Scotland in Europe Update: 15 June 2018

Events have become increasingly surreal, and like Alice in Wonderland I wonder when something resembling common sense and normality will return. I am still trying to work out which of the current crop of UK Government ministers are Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

This week MPs rejected an amendment to have a meaningful say on the final deal and rejected another to stay in the Single Market. Whatever the referendum was about, it was not a mandate to strip democracy from the UK or to destroy our economy. MPs must have a meaningful vote, i.e. not simply the UK Government’s ‘deal or no deal’, for there to be any chance of reasonable compromise emerging. The Tory rebels who failed to rebel are now claiming they were misled by Theresa May. Hopefully they have learned and will have the courage of their convictions in future.

Democratic accountability is not a weakness and the idea that MPs controlling the government will undermine the UK’s ability to negotiate is ridiculous. The EU Commission will face a vote in the European Parliament on the deal it gets and is doing a far better job at negotiating than the UK is.

Since the UK cannot even countenance democracy in the archaic world of the House of Commons, it is of no surprise that the Scottish Parliament was completely ignored. After just 15 minutes of debate and one speaker the fundamental underpinnings of devolution were torn up. This lead to Ian Blackford and the rest of the SNP MPs walking out. Scotland’s voice will be heard, whether it is inside the chamber or outside.

For Murray Foote, author of The Vow from the 2014 independence referendum, this was the final straw. In the following article he concludes unequivocally: “independence it must be.”

To be clear, this is not over yet. The SNP will continue to fight the Brexit power grab in Holyrood, Brussels and Westminster. The EU Withdrawal Bill has not yet been passed, it returns to the House of Lords and back to the Commons again before this is over. There is still time for the UK to see sense, but I am not holding my breath.

Despite all the drama in London it is worth remembering the mantra I have been repeating from Day 1: the deal will be done in Brussels.

All of this squabbling amongst the Labour and Tory parties is irrelevant. We should be negotiating constructively with the European Union. Unfortunately, that side of the debate is being completely ignored. For instance, there has been little comment on the EU’s formal response to the UK Government’s temporary customs arrangements (the so-called backstop). As they emphasise, if it is time limited, it isn’t a backstop.

Unless the UK starts to negotiate properly, there is a very real chance that we will end up with no deal at all.

Yours aye,



The Scottish Government has produced a further iteration of Scotland’s Place in Europe which addresses Security, Judicial, Co-operation and Law Enforcement.

Michael Russell has set out why the devolved administrations must be involved in any future trade negotiations if the UK leaves the European Union.

Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs Fiona Hyslop and Welsh Cabinet Secretary for Finance Mark Drakeford have written a joint letter to Home Secretary Sajid Javid to highlight shared concerns over the EU Exit Settlement Scheme.

Whilst the UK is withdrawing from the world to focus on Brexit, Ireland is doubling its international presence.

The German foreign minister has called for ‘Europe united’ to counter ‘America first’.

In advance of the Commons votes on the EU Withdrawal Bill, Nicola Sturgeon warned that it would be a crucial day in the history of devolution.

The Institute for Government has produced a report concluding that: “the biggest challenges facing Whitehall are not easily fixed – political divisions, parliamentary arithmetic, inbuilt uncertainty and impossibly tight timelines.”

Matthew d'Ancona wrote a good piece assessing how many questions the Leave campaign have to answer.

Rachel Sylvester in the Times has noted that all Brexit really lacks is a dodgy dossier. I couldn’t agree more that MPs need to start thinking about the country rather than focussing on party.

Michel Barnier held an interesting press conference after last week’s negations. You can read his comments here but the short version is “It is now time to take decisions and make choices.”

Echoing this, Irish Commissioner Phil Hogan has warned: “The EU is ready for the worst.  It will not be surprised by a UK non-decision to crash out because the mutineers succeed in running down the clock. It is prepared in case the most painful Brexit becomes a reality.”

The UK is still obsessed with cherry picking, as this Politico article points out.

Professor Jonathan Portes has written about Theresa May’s C.R.A.P. Brexit.

More UK banks have relocated their Euro clearing services to Frankfurt.

Morgan Stanley is moving 500 jobs from the UK.

Following their move to the Netherlands, Unilever shares are unlikely to be traded on the FTSE 100.

In a time when Scotland and the rest of the UK need more doctors, the UK Government is refusing them access to the country.

Further research has shown that migrants contribute to improving a country’s productivity.

The head of the CBI has warned that sectors of the UK car industry face extinction post-Brexit.

Italy has warned it may not back CETA. This is important; any future deal with the UK will need the approval of all the EU27.

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), an international trade association for the sector, as outlined its concerns about the lack of clarity and a potential ‘no deal’ scenario.

Finally, and with no sense of shame, Jacob Rees-Mogg’s investment company has set up an investment fund in Ireland and is warning clients about the dangers of a hard Brexit.