UK and Scottish parliaments clash over second referendum

UK Prime Minister has repeatedly said that “now is not the time” for another Scottish referendum on independence, but the Scottish Parliament has just voted in favour of “seeking permission” for a referendum before the UK leaves the European Union.

BBC: Scottish Parliament backs referendum call

Nicola Sturgeon’s call for a second referendum on independence for Scotland had been formally backed by the Scottish Parliament.

MSPs voted by 69 to 59 in favour of seeking permission for a referendum before the UK leaves the EU.

Ms Sturgeon says the move is needed to allow Scotland to decide what path to follow in the wake of the Brexit vote.

But the UK government has already said it will block a referendum until the Brexit process has been completed.

Prime Minister Theresa May, who met Ms Sturgeon for talks in Glasgow on Monday, has repeatedly insisted that “now is not the time” for a referendum.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says she is not seeking confrontation.

“My argument is simply this: when the nature of the change that is made inevitable by Brexit becomes clear, that change should not be imposed upon us, we should have the right to decide the nature of that change.

“The people of Scotland should have the right to choose between Brexit – possibly a very hard Brexit – or becoming an independent country, able to chart our own course and create a true partnership of equals across these islands.”

She added: “I hope the UK government will respect the will of this parliament. If it does so, I will enter discussion in good faith and with a willingness to compromise.

“However, if it chooses not to do so I will return to the parliament following the Easter recess to set out the steps that the Scottish government will take to progress the will of parliament.”

But this looks like a clash of wills between her and Theresa May, and between the Scottish and UK parliaments.

Ms Sturgeon is expected to make the formal request for a section 30 later this week – after Mrs May formally starts the Brexit process by triggering Article 50.

Scottish voters rejected independence by 55% to 45% in a referendum in 2014, but Ms Sturgeon believes the UK voting to leave the EU is a material change in circumstances which means people should again be asked the question.

There certainly has been a material change in circumstances.

While May and her UK government prefers no split it may make sense to find out if that is what the Scots want and take that into account with exit plans from the EU.

Her Scottish secretary, David Mundell, has said that the timescale could include “the Brexit process, the journey of leaving and people being able to understand what the UK’s new relationship with the EU is, so they can make an informed choice if there was ever to be another referendum”.

He added: “We are not entering into negotiations on whether there should be another independence referendum during the Brexit process.

The Scottish Parliament vote may or may not change that position.

There may be some chicken and egg here.

Would plans for the UK exit from the EU be easier if they knew whether Scotland was going to split or remain?

Or should another Scottish referendum wait until they know what the exit from the EU is going to look like for them and the UK?

 

UK & Europe – the Brexit process

Topics about the UK, EU and Europe.

UK-EU


The Guardian explains the Brexit process.

What is article 50?

In just 264 words in five paragraphs, article 50 of the Lisbon treaty sets out how an EU member can voluntarily leave the European Union. It specifies that a leaver should notify the European council of its intention, negotiate a deal on its withdrawal and establish legal grounds for a future relationship with the EU.

What is ‘triggered’ by article 50?

Once a country gives notice it wants to leave it has two years to negotiate new arrangements, after which it will no longer be subject to EU treaties.

How and when will article 50 be triggered?

The Brexit starting pistol is fired on Wednesday 29 March, when the government delivers a letter to Donald Tusk, the president of the European council.

Then what?

On Thursday the Brexit secretary, David Davis, will publish the government’s “great repeal bill”. This will set out an end to the authority of EU law by converting all its provisions in British law once the UK leaves.

How will the EU respond?

Tusk has promised that he will respond by Friday with “draft Brexit guidelines”.

How long will they take?

The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has said he envisages there being less than 18 months of real negotiating time. The crucial window is likely to be the year from October 2017, after the German elections on 24 September.

What are the key sticking points?

It’s a long list, and even the topics for negotiation are subject to negotiation.

For example, the UK wants trade talks to be part of the leave discussions, but senior figures in the EU think trade should be discussed separately. While the UK is still part of the EU it is not allowed to negotiate trade deals with non-EU countries.

