Spain’s supposed threat to veto Scottish membership of the EU is like one of those serial killers on a student campus in a slash ‘n gore movie. No matter how many times the evil maniac is stabbed, hit over the head with bricks, shot, drowned, or baked in a kiln with the pottery class homework, he’s still stalking the heroine in the final scene. Today Spain’s EU veto threat received yet another fatal blow. I make that at least a dozen now.
Speaking to the Spanish press on Tuesday, José Manuel García-Margallo, the Spanish foreign minister, confirmed something which some of us have been arguing all along. Spain will not veto Scottish membership of the EU if Scottish independence is recognised by Westminster. Since there is every expectation that Westminster will recognise an independent Scotland if there is a yes vote in September, García-Margallo doesn’t think it’s likely that any difficulties will arise.
Here’s what he said, as reported in La Vanguardia.
“España no trabaja sobre hipótesis. Lo que sí le digo es que sería determinante a la hora de decidir nuestro voto cuál fuese la actitud del Reino Unido.”
“Spain does not work on hypotheses. What I do say is that the attitude of the United Kingdom would be the determining factor at the time of deciding our vote.”
He added that the decision of the United Kingdom would be “key”, although he highlighted that it is a situation which he neither believes nor expects will arise. He’s hoping it won’t arise as he hopes Scotland will vote no, but even if Scotland votes yes García-Margallo still neither believes nor expects the question of a Spanish veto to arise.
He went on to speak about Kosovo, which Spain will not recognise as an independent state. The Serbian constitution prohibits Kosovan independence, and Serbia still refuses to recognise the independence of its former Autonomous Province. García-Margallo said that the key factor in Spain’s non-recognition of Kosovan independence was the attitude of Serbia.
“Lo importante es que el derecho a decidir o cualquier otro derecho debe entenderse siempre en el marco de la Constitución y las leyes.”
“The important thing is that the right to decide or any other right ought always to be understood within the framework of the constitution and the laws.”
As our very own Naw Ye Cannae campaign ought to be aware, because the UK Government signed up to it, the Edinburgh Agreement between Holyrood and Westminster binds each party to accept the result of September’s referendum. The Agreement provides the legal and constitutional framework within which Scotland’s referendum is taking place. That means that if Scotland votes yes then Westminster will accept and recognise the result.
What García-Margallo was saying was that if Westminster recognises Scottish independence, Spain has absolutely no reason not to recognise Scotland either, and he even went on to say that he does not believe the situation will arise. He also knows about the Edinburgh Agreement, and he knows that Scotland’s independence referendum is entirely constitutional.
It shouldn’t need to be pointed out that he has said all this before. Unfortunately it still needs to be pointed out, because the Unionist parties and media were not listening. It is a very simple proposition, yet it’s one that seems far too complex and convoluted for the tiny minds behind the Better Together campaign to wrap their wee brains around.
Will this statement from the Spanish foreign minister finally put to rest the repeated claims in the UK media and by UK politicians that Spain might veto Scottish membership of the EU? Probably not. Alistair Carmichael will only argue that García-Margallo was just too intimidated by the yes campaign to say anything else, and the Freddy Krueger of scare stories will stalk the land again.
But the next time some Unionist politician raises the non-question of a Spanish veto, the response ought to be to ask them whether Westminster intends to abide by the terms of the Edinburgh Agreement, or whether they intend to take a leaf out of General Franco’s playbook.
Because the answer to the question “Will Spain veto Scottish membership of the EU?” is “Not if UK politicians are democrats.” It’s not Spain we need to worry about. It’s the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems.