Scotland in Europe Update: 5th April 2019

After this week, my dismay for Westminster is verging on disgust. I am sickened by the vain, shallow, self-regarding antics we’ve seen coming out of that place. I know there’s a lot of decent sorts in there trying to fix this – as appalled as I am by where they are – but they’re pushing against a boulder of intransigence. They're also trying to do the impossible: make a success of Brexit.

This week began with MPs having non-binding votes on various future options, floundered in the middle – with MPs narrowly passing a mechanism to stop no-deal which won’t stop no-deal – and ended with Corbyn and May locked in a room trying to decide the fate of Scotland’s EU membership.

So, a bit more detail is perhaps needed. The non-binding indicative votes the week began with failed to produce a majority, but they indicated there is some support for a customs union and/or a referendum. That MPs failed to support the SNP's amendment – on revoking Article 50 if no-deal is imminent – is revealing. This is our only real option: other choices rely on assent from the EU. The “Scottish Six” court case established that the UK Parliament can revoke Article 50 unilaterally. There’s nothing standing in the way but British stubbornness masquerading as statesmanship.

On Wednesday, with a majority of one vote, MPs said they would like an extension and created a legal framework to force the UK to seek one. Which is lovely, except it isn’t the UK’s choice. Next Wednesday EU leaders will meet at Council and the actual decision will be made there.

As for Corbyn and May’s recent meetings to discuss a compromise? I have my doubts. Firstly, we are relying on Corbyn to negotiate on our behalf. A man – let us not forget – who is hardly in favour of EU membership. Secondly, whatever compromise he comes up with will simply be part of the non-binding political declaration. Once May (and Corbyn for that matter) have gone it has no value as a contract at all being simply a series of aspirations that may, or may not, be met. Goodness knows who the Prime Minister will be by the time those negotiations start, and goodness knows how they will be delivered.

As I have said before, MPs have three choices: accept May’s deal (with whatever bells and whistles in the Political Declaration gets them over the line), revoke Article 50 through a referendum or directly from the UK Parliament, or crash out with no deal. For all this week's frantic activity nothing there has changed.



The UK has announced it will ask for an extension until 30 June.

I have urged the European Parliament to take action against Ukip's current leader following his speech calling fellow politicians “traitors, quislings and collaborators” and using the phrase “punishment beatings.” It is unacceptable for MEPs to propagate a misleading and skewed impression of the EU and its work. To do so in language tantamount to hate speech is intolerable.

My letter followed an intervention in this week’s debate which you can see here.

David Liddington has written to the Electoral Commission instructing them to start preparations for a European Parliament election. I’m ready for them!

The SNP has put together this explainer of how our MPs voted on this week’s indicative votes.

Ian Dunt summarised how the votes went writing that “everyone else, apart from arguably the SNP, acted like zealots.”

Michel Barnier gave a powerful speech at the College of Europe in Natolin on “Europe after Brexit”.

I spoke to him directly and raised the issue of EU citizens’ rights in the event of no-deal. I also emphasised that Westminster is not the UK, and certainly does not represent the millions of people watching in horror as the UK Government lurches from self-inflicted crisis to self-inflicted crisis.

The EU Council and Parliament have reached agreement on visa free travel after Brexit.

This piece by Steve Peers explains the nitty gritty detail.

At the German Social Democratic party’s (SPD) conference, Michael Roth described Brexit as a “big shitshow” and accused the UK Cabinet of having been “born with silver spoons in their mouths”.

The Scottish Government’s pro-EU campaign across Europe has gone down well. I got described as a “talkative and warm forty-something”. I have been called a lot worse!

This campaign continues: today the Scottish Government again emphasised to EU citizens in Scotland that you are welcome here.

I was interviewed on Latvia’s main broadcaster about Scotland in Europe. You can watch here.

Philip Stephens wrote an excellent piece in the FT surmising that goodbye to the EU also means goodbye the United Kingdom.

Facebook pro-Brexit ads turn out to have been run by employees of Sir Lynton Crosby’s lobbying company and a former adviser to Boris Johnson.

Pro-Brexit campaigners attempted to sabotage the rail network.

The UK in a Changing Europe thinktank have produced an excellent guide to where we are two years after triggering Article 50.

You can read my National column on this week’s antics in the Commons here.

Former Speaker Betty Boothroyd delivered a barnstorming speech asking why the Government is afraid of a People’s Vote. “Brexit will shape these youngsters’ futures for the next 50 years. Not ours.”

Finally, the Guardian has this excellent piece on the impact Brexit is having on all our mental health.