Another key topic that will need urgent resolution will be the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and British subjects living abroad. The government ruled out giving EU citizens guaranteed protections before the start of talks, giving rise to fears that they will be used as bargaining chips.

Other pressing but tricky issues include security, migration and border controls.

Brexit: everything you need to know about how the UK will leave the EU

Lords debates Article 50

From Missy in the UK:


Today the House of Lords began their first two days of debate on the Article 50 Bill before it goes to committee stage.

Over the weekend a number of Lords said that it would not get through unscathed, and they were open about wanting to do everything to either water down the legislation, or stop it completely, this has put the Lords on a collision course with both the people and the House of Commons. There have been a number of MPs that have been open about pushing for serious reform – or abolition – of the Lords if they hold up this legislation, and some of the Lords have also acknowledged that if they try to stop this it could mean the end of the House of Lords.

Today a number of critics of the Lords, and a couple of newspapers, called for members of the House to declare their interests in the EU – many are earning either consulting fees, or pensions from the EU, and it is seen by some as a clear conflict of interest. If Brexit happens these Lords will lose their EU income, and some believe that is the real reason they want to stop it happening, coincidentally one of the loudest about stopping the legislation allegedly earns one of the highest pensions from the EU.

Theresa May attended the opening debates in the Lords, she is allowed to as a member of the Privy Council, but it is reportedly unprecedented for a PM to go and listen to a debate on legislation in the House – at least in modern times. The last time a PM attended the House of Lords was David Cameron to listen to the tributes to Margaret Thatcher.

Baroness Evans, the leader of the House of Lords today urged the Lords to recognise the primacy of the House of Commons. She reminded the Lords that they passed the legislation for the referendum without restriction on the result, and that this bill is not about re-visiting the debate.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/20/theresa-may-set-attend-house-lords-article-50-debate-person/

This will be interesting times, but it could also be a catalyst for fundamental change in the UK’s political landscape if some are to be believed – and I don’t mean with regards to leaving the EU.

Article 50 Bill passes third reading

The ”Brexit’ bill in the UK has easily passed it’s third reading and will now go to the House of Lords.

A quick round up from Missy:


As mentioned above the Article 50 Bill passed the third reading today and will go to the House of Lords. Of the large number of amendments put forward, only a minority were selected for voting on, part of this is that many were the same, or covered the same issues.

All of the amendments were defeated, including the one for a second referendum and the one to guarantee EU citizen’s rights in the UK. The Liberal Democrats have said they will instruct their members in the Lords to put forward the amendment again for a vote in the House. There are many commentators on social media that have seen this move as the Lib Dems showing their contempt for British citizens, and only caring about Europeans.

I find this interesting as the EU citizens whose rights they are trying to secure are unable to vote in UK elections anyway, so I am not sure why they think the average Joe on the street will see this as a vote winner for them – only the Pro EU elite in London seem to care about this issue, it isn’t one to die in the ditch over in my opinion.

The Government have already said that they will guarantee the rights of the EU citizens in the UK on 23 June last year on the proviso the EU guarantee the rights of British citizens in the EU – some countries have indicated they are willing to do a deal on that prior to the Article 50 negotiations but Merkel vetoed that and said they would not discuss it until Article 50 has been triggered.

A more interesting side story has been the dramas in Labour. Once again a three line whip was opposed, and once again a number of MPs refused to vote in favour of the bill. The imposition of the whip prompted Clive Lewis – shadow Business secretary – to resign from the front benches. This is seen as a blow to Corbyn as Clive Lewis has been a strong ally of Corbyn’s.

Diane Abbott was another one that was being watched by the media & political junkies. Abbott is a strong Corbyn supporter – they have known each other since the 1970’s – however, at the vote for the second reading Diane Abbott mysteriously disappeared and did not vote. This non-appearance last week was explained away as Abbott having had a migraine, (which if correct I can understand her not sticking around – they can be debilitating), but many have questioned this, as apparently she got sick just before the vote.

