The EU Parliament in Scotland runs regular events called Meet Your MEP. I went to one here in Glasgow with David Martin, Labour MEP. I really appreciated what he said and the Q&A session afterwards. The most recent event was in Edinburgh with Alyn Smith, SNP MEP. I’m on his weekly email list where he sends out a round-up of he’s been doing and what’s in the news regarding the EU, UK, Scotland…. These days most of that is dominated by Brexit. He posts links to the response to the Brexit negotiations in European media which I wouldn’t come across otherwise.
You can see me scribbling down some notes during Alyn’s talk and the Q&A afterwards. Most of what was spoken about referred to Brexit, its consequences for UK and in particular for Scotland. Here is the gist of my scribbles as accurately as I can make them.
- What happened in the Brexit vote?
Basically voters gave the Establishment a skelp, for many it was the first time they felt their vote counted, especially in England. The leave vote wasn’t very much to do with pros and cons of the EU and how it works. A lot of it was telling the established politicians that people feel left out, overlooked.
- And of course then there were the 350,000 EU citizens in Scotland, 2.5 million in UK overall, who didn’t get to vote in Brexit referendum.
- Role of the media
They are not telling us about what Europe actually does and how it operates. They see their job as pandering to the prejudices of their readership, not to inform them
- Our print media is owned by oligarchs like Evgeny Levedev (The Independent), Viscount Rothemere (The Daily Mail), Rupert Murdoch (The Times). They have influence about what and how is reported. That influence is then multiplied by the way broadcasting media, especially the BBC use it. Eg BBC News late night The Papers slot….
- But the English media is widely read in EU and we look pretty bad to EU countries. It doesn’t help wider atmosphere outside the negotiations along if our media are seen to be pouring out toxic, misleading headlines about the EU. It certainly wouldn’t help our reception in EU if we moved to revoke Article 50 and the whole Brexit process.
They used to be jokey… They have become shriller and nastier now. The nastiness was built up by Farage and UKIP, but also by Boris Johnson when he was working as a journalist in Europe.
- Farage is most successful political in UK. In twenty years, he has brought about a Tory Party that has lost its reason, and an opposition party, Labour, that is having to appease its Remainers and Leavers at the same time and which therefore won’t be able to take a sane stance on retaining membership of single market and customs union. It’s comparable to the similar effect in US politics brought about Tea Party on the Republicans
- Alyn says it’s true that Farage applied for German citizenship after Brexit vote. There has certainly been a lot of media speculation about it as in this article in Politico.
- Can Article 50 be revoked?
Yes, if UK asks for it to be revoked. See various articles by John Kerr, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, who drafted Article 50.
- There’s no guarantee that the current opt-outs that UK enjoys would all still be on offer. But Euro and Schengen opt-outs would still be in place for UK. And probably the budget rebate, at least until the next budget talks, which happen every five years
- Devolution under attack with the retaining of devolved powers
111 powers of Holyrood are removed to Westminster in the current Bill. Smith doesn’t buy it that they’ll be returned to Holyrood. UK is going in a different direction by using the Henry VIII laws. SNP have produced this video of what those 111 powers are….
- With loss of devolved powers, the power of Holyrood is under sustained attack. What could Holyrood do? Devolved parliaments in Scotland and Wales can refuse their approval for the EU Withdrawal Bill. Westminster could go ahead and pass it anyway. That would provoke a constitutional crisis.
- Scotland’s economy
Freedom of movement and access to single market is crucial for our economy. Yet currently Tories are pursuing a “hostile environment” policy to discourage EU immigration
- It’s also crucial that we, and UK, keep access to EU Open Skies legislation which enables hassle free flights throughout Europe. Similarly important to stay part of Euratom; all of the radioactive isotopes used in NHS are made in Netherlands. We also need to keep access to EU university research funding
- Our fish and meat industries have a huge reliance on EU people. For every one job on a fishing boat, there are seven associated jobs onshore.
- Trade deals: CETA has been agreed only after a very long process. TTIP was seen off in EU remember . But after Brexit, Westminster could approve a ‘TTIP on steroids’ deal with US. Smith fears that UK will have a ‘fire sale’ under the pretence of Brexit and deregulate the economy.
- Damage to Third Sector
We will lose direct EU funding to charities ; EU works round central governments to fund local projects. It will do damage to civic society which is already muffled by the lobbying act. And although EU funding could be replicated by UK, ministers are not doing anything about putting that into place
- Holding a Second EU referendum
Even if rest of Uk doesn’t get the opportunity to vote on whether they want to go ahead with whatever Brexit deal is reached, we can give Scots a vote on the Brexit deal. If we do that, it can only be a choice of Brexit or Independence because we can’t offer anything else. And there will be no other other choice unless something shifts in English political thinking.
- NI and Scotland: NI is going to need a special status in order to avoid a physical border in Ireland. And if it’s possible for NI, then it’s possible for Scotland too
- Is EFTA a good option for an independent Scotland?
Would be OK half way house as an interim option . Smith thinks the best option longterm is to be a full EU member. EFTA is being promoted by Alex Salmond just now and he’s doing it to move the discussion in Scotland on to possibilities post-independence, ie promoting a discussion that takes independence as a given