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The Brief: Nicola the Bruce

The Brief: Nicola the Bruce

The Brief is's evening newsletter.


Robert the Bruce was a Scottish king. He is famous for two things, one of which involves a spider. The other involves thumping the English.

Robert lost a battle against the hated English oppressor. According to legend, he sought refuge in a dark cave and was pretty depressed.

He saw a spider trying to make a web. The spider would keep falling off the wall of the cave, but kept on trying, until it finally wove a web.

Bruce was inspired by the spider. “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” he said and picked up his massive sword. Later, he hammered the English at the Battle of Bannockburn, made Scotland independent, and became a national hero.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, had her Robert the Bruce moment today.

She announced the first step towards a second independence referendum for Scotland.

Lest you forget, Scots voted to stay in the UK in September 2014. The success of that poll went to David Cameron’s head, leading ultimately to Brexit.

The Brexit vote is the pretext Sturgeon’s SNP needed to try again. She’s warned that taking Scotland out of the EU on the basis of an English vote would resurrect the centuries-old independence debate.

Her Scottish National Party exists to win independence but this is not a guarantee that a second referendum will happen.

Sturgeon said she would trigger the vote if it is the only way to protect Scotland from being taken out of the single market – the “hard Brexit”. UK Prime Minister Theresa May has been firm in saying the “once in a generation” 2014 vote will be just that.

But Sturgeon’s announcement heaps pressure on May, a staunch unionist, at a time when the pound is plunging in value.

Will she capitalise on that to extract concessions from Westminster such as greater devolution of powers to Scotland? Or pull the trigger on #indyref2 and an uncertain future?

Whatever happens, at least we didn’t mention Braveheart.

Here’s Daniela Vincenti’s interview with Scotland’s Europe Secretary Fiona Hyslop, conducted hours before Sturgeon’s announcement. Gibraltar is getting in on the action as well.

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The Commission faces an EU court battle over secret TTIP and CETA documents relating to the very controversial ISDS clause. Our exclusive is here.

CETA has bounced over one legal hurdle in Germany, which seems to be turning into the UK. Meanwhile, here’s more on Canada’s arrest of Asterix lookalike and Green CETA-hater, MEP José Bové.

Brexit will cost the Brits €20 billion, reports the FT. Could the chaos of the divorce hand Comrade Corbyn a golden opportunity? South America’s Mercosur bloc has signalled it is open to a post-Brexit trade deal with the UK. The post-Brexit Marmite shortage is our favourite story and Twitter thread of the year so far.

Data has been sent across a national electricity grid for the first time. Russia has an evil ‘playbook’ to influence Eastern Europeans, and EU sanctions over Aleppo are brewing.

France’s Hollande has had a pop at the US. The GMO debate is “emotional but not irrational”.

The EU’s Court of Auditors has signed off the EU accounts. But someone in Italy spent €4,000 of EU cash on a mountain bike (p.236 if you interested).

Today was Renovate Europe Day. Juncker, Tusk and Schulz spoke at the 20th anniversary of the European Policy Centre. Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature and Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej has died.


Hold onto your hats! The second day of the Justice and Home Affairs Council in Luxembourg will focus on the regulation for the European public prosecutor’s office. The Wallonian parliament votes on CETA tomorrow – could the juggernaut come to a juddering halt or will it continue its incredibly slow trudge?