Diane Abbott is pro-Remain, her constituency voted Remain, and it is widely believed she wanted to vote against the Bill, but did not want to openly revolt against Corbyn – or put him in the position that he had to sack her. Last night she (allegedly) reluctantly voted for the Bill. And in a gossipy aside, it was reported in this morning’s papers that she told David Davis to F*** Off when he tried to give her a kiss in the Commons Bar last night.

There has been speculation that Corbyn will resign as leader, but Corbyn denied this on Breakfast this morning saying that the party is united. There is also speculation another leadership challenge will be mounted against Corbyn.

Below is the expected timetable for the Bill’s passage through the House of Lords.

Feb 9 (today): Peers start to table amendments
Feb 20-21: The Peers debate the Bill during its second reading, they are expected to vote through the legislation
Feb 27: The first of two days in committee. There are expected to be numerous attempts to amend the Bill – I outlined at least one attempt above, from the Lib Dems.
Mar 1: Second day of debates in committee. More amendments expected to be made and voted on.
Mar 7: Report stage and third reading. If p0assed without amendments it will go for Royal Assent, if not it goes back to the Commons for MPs to agree to the changes.

European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill

From Missy in the UK:


The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill has been tabled in Parliament.

The Bill is 137 words long (I haven’t counted, am trusting the media have and have it correct):

“A bill to confer power on the Prime Minister to notify, under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union, the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the EU.

Be it enacted by the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:—

1 Power to notify withdrawal from the EU
(1) The Prime Minister may notify, under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union, the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the EU.
(2) This section has effect despite any provision made by or under the European Communities Act 1972 or any other enactment.

2 Short title
This Act may be cited as the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/01/26/revealed-57-word-bill-will-give-theresa-may-power-trigger-brexit/

Labour MPs are complaining they have not been given long enough.

Labour are planning to table 4 Amendments, whilst the SNP are planning to table 60 Amendments.

It seems the Telegraph article may have been slightly incorrect regarding the number of days of debate. According to the Guardian only two days are for debate with the other three for the committee and report stages and third reading.

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jan/26/brexit-bill-mps-will-get-five-days-to-debate-article-50-plans?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

With a lot of backwards and forwards it seems Corbyn will impose a three line whip on his MPs to vote in favour of the bill. Over the last few days there was suggestion he would do this, then suggestion he wouldn’t, bu today he has apparently said he will. Some MPs have already stated they will defy this and vote against.

UK Parliament on Article 50

From Missy on the court ruling on Article 50 in relation to Britain’s planned exit from the European Union:


Yesterday (Tuesday) both the House of Commons and House of Lords discussed the Supreme Court ruling.

Commons:

David Davis, Secretary for Exiting the European Union, gave a speech in which he said that the legislation to trigger Article 50 should be ready within days, some think it will be tabled today. He also went on to say that there is no going back, and the UK will leave the EU. He also described any attempt to try and block Brexit as “patronising, undemocratic and improper”.

A number of Conservative MPs have indicated they are prepared to join with Labour and SNP in an attempt to force the Government to set out its negotiating strategy.

The Liberal Democrats Leader has instructed all of their MPs to vote against triggering Article 50 in an attempt to force a second referendum.

Labour seem to be as confused as ever, in the morning a statement from Corbyn’s office said that they would table an amendment that would seek to build in the principle of full, tariff-free access to the single market, only for that to be removed from a release 30 minutes later.

Labour MP Owen Smith has stated that he is willing to risk his career to vote against triggering Article 50. His constituency voted to Leave the EU, but in an article in the Guardian he stated that he will vote against Article 50 because he thinks that is what is best for his constituents, not what they voted for.

Lords:

The Lords is a fundamentally pro EU organisation, and previously some of the Lords have said that the House would vote against any legislation to leave the EU, there does appear to be some disagreement on that however.

