We have a deal! A triumph! Or so the UK Government would have you believe...
The reality is rather different.
If you have a feeling we have been here before, you’re right. We have. Remember the heady days of late 2018? Theresa May portraying herself as triumphant having secured a deal, only to face the House of Commons? Well, here we are again.
First things first, let’s go over what has, and has not, been agreed. Despite the spin (and there is going to be an awful lot of that) the vast majority of this deal is identical to what Theresa May agreed and has been rejected by the House of Commons three times. The sections on the financial settlement and citizens’ rights for instance are completely untouched.
What has changed? Two sections, the political declaration and the Northern Ireland protocol. The former of these lays out what everybody hopes to negotiate in the future and, as was the case under Theresa May, it can be ignored by any future government. It does however serve as a clear indicator of the Prime Minister’s future intentions. On that front the news is not good. He is proposing a distant relationship from the EU governed by a simple trade deal.
This will be even more damaging than what Theresa May proposed. Have no illusion, Scotland is being dragged to a hard Brexit despite our clear opposition to it.
The second changed part deals with Northern Ireland. Though this is complicated in its detail, the easiest way to explain it is that it is a Northern Ireland-only backstop – exactly like Theresa May initially rejected – only dressed up in a way that Johnson can claim it is not a backstop. If you want to know more, the European Commission has a handy Q&A:
Another week of breathless political drama but underneath it all our options remain unchanged: deal, no deal, no Brexit or an extension. So where do things stand? and what looks likely to happen next? Well, clairvoyance is not a skill MEPs have so we will not try to guess. Instead we’ll paint a picture of the lay of the land as we enter the final few weeks before the 31st October.
A deal is still possible. The news from Ireland yesterday combines with the announcement today that the EU and the UK have agreed to intensify discussions over the coming days. Whether or not any such deal would get passed by the House of Commons is another issue. This piece from Politico is a good summary of how a deal could be done.
Even if a deal is done we will still need an extension. To be clear, an extension would almost certainly be offered by the EU if the UK asks. This week European Parliament President David Sassoli confirmed that “the European Parliament would support a request from the UK Government to extend the withdrawal period in order to have time for a general election or a referendum.”
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.
We have said many times over, in this bulletin and elsewhere, that Scotland deserves better than what it gets from Westminster. That has never been more true than this week.
This whole farce - begun when David Cameron called the referendum on EU membership - has been an ongoing exercise in stretching the boundaries of credibility. This week we witnessed the extraordinary spectacle of the UK’s Supreme Court stating, unanimously and emphatically, that Boris Johnson’s government had acted unlawfully in proroguing Parliament, upholding the verdict of the Scottish Court of Session.
Alyn welcomed the verdict on the day: “This is good news, and I pay tribute to my SNP colleague Joanna Cherry QC MP who led the case. The UK Parliament must resume without delay to hold the Tory government to account on its Brexit plans, which threaten to plunge the UK into recession, destroy 100,000 Scottish jobs, and inflict lasting harm on living standards, public services and the economy across Scotland, the UK and the EU.”
What a week! The Government keeps losing votes, MPs, longstanding members and support. Even the Prime Minister's brother has deserted him.
It is clear that this Government is focused on getting Brexit over the line at any cost, because Boris Johnson has invested so much of his personal political capital in doing so. It doesn’t matter that two of the four constituent parts of this United Kingdom voted to Remain in the EU, doesn’t matter that the vote three years ago was narrow and plagued with concerns over legalities and around the information available, doesn’t matter that the current Prime Minister himself was hauled up by the UK statistics authority for a “clear misuse of official statistics”. There is a core gang in Downing Street willing to put the no deal gun to the collective head of the UK and tell the EU “we’ll do it”.Read more
First things first, the behaviour of the UK Government this week is completely outrageous.
There is no way to get around the fact that an executive that was elected by a small minority of Tory party members is trying to stifle a UK Parliament that was democratically elected.
Having said that, we all need to keep our heads and work this through. The mechanics of this are unchanged. The options remain: deal, no deal or revoke. Our preference is for the latter but whatever happens one of those three must be picked. Extending Article 50 is an option, and may be necessary to avoid no deal, but it is not a longterm answer.Read more
So this week the UK Government announced that its officials will stop attending most EU meetings as of the beginning of September. To be clear, this madness is simply pandering to Tory back benchers. By not attending meetings the UK deliberately cuts itself off from decision making and reduces its influence in the EU.
Remarkably, the Government has decided to give its voting rights to the current holder of the presidency of the EU, Finland. A country of 5.5 million people, strikingly similar to the population of Scotland. There are better options for us and we need to keep everything on the table at the moment. You can read more here:
So amidst the noise, silly season rumours, and gossip of the summer it is worth stepping back this week and looking at the bigger picture for a moment. Whatever the debates about what the EU should and shouldn’t be doing there has always been one thing at its core: trade.
The EU is one of the world’s largest trading blocs (by some counts the world’s largest, it all depends on how you measure trade). This matters as it means that – in the dog eat dog domain of the World Trade Organization – we stand together, ensuring our voice is heard. The brutal reality is that once you are in Geneva, size and negotiating power are all that matter. The EU delivers for Scotland because it is such a big trading bloc.
You can see this in the deals it is currently negotiating. Now as many of you know, we in the SNP have had our issues with some of the EU’s trade deals, but the reality is they are infinitely better than anything the UK could negotiate alone. Just one example is that earlier this week Australia released the list of geographic protections that the EU is seeking to secure. Guess what? Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb, Scottish farmed Salmon and Scotch Whisky are all on it.
This week the Prime Minister and his fellow Brexiters have been busy. Not busy preparing the ground to stop Brexit, or busy preparing for the no deal they claim they want, but very busy blaming everybody else for the what they are about to inflict on us.
Ian Duncan Smith was blaming the establishment and Michael Gove the EU. Obviously, blaming the Irish is the not so subtle background undertone to all of this. The backstop was created to protect the Good Friday Agreement which continues to be a highly successful international treaty that the UK should be supporting.Read more