This week showed that those advocating for Brexit have not looked to the past for inspiration, but instead suffer from delusions of resurrecting an idealised version of it. The dreams of a worldwide trading network built upon the Commonwealth (synonymous with “Empire” for many, let’s be honest) is one that holds sway with those who see the world through the grainy black-and-white images of an imagined 1940s British Pathé news report. For them, The Empire Strikes Back is a promise, not part of the Lucas filmography.Read more
Has Theresa May been talking to European leaders directly to bypass Michel Barnier? According to Alberto Nardelli, the Prime Minister had a phonecall with her Italian counterpart Guiseppe Conte yesterday – so far, so good – but instead of Number 10 listing it on the official site as it usually does, the Italian call appears to be missing.
According to Nardelli, May was pushing for the other EU member states to go beyond the Full Trade Agreement or EEA options proposed by the EU’s chief negotiator, and this isn’t the only secretive May phonecall to have taken place.
One of the reasons the EU is such a powerful trading and political unit is that 28 is a much larger number than one, and when the EU speaks, it speaks with a single voice following extensive negotiation, compromise, and discussion. For the Prime Minister of one member state to attempt to break this unity, it’s not a good look. While David Cameron put the Conservative party over the best interests of the country, Theresa May appears to be going one better and trying to put the Conservative party over the good of a continent.
“We’ll just revert to WTO terms!” shriek the Brexiteers when challenged that the EU stuff is a bit complex. I’ll let you into a secret: anyone saying that clearly doesn’t understand what they’re talking about and should be quarantined as a dangerous fool.
Scotland’s best interests are emphatically to stay in the EU, but let’s look at the reality of WTO membership. If you didn’t like Brussels, wait till you meet Geneva!
The first thing to understand is that the WTO is not dedicated to free trade or fair trade (note the lack of an “F” in the acronym), neither is it democratic nor accountable to you as a citizen.Read more
So this has been the week of ‘no deal’. The head of Amazon warned it could cause civic unrest. (thetimes.co.uk/...); the NHS would need to stockpile drugs (bbc.co.uk/...) and the Brexit Secretary himself Dominic Raab has promised to make sure we don’t starve (twitter.com/...).
I must admit, all this hyperbole is rather too much, and I agree with Tánaiste Simon Coveney that there is far too much talk of a no deal: rte.ie/...
To be clear, one of the most damaging myths which seems to be emerging is that a no-deal Brexit is somehow a realistic or desirable option. It would be a catastrophe. The laws which ensure food, people, and everything else can move in and out of the external UK borders would cease to apply. It is fall of Yugoslavia and USSR stuff. It is unconscionable.
I don’t deny there are some who are pushing for it, but I do not see it as a remotely likely scenario. The fact that it's the sorts of the people I dislike most talking about it makes me all the more suspicious.
You can read more of my thoughts on this in the my National column for the week: thenational.scot/...Read more
So what we all suspected is true. The Leave campaign cheated.
The sheer pace of the news cycle at the moment means it has been too easy for the Brexiters to move on but they must not be allowed to. The single most important decision the UK has made in 40 years was built upon a set of lies delivered by a set of cheats. Peter Geoghegan has covered this story from the beginning and it is well worth reading his thoughts:
And of course, you can read the full findings of the Electoral Commission here:
Meanwhile, the utter inability of the UK Government to negotiate in an effective manner means that the rest of the EU is getting increasingly concerned about no deal. To be clear, I still do not think that this is the most likely outcome, but the dangers of it keep increasing. The longer the UK Government continues to prioritise internal Tory squabbles, the more we risk reaching next March with no deal and all the potential chaos which that could cause.Read more
Just two years after the EU referendum vote, 16 months after Theresa May triggered Article 50, the UK Government has published its White Paper on the future EU-UK relationship.
But – true to form – even this couldn’t go off without a hitch. The idea that MPs should probably have a chance to look at the white paper before scrutinising it in the Commons didn’t appear to occur to new Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab or his colleagues. Speaker John Bercow had to suspend Parliament yesterday for a full five minutes to allow MPs to skim-read the 98 pages ahead of Raab’s speech. “It is a source of considerable unhappiness in this Chamber... that the Rt Hon gentleman is delivering a statement about a white paper, copies of which are not currently available to the House of Commons."
It’s charitable to assume this was just the latest round of familiar Conservative Brexit incompetence, but it’s worth noting that journalists had copies of the paper during the morning’s press conference - so well before MPs! There is no good Brexit.Read more
It has been another busy week in the European Parliament, including an important vote on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, a topic about which many of you have been in touch. I voted to reject the mandate, on the grounds that the package agreed by the Committee responsible needed more work to strike a proper balance. The dossier will now remain live before the full Parliament over the Summer, allowing time for a proper full debate and vote of the Parliament in September. You can read more here:
Meanwhile in Westminster, Theresa May is attempting to persuade, threaten and cajole her openly-rebelling Cabinet members and MPs to agree about the future of the UK-EU relationship. It is worth remembering that although the public has not yet been shown the proposal the Commission has seen a copy.
They rejected it:
Incidentally, so did David Davis:
So the June Council meeting has been and gone, and the UK has little to show for it. While the Tory Party continues to argue with itself, the rest of Europe is getting on with their lives, focussing on the issues that matter to them. The EU27 produced a brief summary of the current state of affairs, available to read here:Read more
While the scheme announced this week to register EU nationals in the UK is superior to the system that exists for non-EEA nationals, it is clearly a long way short of what was promised by the Leave campaign.
To start with, nobody made clear that EU citizens who used iPhones would be treated differently to those who have Android phones! More seriously, I must admit I also had a shiver run down my spine when Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes promised “a proportionate response” for any citizens (including children) who fail to register in time. Since the UK Government is the only government in Europe to allow indefinite detention of migrants, this is not reassuring. The details are here:
As we find out more information, I’ll be sure to let you know more but for my part I wish to re-emphasise what I have said before: Scotland is your home and you are welcome here.Read more
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.Read more