Lord Blunkett (A Remain campaigner) has warned the HoL they cannot overturn the legislation. He has said that it would be foolish if the HoL, as an unelected body, put itself in confrontation with the bulk of the British people. Lord Blunkett was one of a number of Lords (most Remain) that urged the Lords to not block the triggering of Article 50.

The HoL was reminded that the constitutional position of the HoL is inferior to that of the elected House, and it is therefore important that they do not take action to frustrate the will of the elected House.

Lord Ashdown, an outspoken Remainer who has said he will vote against Article 50, was reminded of his own words on the night of the referendum: When the British people have spoken, you do what they command.

Lord Lamont speaking to media yesterday said that the House of Lords, as an unelected body, needs to tread carefully to ensure it does not trigger a constitutional crisis.

It is believed by many in the House that if the Lords vote against Article 50 it could be the beginning of the downfall of the House, and that some may make moves to abolish it altogether and reform the Parliamentary system in the UK, perhaps moving towards an elected upper house. There has, in the past, been a number of proposals for there to be constitutional and Parliamentary reform around the House of Lords, but in general the appetite to make the changes hasn’t been great enough, however, some fear that this could be what will motivate a push for the reforms many see as being needed. It is this fear of potential reform that leads many to suggest the majority of the Lords will vote for Article 50 despite their own personal view, if only to save their own positions.

UK Supreme Court rules on Article 50

The Treaty of Lisbon is the European Union’s constitution, signed in 2007. Article 50 makes provision for countries that want to leave, something that hasn’t happened before. The UK needs to abide by Article 50 in order to leave the EU.

The UK Supreme Court has just released a judgment that means Theresa May cannot begin talks with the EU until the British Parliament must give their backing. This adds a step, but it is still expected to be done before the 31 March deadline.

Missy has posted several comments on the judgment, it sounds like initial media reaction was confused.:


As expected the Supreme Court has upheld the ruling of the High Court stating that Article 50 cannot be triggered without an Act of Parliament. The reason appears to be related to Article 2 of the Act that took the UK into the EEC / EU which states that EU law is to become UK law, thus making the EU a source of UK law. The judges have ruled that a source of UK law cannot be overturned without an Act of Parliament.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court has ruled that the devolved administrations of Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland do not have to be consulted. This will be a relief to the Government and a blow to Nicola Sturgeon.

Slight correction to what I wrote above with respect to the devolved administrations. The actual ruling states that they have no power to veto the triggering of Article 50, and the UK Government can trigger Article 50 without reaching a deal with them.

There appears to be some confusion some are saying Westminster has no legal obligation to consult with the devolved administrations and they have no veto, others are saying they have no veto or separate vote. I haven’t had a chance to read the judgement yet, so will have a look at that to see exactly what the judges said. It might turn out to be both!

One thing is certain, they cannot veto the triggering of Article 50. This is because Foreign Policy is set by Westminster and the devolved administrations have no authority over international treaties.

I understand that Ministers have draft legislation ready to be tabled this afternoon.


More from the BBC: Brexit: Supreme Court says Parliament must give Article 50 go-ahead

What the Supreme Court case was about

During the Supreme Court hearing, campaigners argued that denying the UK Parliament a vote was undemocratic and a breach of long-standing constitutional principles.

They said that triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – getting formal exit negotiations with the EU under way – would mean overturning existing UK law, so MPs and peers should decide.

But the government argued that, under the Royal Prerogative (powers handed to ministers by the Crown), it could make this move without the need to consult Parliament.

And it said that MPs had voted overwhelmingly to put the issue in the hands of the British people when they backed the calling of last June’s referendum in which UK voters backed Brexit by 51.9% to 48.1%.

What the court said

Reading out the judgement, Supreme Court President Lord Neuberger said: “By a majority of eight to three, the Supreme Court today rules that the government cannot trigger Article 50 without an act of Parliament authorising it to do so.”

He added: “Withdrawal effects a fundamental change by cutting off the source of EU law, as well as changing legal rights.

