The ever-expanding list of things that the Brexit Ultras blame for the imminent failure of Brexit (the EU, Ireland, judges, Remainers, academics, experts, civil servants, etc.) gained its most dangerous and indeed sinister new entry this week. Several Ultras have launched what looks suspiciously like a co-ordinated attack on the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) itself.
The reason is as transparent as it is grubby and short sighted. They have worked out, as I have said before, that the GFA scuppers their plans for a harder-than hard Brexit, because it requires an invisible border across the island of Ireland.Read more
I, and other members of the SNP, have for many years called upon the UK Government to rethink their migration policy. It has divided families, callously rejected pleas for asylum from some of the world’s most vulnerable people and I am increasingly concerned that it will be extended to include EEA nationals. As this week’s Home Affairs Committee report stated:
“Over recent years the Government has increasingly chosen to outsource much of the enforcement function [of immigration law] to employers, educators, landlords and providers of public services under the policy known as the ‘hostile environment’… We find it unacceptable that the Government has not yet made any assessment of the effectiveness of the policy and call on them urgently to do so.”
It is abhorrent that this system exists in the first place, but to bring another 3 million citizens under its remit is unthinkable. As Ian Dunt wrote this week, this shows there is nothing liberal about Brexit – despite the assertions of Boris Johnson – and the so-called ‘Lexiteers’ will be sorely disappointed by their choice. His column is well worth a read:Read more
This week we have finally found out what the UK Government thinks Brexit is going to cost Scotland, and their figures almost mirror those that the Scottish Government came up with. There is no good economic news in Brexit: any outcome will make you, your family and your community poorer. We stand to lose from 2.5% to 9% GDP over 15 years depending on how hard a Brexit is inflicted on Scotland. The full regional breakdown can be read here:
This is why Scotland must stay in the Single Market and Customs Union to minimise the damage caused by leaving the EU. If a special status can be considered for Northern Ireland, as today’s announcements from the EU reveal, then it surely can for Scotland as well. You can read more about this here:
This week kicked off with Alberto Nardelli of Buzzfeed publishing an important article containing a leaked version of the UK Government’s Brexit impact analysis.
The figures are stark. If we crash out with no deal, growth will be reduced by 8%; if we leave with a Canada style deal, growth will be cut by 5%; if we remain in the single market, growth will be cut by 2%. Anybody paying attention will notice these are remarkably similar to the figures produced by the Scottish Government. As we have consistently said – if Brexit is to happen – the ‘least bad’ option is to keep membership of the Single Market and Customs Union.
The Tory Brexiteers are of course outraged, and (in between accusing the Civil Service of lying) have descended into another week of infighting. Whilst they work out their differences, it is worth having a brief stocktake of where we are on the only stage that matters: the actual negotiations in Brussels which will recommence next week.Read more
This week has been a little quieter than last as the politicians and civil servants in Brussels begin to get ready for the next few months. Channel 4 released a draft of the EU’s negotiating guidelines for the Brexit transition:
There are no surprises here for anyone who has been paying attention. As I have said before, the fantasies of Leave supporters are going to have a hard collision with reality, this document proves that in black and white for all to see. The EU position has always been - and continues to be - clear, pragmatic and consistent. Brexit is a British problem, not a European one, and the priority of all the other member states is the coherence of the bloc as a whole.Read more
“The European ideal has always been inspired by a spirit of optimism and a belief in a better future. While that ideal has been tested, it has not been broken. And based on the achievements of the past, we have a renewed appetite to face the challenges of the future.”
These are the words with which the Irish Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, began his speech on the future of the EU in the European Parliament this week.
In an impressive speech he laid out his vision for the future, urging us all to “put fire back in the engine of our Social Europe”. I just wish that an independent Scotland was there alongside Ireland at the heart of the EU, and could play a part in that conversation, rather than being dragged to the door by the UK Government.Read more
I hope you all had a good Christmas and Hogmanay and are now rested for what promises to be a busy 2018. If we are to have a deal it must be concluded within the next ten months or there will not be sufficient time for the European Council and Parliament to ratify the deal before the March 2019 exit date. There is an awful lot to be done in that time and it is going to be a big ask to get the deal done.
These negotiations mean that Brexit is going to become far more real to people as the lies and wishful thinking of the Leave campaign collide with reality. Things are going to be unpredictable and fast moving. Even this week Nigel Farage and the Leave.eu campaign headed by Aaron Banks have called for a second EU referendum! Who would have bet on that last week?Read more
It has been a long year, and the ongoing failures of the Brexiters gives no joy to the rest of us tied to the train crash they have set in motion. This week we finally saw some of the UK’s fabled impact assessments. There were no revelations since much of what they contained was simply an assessment of the status quo. The report on fisheries noted without irony that “there is a concentration of activity in coastal towns.” Who knew?!
We need to see serious work that actually lays out the future choices we must make. As Phase 2 progresses it will become harder and harder for the Brexiters to maintain their fantasies as they collide with reality.Read more
As of this afternoon, we are onto phase 2 of the Brexit negotiations. The European Parliament and Council of the European Union have agreed with the Commission’s position. That does not mean a deal is completed on citizens’ rights, the UK’s financial obligations, and the Northern Ireland Border. A number of important issues remain outstanding but enough has been agreed for the dialogue to expand to cover other areas.
I say this through gritted teeth but for good reason. For too many people in the UK, Brexit remains white noise, a false equivalence aided by an industrial-scale spin machine telling us that somehow, we’ll have our cake and eat it; it will be alright on the night because we’re special; we’re British.Read more
This week has been a blizzard of events in Brussels and London. On Monday Theresa May went to the Commission expecting to sign a deal and move on to the next phase of the negotiations for the UK to leave the EU. Whilst enjoying a lunch with Jean Claude Juncker the DUP held a press conference and then, following a subsequent phone call to May, it was all over for the day.
As I wrote in the New Statesmen, the “have your cake and eat it” sloganeering is now crashing into hard reality and this was a great illustration. Nowhere has this been more apparent than Ireland. At the stroke of 23:00 on Brexit Day (note that Brexit happens at midnight, Brussels time) the border crashes into existence, unless a fix is found now. The Good Friday Agreement cannot be respected and there cannot be an open border in Ireland unless Northern Ireland is in the single market and customs union. (You can read the rest of my piece here: newstatesman.com/... )
The problem is real, and will not go away but after days of chasing, a suitably ambiguous form of words has been found:
In the absence of agreed solutions, the United Kingdom committed to maintaining full alignment with those rules of the internal market and the Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North - South cooperation, the all - island economy, and the protection of the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement. In this context, implementation and oversight mechanisms for the specific arrangements to be found will be established to safeguard the integrity of the internal market.
This means that unless the UK finds a miraculous solution to leaving the single market and the customs union then Northern Ireland will remain part of both in some way, either alongside the whole of the UK or not. Although my article was written before this was decided I stand by my comments: rhetoric is not enough and the realities of international trade law mean we need solutions now. The UK must start by showing real flexibility within itself and with the EU to allow the various democratic mandates and legal realities that exist within these isles to be respected. Though the obvious solution is for the entirety of the UK to stay in the single market and the customs union, differentiated solutions can work and may prove essential before we get to the end of this process.