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There is more than a hint of irony that as Scotland, along with the UK, prepares to leave the European Union, the island of Malta, with a population less than that of Edinburgh has just taken over the Presidency of the EU.
The presidency is responsible for driving forward the Council’s work on EU legislation, ensuring the continuity of the EU agenda, orderly legislative processes and cooperation among member states.
This is the first time the island will hold the Presidency and during the next 6 months will focus on six key areas: migration, single market, security, social inclusion, Europe’s neighbourhood and maritime sector. Leading the EU.
Interestingly Estonia, with a population of less than 1.4 million people, around a quarter that of Scotland, will take over the EU Presidency in July.
During the independence referendum, the Better Together camp claimed that the only way to guarantee Scotland’s place in the EU was to vote to remain in the UK. Indeed, Scotland was to ‘lead the UK’ not ‘leave the UK’.
Times have indeed changed since September 2014 and we are, despite these assurances, heading for the EU exits. Of course, we could have the best of both worlds, part of a single market with the rest of the UK – as promised to Northern Ireland in its relations with the Republic of Ireland – and still members of the EU.
For that to happen of course requires the confidence, as Malta and Estonia have demonstrated, to take full control of our own affairs and be the masters of our own destiny, leading not leaving the EU.