“The UK’s constitutional arrangements require such changes to be clearly authorised by Parliament.”

The court also rejected, unanimously, arguments that the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland Assembly should get to vote on Article 50 before it is triggered.

Lord Neuberger said: “Relations with the EU are a matter for the UK government.”

Government reaction: This will not delay Brexit

Outlining plans to bring in a “straightforward” parliamentary bill on Article 50, Mr Davis told MPs he was “determined” Brexit would go ahead as voted for in last June’s EU membership referendum.

He added: “It’s not about whether the UK should leave the European Union. That decision has already been made by people in the United Kingdom.”

Outside the Supreme Court, Attorney General Jeremy Wright said the government was “disappointed” but would “comply” and do “all that is necessary” to implement the court’s judgement.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “The British people voted to leave the EU, and the government will deliver on their verdict – triggering Article 50, as planned, by the end of March. Today’s ruling does nothing to change that.”

The ruling doesn’t change the UK government’s aims, but it puts a significant step in the process. And it presumes that their parliament will pass the legislation.

Theresa May’s Brexit plan

Missy has detailed the main points in Theresa May’s speech setting out plans for implementing Brexit (leaving the European Union Single Market):


The Main points are:

  • A final deal on Britain’s exit from the EU will be put to a vote of both Houses of Parliament
  • Ireland will have a common travel area between UK and Irish republic, ‘which will protect the security of UK’
  • May wants to guarantee the rights of EU nationals in Britain, and Britons living in Europe, as soon as possible.
  • Britain will leave the single market. The Government will seek ‘the greatest possible access with a fully-reciprocal free trade deal’. May indicated that Britain could pay if necessary, but would stop making the contributions it makes now.
  • May wants to see ‘a phased process of implementation of new arrangements outside the EU’ from 2019
  • Theresa May prefers ‘no deal’ than a ‘bad deal’, telling EU leaders punishing Britain would be “an act of calamitous self-harm”

The 12 point plan is below:

  1.  Provide certainty about the process of leaving the EU
  2. Control of our own laws
  3. Strengthen the Union between the four nations of the United Kingdom
  4. Maintain the Common Travel Area with Ireland
  5. Brexit must mean control of the number of people who come to Britain from Europe
  6. Rights for EU nationals in Britain and British nationals in the EU
  7. Protect workers’ rights
  8. Free trade with European markets through a free trade agreement
  9. New trade agreements with other countries
  10. The best place for science and innovation
  11. Co-operation in the fight against crime and terrorism
  12. A smooth, orderly Brexit

She has talked tough on this, from my perspective I think the most important things to note is that she is willing to walk away from making any deal if the EU tries to punish Britain for leaving, this will go down well with a lot of leavers (and some Remainers) if she follows through – Cameron had similar rhetoric last January when he tried to negotiate a deal with the EU prior to the referendum saying that if he didn’t get what he wanted then he would campaign to leave.

The EU didn’t give him what he wanted, and he still campaigned to remain, trying to sing the pitiful deal he got as some sort of win.

May also issued a warning to the EU, saying that the EU needs to reform or its ‘vice-like grip’ on its members will shatter into tiny pieces. She said that there are two ways to deal with differences, to try and hold things together by force, or respect the difference and reform so that it deals better with the diversity of its member states. This in my opinion is more than a warning, it is a rebuke to the EU for trying to force greater integration.

No more plans will be made public until Article 50 is triggered, so for those that want more information they will be left disappointed.

Time will tell what the EU reaction will be, there has been some reaction on twitter, and the French Foreign Minister apparently referred to her Brexit plan as improvised – before she even gave her speech.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/01/17/theresa-may-brexit-12-point-plan-live/

Brexit Update

An update from Missy:


Brexit Update:

Over the weekend, and late last week, there have been a couple of interesting stories about Brexit, the main one’s are summarised below.

