Inquiry into EU reform and the EU referendum: implications for Scotland

The European and External Relations Committee of the Scottish Parliament has agreed to conduct an inquiry into EU reform and the EU referendum: implications for Scotland.

The inquiry will have two key strands. The Committee will focus on the first strand   on the implications of the EU referendum on Scotland at the end of 2015. It will then turn to the second strand, a consideration of the implications of the UK’s EU reform agenda for Scotland, in early 2016. The theme of UK intergovernmental relations – the structures and processes for consulting the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament on the EU referendum and EU reform - will run through both strands.

As part of this inquiry, the Committee would like to invite individuals and organisations to submit written evidence on the following three key areas—

The implications of an EU referendum on Scotland

The European Union Referendum Bill was introduced to the House of Commons on 28 May, the day after the Queen’s speech. The Bill provides for the question for the referendum to be “Do you think that the United Kingdom should be a member of the European Union?” The Bill also makes provision for who is entitled to vote in the referendum.

The Bill requires the referendum to take place by the end of 2017 and requires the Secretary of State to indicate the date of the referendum by 31 December 2016.The Prime Minister has indicated that a referendum will be held after the UK’s negotiations on its membership position have been concluded in order to allow voters to consider whether they wish to stay in the EU on revised terms.

The Committee is seeking views on the following issues as part of its inquiry—

EU Referendum

  • What are your views on the implications of the EU Referendum Bill in relation to the timing of the referendum, the franchise for the referendum and the question to be put to the electorate?
  • What does EU membership mean for Scotland’s economy and its people? What are the implications for Scotland of the UK leaving the European Union?
  • What would be the process for leaving the EU, including: the legal process with the EU and within the UK; withdrawal from the single market and EU trade agreements; the ending of free movement of persons; and transition arrangements?

EU reform - the implications of the UK’s EU reform agenda on Scotland

The Queen’s speech on 27th May 2015 contained the commitment to “renegotiate the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union and pursue reform of the European Union for the benefit of all member states.”

The Prime Minister has previously set out his position in relation to reform in a number of speeches, newspaper articles and interviews, many of which were repeated in the Conservative and Unionist Party’s manifesto for the 2015 general election. The Committee has heard evidence indicating that main areas in which the UK Government is seeking reform are likely to be—

  • EU migrants and access to the UK welfare system
  • A stronger role for EU national parliaments to block unwanted EU legislation
  • An end to the “ever closer union” commitment in the Treaty on European Union
  • Safeguarding the interests of non-Eurozone members
  • Regulatory reform, expansion and preservation of the single market, and lower EU spending

The Scottish Government published its own considerations on EU reform and priority areas for EU action in Scotland’s Agenda for EU Reform in August 2014.

The Committee would welcome views on the following areas:

  • To what extent and in what policy areas is there a need for EU reform?
  • What are the implications of EU reform for Scotland both in relation to devolved and reserved policy areas?
  • What the role of national parliaments should be in relation to EU legislation and whether there should also be a role for substate legislatures?

Intergovernmental relations

In the Smith Commission report, the parties agreed that the implementation of the current Concordat on the Co-ordination of European Union Policy issues, which sets out the mechanisms between the UK Government and the Scottish Ministers for the handling of EU business, should be improved by—

  • ensuring that Scottish Ministers are fully involved in agreeing the UK position in EU negotiations relating to devolved policy matters
  • ensuring that Scottish Ministers are consulted and their views taken into account before final UK negotiating positions relating to devolved policy matters are agreed
  • presuming that a devolved administration Minister can speak on behalf of the UK at a meeting of the Council of Ministers according to an agreed UK negotiating line, where the devolved administration Minister holds the predominant policy interest across the UK and where the relevant lead UK Government Minister is unable to attend all or part of a meeting

The Committee would welcome views on:

  • To what extent do the current intergovernmental structures and arrangements provide for meaningful involvement of the Scottish Government on the UK’s agenda for renegotiating the UK’s position in the EU?
  • How could intergovernmental structures and arrangements be improved in the context of the Smith Commission agreement that the mechanisms for handling EU business should be improved?

How to submit written evidence

You may wish to respond on some or all of the issues outlined above, or to raise other issues that you consider to be of relevance to the inquiry. Evidence should be reasonably brief and typewritten (preferably normally no more than 4-6 sides of A4 in total).

The deadline for receipt of written submissions is 9 September 2015. Owing to the timescale normally required for the processing and analysis of evidence, late submissions will only be accepted with the advance agreement of the Clerk.

The Committee prefers to receive written submissions electronically and in a form accessible by MS Word. These should be sent to:

EUreformandreferendum@scottish.parliament.uk

You may also send a hard copy of written submissions to:

European and External Relations Committee
Scottish Parliament
Holyrood
Edinburgh
EH99 1SP

Policy for Handling Written Evidence

Before you submit your written evidence, please ensure that you have read our policy on treatment of written evidence. Written submissions will be handled in accordance with this policy.

We would also be grateful if, when using any tables or graphics in your submission, that you include a short paragraph explaining what the table/graphic shows. This helps readers with visual impairments.

How to submit a video as evidence

We welcome videos as a form of evidence.   Please read our guidance before sending a video.

Contact

For details about the Committee’s work on this inquiry please contact Katy Orr, Clerk to the Committee, tel 0131 348 5234 or katy.orr@scottish.parliament.uk.