This update was sent to constituents on 8th December 2017:
You may have heard that after a chaotic week the UK Government and the European Union have agreed to move on to phase 2 of the Brexit negotiations- on trade and the future relationship.
18 months after the vote we have finally begun to discuss what comes next.
You can read the full joint report here.
EU nationals- EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the EU will have their rights protected. Any permanent residence document already obtained under current law will be converted free of charge. For people who have not obtained permanent residence already there will be a process for them to secure their status, which is yet to be defined. The EU Court of Justice will be the ultimate arbiter for a limited period of years.
Legacy (divorce) - The UK will pay its outstanding liabilities in full. An exact figure has not been disclosed however going by recent Government briefings this could be in the region of £50bn.
Irish border- if the UK and EU cannot come to a technical work around on the Irish border which allows the preservation of the Good Friday Agreement and a soft border the UK will align with the Single Market and the Customs Union.
The last point is crucial. It means that unless the UK Government can work out how it will leave the Single Market and the Customs Union, maintain a soft Irish border and keep the DUP happy then we will align with the Single Market and the Customs Union. This is basically membership in all but name. We will become a rule taker not a rule maker.
This is progress but the really difficult part of the negotiations are still to come. As revealed by Philip Hammond, the Prime Minister has not allowed any discussion of the end state within Cabinet. This is a Government that has triggered Article 50 without actually coming to a unified position on what it wants from these negotiations.
To make matters worse David Davis has proven himself completely unsuited to the task at hand. For a year now he and his ministers had been boasting about “50-60 individual impact assessments” covering all sectors of the economy. You may remember that Parliament required Davis to release these documents to the Brexit Select Committee. The Government resisted, delayed, and then this week Davis went in front of the Committee to say that these assessments do not, in fact, exist. What a complete farce.
Brexit and Devolution
Brexit could also have a real impact on the competencies of the Scottish Parliament. Devolution operates on the basis that everything which is not reserved is devolved, therefore powers on farming, fishing and the environment should come straight to Holyrood and not Westminster. However the Government’s EU (Withdrawal) Bill states that these powers will first return to the Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell and gives no assurance that all these powers will indeed, be devolved.
This week I tabled an amendment to the Bill which would have respected the devolution settlement and meant that all powers would go straight to Holyrood and pan UK frameworks, to ensure regulatory alignment, could then be negotiated. Indeed, I have participated in several debates this week and continued to make the point that Single Market and Customs Union membership should be retained and would solve a lot of the Government's problems.
You can watch my speech here:
Unfortunately, despite many Conservative backbenchers agreeing that the Government’s approach to this was all wrong they decided to troop through the lobby with the Government and vote against the Labour amendment anyway.
With growth lagging, wages stagnating and the pound plummeting in value we are already beginning to feel the full costs of Brexit. I maintain that if the costs of Brexit continue to mount and the benefits remain negligible the public should have the opportunity to re-think. As the Brexit Secretary himself has said in the past “if a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy”.
As ever I will continue to keep you updated on proceedings from Parliament where I will continue to make the arguments for full and continued membership of the Customs Union and the Single Market.