  1. Theresa May is due to outline her plans for Brexit on Tuesday. A number of media outlets are reporting sources that say May will be going for what has been termed ‘hard brexit’. More realistically it is expected May will indicate that she will want to retain membership of the single market, but will be willing to walk away from it if the EU do not concede on free movement.
  2. The above has been complimented by an interview the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, has given to a German newspaper, where he stated that if the EU punishes the UK for leaving then the UK will do whatever it takes to remain competitively and to attract business to the UK. He has suggested that could include cutting taxes to encourage businesses to move to the UK.
  3. At the end of last week a story appeared where the EU’s Brexit negotiator admitted that the EU will be the losers if the UK leave the Single Market, and he said that the EU needs to look at a deal where access to the financial centre in London is kept as open as possible. Financial Services is one of the UK’s biggest exports to the EU, and this is a worry for many in London.
  4. The presidency of the EU Council rotates through all of the member states every 6 months, and it has just been passed to Malta. Last week the PM of Malta stated that the UK will have to accept free movement if they want access to the Single Market – this is slightly different as most have stated the free movement is a condition of membership of, not access to, the single market. This is re-iterating comments that have come out of Germany in recent weeks from the leader of the SPD – the coalition partner of Merkel’s CDU party.
  5. I believe a decision from the Supreme Court is expected tomorrow.

And PK has supplied this link: Brexit: UK ‘could change economic model’ if single market access denied

The UK may be forced to change its “economic model” if it is locked out of the single market after Brexit, Chancellor Philip Hammond has said.

Mr Hammond said the government would not “lie down” and would “do whatever we have to do” to remain competitive.

Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn said his comments sounded like “a recipe for some kind of trade war with Europe”.

Having so far refused to offer a “running commentary” on her plans, Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to spell out the most detail so far of her Brexit strategy in a speech on Tuesday.

Reports have suggested she will signal pulling out of the EU single market and customs union, although Downing Street described this as “speculation”.

In an interview with German Welt am Sonntag newspaper, Mr Hammond said he was “optimistic” a reciprocal deal on market access could be struck, and that he hoped the UK would “remain in the mainstream of European economic and social thinking”.

“But if we are forced to be something different, then we will have to become something different,” he said.

“If we have no access to the European market, if we are closed off, if Britain were to leave the European Union without an agreement on market access, then we could suffer from economic damage at least in the short-term.

“In this case, we could be forced to change our economic model and we will have to change our model to regain competitiveness. And you can be sure we will do whatever we have to do.

NZ wants post-Brexit trade deal

On his visit to Europe Prime Minister Bill English has met with his UK counterpart and says that New Zealand will seek a free trade deal with the UK as soon as possible ‘after Brexit’ (presumably after the UK has severed it’s ties with the European Union). And the UK is willing as soon as it is able to.

English is also working towards an EU trade deal.

RNZ: NZ to pursue post-Brexit trade deal

Britain is not able to sign trade deals with third countries while it remains a member of the European Union, but the British government has said it is keen to start preparatory work so agreements can be reached quickly after it leaves.

Mr English met with Mrs May in London overnight.

“We are ready to negotiate a high-quality free trade agreement with the UK when it is in a position to do so,” Mr English said at a news conference.

“We already have a strong and diversified trading relationship with the UK and a free trade agreement will build on that.”

English also met European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and has talked about a trade deal there.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said talks with New Zealand could be wrapped up far more quickly than is normal, perhaps in just two to three years.

At a separate briefing with reporters later on Friday, Mr English said he expected the New Zealand-EU deal to be completed before a New Zealand-Britain agreement.

That’s because there’s uncertainty about when the UK will exit the EU and how that will work out in Britain.

“It is difficult to formulate what kind of agreement we would have until it is clear what position the UK is in at the end of Brexit,” he said.

Mrs May said that while Britain remained in the EU, it would work to support an EU-New Zealand trade deal, while also making preparations for a future “bold new” bilateral agreement.

The formal process to leave the EU is scheduled to begin at the end of March but not much detail is known yet.

As Missy posted “Theresa May is expected to give a speech to outline the plan for Brexit in the next week or so”.