Tuesday 26 November 2013

Scotland And The EU

Today, in what appears to have been a low key affair, the Scottish first minister Alex Salmond launched his government's independence blueprint, calling it a "mission statement" for the future. Yet on first reading not a great deal has changed in the Nationalist's flawed case. The same problems remain as I noted here - there's still no coherent case on the issue of currency for example:
Alex Salmond has been pilloried after unveiling a blueprint for Scottish independence that assumes the English would continue to share the UK’s ‘crown jewels’ including the pound and BBC programmes.
Today's announcement appears to have been nothing more than a rebranding exercise. Certainly on the vexed issue of whether Scotland would remain members of the EU and if they would still retain the UK opt-outs on the Euro are still in doubt. The Referendum White Paper argues:
If we vote for independence, the eyes of the world will be on Scotland as our ancient nation emerges – again – as an independent country. Scotland will become the 29th member of the European Union...
Of course, as we are well aware, it cannot be both an independent nation and a member of the EU. Those two positions are completely incompatible. But crucially what the paper doesn't address convincingly is how Scotland will remain members of the EU on the same terms as it has now.

In Scotland's favour there is a kind of precedent that echoes their potential position and that is the one of Greenland. Greenland as part of Denmark joined the then EEC in 1973, despite 70% of the Greenlandic votes having been against membership in that referendum. However when Greenland gained home rule in 1979 it still remained a full member of the EEC. It wasn’t until it had a separate referendum on leaving in 1981 that it decided to leave. Even then it still has a special relationship with the EU as part of its overseas countries and territories.

Yet the EEC has moved on and we are now post Lisbon, so there is now no real precedent for how the EU should deal with a region of a member state seceding from the European Union, a situation the white paper itself acknowledges:
Article 49 of the Treaty of the European Union provides the legal basis, and defines the procedure, for a conventional enlargement where the candidate country is seeking membership from outside the EU.
As Scotland joined the EU in 1973 this is not the starting position from which the Scottish Government will be pursuing independent EU membership. Article 49 does not appear to be the appropriate legal base on which to facilitate Scotland’s transition to full EU membership.
This though is at odds with earlier comments made by EU Commission President Barosso who is of the opinion that Scotland would have to reapply for membership:
A letter from Mr Barosso to the House of Lords economic committee, which is examining the independence question, also confirmed his position that a new independent state would "become a third country with respect to the EU".
"What I said, and it is our doctrine and it is clear since 2004 in legal terms, if one part of a country - I am not referring now to any specific one - wants to become an independent state, of course as an independent state it has to apply to the European membership according to the rules - that is obvious."

Asked whether an independent country would have to renegotiate its terms, Mr Barroso said: "Yes.".
Ploughing on regardless convinced Article 49 does not apply, the white paper argues that there would be a "continuty of effect":
We recognise that specific provisions will need to be included in the EU Treaties as part of the amendment process to ensure the principle of continuity of effect with respect to the terms and conditions of Scotland’s independent EU membership, including detailed considerations around current opt-outs, in particular the rebate, Eurozone, Justice and Home Affairs and the Schengen travel area.
So apparently all an independent Scotland has to do is pursue membership of the European Union by seeking an amendment to the EU treaties rather than applying as a new member:
The alternative to an Article 49 procedure, and a legal basis that the Scottish Government considers is appropriate to the prospective circumstances, is that Scotland’s transition to full membership is secured under the general provisions of Article 48.
Article 48 provides for a Treaty amendment to be agreed by common accord on the part of the representatives of the governments of the member states.
Article 48 is therefore a suitable legal route to facilitate the transition process, by allowing the EU Treaties to be amended through ordinary revision procedure before Scotland becomes independent, to enable it to become a member state at the point of independence.
The problem is that Salmond with his assertions of "seeking an amendments to the EU treaties" via article 48 is now entering 'David Cameron territory' with his similar claims of trying to achieve the goal of repatriating powers. Article 48 is here - it only allows the EU treaty to be amended by unanimous consent.

This then becomes a paper which assumes the UK and the EU will agree with whatever Salmond demands. Unanimous consent which requires agreement of the UK - that Scotland has voted to leave - and countries like Spain, Belgium and Italy who have their own separatist problems and would be determined not to encourage further such sentiments. One suspects therefore Salmond's chances are going to be close to zero.

It illustrates yet again the problems of an ill-prepared independence case. It's difficult to see as a consequence any other option than Scotland voting to remain members next year particularly factoring in the status quo effect. But the lessons, which are so relevant to an EU referendum, are still not being learnt south of the border.

Thus sadly those who campaign to leave the EU are currently doomed to failure.

Update: Captain Ranty is not too impressed either, expressed in his own inimitable way.


  1. Countries joining the EU are, i believe, bound eventually to have the euro as their currency - something to which Mr Cameron used to aspire when Ireland was a "Celtic Tiger" economy.

    He then switched to the aspiration of becoming a financial power house, like Iceland, until that went belly up too.

    He now wants a currency arrangement like the Isle of Man ( which is outside the EU).

