This is an interesting topic to cover and one which proves highly emotive on both sides of the discussion.
Let us start on what I think everyone can at least agree on. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) is a part of the European Union, and Scotland benefits from that membership.
- Treaty of Accession to the European Economic Community in 1973 was signed by the Government of the United Kingdom (Westminster)
- All subsequent treaties relating to the various accessions and development of the European Union were signed by Westminster.
Here is where the debate diverges.
What will be the status of Scotland once it chooses to leave the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in relation to the European Union (EU).
My understanding is that by seceding from the UK, Scotland is walking away from the agreements signed on behalf of the UK, therefore logically Scotland will cease to be a member of the EU. This perspective is supported that in order to be a member of the EU, Scotland as an individual country has not signed the requisite treaties.
It is difficult to see how Scotland can rejoin the EU, until such time as agreement has been achieved by and with the exiting members, currently this would require agreement with 28 countries. There will be a number of challenges which would need to overcome, before such an agreement can be reached (not an exhaustive list):
- What is Scotland financial situation
- What is the extent of Scotland Territorial Waters
- What would Scotland’s contribution be to the EU budget
- Would Scotland expect to be a nett contributor or nett receiver
- Countries of the “developing” east would not want the funds that assist them to spread any further
- Spain is unlikely to want to have a region of a member state which has seceded becoming a new member, given its current situation
- What currency would Scotland utilise
- Is Scotland prepared to join the Euro as a currency
- As Scotland does not exist until it has achieved independence, how can Scotland negotiate with the EU
The EU already has significant challenges that it needs to manage, and the Swiss national referendum has thrown the proverbial cat among the pigeons. All the agreements that are in force with Switzerland are now under review, especially access to European research projects (Horizon 2020) and University Exchanges (Erasmus programme). Significant resources were required to negotiate the agreements with Switzerland over a number of years. I therefore do not understand how Scotland expects to be able complete in less than 18 months, for what takes up to 5 years+ to negotiate – ask Turkey.
How long will it take for Scotland to pass all the requisite legislation in order to meet the EU requirements. Yeah, I know that pro-independence advocates will say that they necessary legislation has been passed, but as Scotland is leaving the UK all the legislation is no longer applicable. Also Scotland would have to re-establish a lot of the institutions that would support the governing of Scotland. Where would they find the time and resources?
I know there is an alternative legal perspective, that Scotland is “technically” a member, but the reality is such that the existing members are extremely likely to invite an independent Scotland to attend EU meetings and participate in the EU, until such time as Scotland is in a position to ratify the treaty of accession – so I would argue that the “legal ” fancy footwork means nothing in the face of reality. Unless of course, Alex Salmond decides that he wishes to throw his toys out of the pram, because he is not allowed to sit at the “big boys” table.
Negotiations for Joining the EU
According to an article in the Economist of February 22nd, in order to join the EU, new members need to undertake a number of elements:
- Open and conclude with all existing Members, including the Rest of the UK.
- Negotiations needs to cover what the Economist refers to as “Chapters” – there are 35 of these
- Negotiate all the opt-outs they want, including not joining the Euro and not signing up to the Schengen Accord – all of these take longer to negotiate, apparently.
- Scotland need to ratify the Treaty and also the existing members need to ratify the treaty.
For some reason, that I honestly cannot see happening, the SNP are convinced that these negotiations can be completed with all members in time to be admitted as a member. There is little incentive for the rUK government to begin any negotiations with the government of an independent Scotland over accession to the EU. whilst negotiating its split from the United Kingdom. Additionally, it is difficult to see how and why any existing member would be willing to begin negotiations with Scotland, until such time as they understand exactly what they are dealing with and how they perceive outcome of the negotiations and the public statements made by the government of Scotland. Their task will additionally be complicated by the need to conduct these negotiations at the same time as Catalonia will probably trying to do the same.
It is this blogger’s opinion that on the issue of European Union membership, the proponents of Scottish Independence has failed to understand what is involved, the time needed to undertake these negotiations and are being less than honest to the electorate of Scotland.