If scaremongering wasn’t enough, the No campaign have now decided to plunge into the absurd. According to Alistair Darling an independent Scotland could be forced to wait nine years before becoming a full EU member state. His comments smack of deceit and desperation. The former chancellor is well aware that the sole purpose of the EU accession process is to bring the national laws of new member states in line with European laws. Scotland already transposes EU legislation and meets the full acquis communautaire. A detailed scrutiny of the 35 accession chapters would be unnecessary given that Scotland has applied the EU’s policies and regulations for the past 40 years.
As Scotland would negotiate with the UK post referendum, parallel negotiations would take place with Brussels on our EU membership. Following an agreement of the European Council, the Treaty on European Union (TEU) would be amended to include the word ‘Scotland’ in the preamble. A simplified negotiations procedure would be agreed, similar to the process used during German reunification. Considering the average length of time it takes all Member States to ratify an EU treaty, we’d be looking at a period of around 12 to 18 months. It would be in the EU’s interest to ensure that this process was in place simultaneously with Scottish independence – by the spring of 2016.
Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union completely rubbishes the unionist argument that you can be thrown out of Europe upon independence. It would take longer for Scotland to leave the EU – a period of around two-three years, as evidenced by Greenland – than for it to agree on its negotiated independent status. Article 50 alludes to a period of two years to negotiate withdrawal from the EU. A series of legal, financial, budgetary and administrative obligations would need to be unraveled and such a process would take time.
And then there’s the question of citizenship. Aidan O’Neill QC argues that once EU citizenship has been granted to citizens through the Member State, it is extremely difficult to remove it – as evidenced by a number of high profile European Court of Justice Cases. It’s simply not credible to suggest that five million Europeans would be suddenly stripped of their rights. Scotland would have the power to take the matter to the Court of Justice if it felt it was unfairly treated.
It wouldn’t be in Brussels’ interest for Scotland to be excluded from the club even for a single day. What would happen to the thousands of students from across the continent who freely study at Scottish institutions? What would happen to Spanish fishermen who make a living from Scottish waters? Would the EU, in difficult economic circumstances, seriously reject a net contributor to the EU budget?
What the No campaign fail to understand is that Europe is a pragmatic animal. It’s the world of fudge. Political will always takes precedence over process (or lack of process). Throughout the EU’s history, rules have been sidelined in the name of political solidarity and unity. Without the European fudge Italy and Greece could never have joined the Euro (their debts were well above the 60% benchmark in 1999); Romania and Bulgaria would have failed entry requirements on several grounds of corruption; East Germany wouldn’t have been absorbed without a full and lengthy accession process and France and Germany wouldn’t have got away with breaking the growth and stability pact whenever they felt like it.
And no matter how bad the economic crisis gets in Athens, Brussels will always stand by Greece’s right to remain in the Euro. That’s the spirit of solidarity that the EU is constructed on. For a Nobel peace prize union founded on the principles of democracy to eject its own citizens for expressing their right to self-determination would be the greatest political contradiction in modern political history.
Indeed not only does Europe champion integration – it champions expansion. That’s why considerable effort is being made to support the entry of the Balkan states including Montenegro and Serbia, countries with a deep and tortured history of nationhood and self-determination, while on July 1st Croatia will become the second former Yugoslavian state to join the EU. It is also widely accepted that the 2004 landmark accession which integrated 10 Eastern European countries all at once was very much driven by the political significance of uniting East and West rather than ensuring each individual state was ready for membership.
For decades Scotland has been influenced by anti-European British propaganda, hostile media and British Prime Ministers reluctant to engage with Europe. Over the past 40 years we’ve been out on the edges – never shaping the European debate but simply reacting to it. Independence will give us a unique opportunity to rid ourselves of a Westminster-imposed isolationist agenda. Like Ireland – the current holder of the EU Presidency – Scotland has the potential to lead in Europe. With its own distinct dynamic on European engagement, its own priorities and specific needs, we’ll be in a better position to protect our national interest while making a constructive contribution to the direction of the continent we live in.
Scotland, unlike Westminster, is not turning its back on Europe. It’s not seeking a renegotiation of its membership. The Scottish Government’s commitment to the EU couldn’t be clearer. But the No campaign would have us believe that Brussels will reject the very UK nation that actually champions European engagement. God loves a trier.