpile drugs (bbc.co.uk/...) and the Brexit Secretary himself Dominic Raab has promised to make sure we don’t starve (twitter.com/...).
I must admit, all this hyperbole is rather too much, and I agree with Tánaiste Simon Coveney that there is far too much talk of a no deal: rte.ie/...
To be clear, one of the most damaging myths which seems to be emerging is that a no-deal Brexit is somehow a realistic or desirable option. It would be a catastrophe. The laws which ensure food, people, and everything else can move in and out of the external UK borders would cease to apply. It is fall of Yugoslavia and USSR stuff. It is unconscionable.
I don’t deny there are some who are pushing for it, but I do not see it as a remotely likely scenario. The fact that it's the sorts of the people I dislike most talking about it makes me all the more suspicious.
You can read more of my thoughts on this in the my National column for the week: thenational.scot/...Read more
So what we all suspected is true. The Leave campaign cheated.
The sheer pace of the news cycle at the moment means it has been too easy for the Brexiters to move on but they must not be allowed to. The single most important decision the UK has made in 40 years was built upon a set of lies delivered by a set of cheats. Peter Geoghegan has covered this story from the beginning and it is well worth reading his thoughts:
And of course, you can read the full findings of the Electoral Commission here:
Meanwhile, the utter inability of the UK Government to negotiate in an effective manner means that the rest of the EU is getting increasingly concerned about no deal. To be clear, I still do not think that this is the most likely outcome, but the dangers of it keep increasing. The longer the UK Government continues to prioritise internal Tory squabbles, the more we risk reaching next March with no deal and all the potential chaos which that could cause.Read more
Just two years after the EU referendum vote, 16 months after Theresa May triggered Article 50, the UK Government has published its White Paper on the future EU-UK relationship.
But – true to form – even this couldn’t go off without a hitch. The idea that MPs should probably have a chance to look at the white paper before scrutinising it in the Commons didn’t appear to occur to new Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab or his colleagues. Speaker John Bercow had to suspend Parliament yesterday for a full five minutes to allow MPs to skim-read the 98 pages ahead of Raab’s speech. “It is a source of considerable unhappiness in this Chamber... that the Rt Hon gentleman is delivering a statement about a white paper, copies of which are not currently available to the House of Commons."
It’s charitable to assume this was just the latest round of familiar Conservative Brexit incompetence, but it’s worth noting that journalists had copies of the paper during the morning’s press conference - so well before MPs! There is no good Brexit.Read more