Natalie Mauchline has the latest on Brexit developments from Scotland.
Article 50: Length of Extension
Theresa May has written to the European Union asking for a further delay to Brexit until 30 June. The Prime Minister proposed that if MPs agree to her Withdrawal Agreement, the UK should be able to leave the EU prior to the European elections. She added that, in the meantime, the UK would begin to field candidates for the elections if an agreement is not reached in time. Reports suggest Donald Tusk planned to offer the UK a “flexible” Brexit extension, which could last until 12 April 2020. This proposal needs to be approved at the European summit next week by the EU27. Meanwhile, talks between Labour and the UK Government have been “detailed and productive” and are scheduled to continue. Keir Starmer said the idea of a “confirmatory referendum” would be discussed with the Government. Earlier in the week, Phillip Hammond attracted controversy from Brexiters for deeming a second EU referendum a “perfectly credible proposition”.
Scottish Government will Support EU Citizens
The Scottish Government published a package of support for EU citizens living in Scotland. The package includes £250,000 of community-based resources and an advice service from Citizens Advice Scotland. The First Minister also wrote an open letter to EU citizens in Scotland, informing them of the resources available to them and imploring them to stay in Scotland post-Brexit. Brexit preparations were discussed in a session of the Finance & Constitution Committee this week. Michael Russell wanted a long delay to Brexit to fix the “fatal flaws” in the Prime Minister’s plan. Both Richard Leonard and Willie Rennie raised the threat of a no-deal Brexit at First Minister’s Questions. There were heated exchanges across the Chamber when Nicola Sturgeon condemned Conservative members for “laughing at medicine shortages”. It remains to be seen if the Scottish Parliament will be recalled next week. The Presiding Officer said he would alert MSPs at the earliest time possible if a no-deal scenario looked likely.
EU Leaders Respond
It remains to be seen if the EU27 will accept Donald Tusk’s proposal. Meanwhile, Angela Merkel met with Leo Varadkar to discuss the deadlock. Angela Merkel claimed she remained committed to “an orderly Brexit” and that Germany would “do everything in its power to prevent a no-deal Brexit”. Other EU leaders have taken a different approach. Emmanuel Macron insisted the European Union will not “be held hostage to a political crisis” in the UK. He has also maintained that an extension to Article 50 must have a “a clear plan”. Mark Rutte and Michel Barnier expressed fears that a no-deal Brexit was growing “increasingly likely”. The EU summit next week will have significant consequences for the direction of Brexit and for Theresa May’s future as Prime Minister.