Scotland in Europe Update: 29th March 2019

This week has been tough. I confess I have been dreading it for months, wondering how I would feel when on the 29 March at 12pm (Brussels time, not UK time) we were dragged out of the EU against Scotland’s will.

Throughout the process there have been so many folk pretending it’s inevitable, or just resigned to it, despondent. Yet here we are, the time has passed and yet the SNP’s MEPs are still here at our posts. Well, this is far from over folks. Theresa May’s deal was defeated again this afternoon and now the only sensible choice is to revoke Article 50 and take the irresponsible threat of no deal off the table.

This week was also potentially my last Plenary session in Strasbourg. As I said to my fellow MEPs, there are a lot of us in Scotland and across the UK, working hard to turn this round, to serve our citizens, to remain within this family of nations.

“We don’t know what’s in the UK’s future, but I do know Scotland is a European nation. We celebrate international solidarity. We celebrate freedom of movement. I'm not asking you to solve our domestic discussions. I am asking you to leave a light on so we can find our way home."

You can watch my speech here:

and read it here:

We are not done yet!



On Monday MPs (finally) voted to take control of the parliamentary schedule and set the date for some indicative votes. The plan was to try and work out what parliament could support.

On Wednesday Theresa May promised to resign if MPs would support her deal. Die-hard Brexiters such as Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees Mogg shamelessly dumped all principle and u-turned by suddenly announcing their support for the deal.

Just after this, MPs took part in a series of indicative votes to try and ascertain what the Commons would support. The short version is that everything was defeated but - importantly - the most popular option was a referendum on the deal.

There is a great piece (in French) in Le Monde on Scotland’s place in the Brexit mess. I emphasised that I’m proud to be a Scottish European.

Patience across Europe is wearing thin. Belgian MEP Philippe Lamberts this week in Strasbourg said regarding Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel “when you listen to what he had to say when he left the council and the fact that he was upset with Mrs May then you must conclude that she is devoid of the basic human skills needed for a leader.”

Richard Ashworth MEP gave a great speech emphasising that we must never take peace and prosperity for granted. Value it, fight for it and defend it every day.

The EU has completed its no-deal preparations for the 12 April.

Unsurprisingly only 7% of voters think the UK Government has handled Brexit well. Down from 29% two years ago.

A cross-party group of more than 40 MEPs has called on the EU’s transparency tsar Frans Timmermans to look into the influence of “US Christian fundamentalists… with the greatest urgency” ahead of the European Parliament elections in May.

In another show of what solidarity means, the EU Commission has reassured Ireland that it recognises the necessity for a substantial package of aid for farmers in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Fintan O’Toole has written another excellent column on the ironic fact that demand for Britishness is high but the supply is drying up

Kieran Devine has done some interesting research showing that while over 65s are typically treated as a single category in opinion polls, there are substantial generational differences within this group, with those who lived through the Second World War being far more likely to oppose Brexit.

Sir Martin Donnelly, who was the Permanent Secretary of the Department for International Trade until 2017, has acknowledged that future UK trade deals will not be as good as the EU trade deals to which we currently have access.

The Institute for Government have produced an important report reflecting on the state of devolution. They conclude that “Brexit has already severely strained relations between central and devolved governments, and the process is far from over.”

The UK Parliament Human Rights Committee Immigration Bill has warned that the immigration bill proposed by the UK Government strips EU citizens living in the UK of their rights after Brexit with no guarantees that they will be replaced.

Egle Dagilyte, Senior Lecturer in Law, Anglia Ruskin University, has assessed what the extension means for EU citizens.

Tom McTague has put together an important long read on how the UK lost the Brexit battle.

The Institute of Directors has unveiled a new survey of 1,400 business leaders. The report reveals that 6 in 10 businesses want the UK to follow Single Market rules on both goods and services, in order to ensure frictionless trade with the EU.

Alexander Altmann, from the British Chambers of Commerce in Germany, has warned that German companies could pull investment from Scotland because of Brexit.

David Clegg has written a powerful piece on how Brexit is tearing down the bridges that the EU taught us how to build.

Paris Gourtsoyannis writes this moving piece on how those branded ‘Citizens of nowhere’ by Theresa May still have no clarity on Brexit.

Finally, I did a podcast with David Martin MEP discussing where we think Brexit is and what will happen next. Remember we recorded on Wednesday! As usual these days a lot has happened since.