REPORT

Annual Review 2017–2018

© 2017 Kirsty Hughes

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From the Annual Review

Overview

We have had a very busy first year as the Scottish Centre on European Relations went from its launch in March 2017 to a fully active, Scottish EU think tank. SCER launched just a week before Article 50 was triggered, so beginning the process of the UK leaving the European Union.

Since then, SCER has followed the twists and turns, contradictions and concerns of the Brexit process which is throwing up a range of unprecedented and systemic economic, political, social, constitutional and security challenges for Scotland and the rest of the UK.

With the help of our Advisory Board and a great network of contributors – who have written, spoken and participated in our activities – SCER has analysed the tortuous path to a draft UK-EU first phase withdrawal agreement, and promoted debate and expert comment on the options for, and impact of, different models for a future UK-EU relationship. As of March 2018, that future relationship looks like being a seriously damaging ‘Canada dry’ one.

In our first year, with over 20 events and 100 publications, SCER has started to make a high profile impact on, and contribution to, the wider EU policy debate in Scotland, the UK and elsewhere in the EU.

Brexit aside, the EU has in many ways bounced back in the last year from the financial and euro crisis. Growth has taken off again and, after several months, Germany finally has a new government in the form of another grand coalition. But, at the same time, the Italian election results point to an era of unpredictability and change in European politics, with the traditional mainstream parties facing significant challenges to retain support in many member states. The external global environment remains challenging – both in the EU’s neighbourhood and in the face of shifting currents in global politics from the US to China and Russia.

SCER has also focused on some of these big EU challenges in our work: looking at the future of a multi-speed Europe, Germany’s European policy, the future of the Franco-German relationship and more. We plan to build on this wider work as we head into our second year.

SCER’s Brexit work will continue to be a major focus in our second year. The countdown to a deal – or not – by autumn 2018 is under way. Time is running very short while EU and UK views of what is feasible in a future relationship continue to differ sharply. Constitutional and political challenges within the UK are growing too. Opinion polls suggest a small but persistent shift towards ‘Remain’ and, more strongly, towards having a further referendum on the Brexit deal. In Scotland and Wales, the two governments have introduced their own EU ‘continuity’ bills in the face of continuing disagreements with the UK government on repatriation of EU powers. And how the UK government’s plan to leave the EU’s single market and customs union can be squared with keeping open the Northern Ireland/Ireland border remains unknown – and looks impossible (if a border in the Irish Sea is also ruled out).

SCER will continue to provide up-to-the minute, high quality, independent analysis of the challenges ahead in our policy papers, our comment pieces and at our events. We look forward to working with all our partners and supporters as we head into our second year.

For regular updates on our work, please do sign up to our newsletter: on.scer.scot/beinformed

Dr Kirsty Hughes

Director of SCER