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.”
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SNP MEPs Alyn Smith and Aileen McLeod have written to EU Trade Commissioner-Designate Phil Hogan to urge him to settle the US/EU trade dispute.Read more
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.
SNP MEP Alyn Smith has thanked the BVA for re-electing him as Honorary Associate for another year.Read more
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.”
Supreme Court ruling: Stirling Tory MP must apologise for supporting unlawful suspension of Parliament