We’re having a bit of a drama. Not the kind like you get on the X-Factor where the outcome depends on a talentless and shallow chancer with bad hair whose ego is inversely proportional to his abilities, but an actual crisis, where the outcome depends on a talentless and shallow chancer with bad hair whose ego is inversely proportional to his abilities. Scotland stands on the precipice and looking down into the chasm below us we see a Brexit Britain ruled by Boris Johnson. We’re looking at a Borisexit, a nightmare land where workers’ rights are curtailed, where immigrants are demonised, and where the UK government is headed by a man who once claimed that a pound of government spending was better spent in Croydon than in Crieff. That’s the fate that awaits us if we don’t do something about it.
Some of the auld bogeymen from the last indyref have reared their ugly heads again warning us not to do anything about avoiding the Borisexit. That didn’t take long did it. Already certain Unionists dahn sarf are musing that Scotland will not dare hold another independence referendum because we’ll have to reapply to join the EU, we’ll have to adopt the Euro, we’ll have to join Schengen, and in any event Spain will block our accession so as not to give the Catalans any ideas.
The entire point of a second referendum is precisely so that we don’t leave the EU. We are, for now, members of the EU and a large majority of Scots have said that they want to remain so. The Scottish government is about to embark upon negotiations with an EU which has just told the UK government that Britain will not be getting an amicable divorce from the EU. The EU and its member states are not disposed to do Westminster any favours, unlike the last independence referendum when Brussels was highly reluctant to do anything which could be seen as prejudicing the interests of a UK which was very much a member state. This time they are quite likely to be more than happy to use Scotland as leverage, as a means to beat Westminster over the head and to make the UK’s exit from the EU as difficult and as painful as possible. That gives Scotland a huge advantage.
There is no reason in theory why the EU cannot allow Scotland to continue as a member of the EU as the inheritor of the UK’s membership. In fact it would be no skin off the EU’s nose to allow Scotland to continue to enjoy two of the UK’s opt-outs, the opt-out on the Euro and the opt-out on Schengen. Allowing Scotland to do so would not cost the EU anything, and would make any pro-EU deal that the Scottish government puts to the people at another independence referendum a whole lot more attractive. It lays to rest three of the Better Together’s scares from the last time. Scotland won’t be forced to adopt the Euro, won’t be forced to join Schengen, and there will be no question of a Spanish veto because Scotland will not be acceding as a new member state and so be subject to a potential veto. Scotland will go into the next indyref as an EU member that wishes to continue as an EU member and it will be an independence vote that guarantees our membership.
In any case, the Spanish wouldn’t veto Scotland this time for the exact same reasons that they wouldn’t have vetoed Scotland’s membership of the EU if we had gone for independence in 2014. Anyone who understands the fundamentals of Spanish politics knows that, and it was to the immense shame of the UK media that they didn’t bother to explain it or report on it in 2014.
The fact is that Spain would not veto Scottish membership of the EU because by doing so the Spanish government would destroy its own argument against Catalan independence. The Spanish constitution does not permit any part of the Spanish state to become independent unless there is a referendum on it in the whole of Spain. That clause means that Madrid will not allow Barcelona to hold a referendum on Catalan independence within Catalonia. Spain likewise refuses to recognise the independence of Kosovo because the Serbian constitution forbids Kosovan independence, and so Serbia argues that Kosovo’s independence is unconstitutional. The Catalans claim that this is mere waffle from Madrid, and the truth is that Madrid just refuses to recognise the right to self-determination.
However Scottish independence, when it comes about, will be entirely constitutional within what passes for a UK constitution. It would be recognised by the Westminster government and the independence process would be carried out in accordance with the British constitution, just like it was in 2014. For Spain to veto the accession of an independent Scotland to the EU just to spite the Catalans would give the Catalans the proof they require that Madrid’s refusal to grant a Catalan referendum is in fact because Spain doesn’t recognise the right to self-determination after all. And by blocking Scotland, Madrid will have destroyed its own legal case against Catalan independence and given the Catalans the excuse they require to internationalise their dispute with Madrid. So for that reason alone, Madrid will recognise Scottish independence and will not block Scottish accession to the EU.
The argument about constitutional legitimacy is the main reason Spain won’t block Scottish membership of the EU, even if Scottish accession was to be subject to a potential veto, which it won’t be. However there is another reason closer to the heart of the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy that Spain won’t block Scottish accession to the EU. Interestingly, during the last independence referendum Rajoy was asked three times in an interview with El Pais newspaper whether he would veto Scotland, and three times he refused to reply. He refused to reply because he didn’t want to encourage Scottish independence by telling the truth.
Mariano Rajoy comes from Galicia, and represents the city of A Coruña in the Spanish parliament, the Cortes. The mainstay of the local economy is the fishing industry, and big fishing interests are the main funders of Rajoy’s own local party. The Galician fishing fleet depends on its access to Scottish waters in order to feed Spain’s enormous appetite for seafood, and any attempt by Spain to veto Scottish membership of the EU would threaten that access. Rajoy would then find that his local party’s bank balance was as empty as the fish counter in a Spanish supermarket. He’s not going to let that happen.
So don’t believe anyone who tells you that Spain will veto Scotland’s membership of the EU. It’s an argument that’s as rank and rotten as two year old fish.
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