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Monday, February 17, 2014

If EU law is followed, Scotland will join the EU just before Serbia

Our Director Mats Persson writes on his Telegraph blog:
The UK must be the first country, with the forthcoming Scottish and EU referenda, to simultaneously have an intense political debate about the difficulty or otherwise of both joining and leaving the EU. Traditional assumptions are being bent in all sorts of directions, with senior UK politicians approvingly citing EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso for suggesting it would be “very difficult, if not impossible” for an independent Scotland to join the EU.

Like Catalonia in Spain, rightly or wrongly, Alex Salmond’s case rests in part on the argument that "if we leave one club, we can safely join another." It’s an insurance policy against the uncertainty which is a such a killer in any referendum to change the status quo. So is Barroso right?

Iceland’s accession talks with the EU – which were terminated since the Icelanders turned cold on the idea – would, in purely legal terms, come close to those of Scotland. Iceland is part of the European Economic Area, and therefore almost an EU member. Scotland has been an EU member for 40 years. Both would face tricky negotiations, like protecting their fishing industries.

There are basically six steps (by my rough categorisation). Salmond’s biggest problem is that for half of these, each of the 28 EU states, including rUK and Spain, has a veto:

Step 1 – Scotland applies to join the EU: Under EU law, it would have to be an independent country to apply.

Step 2 – The European Commission “screens” Scottish law to see if the country is compatible with EU membership – this won’t be an issue.

Step 3 – EU governments decide whether to approve Scotland’s EU application. All EU states have a veto.

Step 4 – The EU and Scotland begin negotiations over individual EU policy areas. There are now 35 so-called “accession chapters” covering everything from the euro to employment law to the EU budget. Each country has a veto over the decision to both open and then to close every single chapter – ask Turkey how easy that has proven (read: Cyprus and France). It’s in these talks that Salmond would need to deliver on his pledge to get an opt-out from the euro, as well as replicating the UK’s special deals on the EU budget, crime and immigration and passport controls.

Step 5 – When the 35th chapter is agreed, the Accession Treaty with the Scottish terms of entry is drafted.

Step 6 – This Treaty must then be ratified by the Parliaments of each EU country and the European Parliament. If one says no, the deal falls.

Iceland officially applied to the EU in June 2009. In 2013, when the bid was dropped, it had completed about a third of the negotiations. So if the letter of the law is followed, Scotland might join the EU just before Serbia, several years from now.

However, in the EU, political expediency tends to trump the letter of the law. I suspect that, given the stakes, if the Scots do pull the trigger, the EU will engage in the kind of legal acrobatics that it’s proven so good at in order to fast-track an independent Scotland to membership, with or without a euro opt-out (though, as Andrew Lilico has pointed out, there might be a range of practical currency issues).

No matter what, it would be a mess. In truth, we have little idea what’s going to happen if Scotland goes independent. And I suspect that in itself undermines Salmond’s case.


Jesper said...

When there is a will there is a way.

Scotland could, in theory, become independent in all but name and remain in the EU. It would take a binding commitment that the UK parliament would not make any laws that applied to Scotland, same with taxes etc.

Scotland, a super-empowered region with the subsidiarity principle where no power over Scotland would lie with the UK parliament?

Rik said...

1. The issue with Scotland is also for a fast track membership all 28 should agree. If not there is simply a problem.
And this is the case with any extended legal interpretation of things to create a loophole, if one disagrees it is a no go.

2. In this respect it is hard to see Spain cooperating. Not going further into other countries. At least not until the Catalunya issue has calmed down. Which is simply very unlikely to happen.
Will likley play at least the next couple of years and likely longer.
Spain has chosen for a largely confrontational strategy. Which means on one side that it simply runs the risk that Catalunya middlefingers the debt. Anyway the outcome has much more volatility in it.
More important on the other side is that it should show that it means business.

3.The difference between Scotland and the UK in a reneg with the EU is simply that Cameron has a huge blackmail potential and Scotland has not, has hardly any.
Cameron can block a lot of new legislation and eg new memberships. He can likely block a EZ solution. He can certainly block a EZ exit. A Brexit looks horrible to the markets.
Scotland simply hasnot got that. It would basically only be a huge PR disaster for the EU.
My guess is that at best a Iceland/Norway temporary solution is possible and subsequently a relatively fast say 5-10 years to full membership.

4. Spain would have the choice of a EU PR disaster or basically its own bankruptcy. Do the maths it would at best end up with a similar debt/gdp ratio and a lot larger deficit (the size of Andalusia, who probably caused it in the first place) and unemployment figures for the young likely approaching 70%.
Next to the national pride it is simply an issue of financial survival as well. The choice looks simply easy.
Also hard to see that any country would use its own leverage to push the Scots in.

5. Some issues in the relation currency and membership will have to be solved.
Hard to see that the EU is very interested in a member that has the present position over the mutual debt. It has enough financial problems already.
Furthermore it is against the rules. Which means on one hand easy to block by anybody. It has no CB, in due course EZ membership, an essential.
A stable monetary union but likely/possible followed within a few year by Euro membership. Nothing stable about that.
Way too many bears on the road, completely unlikely that not one will play up.

6. Same btw for a lot of other international organisations. Why would Nato be interested in a new member with an army consisting out of Mrs Salmond, a broom and a frying pan?

7. The reporting over this over the whole line is simply appaling. Also by financial media who know apparently what is wrong with the Euro currency area but doesnot seem able to apply that theory on Scotland.
Issue is simple it is border issues against all problems of an uncertain set up and uncertain in many ways. Easy decision to be made.

8. The Salmond guy has completely overplayed his cards. And basically has no real answer for all the esential functions of an independent state. Army, banking system, international organisations, borders, Customs etc, etc.
And when it got dubious he didnot went quickly for a plan B but digged himself further in. With still unbelievably much success seen all the morons that still seem to buy his nonsense.
A lot of positives for an independent Scotland or one with more authonomy, but not under this management. That is simply not fit for purpose.

Idris Francis said...

as Roger Bootle points out in Monday's Telegraph, as new entrants the EU Scotland would be required to join the euro with all that implies for the control they had just recovered from London being handed back to Brussels,

Also - do not forget the significance of the OE view of what might happen - that the EU will do whati it wants to regardless of the rules that seem to stand in their way - bend them, break them, ignore them. As they always have done, over referendums, Stability Pacts, minimum economic standards to join the euro etc etc etc etc etc

As yourself this OE 0 do we REALLY want to be part of an organisation that behaves in this way? With such contempt for its own rules, let alone those of others? Whose word, whose promises are worth nothing? Where no one knows where he stands because the rules keep changing to suit the purposes of a terminally corrupt elite?

Perhaps you do - but I can assure you that I most certainly do not.

Anonymous said...

Why would the eussr nations bend over backwards for such a small country when they are making Turkey jump through all the hoops?

Postage Stamp Philosopher said...

EUSSR is a catchy term of disparagement. However, the EU and the USSR are very different entities. The EU is a club of democratic member states with decisions taken by elected members of respected national governments and the directly elected European Parliament. The USSR, on the other hand, was a Russo-centric entity closely run by a political party which had seized power in 1917 and had no electoral mandate. Your ability to question the policy of the USSR would also be very limited unlike your freedom to criticise the EU even if it is not based upon objective facts.