Ages ago, I suggested that we adopt the term darling as a unit of measurement for the time between a Project Fear story was published, and its being debunked by the independence movement. The darling was already a currency which was devaluing rapidly, and now it’s entering negative territory as scare stories and misinformation are debunked before they’re even published in the mainstream media.
Here’s another negative darling, one they’ve not got round to yet, but possibly will sometime over the next few days. Fore-warned is fore-armed and all that. Though when I was a wean I thought it was four-armed – which would be four handy for a spot of swashbuckling. You could give yourself hauners. So that too.
Anyway, serious heid on noo …
According to Spain’s El Diario newspaper, during an interview on Basque Radio this week, former Portuguese deputy prime minister António Vitorino stated that Scotland will accede to full EU membership. He was quoted as saying that in the event of a Yes vote in September, the EU will potentially have 29 members instead of the current 28. He also stated that he expected Scotland to negotiate membership of the EU simultaneously with negotiations with Westminster on independence. And yet more good news for the yes campaign, he said that he thought that the legal aspects of Scottish independence within the EU would be dealt with in a relatively straightforward manner.
But his comments were more measured than that, and no doubt if Vitorino’s remarks make their way into the pages of the UK media, they will be spun into “a new blow for Alicsasmmin”. Because he did also say that he believed that Scotland would accede to the EU in accordance with article 49 of the EU treaty, and not article 48 as proposed by the Scottish government.
A noted lawyer and member of the Portuguese Socialist party, Vitorino was formerly a judge on the Portuguese constitutional court, served as the European Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs, and is currently the director of the prestigious European think tank Notre Europe. Notre Europe was founded by French president Jacques Delors in 1996 with the aim of continuing the work of bringing about an ever closer union of European nations. This aim is a founding principle in the Treaty of Europe.
In Vitorino’s opinion, Scotland will have to apply for membership under article 49 of the European Treaty, meaning that full agreement will be required amongst all EU member states. Negotiation will be required, and entry into the EU will not be immediate. However he insisted that Holyrood could negotiate with the EU at the same time as it negotiated Scottish independence with Westminster, and noted that the European Treaty obliges all member states to respect the democratic and constitutional decisions of other member states – and Scotland’s independence will be achieved in exactly that way. Remember, the question on the ballot paper is not “Do you want to leave the EU” – that’s the question planned for Davie Cameron’s UK referendum.
What this means, although Vitorino did not explicitly spell it out, is that other EU member states are obliged to respect and accept the constitutional and democratic decision within the UK that Scotland becomes an independent country. This does not mean that Scotland would be expelled from the EU, it means that other EU member states will be obliged to negotiate continuing Scottish membership because Scotland is currently a member as a consequence of being part of the UK, and will become independent as a result of a democratic and constitutional process within the UK. And we will not have voted to leave the EU. Other EU member states do not have the legal right to exclude Scotland simply for daring to answer the question of independence with a yes and for engaging in a process which the EU Treaty itself guarantees to protect and uphold.
Other EU states quite specifically do not have the right to place obstacles in the way of Scottish membership in order to discourage independence movements within their own borders. Vitorino has now told us that this is contrary to the EU’s founding treaty. And that’s significant, because discouraging other independence movements is the only reason Better Together ever give for the possibility of other EU states blocking Scottish membership or getting sniffy about it.
In essence, the view from Europe, at least that of the president of the Nostre Europe think tank, is that the matter of Scottish independence is one for Scotland and the remainder of the UK to sort out. Europe will accommodate itself to the outcome. And that’s the reality, not the fervid imaginings and dire threats of Alistair Carmichael and Alistair Darling – has anyone seen him recently? Has he been given his jotters or what? Shouldn’t we be told?
This doesn’t mean there will not be negotiations. It doesn’t mean that there will be no political horse-trading. Of course there will be. This is the grown up world of real international diplomacy, not the childish fantasies of the Better Together campaign. And in the real world Scotland does not go into those negotiations cap in hand without anything to offer. We are only naked and powerless under Westminster.
Here’s a translation of the revelant passages from the report in El Diario. In the rest of the original report he’s talking about Ukraine. I’ve not translated that. The original Spanish language article is here.
