Scotland in Europe Update: 15th March 2019

What is remarkable about where we stand is not what has changed but how much has remained the same. Ever since Mrs May triggered Article 50 with no long term plan (supported, remember, by the Labour and Conservative Parties) it has been obvious to anybody who understood the process that we would by this point have three choices: to accept a deal from the UK Government, crash out with no-deal, or simply revoke it.

The underlying choice is rigid and will not shift until one option has been picked.

So what has changed? For much of the last two years the terms of the deal were not clear. Now they are and no amount of last minute Strasbourg bells and whistles can disguise it. MPs once again voted it down on Tuesday and next week will get the opportunity to do so again.

No-deal is still the legal default but there is no political desire in either Brussels or London for it. This unity is reassuring but comes with a caveat. The EU will not throw Ireland under the bus and it seems the Commons will not accept a deal unless the EU does. As time ticks by the odds of no-deal therefore increase and preparations must increase.

That leaves us with the revocation of Article 50. Because of the work of Jo Maugham QC and Scottish politicians from across the spectrum (including me) we know this option exists, confirmed by the European Court of Justice itself. Frankly, to my mind it is now the best option.

But what of extension and referendum, I hear you ask? Well, yesterday the Commons voted for an extension but only under certain conditions. It is not yet clear how that request will end and let us remember, any extension will come from a negotiation between the UK and the EU, not from a negotiation between MPs.

But an extension would be a process story, not an end point. On this Mrs May is right, extension does not of itself solve anything. The process to revocation may well be via a referendum, which is the SNP position.

A lot can happen in 24 hours but amongst the bluster, always remember the fundamentals.

Months ago Tony Connelly of RTE said that there are series of unlikely outcomes, one of which has to happen.

That is still the case.

P.S. apologies for the slightly longer bulletin but it has been a very busy week!!



On Monday (which seems a long time ago) Theresa May was in Strasbourg where she and Jean Claude Juncker agreed a “Joint Statement supplementing the Political Declaration” in a bid to convince Tory MPs to back her deal. To be clear, this was just as meaningless as the title suggests.

You can also see their agreed instrument relating to the agreement here.

And the letter from Juncker to President Tusk of the EU Council here

The Attorney General wrote to the Prime Minister setting out his legal opinion. The short version is that he concluded nothing had changed.

You can read more about the legal details in the European Journal of International Law if you are curious.

Theresa May’s deal was voted down for a second time on Tuesday. Open Europe have put together a handy summary of how papers from across Europe reacted.

On Wednesday - in a night of chaos and Westminster chicanery - MPs voted against a no-deal Brexit. I insert your regular reminder that no-deal happens by course of law unless MPs choose something else.

A no-deal Brexit is unthinkable. For instance, it would cost our farming, food and drink industries in Scotland £2bn based on the UK Govt’s own assessment.

On Thursday MPs voted to delay Brexit. Obviously, we must wait and see for how long and of course to see what the EU27 have to say.

And today Theresa May has announced that she intends to ask MPs for a third time to approve her deal next week.

The UK Government announced its proposal for a temporary tariff regime for no-deal. In a development that would be hilarious if it wasn’t so serious, the Tory Government has proposed to create the backstop in breach of WTO rules in a scenario that would only happen because Tory MPs refuse to back a deal because it contains a legal backstop.

The Scottish Government condemned the proposals emphasising that they had been “made with no prior consultation with Scotland or the other devolved administrations.”

“My view is that the UK outside the EU is going to be, for a long time, a declining nation economically and culturally, and generally more insular. I’m not sure I want to be part of that.” David Martin Labour MEP for Scotland hits the nail on the head in this piece in the Scotsman.

Royal Bank of Scotland’s latest purchasing managers’ index Scotland’s private-sector economy contracted for a third consecutive month because of fears of Brexit.

Pete Wishart, Chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee, has written an important piece emphasising that the Scottish Government must have a guaranteed role in future trade negotiations post-Brexit.

275 financial firms are moving £1.2 trillion in assets out of the UK because of Brexit. This will cut UK tax receipts by 1%.

The UK has signed a trade continuity agreement to ensure stability after Brexit for UK businesses. Which major EU deal does this relate to I hear you ask? Korea perhaps? Or maybe Japan? Nope… the Pacific islands of Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

Julia Magntorn Garrett and L. Alan Winters of the UK Trade Policy Observatory have put together a useful summary of some of the issues relating to tariffs.

Esther McVey who is leading the “ladies for leave” campaign has been tweeting falsehoods about the UK being forced to join the Euro. To be clear EU law explicitly states that “unless the United Kingdom notifies the Council that it intends to adopt the Euro, it shall be under no obligation to do so”. Even a number of countries ‘obliged’ to the join the Euro, such as Sweden, will not be doing any time soon because they are choosing not to.

Finally, I have written a couple of columns this week. Firstly, this in the Herald after the defeat of May’s deal:

And this in the National laying out a few possible ways forward from here.