    As my Scottish wife says " The poor man. His head's full of wee toys - and they're all broken"

    Let's face it. He'll say anything which he thinks will get a "yes" vote on the day and dress it up as a serious policy. In any event
    "Independence in Europe" is the biggest lie ever sold to any people .

    1. Salmond has had so long to prepare for it one wonders how is so unprepared. I very much like your wife's description of the man.

      Only 2 countries have an opt-out regarding the Euro - us and Denmark negotiated under Maastricht. Thus if Scotland leaves it would seem as per your comment it would either have to join or try to negotiate another opt-out. One doesn't hold too much hope for the latter option.

    2. "Salmond has had so long to prepare for it one wonders how [he] is so unprepared."

      Because in a large part of his mind, he doesn't want it.

      It's great to talk about and it's got him where he is. He'd like a fantasy version where he can have the penny and the bun, which he realises he can't have.

      But the real version with all the boring and hard problems to solve, and the risk and responsibility - no.

    3. Yes, and it's not hard to imagine Farage is in a similar position. After all having a “monster” to fight gives purpose - one with financial rewards, by removing that monster you then have to find a new one.

  2. Thanks for the link TBF.

    Yes, this is an omnishambles of the SNP's own making,

    If they do NOT haemorrhage support now, there is something badly wrong with the world.


    1. No worries about link, completely agree it's an omnishambles - it's a joke. Certainly going by the polls SNP are not going to win the referendum.

    2. I can't see why they should haemorrhage support and that if they didn't it would mean that the world had suddenly started working in a different way.

      That point of view assumes that the only reason people voted for the SNP was independence. I suggest it's because they are a fresh force in politics seen to be doing the best for Scotland - oh and with this independence bee in their bonnet. To many people the least worst option; others on offer are the tired and cynical Labour party and the dreamy and infinitely mutable LibDems, and the Conservatives have to be mentioned.

      All Salmond has to say is that he respects the result, but they was robbed by a cynical Westminster campaign and the wavering of the EU, and of course he accepts a little blame. Nonetheless Scottish Independence is a logical and emotional political necessity and they will try again in the future.

      It keeps the independence flame alive and they can get on with being the least unacceptable party to vote for.

  3. Post Lisbon as far as I'm aware there has been a clause - or even a loose understanding, not sure which - that any Nation not signing up to a future treaty which is endorsed by the other EU Countries will be deemed to have left the EU.

    I would guess that the intra-national relationship would thus under those circumstances to continue to be governed by treaties previously extant until replaced by more suitable arrangements.

    Being that what Salmond says as opposed to what Barroso asserts is going to be substantially shadow-boxing for the audience with a different discourse going on behind the scenes - I'm wondering if the Scotland-EU relationship will be based on the option at top. Salmond will agree to Scotland abiding by terms previously signed up to by Westminster and will confirm continued EU membership by means of separate amending treaty?

    That's all - of course - with the caveat that what we see right now has all the hallmarks of a classic political clusterfeck.

    1. ..and there is also the very small matter that Salmond's referendum proposal have been subject to around 2000% of the scrutiny that Cameron's own referendum conditions and details have attracted by the 'expert' journos......

    2. That's an interesting point about the scrutiny, absolutely right.

  4. Salmond has been painted into a corner over this.

    The reason people vote for the SNP is that they're an acceptable alternative to Labour and are seen to be getting a better deal for Scotland, not that they are keen on independence. But the SNP can't not push for independence. Also, things have moved a long way from the early 70s when Scottish nationalism had a boost and the world was a lot simpler and the question of independence was a lot simpler.

    Of course, what Salmond wants is a sheltered independence, Devo Max or sliding into EU membership on his own terms.

    The EU is keen to encourage regionalism as it weakens nation states, but it absolutely doesn't want to see the emergence of new nation states, when its very purpose is to destroy the identity of nation states.

    1. Exactly, the independence of a country from a union as possibly demonstrated by Scotland, would set a 'dangerous' symbolic precedent for the EU.

      That Salmond wants EU membership on his own terms is laughable. The EU is all about horse trading with the ultimate consquence of further integration. Major found this out to his cost at Maastricht. The price for our opt-outs was very heavy indeed.

      The EU will demand significant concessions from Salmond to the current opt-outs if Scotland becomes independent. Thus Scotland will end up with a worse deal than us (I use the term deal loosely).

      In many ways Salmond is a politician like the rest of Westminister unable to lay out to the electorate honestly the full implications of EU membership.

    2. Then there's the interim period where Scotland would be there as a country with no specific international agreements on trade, postal services and a myriad of other things, hoping to wing it by appealing to a legacy status it hoped to inherit by having once been a part of the UK.

      The UK would find itself with a foreign country on a land border and the actions the UK government could take would be limited by its being a member of the EU, dealing with a country with no agreements with the EU.

      I don't see how the EU could give Scotland a soft ride, because it would risk encouraging other independence movements in other EU members such as Spain and Belgium as you point out.

      Not thought through to the point of being a pipe dream which has gotten out of hand, and rather dishonest, would be my view of Salmond's position.

      It certainly ought to be instructive to the UK anti-EU movement.