Conversation between FM and EU Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier:FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

FOI reference: FOI/17/01649
Date received: 14 July 2017
Date responded: 31 July 2017

Information requested

The text of the conversation between First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP and the European Union's Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier during their meeting in Brussels.


I enclose a link to some of the information you requested. The key points of the meeting between the First Minister and Michel Barnier are available here:

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested because exemptions under sections 32(1)(a)(i) (international relations) and s.38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA apply to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained below.

Reasons for not providing information

An exemption applies:

An exemption under section 38(1)(b) (personal data) of FOISA applies to a very small part of the information you have requested. This relates to individuals' names. It is exempt from release because it is personal data and its release would contravene the data protection principles in Schedule 1 to the Data Protection Act 1998. This exemption is not subject to the 'public interest test', so we are not required to consider if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption.

An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test:

An exemption under section 32(1)(a)(i) (substantial prejudice to international relations) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially relations between the UK Government and any other State or international organisation or court, or UK interests abroad, in this case, relations with the European Union. The effective conduct of international relations depends on maintaining trust and confidence between the UK Government and other States. In this case, the information was exchanged on the understanding that it would be treated in confidence. If the Scottish Government does not respect this confidence, the UK Government's relations with other States and international organisation and its ability to protect and promote UK interests will be substantially prejudiced. This would result in institutions being more reluctant to share sensitive information with Scotland or other parts of the UK in the future, which would reduce both the frequency and openness of communications with the UK.

This exemption is subject to the 'public interest test'. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in maintaining positive international relations as part of the process of exploring and developing the Government's relationship with international institutions such as the European Union and its constituent Member States as well as with the European Commission.

About FOI

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Please quote the FOI reference

Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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