In the second of our Brexit Briefings the Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe, Michael Russell MSP provided an update on progress in the discussions with the UK Government, and conversations with the European Commission. He also provided an update on the EU withdrawal bill, in particular its impacts in areas of labour force and workforce, finances and regulation.
Dame Mariot Leslie, a member of the Standing Council on Europe, informed members that the direction of travel in the negotiations is not yet clear and encouraged organisations in Scotland tease out where their interests lie in Brexit and make clear with specifics. She suggested organisations might find it useful to do an audit of all areas that are impacted by EU co-operation, regulation, bodies, standards, best practice, committees, networks etc.
There was a wide ranging discussion picking up on the points made by the speakers. Key themes were:
Young People; although much of the messaging around Brexit is negative there was a recognition of the need to present a positive long term future that we are working towards despite Brexit. Potential to look at messaging and events during the Year of Young People 2018.
Democracy & Identity; recognition of a strong Scottish identity in Europe, potential that SLF could support an activity looking at our cultural identity in Europe that outlasts Brexit.
Workforce & Migration; discussion of the need for CEOs and senior staff to support staff and make them feel needed and wanted. Anxiety in Universities is around people, staff and students, 43% of students are from outside Scotland/UK. Movement of staff matters. Some organisations have held EU national sessions internally, would urge others to do this too. SG can share lessons learned on establishing network to support and create safe spaces.
Influence & Networks; SLF members have influence and seats on networks and committees across Europe.
Funding; Call for early decisions to universities about funding for EU students which accounts for around £95 mil a year.
Regulation; The EU withdrawal bill puts powers of organisations at risk and impacts what some can deliver. We know UK Government expects regulatory dividends eg environment, food and trade. Public want to keep the protections they currently have and don’t expect that to diminish. Encourage regulators to work together, looking for overview of some of the work that has been done and to get understanding of regulator impacts.