On Tuesday the UK media and the No campaign got all excited when EU Commission President Jean Claude Juncker said that he was not in favour of enlargement of the EU for the next five years or so. Suddenly they’ve got a new blow for Alicsammin from the man who just the other week said that he would accept the result of the Scottish referendum whichever way it went. It was a hammer blow for Alicsammin’s EU hopes, said Wee Dougie Alexander, fresh from polishing his halo and not falling out with his sister. Scotland would have to join the queue behind Moldova and not gain entry for a decade.
Everyone in Europe hates us, the French think more highly of Turkey’s prospects of EU membership, Scottish Unionists chorused smugly, in a demonstration that they’ve really not quite got the hang of this smugness business. But acting smug after your country receives an apparent kick in the nads and a message of rejection is the new definition of ProudScot in the lexicon of Unionese.
It was all very convenient on a day where the other referendum related news was the strengthening of the hand of the Eurosceptic faction in the cabinet after Davie Cameron’s reshuffle. The Tories are now increasingly dominated by politicians who want the UK to withdraw from the EU, but failing that want the UK to opt out of the European Court of Human Rights. This demand is likely to form a centre piece of the Tories’ package of EU renegotiations, but it’s a demand which runs directly counter to the foundation treaties of the EU and equally likely to prove incompatible with continuing UK membership. The chances of the Tories managing to negotiate a new settlement that their more swivel eyed wing finds acceptable got more remote yesterday, and with moves towards Euroscepticism boosting the Tories in polling south of the border, the prospect of a UK exit from the EU looms ever closer.
There was another wee development in the appointment of the Eurosceptic Philip Hammond as the new foreign secretary. Together with the appointment of some no-mark no one has ever heard of as the new UK EU Commissioner, the UK media has interpreted the reshuffle as a two fingered salute to Brussels from Westminster. The UK home teams may have been utterly rubbish in the World Cup, but that won’t stop Westminster from demonstrating that they’re still the top Euro hooligans. Cameron’s reshuffle sent the EU the message: “We’re the Westminster boot boys, everybody hates us and we don’t care.”
Hammond was the top Tory widely rumoured to have been behind the anonymous admission of a “senior Conservative cabinet minister” to the Guardian that “of course” a currency union between Scotland and the rest of the UK would be negotiated. As foreign secretary, Hammond will play a key role in any future negotiations between a Yes voting Scotland and the Government of the rUK. So there’s interesting.
But within a couple of hours Juncker’s office issued a statement saying that he wasn’t referring to Scotland at all, adding that Scotland was an internal matter. So it was a hammer blow for Alicsammin in the same way that Wyle. E Coyote’s Acme rocketsled hammer is a blow for Roadrunner. It launched onto the airwaves and in a graceful arc swung back round and squashed Blair McDougall’s tuba. Juncker’s clarification not only confirmed that he wasn’t referring to Scotland at all, it also confirmed that in his eyes the issue of Scottish membership doesn’t count as an EU enlargement and is quite a different kettle of eurofish from the accession to the EU of external candidate countries. Scotland becoming a member of the EU in her own right is no more enlargement than dividing a large room into two rooms counts as building an extension to your house.
The No campaign are still desperate for you to believe that Scotland becoming independent means we are automatically outside the EU and would have to reapply for membership from outside the EU like Serbia or Turkey. This is a lie. I’d like to be kind and say it was a bit of a misunderstanding, or maybe a misreading or a genuine failure of comprehension. But it’s not. It’s a lie. Many in the No campaign sincerely and genuinely believe the claims of Unionist politicians, but those who head the campaign are still telling a porkie pie, and not even a Melton Mowbray one whose contents are guaranteed by a European protected designation of origin, it’s an entirely ficticious pork pie. They know they’re not telling you the truth.
What the Unionists want you to believe is an implication which they derive from a fact. The fact is that an independent Scotland will not have signed the EU accession treaties, the implication is then that Scotland cannot be a member of the EU and must therefore be automatically excluded.
But that’s not the logical consequence of Scottish independence at all. EU law recognises only one procedure for a country or territory to leave the EU, it’s covered by Article 50 of the EU Treaties. Leaving the EU can never be automatic, because EU law grants rights and imposes obligations on individuals as well as on member states. These rights and obligations must be carefully disentangled before leaving the EU. An EU exit must be negotiated, and negotiations can only commence when the government of the territory, country or state which seeks an exit makes a formal request to Brussels. Scotland has no intention of doing that. Scotland’s independence is, as Juncker repeated yesterday, an internal matter. Leaving the EU doesn’t enter into it.
I explained the real situation in a post a few days ago, but it’s such a vitally important point it needs to be stressed again. Scotland is not going to leave the EU as a result of voting Yes in September, we are not voting to leave the EU, and we cannot be expelled from the EU by voting for independence. It’s against EU law. Juncker’s comments tacitly confirmed this. It’s an internal matter, he said, and the implication of his remarks are that Scotland’s independence is qualitatively different from the application of an external candidate state.
That means that after a Yes vote, Scotland will still be a part of the EU, in the first instance because immediately after a Yes vote Scotland will still be a part of the UK, and the UK is – for now – an EU member. A yes vote means that the Scottish Government will have the mandate to negotiate Scotland’s independence from Westminster, and it means the end of the political union between Scotland and the rest of the UK, but as far as the EU as a whole is concerned, this is a matter for Scotland and the rest of the UK to sort out. Yesterday Juncker repeated that he will respect the result of the vote and the subsequent negotiations.
At the same time as Holyrood negotiates Scottish independence with Westminster, negotiations will also start between Holyrood, Westminster and Brussels regarding the status of Scotland and the rest of the UK with respect to the EU. This will happen while Scotland is still a part of the UK, and therefore still a part of the EU as a part of the UK.
Scotland cannot be automatically expelled from the EU, it’s against EU law and in breach of more articles of the EU Treaties than the strategists of the No campaign have ever told lies about. If negotiations on Scottish membership are not complete by the time that Scotland becomes formally independent, transitional arrangements will be made in order to ensure that Scotland remains within the EU while negotiations are completed and the single market is not broken. Scotland will be negotiating her own membership of the EU from within the EU, and will accede to full EU membership in her own right from within the EU.
So Juncker’s intervention yesterday was indeed a hammer blow. It was a hammer blow to Unionist scaremongering. Blair McDougal’s tuba will never sound the same again.