This was the final Strasbourg session of this parliamentary term and an important one. As I have joked more than once, I have had more farewell addresses than the Rolling Stones! In my speech to Parliament, I called for international observers for the European elections because the Leave campaigns broke the law and I don’t doubt they’ll do it again.Read more
It has been another long week but at the end of it another so-called ‘Brexit Day’ has been and gone. Scotland is still in the EU!
Theresa May went to Brussels and came back with an extension until Halloween. The EU has again shown itself to be a mature body of compromise. Although the frustration in Brussels is palpable, all the countries were looking for the best way to help the UK. But the situation in Westminster is so confused that there was significant debate about the best way to do that. After discussion they compromised, and the deadline of October 31 was set. Politics the mature, European way.
This is not my dream – of revoking Article 50 – but it is far from a Halloween nightmare. I must confess, at times I have felt I am in some bad science fiction novel: partially existing in about three, maybe four, parallel universes. There is the universe where we won the independence referendum; the one where Cameron did not make is disastrous gamble to have an EU referendum; the one where May got her deal through the Commons and we left the EU on March 29; and now there’s the one where an EU election takes place in Scotland on May 23. There’s also the one where May still manages to get her deal through and the elections are cancelled.Read more
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.Read more
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.Read more
Well, after a late night in Brussels the EU has made a decision for the UK. We will not leave the EU on 29 March since a short extension to Article 50 has been agreed to. The terms of this are clear:
- If the House of Commons agrees to pass Theresa May’s deal next week the extension will last until the 22 May.
- If the House of Commons does not pass the deal, then Article 50 will be extended until 12 April by which point the UK is expected to tell the EU what it wishes to do next.
You can read the full conclusions here:
What does this all mean? Well the good news is that unless the UK unilaterally does something inexplicable then we will not be facing a no deal scenario in one week’s time.
The bad news is that otherwise nothing has changed. The options remain the same: either accept May's deal, no deal or revoke Article 50. The road is a little longer now but we’re still running out of it. The cliff edge, iceberg, your-other-metaphor-of-choice is looming.Read more
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.Read more
With little of note happening on the Brexit front in Brussels this week, I was privileged to be in the gallery at Holyrood on Tuesday to watch the EU debate. It was an historic day because it was the first-ever joint motion presented in the name of almost all the parties in our national Parliament and also the National Assembly for Wales, the Senedd. Scotland’s SNP government and the Welsh Labour government have been working hand in glove on Brexit since the stramash was visited upon us, and it is testament to our outstanding Scotland in Europe Minister – Michael Russell – that we have such a strong joint position.
The message was clear: Brexit will be damaging and should be put back to the people, while a no-deal Brexit is unthinkable and must be taken of the table. The only exception to the unity we saw was from the Tories. They know that Brexit is damaging and against the clearly expressed wishes of the Scottish electorate, but because the UK voted to Leave Scotland must apparently follow. The unity of the UK comes above all else and instead of seeking compromise they have doubled down on the base. They’re barely speaking for 20% of the Scottish population, and alienating the rest.
They tried to portray the SNP as seeking grievance and using Brexit as a pretext for an independence referendum and I’ll confess I take personal offence at this. I’ve sat through the countless meetings where we’ve had to bite on hard reality – we’re not independent and we can’t wish Brexit away – and thrash out genuine compromises about how we could salvage the maximum possible. I’ve written extensively in the Scottish and other European media about how Brexit is absolutely not about independence. All this is ignored by a group of people so desperate to deflect attention from their own disaster.Read more
Amid the week’s sound and fury Mrs May has for the first time explicitly put both a way for the House of Commons to block a no-deal Brexit, and to extend the Article 50 period, on the table. Both are news, as is Labour’s slight shift in policy in changing its language on a second EU referendum if no other way out presents itself.
But she’s put them on the table in a way that makes using them almost impossible and keeps her in charge. Nonetheless, the prospect of a delay, giving us more time to turn this around, did nudge up a notch or so yesterday, so we need to be ready for all eventualities.Read more
There’s a great phrase “everything has been said, but not yet said by everyone” and I have to say that is where I am with Brexit. Things I warned of two full years ago are now coming to pass, and every piece of economic bad news sees a squadron of useful idiots deployed to the airwaves to blame global events, the weather, the dog eating their homework, anything. Anything but accepting the simple reality that Brexit has already made the UK, and for the moment Scotland with it, a less attractive place to invest.
Given that seeking foreign investment has been a key plank of the Westminster economic consensus for the last four decades, this really matters. Japanese firms in particular were wooed by Margaret Thatcher onwards to locate in the UK for access to the EU Single Market. Consequently Brexit for them is a broken promise. As the Japanese Ambassador said the best part of two years ago “a door to nowhere is just a door” and serious people are making serious decisions. The Foreign Secretary likening the EU to the Soviet Union isn’t just a diplomatic gaffe, there are real consequences when the global community concludes that the UK is run by chancers. Unfortunately, real people in the real world lose their jobs.Read more
Do you remember a time when Government defeats seemed like a big deal? Last night, Theresa May suffered yet another rejection from her own party as MPs voted 303-258 against a motion endorsing the government’s negotiating strategy. While this has no legal effect – and Downing Street has already confirmed the PM will continue her revolutionary ‘nae cairds’ approach to the EU talks – it weakens her position, including a subtle approach to rule out a no-deal Brexit.
Meanwhile, it was deeply disappointing that so many Labour MPs abstained on the SNP motion to extend Article 50 by a minimum of three months. Hats off to those MPs – including Edinburgh South’s Ian Murray – who put country over party. Sadly it wasn’t enough this time.