Sitting in Strasbourg this week debating the future of the EU negotiations whilst watching the UK General Election unfold was a surreal experience. The clock is ticking, we only have two years yet Theresa May has triggered Article 50 and then decided to waste precious time. It is a truly remarkable dereliction of duty.
Obviously, Theresa May could have held the election before triggering Article 50. This would have given her the maximum time to negotiate but instead she is playing politics with people’s lives. Remember – whatever the Tory manifesto asserts – a no deal WTO scenario would be disastrous for Scotland and the UK.
This week in the European Parliament there was an important joint hearing organised by the committees of Civil Liberties, Employment and Petitions. Many MEPs have emphasised the “moral duty” on all sides to end the uncertainty created for both EU citizens living in the UK and UK nationals in the EU.
What we need to change the weather on this is a unilateral act of generosity. On past record of Theresa May as Home Secretary and indeed as Prime Minister, I don’t think we’re going to see that from the UK Government.
If we agree that that act of generosity is in the interest of our citizens, surely the call should come from our parliament for that unilateral act of generosity to guarantee the rights of UK nationals across the EU.
That will put, I hope, intolerable pressure on the UK Government to change its tone, to change its rhetoric, and to match that ambition and generosity.
You can see my contribution here:
and watch the interview with me afterwards here:
Earlier in the week I was delighted by the result over the weekend from France, where Centrist Emmanuel Macron won a decisive victory over the Front National’s Marine Le Pen in the French Presidential election, 66% to 34%. This was good news for Europe and bad news for the fascists, even if the fact they were in the second round at all should give us pause. But a win is a win is a win, and after the seemingly endless gut punch that was 2016, we can be forgiven for focusing on a bit of cheery news for a change.
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"The rocks are out to get us!" shrieks the captain, whilst steering us towards rocks. The Prime Minister’s response to the account of her dinner with European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker shows just how low she will stoop. As the Tories become increasingly shrill it is clear that they are putting their party’s narrow interests before the interests of either Scotland or the UK.
In case you missed it last weekend, the account of the dinner was published in FAZ, a German newspaper, and can be read here:
There is a good summary in English of the main points here:Read more
A few days ago, the European Commission’s draft negotiating directives for Brexit were made public. The top priority is to protect the rights of EU and UK citizens, in the UK and across the EU 27. For example, the European Commission wants to uphold the right of EU and UK citizens who have already worked, lived or retired in the UK or in the EU 27. The Commission's draft also looks at the cost of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and underlines its demand that the UK pays for the cost of Brexit, for instance the relocation of European agencies located in the UK.
This is the reality of these negotiations. The EU will act to protect its interests and we shouldn’t be surprised by this. It doesn’t mean to say that they will be punitive, but we shouldn’t expect the UK government to be handed everything it wants on a silver platter. If we are going to create any goodwill going into these discussions, the UK government must act - and must act now - for example to clarify the position of EU citizens currently in the UK.
You can read a copy of the draft directives here:
This week I have been in Taiwan, meeting the President and Ministers with an EU Foreign Affairs Committee delegation. Taiwan is looking to win more allies in the EU and although Taiwan’s most important relationship is with the USA they’re increasingly looking towards the EU as troubles in the region increase.
The news reached me as I landed in Taipei that there was to be a UK general election. Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, went as far as to suggest this is a Brexit as directed by Alfred Hitchcock - I see where he is coming from!Read more
After the Brexit drama of the last few weeks things have settled to the ‘grind slow but grind small’ granular approach Brussels is so good at, and the negotiating teams and mandates are being worked upon in earnest now. For my part after a weekend being interviewed by the French media in Paris it was good to be back in Brussels getting on with the job.Read more
This week saw the European Parliament formally vote on its position for negotiations with the UK following the triggering of Article 50.
Crucially, in recital N the Parliament notes that “a large number of United Kingdom citizens, including a majority in Northern Ireland and Scotland, voted to remain in the European Union”. The acknowledgement of Scotland’s remain vote shows a clear will in Brussels to engage with the conundrum we face as a Remain-voting nation within the UK.Read more
This week has been emotional, with the letter finally delivered to trigger Article 50 and commence the process of leaving the EU. It is not inevitable that we do eventually leave, if a week is a long time in politics two years is an eternity, but the clock is now ticking and unless something happens, in two years time the UK will leave the EU. If you have the heart you can read the letter here
The EU has looked on with sadness and regret while the UK has made this decision. As Donald Tusk, president of the Council, said at the end of his statement: “what can I add to this? We already miss you.”Read more
This week my thoughts are with everyone caught up in the dreadful events in London. I wish to join with the president of the European Parliament and extend my deepest sympathies to the victims (twitter.com/EP_President/...)
Though everything else seems to pale to insignificance in contrast to the loss of life, there have been some more developments this week. Notably, that we have a date. Article 50 will be triggered on the 29 March 2017 which is next Wednesday.Read more
Theresa May has not listened, her government has refused to countenance compromise and now we face the cold reality of the UK constitution.Read more