In an interview given to Radio Euskadi, and reported by Europa Press, Vitorino has averred that “the case of Scotland must be dealt with within the constitutional framework of the United Kingdom”, and if the result of the referendum is Yes, “the exit of Scotland from the United Kingdom must be agreed.”
“This is not going to be immediate. This has many implications, financial implication, above all the debate on the future of the pound sterling, of the currency of a possible independent Scotland,” he added. At the same time, he signalled that there is “a very important point” in the bilateral negotiations between Scotland and the United Kingdom, and in the multilateral negotiations, what is the statute of Scotland “within the European framework”.
In this sense, he believes that article 49 of the treaty will be applied, because “there is a new state which has been born and that new state has to negotiate” on the one hand with the United Kingdom, and on the other “accession with the other 27 members of the EU.”
In his judgement, there are issues of legal and political management “in this story”, and he has stressed that he, as a judge, believes that “all the legal issues will be dealt with”, whereas “the political ones are much more complicated.”
From 28 to 29 members
Thus, he insisted that if the result of the referendum is yes to independence, “the consequence will not be immediate because it will demand a political negotiation and a legal translation.” He stated “But, the truth is that the EU one day has 28 members, and if the referendum says yes, the next day it potentially has 29.”
António Vitorino considered that “the founding fathers of the EU” stood for “a union forever closer between people”, and affirmed that the treaties guarantee that “the European Union respects the territorial unity of each member state.”
In his judgement, that signifies that questions such as Scotland, Catalonia, the Basque Country or other cases “are not questions, in the first instance, of European law, but rather national questions which have to be dealt with, as much politically as legally, within the national framework of each member state.”
“And it is left to the EU to respect decisions taken within the constitutional framework of each one of its 28 member states, and afterwards,to negotiate the consequences which may come from these decisions for the Union in its totality,” he added.
Original Spanish version
En una entrevista concedida a Radio Euskadi, recogida por Europa Press, Vitorino ha afirmado que “el caso de Escocia debe ser arreglado en el marco de las reglas constitucionales de Reino Unido”, y si el resultado del referéndum es sí, “hay que pactar la salida de Escocia del Reino Unido”.
“Esto no va a ser inmediato. Esto tiene muchas implicaciones, implicaciones financieras, todo el debate sobre el futuro de la libra esterlina, de la moneda de una posible Escocia independiente”, ha añadido. Asimismo, ha señalado que hay “un punto muy importante”, en las negociaciones bilaterales entre Escocia y Reino Unido, y en las multilaterales, como es el Estatuto escocés “en el marco europeo”.
En este sentido, cree que se aplicará el artículo 49 del Tratado porque “hay un nuevo Estado que nace y ese nuevo Estado tiene que negociar”, por un lado, con Reino Unido; y por otro, con “los otros restantes 27 miembros de la UE la adhesión”.
A su juicio, hay gestiones jurídicas y políticas “en esta historia”, y ha precisado que él, como jurista, cree que “todas las gestiones jurídicas se arreglan”, mientras que “las políticas son mucho más complicadas”.
DE 28 A 29 MIEMBROS
De esta forma, ha insistido que, si el resultado del referéndum es sí a la independencia, “la consecuencia no será inmediata porque exigirá una negociación política y una traducción jurídica”. “Pero, la verdad, es que la UE tiene un día 28 estados miembros y, si el referéndum dice sí, al día siguiente tendrá potencialmente 29”, ha afirmado.
Antonio Vitorino ha considerado que “los padres fundadores de la UE” abogan por “la unión cada vez más estrecha entre los pueblos”, y ha afirmado que los tratados aseguran que “la Unión Europea respeta la unidad territorial de cada Estado miembro”.
A su juicio, eso significa que cuestiones como la de Escocia, Cataluña, País Vasco u otros casos “no son cuestiones, en primera línea, de derecho europeo, sino cuestiones nacionales que tienen que ser arregladas, tanto política como jurídicamente en el marco nacional de cada estado miembro”.
“Y a la Unión le queda respetar las decisiones tomadas en el marco constitucional de cada uno de sus 28 estados miembros y, después, negociar las consecuencias que pueden venir de estas decisiones para la Unión en su conjunto”, ha añadido.