Scotland in Europe Update: 11th October 2019

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.”

Whether or not Johnson would ask for one is a separate question, but there is good news there too. In the event he chooses not to, the courts could still step in. This week a Scottish court delayed a decision on whether Boris Johnson should be forced to ask for a Brexit extension until after the 19 October. This is so that the court will be able judge the Prime Minister’s actions and still have time to take action if required. A full explainer from Jolyon Maugham can be read here:

A  deal can still be done and an extension is available even if Johnson doesn’t want one. How likely then is no deal? Well that involves reading Boris Johnson's mind since – as long as he remains Prime Minister – it is as likely or unlikely as he wants it to be. Certainly, there is a strong chance he may actually drag us all over the edge. As for no Brexit, this remains the most sensible way forward, though Labour and the Tories seem unlikely to support such a move any time soon.

Let’s all keep our heads. Any of the potential options could come to pass. Crucially there is still the potential to stop this madness, or at the very least, to secure an extension for either a referendum or a general election.

Whatever happens, Scotland must be free to choose its own future.


We’re proud to announce that the SNP European Group is running a “fringe of a fringe” at SNP Conference. We are jointly hosting six events throughout the conference to make sure that there is absolutely no doubt the SNP have the EU and internationalism running through our veins. Events over the three days featuring the likes of Kirsty Hughes, Susan Aitken, Tommy Sheppard and Philippa Whitford will explore the devastating impact of Brexit on Scotland. Hopefully we will get to meet some of you there!



This week MEPs, including your SNP group debated the EU budget, climate change, and expressed concerns about the state of the Brexit negotiations.

Michel Barnier explained to MEPs the key problems with the UK’s proposals. You can read the full speech that we heard at the link below but here is the bottom line: the EU cannot function without rigorous customs and regulatory checks at every border of our Single Market and Customs Union. Therefore we need to ensure that there is no border on the island of Ireland. The easiest way to achieve this is to remain in the EU.

Christian responded to Michel Barnier on behalf of the SNP, requesting that he not forget the rights of EU nationals in Scotland and the rest of the UK whatever the outcome.

The Guardian obtained a copy of the EU’s point by point rejection of the UK Government’s latest Brexit proposals.

The Spectator leaked an email (apparently from Dominic Cummings) explaining the tory strategy.

Neale Richmond – the Irish Senate’s Brexit spokesman – has warned that a no deal Brexit does not mark the end of this saga just the beginning. We wholeheartedly agree and have been warning the same for some time.

The Scottish Government have updated their no deal preparations. Plans include the establishment of a Scottish Medicines Shortage Response Group and a commitment to create a £7 million Rapid Poverty Mitigation Fund in the event of no deal. The key problem remains that much simply cannot be mitigated, we need the UK Government to take no deal of the table.

The UK Government updated its proposal for temporary import tariff rates and quotas after a no deal Brexit. These plans could destroy Scottish farming by cutting tariffs on imports whilst our products could face up to 40% tariffs on exports.

In the face of the damaging tariffs being proposed by the US on Scotch Whisky the UK Government announced that it wanted to strike ambitious free trade deals; stand up for rules-based trade; resolve the appellate body of the WTO impasse fast; and that it was ‘disappointed’ by the decision to impose tariffs on goods like Scotch whisky.

To be clear this is all existing EU policy! The only difference is that the EU is actually doing something about it rather than being "disappointed". For instance, the EU have been working closely with Canada to fix - or to produce alternatives to - the appellate court of the WTO for some time. The key problem here is that after 10 December 2019 the court will not have enough judges to hear cases (the US has been blocking appointments). You can read the latest from the EU side here.

And this from last week was the EU’s first response to the news. You will notice that it contains actual proposals to counter the USA’s decision. The only way to defend goods such as Scotch Whisky is to remain a part of the EU.

Indeed, Philip Hammond has admitted that any UK trade deals would have little value in comparison to remaining in a close relationship with the EU.

This week the Scottish Government published ‘The Local Level Brexit Vulnerabilities in Scotland Report’ which found that many of the areas most vulnerable to Brexit are in rural locations, in particular on the Scottish islands. Around half of the communities in the Shetland Islands, Na h-Eileanan Siar, Argyle & Bute, and Dumfries and Galloway are among the most vulnerable communities in Scotland.

Duncan Morrow (Ulster University) explains why the delicate relationship between Ireland and its dysfunctional neighbour depended on the EU’s fluid borders to survive.

The UK Government has threatened to deport EU nationals who don’t have settled status. This is a long way from the Leave campaign’s promises that EU nationals would not be affected by Brexit.

The UK Government cancelled an appearance before the Scottish Parliament European Committee. As convener Joan McAlpine MSP noted, this is completely unacceptable given the highly critical position of the current Article 50 negotiations.

And finally, in some welcome news the Scottish Government has opened its Green Investment Programme.