It feels like we should be starting with And Finally… in this week’s Insider, as finally, at 11pm tonight, the UK will formally leave the EU.
On Wednesday, Members of the European Parliament overwhelmingly backed the terms of the UK’s departure. MEPs ratified the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement by 621 votes to 49 following an emotional debate in Brussels. After the vote, MEPs marked the UK’s exit by singing Auld Lang Syne. Several British MEPs said they hoped the UK would return one day although Eurosceptics, including the Brexit Party’s Nigel Farage, used their final speeches to tear into the EU – with Farage declaring (to cheers from many) that he “would never be back.”
Wednesday’s session in Brussels saw those on either side of the Brexit debate, including the UK’s 73 MEPs(one of whom was a new SNP MEP succeeding new MP Alyn Smith for all of four days), celebrate or lament the end of British EU membership. Some MEPs marked the occasion with songs – others wore “always united” scarves. The Parliament’s Brexit spokesperson, Guy Verhofstadt, said it was “sad to see a country leaving that has twice given its blood to liberate Europe”. He added that British MEPs had brought “wit, charm, and intelligence” as well as “stubbornness”, and would be missed.
Brexit has, of course, raised the spectre of independence again and MSPs have backed calls for a new referendum on Scottish independence in a vote at Holyrood this week. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wants to hold a new poll later this year and wants UK ministers to agree to this, but Boris Johnson has rejected her call for a transfer of powers, saying the 2014 vote was a “once in a generation” event. MSPs voted by 64 (all SNP/Green MSPs) to 54 to agree that circumstances have changed since then, and that “a referendum should be held”. Ms Sturgeon is due to make a speech today setting out the “next steps” in the “campaign to secure Scotland’s future as an independent nation”.
The European flag is to continue flying outside the Scottish Parliament beyond Brexit after MSPs voted to keep it up.Holyrood’s management group had planned to lower the flag at 23:00 on Friday, the moment the UK leaves the EU.However, MSPs voted by 63 to 54 to overturn this decision after the Scottish government forced a debate. Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh warned ministers not to politicise the issue, saying the flags flown at Holyrood “reflect our relationships in law”. The Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems argued that the “non-political” decision of the Parliamentary Corporate Body should be respected, but SNP and Green MSPs united to “direct” the group to keep the flag up.
The value of exports from Scotland grew to £85bn in 2018 – an increase of 2.9%, according to new estimates. The growth was helped by growing demand for Scottish food and drink produce where exports were up 7.1%.The Scottish government highlighted that trade with the EU was growing faster than trade with other markets.But the UK government said Scotland’s “most important trading partner” was the rest of UK, accounting for more than three times the trade with the EU.
And finally … Next week Perceptive client, Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) is hosting its sixth annual conference, #IBioIC20. Innovation Minister, Ivan McKee will discuss government policy in relation to biotechnology with IBioIC chair, Professor Dame Anne Glover. Speakers at the event include Lesley Riddoch, Vivienne Parry and respected industry leader, Michael Carus. As well as chairing the session with Michael, Perceptive is hosting a free social media workshop at the event sharing top tips on social media strategy, content and key trends. Interested? Come along on Wednesday 5th Feb 9:30 – 10:30am at the TIC building, George St, Glasgow. You or your colleagues can sign up for the workshop here
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