This week the European Parliament agreed its position on the future EU-UK relationship by 554 votes to 110 with 51 abstentions. With a heavy heart I supported the motion as it is a rational response to the self-imposed red lines of the UK Government. The future we face is pretty bleak and is not one Scotland wants.
The resolution sets out Parliament’s input ahead of 22-23 March summit of EU Council when it is expected that guidelines for negotiations on the UK’s future relationship with the EU will be approved. Any deal with the UK will require the approval of the European Parliament. It has been proposed that this relationship could be based on four pillars:
- trade and economic relations (FTA),
- internal security,
- cooperation in foreign policy and defence and
- thematic cooperation, for example on cross-border research and innovation projects.
The resolution stresses the importance of the integrity of the Single Market with its binding common rules, common institutions and common supervisory, enforcement and adjudicatory mechanisms. This means that even closely-aligned non-EU countries with identical legislation cannot enjoy the same rights, benefits or market access to those of EU member states. If you want to read the position in full, just click here:
You can also see my speech in the debate here:
It has been busier than normal this week and that is before anybody mentions the weather. I hope that everyone is staying safe and warm back in Scotland as I sit in Brussels waiting for a flight back home.
The most important development here in Brussels was the Commission’s release of the draft Withdrawal Agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom. This covers citizens' rights, other separation issues such as goods placed on the market before the withdrawal date, the financial settlement, transitional arrangements and a protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.
The UK could have produced such a text but has not. Meanwhile, the EU, knowing that time is of the essence, has produced one. It is not a final text, but it is a good start going further on citizens’ rights than the UK has and crucially it provides a solution to the issues surrounding the Irish border. Namely, it would keep Northern Ireland in the EU Customs Union and large amounts of the Single Market.
To be clear, this solution is only used if the UK doesn’t produce a solution of its own that works. That is what was promised in December and what the UK Government has failed to deliver thus far. Any outcome that creates a border is unthinkable and would jeopardise twenty years of peace. The full text of the draft, should you want a read, is available here:Read more
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