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
It has been another busy week in the European Parliament, including an important vote on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, a topic about which many of you have been in touch. I voted to reject the mandate, on the grounds that the package agreed by the Committee responsible needed more work to strike a proper balance. The dossier will now remain live before the full Parliament over the Summer, allowing time for a proper full debate and vote of the Parliament in September. You can read more here:
Meanwhile in Westminster, Theresa May is attempting to persuade, threaten and cajole her openly-rebelling Cabinet members and MPs to agree about the future of the UK-EU relationship. It is worth remembering that although the public has not yet been shown the proposal the Commission has seen a copy.
They rejected it:
Incidentally, so did David Davis:
So the June Council meeting has been and gone, and the UK has little to show for it. While the Tory Party continues to argue with itself, the rest of Europe is getting on with their lives, focussing on the issues that matter to them. The EU27 produced a brief summary of the current state of affairs, available to read here:Read more
While the scheme announced this week to register EU nationals in the UK is superior to the system that exists for non-EEA nationals, it is clearly a long way short of what was promised by the Leave campaign.
To start with, nobody made clear that EU citizens who used iPhones would be treated differently to those who have Android phones! More seriously, I must admit I also had a shiver run down my spine when Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes promised “a proportionate response” for any citizens (including children) who fail to register in time. Since the UK Government is the only government in Europe to allow indefinite detention of migrants, this is not reassuring. The details are here:
As we find out more information, I’ll be sure to let you know more but for my part I wish to re-emphasise what I have said before: Scotland is your home and you are welcome here.Read more
Events have become increasingly surreal, and like Alice in Wonderland I wonder when something resembling common sense and normality will return. I am still trying to work out which of the current crop of UK Government ministers are Tweedledum and Tweedledee.
This week MPs rejected an amendment to have a meaningful say on the final deal and rejected another to stay in the Single Market. Whatever the referendum was about, it was not a mandate to strip democracy from the UK or to destroy our economy. MPs must have a meaningful vote, i.e. not simply the UK Government’s ‘deal or no deal’, for there to be any chance of reasonable compromise emerging. The Tory rebels who failed to rebel are now claiming they were misled by Theresa May. Hopefully they have learned and will have the courage of their convictions in future.Read more
We need to stop Brexit. Scotland voted against it, across every counting region, even after a rubbish and lacklustre UK-wide Remain campaign.
Almost two years later, it is clear to anyone with any wit to look that there’s no good news in it for our society nor our economy. There’s no good news for the fish catching sector because EU market access is essential for our product, and the processing and aquaculture sectors face a doomsday scenario.
Peace in Northern Ireland is under serious threat. EU nationals – new Scots – feel anxious in our society. Brexit is being used as a pretext to rip up the devolution settlement, neutering our national Parliament for years to come – if not forever.
I also, to be frank, do not see any scenario in which Brexit will make independence for Scotland more likely. Quite the reverse. I think as people experience the economic chaos Brexit will bring, they’ll stick to as much certainty as possible, even if it is the certainty of shared disaster.Read more
Yesterday, the Trump administration announced new duties on steel and aluminium imports from the European Union, Canada, and Mexico. As Cecilia Malmström, the European Trade Commissioner said, “today is a bad day for world trade.” The EU will respond and has already notified the WTO that it intends to levy duties on $7.2 billion worth of US exports in response. You can read more here:
and see the WTO notification here:
Rest assured, so long as Scotland is in the EU, the Commission will stand up for our interests. Protecting as much as is legally possible the vital industries and jobs that are under threat from Trump’s dangerous adventures.Read more
As you all know, the people of Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU (by 56% since you ask) but since then a lot has happened. Unsurprisingly, public opinion has reacted and this week some fascinating work from the UK in a Changing Europe was published which shows that support has risen to 69%. There is significant support to remain in the Single Market and Customs Union. You can read more hereRead more
It has been another strange week in Westminster as, like delusional generals in charge of an already defeated army, the Tories continue to lay out fantasy plans for future. It seems to have become mantra that if the Government asserts something loudly enough and on letterheaded paper it will become reality. Unfortunately, they can’t even agree to what to put down on the paper as it is clear they are at an impasse. However, if you look closely there is possibly some movement under the surface as (once again) the UK looks to be preparing to cave in. As reported by RTE’s Tony Connelly on Wednesday, the UK is effectively considering putting in the option of remaining in the Customs Union as a whole.
Obviously, nobody in the Tory party could possible concede to this. As Politico wryly noted: “When is a customs union not a customs union? When it’s a “time-limited goods arrangement.””
To be clear, despite the headlines from many papers this week this option is only for the Irish backstop arrangement at this stage, not necessarily the future trade deal. There has to be a legal fall back to prevent a border appearing in Ireland if the negotiations for a legally binding trade deal between the UK and EU were to fail. Since these won’t be started until after Brexit we need the backstop option now. This proposal has to be legally and practically workable. As the Centre for European Reform point out, that means that: “aspirations can never masquerade as insurance”.
Happy (belated) Europe Day! Frankly, I wish I had better news but to be honest I only have cold fury at everything we’re about to lose. The UK Government continues to bungle from one self-inflicted crisis to the next, seemingly unaware of the damage. I won’t linger on the activities of the UK Cabinet in detail but for those of you are interested, they appear to be leaning towards the ‘technically impossible and already rejected by the EU’ option rather than the ‘utterly unworkable and already rejected by the EU’ option. By next week, who knows?
Meanwhile in Brussels, everybody is watching the UK with blank incredulity. How after all this time (remember there are only 322 days until we leave the EU) does the UK still not have a customs policy?
Back in Edinburgh David Mundell, the Scottish Secretary, appeared before the European Committee and was asked a number of times (I stopped counting) by the convenor of the committee Joan McAlpine to confirm whether the UK Government intends to impose the Great Repeal Bill onto the Scottish Parliament. You can watch the exchange here: