From Edinburgh to London and Brussels for Brexit discussions
For me, it started on Sunday evening travelling to London for a meeting first thing on Monday with the Deputy First Minister John Swinney and our counterparts in the U.K. Government First Secretary of State Damian Green and Scottish Secretary David Mundell.
En route to the cabinet office, I stopped at the BBC studios in Whitehall for a live interview on BBC Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland to discuss the latest position on Brexit.
On to the meeting itself, we discussed a number of issues including the EU Withdrawal Bill, the amendments suggested by the Scottish and Welsh Governments as well as the areas where there is an overlap with devolved issues for powers that will return to the UK after Brexit. During a constructive discussion we managed to make some progress, although clearly there is still significant work to do. Importantly the UK Government have agreed to look carefully at our joint amendments – without which we will not be able to recommend the Scottish Parliament gives consent to the Bill.
Following a quick journey across London I had the chance to catch up with some paper work – and maybe some twitter activity! – on the Eurostar to Brussels for a series of engagements with MEPs and others.
I also had the opportunity to get some valuable feedback about a meeting my colleague Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham had led with the Green 10 group of environmental organisations in Brussels – which I was originally due to attend with her.
Arriving in Brussels it was straight into a series of meetings to continue to raise awareness of the fact that we want Scotland to remain within the EU or, if that’s not possible, to remain within the Single Market and Customs Union.
I was pleased to find, again, a high level of awareness of the Scottish position and a great deal of goodwill towards our situation. This was common across the MEPs I met with – Scottish, Irish, Italian and Polish representatives – and it is always good to hear first-hand from those in Brussels on the current issues and thinking.
I also had the opportunity to catch up with a number of others including the staff in our Brussels office who work hard day in, day out to raise awareness of Scottish policy positions. Of course, I also found time for a couple of media interviews.
Then it was back to London, this time to join Europe Minister Alasdair Allan to meet with business leaders across a range of sectors, from finance to food and drink, to discuss migration issues and to hear their views about whether a differentiated migration policy would work and, if so – and most agreed it would – what issues it should prioritise,
It is no secret that the workforce in Scotland has significant representation from our fellow EU citizens and there is concern in many industries about how access to workers could be affected by Brexit.
We have made clear that we would like to see a tailored approach that would allow us to ensure the needs of our businesses could continue to be met and many of those at the discussion could see the benefits of such an approach.
With much food for thought, it was back to Edinburgh for a day in the Scottish Parliament, attending the weekly session of First Ministers Questions and taking part in meetings while waiting for an update on the conclusion of the Brexit negotiations in Brussels.
I finished Thursday with yet another media interview – Brexit is truly a hot topic – and then a most enjoyable opportunity to talk cultural issues around the matter over dinner at the inspirational Cove Park, a retreat for artists on the Roseneath Peninsula.
Friday is a constituency day, but given that there was an important conference on EU funding collaboration in Edinburgh I had agreed to take part in the first session by video link before getting on with the rest of my duties.