Scotland in Europe Update: 10th January 2020

Happy New Year! Heather Anderson arrived at the Parliament this week to replace former MEP Alyn Smith and received a warm welcome. Aileen, Christian and Heather will continue to stand up for Scotland and make sure that the legacy of our time here is that when Scotland returns as an independent country, the EU is ready for us.

The focus in London has been on the fact that the Prime Minister finally passed the Withdrawal Agreement Bill on to the House of Lords. A tragic step (though unsurprising after the UK election result) and one made worse as MPs voted down various amendments to protect refugees, EU27 citizens and the UK’s participation in Erasmus. None of these defeats mean the fight is over, but they do show that the UK government has the majority to push through a very hard brexit if it wants.

However, as the UK government enjoyed its triumph the EU was busy laying out the next stage. This is far more important. President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen gave a speech in which she tried to reach out to the UK and set a constructive tone, but within the polite words was a warning:

“the truth is that our partnership cannot and will not be the same as before. And it cannot and will not be as close as before – because with every choice comes a consequence. With every decision comes a trade-off. Without the free movement of people, you cannot have the free movement of capital, goods and services.”

A few days later Michel Barnier explained to Swedish audience rather more bluntly that the EU has the upper hand: “it is clear that if we fail to reach a deal, it will be more harmful for the UK than for the EU27. All the more so because EU Member States can rely on each other or on the many other partners that the EU has free trade agreements with.”

EU solidarity means working together to achieve common goals and using the size of the Single Market to secure benefits for all members. That is the future Scotland chose. One chapter may be coming to a close, but there is a lot of work to be done.



Croatia took over the presidency of the EU council. You can read their programme and plans here. Remember this is a country smaller than Scotland leading the whole EU. A stark contrast to Scotland being dragged along by the UK.

Scotland’s Parliament voted to reject the Withdrawal Bill. Labour, the Greens and Lib Dems all backed the SNP and Scottish Government in their attempt to block the deal. The UK government is going to simply ignore this.

The Scottish Parliament Information Centre confirmed what we all knew: the Tory power grab is real. The powers in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill “allow UK Ministers, acting alone, to make provision in devolved policy areas.”

There are many problems with the legislation being passed in Westminster and the powers it will give to ministers. This piece from the UK Constitutional Law Association explains in detail.

MEPs are gravely concerned about citizens’ rights. Be assured the European Parliament will continue to do all it can to stand up for EU27 citizens in the UK. However, it is worth remembering that the UK government could end all the uncertainty overnight if it wanted, and we need to apply as much pressure as possible there.

The EU’s trade Commissioner, Phil Hogan from Ireland, warned that the UK was 'trading a Rolls Royce for a saloon' as it embarked on its own trade policy.

Kirsty Hughes wrote an important piece outlining what needs to be done for Scotland to secure its long term place in Europe.

David McAllister, who chairs the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs has added his voice to the chorus supporting rapid re-entry to the EU for an independent Scotland

Frans Timmermans, Vice-President of the European Commission, wrote that the UK will always be welcome back into the EU.

Dimitri Zenghelis of the LSE has written that in 2020 we should expect plenty of brinkmanship and climbdowns from the UK government.

The pound's gain in value from the election result were quickly undone as further impacts of Brexit were revealed in economic data.

The European Parliament has produced a very good ‘ten issues to watch in 2020’ list.

Nicola Sturgeon addressed the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise conference in Oslo, where she highlighted offshore wind and carbon capture and storage as sectors where our two countries are at the forefront of developing technologies. Scotland is going to work hard to maintain our European links post Brexit.

Alyn wrote a column for the European Parliament magazine with some parting thoughts on Brexit, Scottish independence and the EU as he bids a fond farewell to Brussels and takes up his seat as MP for Stirling.

The New York Times published a piece on the future of the Union.

Finally, some good news, the Tánaiste and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland have published a deal to restore devolved government in Northern Ireland, exactly three years after the Assembly collapsed.