IF the UK media is to be believed the leadership election that matters is between Tory Tweedledum and Tweedledee, however in truth, the changing of the guard that really matters is in the European Union. Regardless whether Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt wins, they will both seek to steer Scotland and the UK in a damaging Brexit direction, but the real power will be exercised by the leadership of European institutions.

Fantasy Brexit unicorns might please the blue-rinse Tory brigade, but the minute the next Conservative Prime Minister comes up against the hard reality of EU unity, they will be in trouble.

How do we know that? Because every single nominee for key European posts have pledged not to reopen the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. Every single one.

Unlike the buffoon that is likely to win the Tory leadership, Boris Johnson, all of the EU nominees have serious track record in Government service and international organisations. As far as I am aware none of them has been sacked for lying, repeatedly used racist language or, as Boris did this week, thrown a senior and respected diplomat under the Trump bus, giving a good insight into who will be calling the shots in the “special relationship”.

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The nominee for the Commission presidency is Ursula von der Leyen, the current German defence minister and close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel. If confirmed by members of the European Parliament next week, she will take over from Jean-Claude Juncker and head the executive branch of the European Union which sets the policy agenda of the Union and will lead a cabinet of commissioners nominated by the EU member states.

The nominee for the present of the European Council is the interim Prime Minister of Belgium Charles Michel, pictured below, who will take over from Donald Tusk. His job will be to chair the Council which is made up of the leaders of EU member states and sets the political direction of the EU, including Brexit.

The National:

EU Foreign Policy is set to be represented by Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borell, who will take over from Italy’s Federica Mogherini. The former president of the European Parliament will play a key role in relations with non-EU member states, which is the status that Brexiteers are aiming for.

Financial management of the Eurozone is set be taken forward by Christine Lagarde, who was the first woman to head the International Monetary Fund and has served as French Trade Minister and Finance Minister. As head of the European Central Bank, the “rock star” of international finance will play a key economic role with responsibility for the the euro and the monetary policy of the eurozone. Meanwhile, the European Parliament will be presided over by the Italian socialist MEP David Sassoli.

While none of the European nominees are fans of Brexit, quite a number have a positive interest in Scotland, understand the Scottish vote to remain in the European Union and the active efforts to protect Scotland’s place in Europe.

Commission president nominee Ursula von der Leyen spoke at a hearing in the European Parliament earlier this week, where she was questioned by Scottish MEP Alyn Smith. After an invitation to visit Scotland and a reminder of Scotland’s pro-European sentiment and leadership by Nicola Sturgeon, Mrs von der Leyen said she was a fan of the First Minister and offered “respect and good luck”. When asked about the opportunity to remain in the European Union she said: “Yes, the door is open, because we want you in.

“And the political consequences are way harder when it comes the other way round – so, as we’ve said, we want you in, we are prepared for whatever happens … but if we are to choose, we want you in.”

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The likely new head of European Foreign Policy Josep Borrell is already on the record saying that an independent Scotland would be welcome in the European Union.

Speaking as Spanish Foreign Minister in November 2018, he said he believed that UK would break up long before Spain ever did, and would not stand in the way of a respected Scottish independence process.

Scotland is a known quantity for Christine Lagarde, who has already met Nicola Sturgeon for discussions in New York as head of the International Monetary Fund.

Similarly, the situation in Scotland is also well understood by the German MEP who chairs the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee David McAllister, – who is helped by being half-Scots himself.

While Brexit Britain is inward looking and self-harming, the rest of Europe is getting on with the day job of charting the future of the largest trading bloc in the world.

When it comes to the next Scottish independence referendum and the vote to protect our place in Europe, it will be clear that Scotland has many friends across Europe and a warm welcome when we take up our rightful place as a member state of the European Union.