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 here
Furthermore, a cross-party group statement from Sinn Féin, the Green Party, Alliance and the SDLP stated that they all agreed there must be no hard border on the island of Ireland or between Ireland and the UK. This means the whole of the UK must stay in the Single Market and Customs Union at the very least.
There are now clear majorities in Northern Ireland and Scotland amongst elected politicians and the public for not leaving the EU, yet our voices are being ignored. The 2014 rhetoric of a ‘family of nations’ now sounds pretty hollow but in the context of the fragile peace process in Ireland it is downright dangerous.
UK Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes inadvertently threw oil on the fire when questioned by the House of Commons Northern Ireland Committee by admitting that she hasn’t actually read all the Good Friday Agreement, exposing an outrageously cavalier attitude.
Real solutions are needed, not the imperialist delusions of ministers in Westminster who have no interest in anything except removing people from the UK. The EU is incredulous and yesterday a senior Commission official warned that the UK is desperately chasing a fantasy.
The problem is that fantasy has real consequences for our economy, society, and in Northern Ireland, the peace that took so much work to build.
"Real household incomes are about £900 lower than we forecast in 2016” according to Mark Carney giving evidence to the House of Commons Treasury Committee. Remember, Brexit hasn’t even happened yet and has already cost us all a fortune.
I’ve joined other Scottish civic representatives in launching a campaign to stop Brexit. The Scotland For Europe declaration makes clear there is still time to change course and has already been signed by Brian Cox, former European Court judge Sir David Edward, historian Professor Sir Tom Devine and former chief medical officer Professor Sir Harry Burns. You can sign it here:
The EU Commission are desperately trying to explain to the U.K. Government that a Customs Union only removes a very small number of checks at the border. We also need membership of the Single Market to maintain the border-free access we currently enjoy.
Some of these checks may sound niche but they all matter. For instance, plastic kitchenware from China and Hong Kong can be made with melamine which, when it passes into the food, can cause severe kidney damage to children and pets.
Dr Peter Bennie, chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) in Scotland, has expressed his concerns that there are currently no plans for an immigration system after Brexit.
60% of citizens from across the entire EU believe that EU membership is a good thing, according to the latest Eurobarometer survey.
“In a post Brexit UK trade policy debate, we need to think hard, rigorously and honestly about this, and not produce buccaneering blather.” Sir Ivan Rogers delivered a speech on real post-Brexit options which is well worth a read. I couldn’t put it better myself!
The UK Government conceded to Parliament something that it conceded years ago to Brussels. There will not be a trade deal signed before Brexit and so the UK will settle its obligations beforehand. To be clear, the two have never been linked, and the so-called Brexit Bill is about honouring our international obligations. Nothing more, nothing less.
Mark Stone of Sky News has written a powerful piece on problems faced by UK citizens living in the rest of Europe.
When is a border not a border? Richard North has written a handy explainer of the Northern Ireland Border.
Whilst the UK ties itself in knots, the EU is getting on with more trade deals. Worse, they are with the countries the UK keeps talking about… Australia and New Zealand.
“A constitutional crisis or a constitutional headache for the UK Government”? That is the question posed by Nicola McEwen in a response to the Scottish Parliament’s rejection of the EU Withdrawal Bill.
Theresa May has conceded that she would pay to stay associated with Euratom.
She also requested a transition that will last until 2023. Though that may be no longer clear since at the time of typing there are already rumours she has changed her mind again!
The House of Commons Brexit Committee feels extending the Customs Union is the only option.
Japan has said it will need visa exemptions and better terms for trade than the UK will get under the EU-Japan deal.
The Scotch Whisky Association produced an update briefing on Brexit and Whisky. We need Geographical Indicator protections to be agreed with the EU yet the UK appears to be dragging its feet.
The Justice Secretary has said that prisoners could be let out on early to fill jobs left empty by Brexit.
The UK Government produced a slew of new policy papers. To be honest they still read as a manifesto to join the EU, rather than one to leave it since they outline all the programmes that the UK would like to stay in. Unfortunately, Brexit means Brexit and it will not be legally possibly to remain in all of these. Only remaining in the EU will give us what we need.
Security and Law:
James O'Brien spoke to a van driver who is going to be put out of business by a hard Brexit. Well worth a listen if you are curious about the details of how customs borders work.
Finally, the Growth Commission is out today! This is the start of a conversation about what kind of economy Scotland could have if it were independent. It is not a short or a light read and needs plenty of thought.