Humza Yousaf has had his independence plans roundly rebuffed by the EU, with the Commission refusing to take part in separation talks. A source, quoted today in The Times, said “The EU as such deals only with the official governments of third countries”. Scotland is considered a third country “region”.
The move is a big blow for Yousaf, who told party members on Saturday that he would send an envoy to “prepare the ground” for an independent Scotland’s entry to the EU. Instead, his agenda has been burned to the ground…
Humza will still meet Commission vice-president Marcos Sefcovic on Wednesday. However, on the orders of James Cleverly, he will be babysat by the UK’s EU ambassador. Bon voyage!
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has met with European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic this morning to shake hands over the Windsor Framework NI Brexit deal. Sefcovic is in London today to formally adopt the agreement, after MPs voted in favour of the Stormont Brake element on Wednesday. The one and only time they’ll get to do so…
Speaking just before rubberstamping the deal, Cleverly said:
“By formally approving the Windsor Framework, we are delivering on our commitment to provide stability and certainty for Northern Ireland. The Framework is the best deal for Northern Ireland, safeguarding its place in the Union and protecting the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. I look forward to further effective cooperation with the EU on key issues, such as security and energy.”
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is still vowing not to return to power-sharing in Northern Ireland though…
It took less than an hour for the EU to start beating its chest over the Northern Ireland Protocol. At the time of going to pixel, Liz Truss is still up at the despatch box fielding questions over the planned changes, and already European Commission VP Maroš Šefčovič has issued a statement essentially threatening a full on trade war:
“Should the UK decide to move ahead with a bill disapplying constitutive elements of the Protocol as announced today by the UK government, the EU will need to respond with all measures at its disposal. Our overarching objective is to find joint solutions within the framework of the Protocol. That is the way to ensure legal certainty and predictability for people and businesses in Northern Ireland.”
Read the full statement below:
Liz Truss embarks on her first day as lead EU negotiator today, following the sensational resignation of Lord Frost on Saturday night. She confirmed she is to speak to Maros Sefcovic today about the Northern Ireland Protocol, saying she wants “a comprehensive solution that delivers for the people of Northern Ireland and everyone across our great country.” Not much then…
On Sunday, Guido totted up that Truss is now responsible for:
Last night The Telegraph revealed accusations by hardline Tory MP Brexiteers that giving Frost’s job to Truss represents a “downgrading” of Brexit: “We need a political operation headed up by a dedicated minister. The Northern Ireland Protocol needs the complete and undivided focus of a minister who is doing nothing else.” Some might argue that; others might point to the old adage – If you want something done, ask a busy person…
UPDATE: Truss confirms she told the EU that the lady’s not for turning…
”We want a constructive relationship with the EU,
underpinned by trade and our shared belief in freedom
and democracy. Resolving the current issues is critical to
unleashing that potential.
The UK position has not changed. We need goods to
flow freely between Great Britain and Northern Ireland,
end the role of the ECJ as the final arbiter of disputes
between us, and resolve other issues.
We must pick up the pace on talks in the New Year. Our
preference remains to reach an agreed solution.
If this does not happen, we remain prepared to trigger
Article 16 safeguards to deal with the very real problems
faced in Northern Ireland and to protect the Belfast
(Good Friday) Agreement in all its dimensions.”
Following Lord Frost’s punchy speech yesterday afternoon, the EU briefed out a sizable olive branch it’s set to offer the UK to resolve the blatant problems at present with the Northern Ireland protocol. Under the proposals, up to 50% of customs checks on goods will be lifted – the figure even higher for controls on meat and plants entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain. The Telegraph reports there could be the creation of a “green lane” for goods entering Northern Ireland from GB, and a separate “red lane”, with additional customs controls, for goods intended for the republic or beyond.
On the media broadcast round this morning, Oliver Dowden told Sky that the government will wait to receive the full announcement, though said the briefed changes above would be “welcome steps” while questions remain regarding the European courts’ role.
Asked by Guido for a reaction last night, UK government sources were holding firm against the EU’s initial offering, though they confirmed that Frost’s demand over the role of European courts is a hard red line, simply saying “it has to go”. Many weeks of fighting and arguing yet to come…