Next week the most important general election for as long as any of us can remember will take place. Its outcome will define Scotland and the UK for years to come. For all the noise, misinformation and – at times shrill – arguments the consequences of this election are refreshingly simple.
If Boris Johnson and the Tories get a majority across the UK then Scotland will be dragged out of the EU against its will by the end of January. If they don’t then there will be another extension and we won’t.
It is that simple.
Another Strasbourg week is done and dusted, and your MEPs have been hard at work representing Scotland in Europe. As Alyn said in his latest National column, if you’re doing Strasbourg properly, you rarely have any free time at all between votes, briefings and meetings, so there’s plenty to report this week!
Aileen got us off to a flying start with her speech during the debate on climate change, calling for the European Parliament to not only declare a climate emergency but also to make sure nobody is left behind in the transition. "We need all countries across the EU and beyond to step up to the plate and to come to Glasgow next year with serious climate commitments." As many of you will remember, Aileen was our Climate Change Minister in the Scottish Government before she was an MEP, and earlier this year represented the European Parliament at the UN Climate Action Summit. We voted to support the Parliament declaring a climate emergency in Europe and now we need to see bolder climate action taken.
Christian spoke for us in the debate on ‘Interference from other countries in our democracies and elections’, noting that “Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed last week that he had never seen any evidence of Russian interference in UK democratic processes. However, in December 2017, the then UK Foreign Secretary – Boris Johnson – said that he had seen evidence of Russian interference in UK democratic processes. Which Boris Johnson is telling the truth?” An evergreen question indeed.
Manifestos are being launched and the General Election campaign is starting to take some shape. It is clear that the UK and Scotland are going to have to make a choice between remain and leave. The stakes could not be higher.
Christian has been standing up for Scottish fisherman by looking beyond the immediate noise of the campaign. Irrespective of who wins, the UK will have to take part in this December’s Fisheries Council and these talks are crucial. The scientific advice on certain key stocks is concerning and it is imperative that the UK is represented by a fully focused negotiating team.Read more
Last night at 5pm the European Commission launched infringement proceedings against the UK, following its failure to name a candidate for EU Commissioner. The UK authorities have until Friday 22 November to respond.
In many ways this case epitomises the UK Government’s approach to Brexit. The UK could have appointed somebody, been a good European ally to our friends and neighbours and carried on with the business of a general election. Excuses have been offered that the appointment couldn’t be made during purdah when political activity is restricted, but the reality is we have known about this for a long time. In fact, we recall discussing it shortly after Aileen and Christian first arrived in Brussels as MEPs, which feels like a long time ago!
As the UK heads into another election the EU and the Scottish Government are continuing to get on with the day job. The contrast is stark but underneath the tag line there is also a serious point. The UK apparatus has proven itself to be totally unfit for the purpose of governing since 2016. The House of Commons has spent its time arguing about brexit, the government tasking civil servants to prepare for the nightmare of no deal. None of this is useful, nor is it what people in Scotland – or the rest of the UK, for that matter – asked for or want.
As the campaign for Westminster gets under way, what has the Scottish Government been doing? Well, helping end our throwaway culture. Businesses, industry and individuals are being encouraged to seize on the nation’s talent for innovation by re-thinking how we use and reuse materials through a newly proposed legislation on the circular economy. As well as introducing new measures to cut litter and waste, this legislation is part of wider plans to ensure we make better, more environmentally sound use of materials and develop Scotland’s circular economy.Read more
An election will finally decide it. We now face a choice. A hard Brexit that Scotland didn’t vote for under the Tories, or the SNP to stand up for Scotland’s EU membership.
If you haven’t already registered to vote, it’s absolutely vital that you do so. Even if you have, make sure you’re still on the register.
Let’s be realistic about what we do and don’t know. Polling is worth nothing (well almost nothing) until the issue is actually before voters. That means nothing can be taken for granted and the only vote that matters is the one at the end of the race. As MEPs we are out and about across Scotland more than most and we know folk are tired. The broken politics of Westminster mean that once again we must all vote to protect Scotland’s place in Europe.Read more
It has been a long week. Only last Saturday MPs were voting on the Prime Minster’s new deal, then a Withdrawal Bill, then back to the Queen’s speech. The palace on the Thames continues to spit out events that seem to bring neither clarity nor progress.
Nobody knows what will happen next. Largely because nobody is in control. The UK Government has no majority, the Labour party is divided, and Scotland is simply being dragged along as an afterthought. A couple of important developments are worth mentioning.
Firstly, it now seems we will have an extension since Parliament forced the PM into asking. That means that in all likelihood this is not your final Scotland in Europe Update from your SNP MEPs. It is not yet guaranteed and crucially we do not yet know how long for but it seems more than likely we will be here a little longer.
Secondly, there is increasing pressure for a general election. To be clear, the SNP is in favour of holding an election as soon as possible to rid us of this Tory government. We will not support it however if there is any chance Johnson can use the period to deliver a no deal Brexit.Read more
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.